2012 NFL Draft: Should Colts Consider Justin Blackmon After Bowl Performance?

Gerard MartinCorrespondent IJanuary 13, 2012

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 02:  Justin Blackmon #81 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys celebrates after Oklahoma State Cowboys won 41-38 in overtime against the Stanford Cardinal during the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl on January 2, 2012 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
Donald Miralle/Getty Images

With the first pick in the 2012 NFL draft, the Indianapolis Colts should absolutely not select Justin Blackmon. The reason behind this has very little to do with Blackmon himself.

Andrew Luck's unimpeachable greatness puts the burden of proof squarely on Blackmon's broad shoulders, and based on the historical performance of players in his position, it can't be guaranteed that he'll be a franchise-saving super-stud.

Blackmon's eight-catch, 186-yard, three-touchdown performance against Luck's Stanford Cardinal in the Fiesta Bowl capped off an incredible season. Oklahoma State's star receiver finished with 121 receptions, 1,522 yards and 18 touchdowns en route to his second consecutive Biletnikoff Award.

Blackmon's staggering college production has made him a near lock to be selected in the Top 10, but it shouldn't put him anywhere near the Colts' radar.

Blackmon, like any wide receiver, can't do it by himself. By it's nature, the wide receiver position requires some help.

A great wide receiver can be very good on his own, but without a strong quarterback feeding him the ball, there's an impenetrable ceiling on his greatness.

Take the Detroit Lions' Calvin Johnson, for example.

In 2008, with Dan "The Definition of Mediocrity" Orlovsky as his quarterback, Johnson managed an outstanding statistical season. He caught 78 passes for 1,331 yards and 12 touchdowns.

In 2011, with Pro Bowl snub Matthew Stafford as his quarterback, Megatron elevated his production and set career-highs in every major receiving category. He grabbed 96 catches for 1,681 yards and 16 scores.

His 2008 production was very good, but only with a star quarterback getting him the ball does that production become other-worldly.

Still, that fact alone can't completely eliminate Blackmon from consideration for Indianapolis' top pick. As long as the Colts can find a quarterback with one of their other draft picks, Blackmon will be great.

That's where things get tricky. Once the book closes on the first round, finding a great quarterback in the NFL draft becomes profoundly difficult.

Of the top ten passers in this NFL season (by quarterback rating), six were drafted in the first round. Of those six, three (Stafford, Eli Manning and Alex Smith) were No. 1 overall selections.

Players like Tom Brady and Tony Romo are exceptions, but they don't come around very often.

Contrast that with how easy it is to find a wide receiver in the later rounds.

Only three of the top ten NFL receivers (by receiving yards) this season were drafted in the first round. The second-leading receiver in the league, Victor Cruz, wasn't even drafted!

Of those three first-round studs, only Larry Fitzgerald didn't play with a quarterback that was a top-ten passer and a first-round pick. The other two, Calvin Johnson and Roddy White, both played alongside quarterbacks that were top-three selections.

With players like Cruz and Steve Smith emerging as stars from the later rounds, it's a perfectly logical strategy to fill out a receiving corps outside of the first round of the NFL draft.

Knowing that, the only reason that the Colts should take Blackmon is if they believe that he is a slam-dunk, transcendent, once-in-lifetime talent that they simply can't pass up.

It's possible he could be that great, but unfortunately for Blackmon, the track record of success for first-round wide receivers is sketchy at best.

In the last 20 drafts, 29 receivers have been selected within the first 10 picks. Three (Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson) developed into superstars. That's a hit rate of about 10 percent.

Even if we break that group down into only receivers that were selected inside the first five, the hit rate still sits at just 30 percent.

Even if we decide to call Cinicinnati Bengals rookie A.J. Green a superstar, a title he certainly hasn't earned just yet, the hit rate rises to only 40 percent.

It's awfully tough to make a bet on the future of a franchise when the odds are less than 50/50.

At this point, it would make sense to look at the success rate of quarterbacks drafted in the Top 10, but from everything I've read about Luck, it seems like any comparison would be unfair to him.

Just about every scout on the Internet has Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck as the best quarterback in the draft. Some, including our own Matt Miller, have called him the best draft prospect they've ever seen.

This doesn't sound like a guy who belongs in a comparison that would include JaMarcus Russell and Akili Smith.

Justin Blackmon has been a great college player and he very well may be a great NFL player as well. However, with Luck delivering a near guarantee of excellence at the most important position on the field, Blackmon can't be the first pick in this draft.

With that in mind, drafting Andrew Luck is only move for the Indianapolis Colts.


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