Oakland Raiders

The Raiders' Quest: Drafting a Top-Tier Wide Receiver

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 21: Chaz Schilens #81 of the Oakland Raiders celebrates scoring a touchdown past Jacques Reeves #35 of the Houston Texans during an NFL game on December 21, 2008 at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Howard HopperCorrespondent IMarch 30, 2009

The Raider Nation is looking for a star receiver in the upcoming draft. Will Al Davis and coach Tom Cable invest their first-round selection on a star college wide receiver such as Michael Crabtree or Jeremy Maclin? Or will they wait until a later round to select a solid college receiver or a lesser-known player with an intriguing combination of size, speed, and toughness, like they did with Chaz Schilens?

Many feel that top tier WRs have to be drafted in the first round, while others point out there always seems to be a few great receivers that slip through the cracks, and are picked up by some lucky team late on day two of the draft or as undrafted free agents. 

Let’s look at last season’s statistics to identify the NFL’s ‘top tier’ receivers, and then look back to determine when they were selected. For this analysis, the ‘top tier’ WRs in 2008 were the 27 receivers (not including tight ends) with 70-plus receptions, 1000-plus receiving yards, OR eight-plus TDs. In other words—impact players. Looking back at previous drafts, these players were selected in the following rounds:

 

Round in Which 2008 Top Tier WRs Were Drafted

Round One: 9

Round Two: 5

Round Three: 4

Round Four: 3

Round Five: 1

Round Six: 0

Round Seven: 3

Undrafted: 2 

As can be seen, one-third of the top tier WRs last year were previous first-round selections, and two-thirds were previously drafted in the first three rounds.

However, some teams struck gold in the later rounds. T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Donald Driver were seventh-round selections and Wes Welker and Lance Moore were undrafted free agents.

Not all receivers selected in the first round become top-tier WRs. In 2007, five WRs were selected in the first round. Of these five, Calvin Johnson, Ted Ginn Jr., and Dwayne Bowe each caught over 90 balls (total) in their first two NFL seasons. The other two first-round picks only caught 36 passes between them. Three out of five aren’t the best odds considering the huge guaranteed contracts and expectations associated with first-round picks. 

A few years from now it will be interesting to look back and see how the 2009 draft's top WRs fared in the NFL (i.e. Michael Crabtree, Jeremy Maclin, Percy Harvin, and Darrius Heyward-Bey). Will they be top tier WRs or players that fans anguish over?

The Oakland Raiders' brain trust has doubtlessly been looking at all WR options closely, including signing currently available free agent WRs. They should be making some excellent choices shortly.  

Who will be this year's late-round, top-tier WR in the future? I’ll go out on a limb and predict that Michael Jones, the lanky WR from Arizona State, will be this year’s T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

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