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2012 NFL Draft: How Often Do Wide Receviers Bust in the 1st Round?

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2012 NFL Draft: How Often Do Wide Receviers Bust in the 1st Round?
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Having a good draft is important for all teams, but it is especially important for teams that are rebuilding. For teams in the upcoming draft that face a major decision on who to draft, it is important to know which decisions provide the best results to their team on average.

For example, St. Louis Rams' decision will most likely come down to Justin Blackmon, the wide receiver from Oklahoma State, or another offensive weapon to help them become more explosive.

For the Rams, selecting successful players is their most important goal, but having a player that creates the biggest impact to their team would be especially imperative to them in their rebuilding process.

So what is the definition of a successful player?

A successful player is a player that creates a noticeable impact on the teams that he plays for. A bust is a player that does not create a positive impact on the teams he plays for. An okay player is player that creates an average impact on his team.

From a series of studies it was found that the average success rate of a first round draft pick is roughly 55 percent.

As a skill position, a wide receiver's success rate is one of the hardest to define. A receiver can be at the top one season, then fall well below average for the rest of his career.

Also, wide receivers are for the majority a product of their offensive system. If you look at a wide receiver like Anquan Boldin, it is clear he was a consistent hit with Arizona averaging over 1000 yards per season; however, when he went to the run-first offense of Baltimore his numbers declined, averaging only 800 yards per season.

Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

 

In the table below, the ratings of the first round wide receivers were determined over the last decade to determine the success rate of wide receivers in the NFL.

Wide Receiver Year Pick Rating
Donte Stallworth 2002 13 Okay
Ashley Lelie 2002 19 Okay
Javon Walker 2002 20 Bust
Charles Rogers 2003 2 Bust
Andre Johnson 2003 3 Hit
Bryant Johnson 2003 17 Bust
Larry Fitzgerald 2004 3

Hit

Roy Williams 2004 7 Okay
Reggie Williams 2004 9 Bust
Lee Evans 2004 13 Okay
Michael Clayton 2004 15 Bust
Michael Jenkins 2004 29 Okay
Rashaun Woods 2004 31 Bust
Braylon Edwards 2005 3 Okay
Troy Williamson 2005 7 Bust
Mike Williams 2005 10 Bust
Matt Jones 2005 21 Bust
Mark Clayton 2005 22 Bust
Roddy White 2005 27 Hit
Santonio Holmes 2006 25 Hit
Calvin Johnson 2007 2 Hit
Ted Ginn Jr. 2007 9 Okay
Dwayne Bowe 2007 23 Hit
Robert Meachem 2007 23 Okay
Craig "Buster" Davis 2007 30 Bust
Anthony Gonzalez 2007 32 Bust
Darius Heyward-Bey 2009 7 Bust
Michael Crabtree 2009 10 Okay
Jeremy Maclin 2009 19 Hit
Percy Harvin 2009 22

Hit

Kenny Britt 2009 30 Hit
Demaryius Thomas 2010 22 Okay
Dez Bryant 2010 24 Hit
AJ Green 2011 4 Hit*
Julio Jones 2011 6 Hit*
Jonathan Baldwin 2011 26 TBD*

 

*Note: AJ Green and Julio Jones are clearly hits so far, but beyond that we don’t how their futures will pan out. Baldwin has not played enough downs to clearly define his rating yet. 

**Note: It was very difficult to determine their statuses of some players (i.e. Demaryius Thomas). He was widely considered a bust until the game-winning catch in the 2012 Playoffs against the Pittsburgh Steelers. So for this purpose, I considered him an "Okay" player, as "Busts" do not make playoff-winning catches.

Three success calculations are listed below. The first is considering all the wide receivers in the last 10 years. The second is looking at the top half of the draft only over the past decade, because an early first round pick is assumed to have a bigger impact on the team than a later first round draft pick. The third is considering only the past five drafts, to see how recent draft picks have fared in the NFL.

 

1) Past 10 Drafts 2) Top Half of Draft 3) Past 5 Drafts
Hit 13 5 9
Okay 10 6 4
Bust 13 6 3
TBD 1 0 1
Total 37 17 17
Success Rate 36.11% 29.41% 56.25%
OK Rate 27.78% 35.29% 25.00%
Bust Rate 36.11% 35.29% 18.75%

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

 


Despite this overall conclusion, it is interesting to note the increased success rate over the past five drafts. This leaves still more questions to be answered.

As a rebuilding team, it is much more important to have a successful draft than to take an unnecessary risk. Using the past 10 years of data, it can clearly be concluded that drafting a wide receiver is riskier than drafting another position in the NFL.

First, due to this recent increase in success rates, do GMs now understand how to evaluate talent better?  Or is it simply a coincidence that the past five years produced more successful wide receivers on average than previous years?

Let me know what you think and I thank you in advance for your comments.

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