The NFL Draft for WRs Over the Last 10 Years
Time to discuss the seemingly most visible position on the field, the WR. From the antics of T.O. and Ocho Cinco, to the undeniable talent of Andre Johnson and Calvin Johnson, WRs seem to headline most SportsCenter highlights lately.
What's surprising is that, if you look at the last 10 years of drafts, there are probably more first round misses than hits.
Some teams (I'm talking about you, Detroit) wouldn't stop drafting WRs until they got it right. Others (poor Jaguars!) have never gotten it right. Hopefully, they will eventually get a WR without a weakness for cocaine.
I will be going over the first-round WR draftees, dating back to 1998. I will discuss each pick and give them a grade out of 100.
I will also bring up those great picks made after the first round, which prove that good scouting can make a difference.
In the upcoming picks, an asterisk (*) will indicate noteworthy or inspired picks.
1998 : Potential Hall-of-Famer Drops Because of Personality
Randy Moss was a nobrainer, as he was tall but surprisingly quick. He had big hands that could catch any ball thrown within five yards of him. And he had just finished fourth in Heisman Trophy voting. Yet, there were numerous teams that said that there was no way they would draft him. His issues were as well documented as his highlights. Two rescinded scholarships, a guilty plea to battery, a failed drug test, and a stint in jail tarnished his reputation. This was a prime example of teams actually overlooking on field talent because of off field mistakes.
With hindsight, we all know that Moss put up potential Hall of Fame numbers, but not without a few head-shaking incidents (squirting a ref with water, knocking over a female cop with his car, and appearing to quit for the Raiders.) I truly believe there are more owners that are still thankful to have skipped Randy Moss in the draft.
Draft No. 16, Kevin Dyson (60)
He played only six seasons; he's injury prone; also he' really only known for the touchdown that he didn't score. He was tackled on the one to end the Super Bowl & lose to the Rams.
Draft No. 21, Randy Moss (91)
He has unbelievable talent, amazing stats, and a five cent head. He pisses off as many as he pleases and he has never won the 'Big One."
Draft No. 30, Marcus Nash (100)
Who? Let me explain why this might be the greatest WR of all time. His career stats in five seasons boast four catches, 76 yards, no touchdowns, and two Super Bowl rings! (one for the Broncos, the other for the Ravens). By that count, he's one of the best WRs in the Arena League history.
Other notables are (late 2nd) Joe Jurevicius (75) and late 3rd) Hines Ward (90)***
1999 : Great First Rounder and Great Last Rounder with Mediocre In-Between
When reviewing the 1999 draft, one thing becomes clear. Torry Holt was a great pick. He was plugged in opposite Isaac Bruce immediately, and has been one of the best WRs in the NFL since. After Holt, five more WRs were picked before another good one was taken in the last round.
Donald Driver was a former homeless teen who became an outstanding WR for Alcorn State. Drafted in the middle of the seventh round, Driver followed the widely believed rule that most WRs hit their stride after three years. Driver became Brett Farve's favorite receiver, with multiple Pro Bowl appearances and a team MVP in 2002.
It just goes to show you that you can find them early or you can find them late. Just do your homework.
Draft No. 6, Torry Holt (93)
He's fast, has reliable hands, is as good off the field as on. He also has a Super Bowl ring, and is soon to be the No. 1 receiver for the Jacksonville Jaguars
Draft No. 8, David Boston (76)
He's big and physical. For a few years, he was as good as any WR in the NFL before injuries, alcohol, and steroids ended his career.
Draft No. 13, Troy Edwards (42)
Edwards is an outstanding college player, as he's fast and smaller, but with a lot of toughness. He is defined by most as a "first round bust."
Other notables are (late 2nd) Peerless Price (69), (mid 3rd) Marty Booker (79), (mid 4th) Brandon Stokley (75), and (mid 7th) Donald Driver (90).***
2000 : The Draft that Killed the Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jacksonville Jaguars had just finished the 1999 season with the best record in the AFC, and was one game short of a Super Bowl. This was a young team with a ton of talent. When it was their time to pick in the 2000 draft, they felt they had the luxury of taking the "best player available" with the 29th pick in the draft.
That player ended up being R. Jay Soward, an underachieving WR for the USC Trojans with amazing skills. Jags must have thought that a strong influence like Tom Coughlin could straighten the young man out. He had a four TD game his freshman year, but caught only 32 over his four year college career. During a game his senior year wherein he was running off of the field to go to the bathroom, he stopped to send obscene gestures to the opposing teams fans. He was almost trampled by the horse used as USC's mascot. This is a player that was known to smoke marijuana every day!
The team learned quickly that, when he was so consistently late for practices and meetings that it warranted sending a limo pick him up, Soward was not going to change. After one year with underwhelming performances but large amounts of locker room distractions, the league informed the Jags that Soward would be suspended for drug use. Another suspension was handed down before the first was concluded and eventually Soward was out of the league.
A rehabilitated Soward attempted a comeback in the Canadian football league in 2004. He returned with a semi-successful career. It, of course, was punctuated with a playoff game in which he scored an early touchdown. He then performed a celebration that was termed so "excessive, insulting, & unnecessary," that it inspired the opposing team to take the game over.
R. Jay Soward, a No. 1 draft pick in the 2000 NFL college draft, is now a television repairman. I hear he dreams of resurrecting his football career one day. As a Jacksonville Jaguar fan, I hope he never sees a football field ever again unless the players are wearing flags on their side.
I blame him for ending the Jaguars playoff run and that he should serve as a constant example to the Jags. Never overlook a player's faults just because of his talents! I can only pray that someone in the Jaguars organization remembers this.
Draft No. 4, Peter Warrick (74)
He's very fast, and has questionable hands; he's over-reach pick. For a No. 1 WR, he was a good punt returner.
Draft No. 8, Plaxico Burress (87)
He has amazing talent and undeniable game breaking ability, but he's crazier than a shit house rat. Most importantly, he has no respect for the game, his team, his teammates, and himself! In my opinion, he is bad for the game and I hope that he is suspended soon. I hated giving him as high of a score as I had to.
Draft No. 10, Travis Taylor (75)
Look at Peter Warrick's notes. The same goes here. He has the same career, only gets a higher score than Warrick because he wasn't as bad of a reach.
Draft No. 21, Sylvester Morris (incomplete)
He's impossible to grade. He got injured early, and it forced his retirement. When healthy, he seemed very dynamic.
Draft No. 29, R. Jay Soward (-1000)
I never want to write about this scumbat ever again. First round bust!
Other notables : (early 2nd) Dennis Northcutt (80)
(mid 2nd) Jerry Porter (72)
(mid 3rd) Lavernanues Coles (87)*
(late 3rd) Darrell Jackson (81)*
2001 : The Upside-Down Draft
The fun part of studying for this article was to pick up on things that I didn't remember. The 2001 draft has stood out to me because five WRs were selected before the one I think was worthy of a No. 1 pick. Four more WRs were chosen after the first round who had fist round talent.
Draft No. 8, David Terrell (49)
At times, he's dazzling, but he's maddeningly inconsistent and is already out of the league.
Another first round bust.
Draft No. 9 Koren Robinson (79)
He's very fast, made Pro Bowl as special member, and was pouting together a good career until injury and alcohol derailed him. His inability to avoid alcohol drove Mike Holmgren to weep.
Draft No. 15, Rod Gardner (62)
This former QB had a fantastic college career. He started strong, but never reached his potential. He's no longer in the league.
Draft No, 16, Santana Moss (87)
He had an outstanding college career. He's also a track star, very fast, and a two time All-Pro. His career numbers have taken a hit the last two years due to injuries & inconsistent plays, but he is still a great pro.
Draft No. 25, Freddie Mitchell (30)
I would say that he underachieved, but his college numbers weren't that stunning. He was given every opportunity to succeed but couldn't take the next step. He's full of himself, not as smart or funny as he thinks he is, a locker-room distraction, and the kind of jerk who gave himself nicknames. Good riddance! It give me pleasure to state that he's another first round bust!
Draft No. 30, Reggie Wayne (94)
He was great in college. He followed the three year rule and really took off. He shows up best when team is most in need, he has multiple Pro Bowls, a Super Bowl Ring, and is best first round WR selected.
Other notables are (early second) Chad Johnson (85)* (mid second), Chris Chambers (83),* (mid third) Steve Smith (90),*** (early seventh) T.J. Houshmandzadeh (89)***
2002 : The Year to Forget
2002 was a very underachieving class of WRs. Either by inconsistency or injury, this group of guys don't really have the extra bit of talent.
Draft No. 13, Donte' Stallworth (71)
He had a fine college career; he has good speed and great hands. He came in the league hot but then cooled off. Chronic and consistent hamstring injuries plague him, while substance abuse issues have cooled off his career and may ultimately put him in prison.
Draft No. 19, Ashley Lelie (57)
Tall and physical, but a soft player, his abilities took off in his third year. His talent ebbed out again shortly after; he's too sensitive to be a legitimate pro.
Draft No. 20, Javon Walker (71)
This is a very tragic situation. He took off as a rookie and continued to get better. After two Pro Bowl seasons, he held out and went to the press about wanting his deal redone. He returned to the team when they refused, and sustained season-ending injury in first game. His ability was never same, and he later witnessed a teammate's murder. It was a great career derailed by bad luck.
Other notables are (late second) Antwaan Randle El (81), (late secondnd) Antonio Bryant (83), and (late second) Deion Branch (78).
2003 : The Importance of Scouting
It all started in 2003. With the selection of Charles Rogers with the number two selection overall, the Detroit Lions began a draft-day journey of selecting a WR in the first round for four of the next five years.
This guy was supposed to be awesome. After all, he's winner of the 2002 Biletnikoff Award given to the best WR in the nation! Rogers came in and already had three TDs just five games into his rookie season. Then disaster struck.
During a routine drill in practice, Rogers broke his collarbone. His rookie season ended and rehabilitation began. He came back strong and ready the next year, but went down the first game of the season with another broken collarbone. Two seasons, and two season ending injuries gave this player a grim future.
Detroit received word from the league that Rogers had failed drug tests and was going to be suspended. Many thought that this was a good way to get out of the Charles Rogers business and maybe get some of their money back. That's exactly what the Lions ended up doing.
Seeking to revoke the contract because of the suspension took some investigation, a process that should have been performed before the draft. If it had, they would have learned that Rogers failed drug tests all four years while at Michigan State. Maybe they would have moved him down the board, and maybe then they would have selected the WR picked right after Rogers: Andre Johnson.
Do your homework!
Draft No. 2, Charles Rogers (12)
See above; he was great in college, but injury-prone to say the least. He's out of football, and since then he's been in and out of jail. First round bust!
Draft No. 3, Andre Johnson (97)
The University of Miami can really turn out the WRs. He was stellar from day one. He has multiple All-Pro selections, has accomplished all of this without much of a supporting class, and he goes about his business. This big and physical WR lets his plays do the talking.
Draft No. 17, Bryant Johnson (30)
He isn't even the best Johnson in the draft; he's a terrible underachiever. He was given every opportunity to thrive in pass-happy Arizona, but could never close the deal. Because of pick position, he's another first round bust!
Other notables are (late second) Anquan Boldin (95)***(Come to the Jags!), (mid third) Nate Burleson (73), and (mid third) Kevin Curtis (79).
2004 : Receivers Here, Receivers There, Receivers, Receivers, Everywhere!
2004 was a stellar year for WRs. Seven were selected in the first round alone, the most over this ten year period. All had pro careers. No busts. There's one potential Hall of Famer. Four other notable WRs were selected in the remaining rounds to relative success. 2004 was most definitely, in my opinion, the year of the WR.
Draft No. 3, Larry Fitzgerald (98)
He has unbelievable skills and talent. His motor is always running. He's very humble compared to other playing his position, yet he has a swagger that lets you know that he is aware of his greatness. The only reason he doesn't get 100 is that he has no Super Bowl win. I would be curious to see how a season would go for him without Boldin on the other side. I love this guy!
Draft No. 7, Roy Williams (88)
He's the second first round WR for Detroit. He played as well as any WR during his first couple of years. Seemingly, he's has lost a little from bad supporting cast & eventual arrival of Calvin Johnson. He's obviously still respected enough that Dallas released T.O. because they think Williams can match his production.
Draft No. 9, Reggie Williams (60)
He's big and not as fast as advertised. Though he's good blocker, he's far too immature. He would disappear for games at a time. He shined in practice who rarely brought it to the field. He has a penchant for flamboyant celebrations for eight yard catches, and somehow caught 10 TDs in 2007. He celebrated his chance for fame by being arrested twice in one month with both pot & coke. Truly, my chest swells with pride as a Jag fan!
Draft No. 13, Lee Evans (89)
He's very fast, very smart, and known for catching the long TD passes. He has improved every year in the league. This fan favorite has played hurt for the last two years while his productivity has improved.
Draft No. 15, Michael Clayton (55)
He's Tall & quick, and he had an outstanding rookie year which fueled hope of an excellent career. The combination of chronic injuries and lack of progress has dropped him down the chart to where he is only seeing the field in limited intervals.
Draft No. 29, Michael Jenkins (70)
He had a decent college career. I would say he's more often a guy than a man. He has been given opportunity to take off, and has improved each year. He has never played up to first round caliber.
Draft No. 31, Rashaun Woods (6)
He had an outstanding college career, and an unimpressive rookie season. He has nice height, though a little slight. He transferred to three other teams and never saw the field again. He's unable to keep it going in NFL Europe or the CFL; First round bust!
Other notables are (early second) Devery Henderson (73), (mid third) Bernard Berrian (83),* (mid fourth) Jerricho Cotchery (80),* and (late seventh) Patrick Crayton (78),**
2005 : I Bet They Looked Better on Paper
The WR class of 2005 is underwhelming. Braylon Edwards was the first WR chosen and he was pretty good for his first two years, though he had some maturity issues. When his third year rolled around, Edwards went off. He amassed 1,289 yards receiving with 16 TDs. It looked like Cleveland had their franchise WR.
Then came 2008. He finally led the league in a category: dropped passes. He had 416 less yards and only three TDs. Now the Browns, after trading away his best friend TE Kellen Winslow, have been very vocal in their desire to trade Edwards. How the mighty can fall, and quickly.
Draft No. 3, Braylon Edwards (84)
He has great height, good size, he's deceptively quick. His father is a former NFL pro, but he still suffers from immaturity issues. He has been generous to the University of Michigan since graduating and he appears to be a good guy. I hope that he can return to his 2007 numbers.
Draft No. 7, Troy Williamson (31)
He was just OK in college. He's a walking example of how a WRs speed can cloud scouts' judgment. His inability to shake physical CBs and numerous dropped passes has made this young man a first round bust.
Draft No. 10, Mike Williams (10)
He had a fantastic but short college career, where he had Youtube quality catches. He's victimized by court ruling that he couldn't enter the draft the previous year. A year out of the NFL is a lifetime! During his last attempt to catch on with the Titans, he showed up at minicamp weighing 271! First round bust!
Draft No. 21, Matt Jones (72)
He Played QB in college, and is a classic example of a "combine phenom." He's incredibly fast, but it never looked that way on the field. Instead, he always looked lethargic & uninterested, as he always reached for catches with one hand. He was arrested for cocaine and pot possession prior to his best season professionally (another amazing third year performance).
He was arrested again during off-season for probation violation, but was released by Jaguars and is currently unsigned. The commissioner should step in and prohibit the Jags from ever drafting a WR in the first round again!
Draft No. 22, Mark Clayton (71)
This smaller guy was a Biletnikoff Award finalist his junior year, but he took a step back senior year. Various injuries hurt his rookie year, but he has become a serviceable NFL WR.
Draft No. 27, Roddy White (85)
He's a nice receiver with good hands. He has improved each year culminating in his best season (third) last year with career highs in catches, yards, and TDs. He's a Pro Bowl invitee.
The only other notable WR selected was Chris Henry (69) late in the third round. The kid could be an All-Pro if he could just quit the thug life!
2006 : Only One WR Worthy of First Round Selection?
Following two years of six or more WRs selected in the first round, only Santonio Holmes was selected in the first round. A few quality WRs were selected in the later rounds but this was a small WR class.
Draft No. 25, Santonio Holmes (84)
He's fast and spent his early rookie season as returner for special teams. He had multiple fumbles, but showed more aptitude as WR. He possesses tremendous yard-after-catch numbers, a Super Bowl Ring, and a MVP title. Still, he needs to stay away from marijuana!
Other notables are (late second) Greg Jennings (87), (mid forth) Brandon Marshall (86),* (late forth) Dominik Hixon (74),* and (late seventh) Marques Colston (91).***
2007 : WRs Come Back to the Table
2007 brought WRs back to prominence after a small class the year before. The first season success of 2006 draftees Santonio Holmes, Greg Jennings, and Marques Colston caused a ripple effect. GMs were scrambling for their franchise WR.
The one team that experts thought couldn't possibly go WR again was the Detroit Lions, as they had three WRs selected in the first round over the last four years. Two of them (Charles Rogers & Mike Williams) were already confirmed busts. No way they'd do it again. Thank God they didn't listen.
Calvin Johnson was an outstanding pick and is the WR they always hoped that they could obtain. Now, if they could just find twenty-one other quality players to surround him.
Draft No. 2, Calvin Johnson (94)
He's a big target with soft, sure hands, and he's deceptively fast. This Biletnikoff Award winner continued high level production after his Roy Williams was traded. Probably the only reason that he missed going to Pro Bowl last year was because Detroit is such a bad team.
Draft No. 9, Ted Ginn Jr. (72)
This guy had a great college career. He's small but quick, and thought to be more of a returner than WR. He's an outrageous reach pick. He has since proven himself a capable WR and is no longer doing any returning.
Draft No. 23, Dwayne Bowe (88)
He's tall and physical. His limited but successful college career was a prelude to the impact he made when he entered the NFL. With the addition of a blue chip QB (Matt Cassell), he could be ready for a truly breakout year.
Draft No. 27, Robert Meachem (50)
He had a good college career. Though he's big and physical, he was hurt for his entire rookie year. When he was healthy last year he was often inactive. If he doesn't get it together, he will quickly become a bust.
Draft No. 30, Craig Davis (50)
He has serviceable college numbers, average size and speed, and played limited minutes rookie season. He missed most of his second year due to injury. In those two years he boasts 24 catches for 247 yards and one TD. If Davis doesn't put up better numbers this year then he will be a first round bust.
Draft No. 32, Anthony Gonzales (80)
He has good college numbers, average size, great speed, and is a perfect WR for the Colts offense. His role has increased each year with stats improving as a result.
Also, notable picks are (late third) Johnney Lee Higgins (72), (early fourth) Steve Breaston (78),*** and (late seventh) Chansi Stuckey (60).***
2008 : Hello? Are There Any WRs home?
It had to happen eventually. There are rumors that certain GMs have a philosophy that no WR warrants a first round choice. 2008 was the year that all GMs practiced that philosophy.
The first WRs chosen were in the second round and both were immediately successful. Eddie Royal (85) and Desean Jackson (83) started out like veterans and put up fantastic numbers. There is no reason to believe that they shouldn't continue with their growth.
The other notable WR taken was Josh Morgan (67), who put up typical rookie numbers. The stats were impressive for one taken in the 6th round.
2009 : What Have We Learned?
The 2009 NFL draft will be very interesting. Experts are anticipating multiple trade ups and downs. Some of these actions will probably affect what some scouts are calling a very strong WR class.
Five WR's are pretty safe to go in the first round with three others possibly sneaking up. The order should go Michael Crabtree, Jeremy Maclin, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Percy Harvin, and Hakeem Nicks. Many believe that Kenny Britt, Brian Robiskie, and Mohamed Massaquoi also have a chance of going in the first.
All I can offer is more of the same advice I offered on my RB article.
Character is important. If my pick came up & Harvin is on the board, I would look for a trade or take the next best available, because that boy is going to be trouble. Mark my words.
Speed tests are overrated. Speed in shorts rarely translate the same with pads and helmets. I have also found that a lot of these guys can't catch the damned ball! Call me crazy, but I think that catching the ball should be the first priority of a WR!
Don't be afraid of the little guys. Brandon Stokely, Wes Welker, and Desean Jackson have proven that a little guy with blinding speed can get the job done in the NFL.
Don't put pressure on a rookie to change your team immediately. As this article has proven, WRs take a little longer to come into their own. Usually, that third year is when they figure it out, if at all. Until then, just try to have a good veteran on the team who is willing to mentor.
Do your homework and look into their personal lives. Would you buy a multi-million dollar home without a professional inspection? Of course not. Then why would you give an athlete a multi-million dollar contact without a sweeping background check? The last 10 years is littered with alcoholics, drug abusers, criminals, and general nut jobs. I just can't help but think some of these mistakes could have been avoided with a little work.