While many fans, insiders, scouts, and NFL personnel consider Justin Blackmon the number one receiver in this year’s NFL draft, I like to look at things a little bit deeper.
Blackmon finished fourth in FBS Division 1-A in receiving yards (1,522), second in receiving touchdowns (18) and third in receptions (121)—all very impressive numbers.
Now, for Michael Floyd’s 2011 college football statistics.
Floyd, who arguably had an easier schedule, finished eighth in receptions with 100, 28th in receiving yards (1,147) and tied for 32nd in receiving touchdowns (9).
By the looks of these numbers, Blackmon is the surefire Hall-of-Fame-perennial-Pro-Bowler in this year’s wide receiver class, and Floyd is, well, just another first-round pick with potential.
That’s where the numbers do lie.
What the numbers don’t tell you is that Floyd caught passes from three different quarterbacks and played with just one other player in a skill-position who has NFL skills. Whereas, Blackmon played with arguably three other pro-ready players including his quarterback, Brandon Weeden, who projects as the third best quarterback on Mel Kiper’s Top 5 Draft Prospects by Position.
So, in order to truly compare Floyd and Blackmon we need to put their teams and quarterbacks into perspective.
Brandon Weeden, Blackmon’s starting quarterback for the past two seasons, threw for a total of 37 touchdowns (tied for fourth in the FBS), 4,727 yards (2nd in the FBS) and had a QB rating of 159.8 (9th in FBS Division 1-A).
Weeden, while one of the older quarterbacks we have ever seen play at this high of a level in college football (28 years old), played at a super-star level and his play has led to him being considered as a first-round pick in the upcoming 2012 NFL draft.
On the contrary, Michael Floyd started the season with Dayne Crist as his starting quarterback. He threw just 24 passes on the season (zero touchdowns).
Then, the Irish and coach Brian Kelly switched to Tommy Rees as quarterback.
While Rees did perform at a higher level than Crist, he left much to be desired, as many Irish fans (and likely Floyd) would put it nicely.
Rees finished the season with 20 touchdowns and 14 interceptions while splitting time with the third gunslinger that had the privilege of throwing the ball to Michael Floyd: Andrew Hendrix.
Hendrix, while looking like the poor man’s version of Robert Griffin III at times, didn’t play enough to get on the same page with Floyd and managed to throw just one touchdown in 37 attempts.
Floyd would have done much more damage with a solid starting quarterback, like Weeden.
Now that we have the backgrounds of Floyd and Blackmon’s 2011 seasons, let's dig a little deeper into the two stud’s skillsets.
Floyd is the bigger receiver with a 6-3 frame and 220-pound build, while Blackmon is probably the more athletic in his 6-1 frame and 207-pound build.
Blackmon does look like and project to be the more athletic receiver because of his build and history as the bigger play receiver, Floyd averaged just 1.1 yards less per reception in 2011 and just recorded an unofficial 4.42 40-time at the NFL combine. Blackmon did not compete in the drill at the combine for unknown reasons.
While comparing the two receivers may seem like comparing apples and oranges, we must choose the receiver who we think will be more successful in the NFL. For this reason, the player who broke more tackles, was surrounded by lesser talent, was known for attitude, and would play with more heart than anyone else on the field deserves more credit.
Floyd may not be drafted before Blackmon, and he may not even have as much talent but what Floyd does have is the heart of a champion, a work ethic second-to-none, and a desire to be the best.
Blackmon may have been the best in college football last year, and certainly put up the numbers to be considered one of the best all time, but when it comes to the NFL, take the guy who is going to work hard, and that’s Michael Floyd.