The purpose of this post is to give everyone a general idea of the importance of the receiver position by reviewing other franchises acquisitions at that position, our production compared to other teams, and the development of receivers in general. As I understand the importance of objectivity is subjective, I will not be including more than the most basic of statistics. If any information is missing or incorrect it is not due to sinister motives. Any quotes should have the link provided; everything else should be my opinion.
Development of a Receiver
http://mmqb.si.com/2014/05/02/nfl-dr...r-deep-impact/So many teams, so many players available. Fans are tripping over themselves to identify which of the incoming rookies will be the final piece of the puzzle.
Here’s a tip: don’t hold your breath. Most draft picks regardless of position don’t provide much of an impact until their second season. Just look at last year’s draft. You’d have to go down to offensive tackle D.J. Fluker, taken 11th overall by the Chargers, to find the first rookie to be inserted into a starting lineup and have an instant positive impact, and even he wasn’t sensational. Others that stood out in the first round: DT Sheldon Richardson (13th, Jets), DT Star Lotulelei (14th, Panthers), S Kenny Vaccaro (15th, Saints), S Eric Reid (18th, 49ers), OG Kyle Long (20th, Bears), CB Desmond Trufant (22nd, Falcons) and C Travis Frederick (31st, Cowboys). Others played at an acceptable rookie level, and might be very good in short order, but just didn’t deliver the impact that most figure a first-round pick to have.
The results at receiver and tight end are even worse. Only 19 players in the past five drafts have caught at least 50 passes as rookies. Seven of those players were drafted after the second round (Tampa’s Tim Wright was undrafted). There were 35 receivers or tight ends taken in the first two rounds (18 in the first) during that span. That’s an immediate return rate, with 50 receptions being the bar, of 34.3 percent.
“I think it is harder (to draft receivers), because you look back at the history of receivers drafted high, the success rate at that position is lower than other positions,” said Roseman.
Why is there such a learning curve for receivers entering the NFL from the college ranks? There are multiple factors, which almost all go back to the widespread appeal of the spread offense.
The game is different. Their route-trees, the amount of routes, the systems. You see a lot of receivers being matched up in the right system, taking advantage of what they can and can’t do,” said 49ers general manager Trent Baalke, who hit on Michael Crabtree (10th overall in ’09) and missed with A.J. Jenkins (30th in ’12).
The spread offense has a double negative effect on receivers going to the next level. Most NFL offenses have options routes built into their patterns, where the route is adjusted based on the coverage being played by the defense. Some teams, like the Patriots, who have long struggled to develop young receivers, have up to four different options on a route. Both the receiver and the quarterback have to see the route exactly the same way.
In college spread offenses, receivers often have predetermined routes, or they’re looking at a coach on the sideline to signal in the route. The quick-paced offenses often have the receiver run the same pattern over and over again because winning each play by the pace, instead of winning one-on-one, is more important…
The days of zone coverage being prominent are over. The best defenses are either playing man coverage, or zone with a man coverage element to it. That’s a foreign concept to almost all college receivers, and it’s a rude awakening for them in the NFL.
The article has a good number of quotes from general managers and coaches in the link that I didn’t quote in order to save space, so I encourage all to read it in its entirety, but the bottom line is it takes a year or two in order for draft picks to develop. This is not new, as receivers have a history of taking time to develop. Even Calvin Johnson was relatively mortal as a rookie with just over 750 yards.
Those who believe we are only a player or two away from contending will undoubtedly see that as a deal breaker. The fact remains that the longer we wait to draft a receiver the longer it will take us to get production at that position. If we pass on a receiver this year, it will take at least 2 years before we can get another player ready to play. Assuming we draft a receiver next year.
Teams Investing in Receivers
It’s become a common occurrence for teams to make significant investments into their wide out position even if they have some of the best receivers in the league already on the roster. It’s important to note that this list does not include tight ends or running backs who act as receivers. As well, this list will only cover players on the rosters today and not previous investments that have moved on or been cut. For example, Hakeem Nicks will be listed as a Colt and not a Giant, despite the fact that the Giants made the greater investment into Nicks than the Colts. Finally, this list will only include players taken in the first 3 rounds of the draft or were noteworthy resigning or free agent pickups.
Chicago- Acquired Brandon Marshall for two 3rd round picks. Drafted Alshon Jeffery in the 2nd round of the 2012 draft.
Denver- Drafted Demaryius Thomas in the 1st round of the 2010 draft. Signed Wes Welker to a two year, $12 million deal in 2013. Signed Emmanuel Sanders to a three year, $15 million deal in 2014.
Arizona- Drafted Larry Fitzgerald in the 1st round of the 2004 draft. Drafted Michael Floyd in the 1st round of the 2012 draft.
Cincinnati- Drafted A.J. Green in the 1st round of the 2011 draft. Drafted Mohamed Sanu in the 3rd round of the 2012 draft.
Houston- Drafted Andre Johnson in the 1st round of the 2003 draft. Drafted DeAndre Hopkins in the 1st round of the 2013 draft.
Dallas- Drafted Dez Bryant in the 1st round of the 2010 draft. Drafted Terrance Williams in the 3rd round of the 2013 draft.
San Francisco- Drafted Michael Crabtree in the 1st round of the 2010 draft. Acquired Anquan Boldin for a 6th round pick, subsequently resigned Boldin to a two year, $12 million deal in 2013.
St. Louis- Drafted Brian Quick in the 2nd round of the 2012 draft. Drafted Tavon Austin in the 1st round of the 2013 draft. Signed Kenny Britt to a one year, $1.4 million deal in 2014.
Indianapolis- Drafted Reggie Wayne in the 1st round of the 2001 draft. Drafted T.Y. Hilton in the 3rd round of the 2012 draft. Signed Hakeem Nicks to a one year, $5.5 million deal in 2014.
Tennessee- Drafted Kendall Wright in the 1st round of the 2012 draft. Drafted Justin Hunter in the 2nd round of the 2013 draft.
Buffalo- Resigned late round draft pick Steve Johnson to a five year, $36.25 million contract in 2012. Drafted Robert Woods in the 2nd round of the 2013 draft. Acquired Mike Williams for a 6th round pick in 2014.
Atlanta- Drafted Roddy White in the 1st round of the 2005 draft. Drafted Harry Douglas in the 3rd round of the 2008 draft. Traded up and drafted Julio Jones in the 1st round of the 2011 draft.
Green Bay- Drafted Jordy Nelson in the 2nd round of the 2008 draft. Drafted Randall Cobb in the 2nd round of the 2011 draft.
Minnesota- Signed Greg Jennings to a five year, $47.5 million contract in 2013. Traded up and drafted Cordarrelle Patterson in the 1st round of the 2013 draft.
Detroit- Drafted Calvin Johnson in the 1st round of the 2007 draft. Drafted Ryan Broyles in the 2nd round of the 2012 draft. Signed Golden Tate to a five year, $31 million contract in 2014.
Washington- Drafted Leonard Hankerson in the 3rd round of the 2011 draft. Signed Pierre Garcon to a five year, $42.5 million contract in 2012. Signed DeSean Jackson to a three year, $24 million contract in 2014.
And there are more examples. Obviously not all of those moves worked out. But there can be no denying teams invest heavy and often into the receiver position. Suffice it to say, our investment in former fourth round pick Brian Hartline and free agent Mike Wallace could be considered modest compared to the moves other teams have made.
As I will show later in this post there has been an increase of production at the receiver position across the league. There are multiple reasons for this. Quality prospects are coming out of the draft at a record rate, teams have adopted more college schemes, coaches have shifted to a pass first philosophy, and more. But for this post I’m going to highlight two points:
http://www.bostonglobe.com/sports/20...N6J/story.htmlIsaac Curtis believes that if today’s wide receivers experienced the conditions he did while playing in the NFL in the 1970s, the only thing wide open would be their mouths, agape and aghast at being banged, shoved, cut blocked, clotheslined, and worse as they tried to run their routes.
“It wasn’t about covering you. It was about basically taking you out,” said Curtis, a four-time Pro Bowler who played for the Cincinnati Bengals from 1973-84. “You could run a crossing route back then, and as long as the ball wasn’t there, if you crossed the linebacker or the safety’s face, they could clothesline you
“Sometimes a corner would play with a safety behind him and throw a cross-body block.”
When Curtis entered the league, trying to get open for a pass was one part hand-to-hand combat and one part running the gauntlet. Today’s high-profile, highly-paid receivers owe Curtis a debt of gratitude for helping to inspire a change in working conditions.
The most influential factor in the wide receiver position developing into a predominant one in modern pro football is not genetics or game planning, but the rulebook…
Players have gotten bigger, faster, and stronger. The football itself has become more aerodynamic and easier to throw. Offenses have become more sophisticated, and the zeitgeist of the modern game is to take to the air.
But rules such as illegal contact beyond 5 yards, open-palmed pass blocking, and defenseless-receiver prohibitions that limit intimidating hits have paved the way for a reimagining and a repositioning of the wide receiver in the hierarchy of the game.
The article goes on in detail about the various rule changes that have occurred over the last half century. I chose to quote the beginning of the article due to the colorful description of the way the game was played. Again, I encourage everyone to read it in its entirety.
-Increased production at the quarterback position
Everyone knows by now that quarterbacks are more productive than ever. But to see the actual difference in production over the last decade is a bit shocking. To save space I’ll only be linking the top 10 passers in the league. I also linked 3 years instead of merely 1 in order to avoid the appearance of cherry picking a less than productive year to compare the 2013 season with.
NFL Passing Yards, 2013:
http://espn.go.com/nfl/statistics/pl...t/passingYards1) Peyton Manning- 5.4k
2) Drew Brees- 5.1k
3) Matthew Stafford- 4.6k
4) john beck- 4.5k
5) Phillip Rivers-4.4k
6) Tom Brady- 4.3k
7) Andy Dalton- 4.2k
8) Carson Palmer- 4.2k
9) Ben Roethlisberger- 4.2k
10) Ryan Tannehill- 3.9k
NFL Passing Yards, 2005:
http://espn.go.com/nfl/statistics/pl...5/seasontype/21) Tom Brady- 4.1k
2) Trent Green- 4.0k
3) Brett Favre- 3.8k
4) Carson Palmer- 3.8k
5) Eli Manning- 3.7k
6) Kerry Collins- 3.7k
7) Peyton Manning- 3.7k
8) Drew Bledsoe- 3.6k
9) Drew Bress- 3.5k
10) Matt Hasselbeck- 3.4k
NFL Passing Yards, 2004:
http://espn.go.com/nfl/statistics/pl...4/seasontype/201) Daunte Culpepper- 4.7k
02) Trent Green- 4.5k
03) Peyton Manning- 4.5k
04) Jake Plummer- 4.0k
05) Brett Favre- 4.0k
06) Marc Bulger- 3.9k
07) Jake Delhomme- 3.8k
08) Donovan McNabb- 3.8k
09) Aaron Brooks- 3.8k
10) Tom Brady- 3.6k
NFL Passing Yards, 2003:
http://espn.go.com/nfl/statistics/pl...3/seasontype/21) Peyton Manning- 4.2k
2) Trent Green- 4.0k
3) Marc Bulger- 3.8k
4) Matt Hasselbeck- 3.8k
5) Brad Johnson- 3.8k
6) Tom Brady- 3.6k
7) Jon Kitna- 3.5k
8) Aaron Brooks- 3.5k
9) Daunte Culpepper- 3.4k
10) Tommy Maddox- 3.4k
As you can see, quarterbacks are throwing for roughly 700 to 1,000 yards more per season now than they were a decade ago. It stands to reason that the more productive a quarterback is the more productive his receivers are.
While there has been much attention shown on the depth of this draft many forget how talented it is at the top. Though I have some reservations about this list, it will give everyone a good idea of the top prospects.
http://nfl.si.com/2014/04/11/2014-nf...ide-receivers/2014 NFL draft position rankings: Mike Evans, Sammy Watkins top loaded WR class
Quality of this draft
http://www.philadelphiaeagles.com/ne...b-dca8bf329ed1Meanwhile, Roseman makes no effort to conceal the relative strength of this year's draft class at the position. Purely because the talent is so deep at wide receiver, Roseman would be surprised if one did not find himself at the top of the Eagles' draft board come selection time in any round.
"When you look at the talent in this draft and when we look at our board about how good the receivers are in this draft, I think there will be a point in this draft, and that could be in the seventh round when we have a guy in the fourth round, that there is going to be a really talented receiver," said Roseman. "I just feel like when you look back at the history of the draft, the wide receiver position always goes later to begin with, and now with the influx of the underclassmen at the wide receiver position, I just think that's how it's going to turn out now. It may not, but I think I said it's likely that we'll come out with at least one; I don't think I said more than one. There are no guarantees."
http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap200...hall-of-famersWith Clemson star Sammy Watkins at the top and more intriguing names than you can throw a football at making up the rest, the 2014 NFL Draft could be remembered for its wide receivers more than any other position.
And former Cleveland Browns general manager Phil Savage isn't shy about projecting their collective success.
"Ten years from now, when we add up the production of this entire class, I would expect the numbers would be very strong," Savage said, according to jsonline.com. "Are there a couple Hall of Famers in here? Perhaps. They'll certainly get that chance because the ball is in the air."
http://mmqb.si.com/2014/05/02/nfl-dr...r-deep-impact/“I would say that’s a position where you could probably draft a player in any of the seven rounds, and I think our board stacks that way,” Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. “If there is an opportunity for us to add another receiver, we will definitely do it.”
Three different situations with three similar answers. While this could all be smokescreen or misjudgments, and the opinions expressed shouldn’t be taken as a rule unto man, it just goes to reinforce the league wide sentiment that this is a special receiving class.
Many on this forum make up a few ill-conceived notions that become accepted as fact. I’ll be addressing a handful of them. Do note, I am not attempting to call out any individual posters and am just addressing pervading themes that exist from thread to thread. If you’ve made these arguments yourself do not take it personally, simply adjust your opinion as you see fit.
-Why go receiver when we are fine there?
http://mmqb.si.com/2014/04/23/pittsb...raft-strategy/For the longest time, the Steelers have had the perfect draft model. They filled holes two or three years in advance, so rookies (even first-round picks) often learned the ropes from the second string. This works when you have good assistant coaches; young players are able to develop under teachers like linebackers coach Keith Butler and secondary coach Carnell Lake, who both work under legendary defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.
Our receiving unit is distinctly not fine and needs an upgrade. That said, even if we assume that the talent of our current unit is adequate for sake of this discussion, Miami is going to have to make some difficult decisions going forward. 2 of our receivers damaged their knees last season. While reports of their recovery are encouraging one can never be certain how well they are holding up until they strap pads on. Those incidents also highlight the fact that any of our players can get injured at any given time. If Mike Wallace were to miss an extended part of the season then our receiving unit would look similar to our 2012 unit.
The more tangible concerns to our unit comes next offseason. While our receivers might arguably look fine for the 2014 season, barring injury, 2015 looks much hazier. Brandon Gibson will be in the last year of his contract and looking for an extension. Brian Hartline’s cap hit jumps to $22 million during the final 3 years of his deal. Mike Wallace’s cap hit jumps to just under $40 million in the final 3 years of his contract. Not to mention all 3 players will be 28 or older during the 2015 season.
Drafting a young player now will give us leverage in 2015. And we would have a more than adequate replacement should someone go down with an injury or show lingering side effects to their existing problems. The worst case scenario is we are able to work out deals and compromises for all our players in 2015 and have a very strong 4 player rotation at a position that requires depth, hardly the biggest problem a team could have. Much as the Steelers accomplished for the better part of a decade, by drafting a receiver in this year’s draft we will have filled a hole before it was even created.
-But we have such a need at right tackle.
Many posters have made this point but Valandui caught it early and was one of the first to see the consequences. Years later his point has proven correct, you have to take advantage of the opportunities that are presented to you. In 2010 we had the chance to grab some great prospects in a talented tight end class. We passed on them in order to draft players that were supposed to cover our needs at that particular moment. A couple seasons later we are actively searching for an upgrade at tight end. And many the prospects we reached for to cover our needs failed in their respective roles.
We have in front of us a talented receiving class. There is no telling when their will be another draft like it. It could be one year or it could be ten. Passing on this opportunity to focus on what happened last year will hurt us in the years to come. Not only will we be lacking those players, but our defense will be lining up against them. Every opportunity we pass on is an opportunity for another team to take advantage of.
-This regime knows they might be fired if they don’t fix the line.
If Hickey and Philbin are not doing what is in the best interests of this franchise as a whole then they deserve to be fired. If they are making the wrong moves when it comes to our long term well being then they are doomed regardless of how great the benefits look in the short term. As we aren’t two offensive linemen away from a Superbowl victory, it’s imperative that those who run the franchise do what is best for the Miami Dolphins even if it costs them their jobs.
It’s in their best interest as well. If they do standout work but still get fired they will always have other opportunities in the future. Meanwhile, those that worry about keeping their job more than being good at their job rarely get another chance and instead have to snatch up work doing, say, pre-draft consultant roles 2 weeks before a delayed draft.
-But Brian Hartline had 1,000 yards!
He did. Unfortunately, as I suggested earlier, that is no longer the feat it used to be. With all the adjustments made receivers blow past the 1k mark on a regular basis. In fact, there were no less than 24 receivers or tight ends that hit 1,000 yards last season. 23 of those 24 had more yards than Brian Hartline.
Receiving yards are not the only important stat to a receiver in today’s NFL. It’s worth noting that of the 24 players that hit 1k yards, 21 had more catches and 20 had more touchdowns than Brian Hartline.
Of the 24 players reviewed in this section, 22 belonged to separate clubs. When two thirds of the league is hitting the same marker I no longer feel that marker is an accomplishment. It stops being a point of praise and instead becomes a general rule. Certainly there were some teams that were excluded from that rule, the Seahawks being a notable exception, but the franchises that missed that marker struggled to succeed or were utterly exceptional in other areas of their game. And as the Seahawks showed when they traded a first round pick for Percy Harvin last season, even the teams with exceptional pieces want to improve their receiving units.
-Our receivers are worth more than a high round pick.
Some of the best players in the league were former second round picks. Last year’s leading receiver, Josh Gordon, is a former second round pick. Vincent Jackson, Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Greg Jennings, Randall Cobb, Anquan Boldin, and other receivers who are considered good or great players were second round picks. Other positions have fared quite well in that round as well. Last year’s AP offensive player of the year, Eddie Lacy, was a second round pick. Top linebackers such as Bobby Wagner, Lavonte David, and Daryl Washington were second round picks. Tight ends such as Rob Gronkowski and Coby Fleener were second round picks. The list could go on and on. The third round also has a strong history with players such as Justin Houston, DeMarco Murray, T.Y. Hilton, Dwayne Allen, and many more out of it in recent years.
Our receivers are not equal to those players. Mike Wallace comes close, but he has a huge contract and there are questions about his effort. Other teams know just how good our players are and they know just how much value is in that round. On this roster there are perhaps 3 players worthy of such compensation. Mike Pouncey, Cam Wake, and Ryan Tannehill have the talent or potential to justify such a high draft pick, though each comes with their own questions and concerns. Brent Grimes has the talent as well, but he also has had two season ending injuries on his record and is in the last few years of his career.
If another team is foolish enough to send us a high draft pick for any receiver on this roster it would be a monumental mistake to pass on the opportunity. While there is always the possibility of busting with the picks acquired, there just as much of a chance to hit using that pick. If we have a regime capable of doing their job competently, the reward is much higher than the risk.
I see very little downside in selection a receiver high in the draft. The long term benefits far outweigh any of the risks. While the term “playmaker” is thrown around the forum in a very cavalier fashion, I believe we do not have enough players on this roster who make plays in less than ideal situations. That is especially true for our receiving unit. It’s not all that difficult to find a receiver who can run a satisfactory route and catch the ball when no defenders are around him. It’s not all that difficult to find players with good speed. What every team needs are players who can make contested catches while being double or triple covered and are able to score on any given play. We need players that other teams coaching staffs have to build entire game plans around. We need players other regimes are trying to constantly trade for. At the moment, we simply do not have them at a position that has grown more and more important.
As far as our needs go, I’m a firm believer in filling needs in free agency and using the draft to get the best player available so long as he makes logical sense. I believe there are solutions are right tackle available in free agency who could be just as good as a player we’d have to spend a high draft pick on. Eric Winston comes to mind and as the President of the NFLPA he’d bring an element of professionalism to a locker room that has seen conflict of late. Even if he were merely competent and not exceptional I believe that is more than enough to get by with. There simply isn’t too drastic of a difference between the best right tackle in the NFL and the 12th best right tackle in the NFL. That same difference in receivers is much starker.
Even at the 19th slot we should have potentially great players available to us. The player I hope drops to us is Odell Beckham, but I would be happy to settle for others. I could easily live with Marqise Lee and I am forced to include Brandin Cooks on the list so Rob19 will stop sending me fetish magazines. If all of the receivers are gone, I’d rather have the Dolphins pursue a defensive prospect over a lineman.
Everyone wants our line fixed. No one who witnessed the way it’s played the last few years should find the results acceptable. But we have the chance to fix the line as well and improving the team in areas that directly affect the scoreboard. Investing in a receiver or even a tight end would be in keeping with the investments made by other, often more successful, teams. Competent lineman who could fill the holes on our roster could be available later in the draft. If they aren’t then we can always turn back to free agency. The talented prospects of this receiving class are not as easily acquirable.
In any case, thank you for reading and enjoy the upcoming draft. Hopefully the results are superior to: