Draft Primer: those shiny wide receivers

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Apr 15, 2011



(Part one of our pre-draft positional breakdown series.)
 
By Todd DeVries
Cold, Hard Football Facts Reach-Around Champion
 
The Cold, Hard Football Facts have gone to great lengths to prove that wide receivers are merely shiny hood ornaments on NFL offenses.

The NFL is littered with evidence supporting our theory, especially in very recent history.

Take the case of Randy Moss. Back in January of 2010, our Chief Troll pleaded for the Patriots to dump Moss. It took the New England brass nearly 10 months to come to their senses, but eventually they got on board the Cold, Hard Football Facts train and sent him packing. The entire 2010 season provided evidence of the futility of dwelling on the wide receiver position.

Another prime example is the entire Matt Millen Era in the Motor City.

Detroit: a town famous for assembly-lining sturdy American automobiles and the hood ornaments that adorn them. 

The Detroit Lions: an NFL franchise that assembled far too many shiny hood ornaments during the 2000's.

Oh, the irony.

The Lions committed an unprecedented personnel sin by drafting four – count 'em, FOUR – wide receivers with Top 10 first round picks over a five year span!

2003 - Charles Rogers (2nd overall pick)
2004 - Roy Williams (7th pick)
2005 - Mike Williams (10th pick)
2007 - Calvin Johnson (2nd pick)

Millen obviously never read Einstein's definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Speaking of results, this quartet of overpriced wideouts "helped" the Lions compile a 34-94 record from 2003 to 2010. That's barely four wins per season since the team swung-and-missed on Charles Rogers eight years ago.

Despite the debacle in Detroit, the failed Randy Moss Experiment in Foxboro, and the Cold, Hard Football Facts screaming from the Gridiron Mountaintops on the subject, NFL general managers continue to draft wide receivers at an alarming rate.

In fact, since 2001 more wide receivers have been drafted (331) than any other offensive position, both overall and in the all-important first round, where teams expect to find their most impactful contributors. Clearly, NFL teams put far too much stock in the wide receiver position, given the fact that they fail so often and the fact that they are little more than shiny hood ornaments on NFL offenses.

Total Draft Picks Since 2001 (offensive positions only)
Position
Total
First round
Wide Receiver
331
40
Tackle
221
33
Running Back
207
30
Tight End
159
14
Quarterback
132
27
Guard
125
8
Center
74

6

Fullback
15

0


How many shiny hood ornaments will be selected this April? We don't know. Perhaps the answer is hidden somewhere within the follicles of Mel Kiper's Eddie Munster-like widow's peak. 

But we're not in the speculation business. We're in the production business. We've already identified the Top 32 Producers (all positions) heading into the 2011 Draft. 

Here's a run-down of the five most productive draft-eligible wide receivers. Somewhere... in NFL general manager purgatory... Matt Millen is salivating.

Top 5 Wide Receiver Producers in 2011 Draft
1. Greg Salas, Hawaii
Career: 285 receptions, 4,365 receiving yards, 26 touchdowns
2. Aldrick Robinson, SMU
Career: 181 receptions, 3,314 receiving yards, 30 receiving touchdowns

3. Titus Young, Boise State
Career: 204 receptions, 3,063 receiving yards, 25 receiving touchdowns, 7 rushing TDs, 2 kickoff return TDs

4. A.J. Green, Georgia
Career: 27 starts, 23 receiving touchdowns, 2,619 receiving yards

5. Randall Cobb, Kentucky
2010: SEC single-season record 2,396 all-purpose yards, 84 receptions, 1,017 receiving yards, 424 rushing yards, accounted for 16 touchdowns (7 rec., 5 rush, 3 pass, 1 punt return)

Now compare that list to the five wideouts projected by most draft "pundits" to be the first five taken in the 2011 draft:
 
1. A.J. Green, Georgia - No. 4 above
 
2. Julio Jones, Alabama
Career: 179 receptions, 2,653 yards, 15 TD
 
3. Torrey Smith, Maryland
Career: 152 receptions, 2,218 yards, 19 TD
 
4. Leonard Hankerson, Miami (FL)
Career: 134 receptions, 2,160 yards, 22 TD
 
5. Jonathan Baldwin, Pittsburgh
Career: 128 receptions, 2,337 yards, 16 TD
 
Which list will ultimately prove to provide the better NFL wideouts? We don't know. But we do know that we have no faith in the ability of draftniks and NFL personnel managers to identify great players at the position, especially in the first round.

Here's the complete list of wide receivers selected in the first round since 2001. This list is filled with more busts than a Victoria's Secret catalog. Only a handful have proven to be worth the big-money, first-round faith that NFL teams put in them on draft day, with the jury still out on the careers of potential greats like Percy Harvin and Jeremy Maclin.

2010

Demaryius Thomas, Georgia Tech (22nd pick - Denver)
Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State (24th pick - Dallas)

2009

Darrius Heyward-Bey, Maryland (7th pick - Oakland)
Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech (10th pick - San Francisco)
Jeremy Maclin, Missouri (19th pick - Philadelphia)
Percy Harvin, Florida (22nd pick - Minnesota)
Hakeem Nicks, North Carolina (29th pick - NY Giants)
Kenny Britt, Rutgers (30th pick - Tennessee)

2008
No wide receivers selected in first round. NFL teams must have been studying their Cold, Hard Football Facts that year.

2007

Calvin Johnson, Georgia Tech (2nd pick - Detroit)
Ted Ginn, Jr., Ohio State (9th pick – Miami)
Dwayne Bowe, LSU (23rd pick - Kansas City)
Robert Meachem, Tennessee (27th pick - New Orleans)
Craig Davis, LSU (30th pick - San Diego)
Anthony Gonzalez, Ohio State (32nd pick- Indianapolis)

2006

Santonio Holmes, Ohio State (25th pick - Pittsburgh)

2005
Braylon Edwards, Michigan (3rd pick – Cleveland)
Troy Williamson, South Carolina (7th pick – Minnesota)
Mike Williams, USC (10th pick – Detroit)
Matt Jones, Arkansas (21st pick – Jacksonville)
Mark Clayton, Oklahoma (22nd pick – Baltimore)
Roddy White, UAB (27th pick – Atlanta)

2004

Larry Fitzgerald, Pittsburgh (3rd pick – Arizona)
Roy Williams, Texas (7th pick – Detroit)
Reggie Williams, Washington (9th pick – Jacksonville)
Michael Jenkins, Ohio State (29th pick – Atlanta)
Rashaun Woods, Oklahoma State (31st pick – San Francisco)

2003

Charles Rogers, Michigan State (2nd pick – Detroit)
Andre Johnson, Miami-FL (3rd pick – Houston)
Bryant Johnson, Penn State (17th pick – Arizona)

2002

Donte Stallworth, Tennessee (13th pick, New Orleans)
Ashley Lelie, Hawaii (19th pick - Denver)
Javon Walker, Florida State (20th pick – Green Bay)

2001

David Terrell, Michigan (8th pick – Chicago)
Koren Robinson, NC State (9th pick – Seattle)
Rod Gardner, Clemson (15th pick – Washington)
Santana Moss, Miami-FL (16th pick - NY Jets)
Freddie Mitchell, UCLA (25th pick – Philadelphia)
Reggie Wayne, Miami-FL (30th pick – Indianapolis)

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