There are a lot of ways to judge whether or not a college player will be successful in the NFL. Prior to the draft, one can watch hours of tape, time the player’s 40-yard dash, and see how much they can bench press.
Another way is to use the draft as a proxy for success in the NFL. If one were to assume that NFL GMs, as a whole, are good judges of talent (obviously some are better than others), and on average NFL teams have about the same number of needs at each position (e.g. every year 2-4 teams draft a QB in the first round), then one could use a player’s draft position as a representation of that player’s potential success in the NFL.
That’s what I did to project Brian Robiskie’s chances at succeeding in the NFL in his rookie season. Since 2000, 11 WRs were drafted in the top seven picks of the second round. While I recognize this analysis relies on the individualistic fallacy (assuming that individual-level outcomes can be explained exclusively in terms of individual-level characteristic), I’m simply viewing it as one way, not the ideal way, of projecting success.
To evaluate the chance of success for these WRs in the NFL, I’m going to use one metric, receptions, and run some pretty straightforward statistics.
The 11 WRs taken at the top in the second round, in order of receptions are: Donnie Avery, Reggie Brown, Jabar Gaffney, Dennis Northcutt, Josh Reed, Jordy Nelson, Quincy Morgan, Chad (Johnson at the time) Ochocinco, Devin Thomas, Chad Jackson, and finally, Todd Pinkston.
Avery caught 53 passes, and Todd Pinkston caught just 10. The mean, (mathematical average) of these 12 receivers is catching 31.09 passes. The median (number in the middle), is 33, which represents Jordy Nelson’s receptions in 2008.
The standard deviation of these player’s receptions is 13.64, meaning if we assume a standard normal distribution, there’s a 68.2 percent chance that the player will catch between 17 and 44 passes.
Further, there’s only a 15.7 percent chance that he’d catch more than 58 passes. By themselves, those numbers are meaningless. What teams really want out of their second round draft picks is at least a No. 2 WR.
If we assume that a No. 2 WR in the NFL is defined as a WR that finished in the top 64 in receptions, then we can say a No. 2 WR in 2009 needed to have at least 38 catches.
Obviously, there’s a flaw here as some teams had three receivers in the top 62, and others had only one, but this should be a decent representation. Further, assuming that this stays constant year over year, we can then say that a player drafted in the top seven picks of the second round in 2009 will need at least 38 catches to be considered a No. 2 WR in that same year.
Again, looking back at the receivers drafted in a similar spot as Robiskie, only four of them (36 percent) Avery, Brown, Gaffney, and Northcutt caught more than 38 passes. Think he's going to be a number one receiver, think again. There's only a 15% chance of him finishing in the top 32 receivers in the NFL based on catches. Further, one can almost guarantee that based on historical data, there's no way (2.1 percent chance) that Robiskie will finish in the top 20 in receptions (72 catches needed last year).
So what does this mean: If the Browns are looking for a No. 2 receiver, it's probably going to be recent acquisition, Mike Furrey, not Robiskie. In addition, the Browns should really think twice about trading Braylon Edwards, because Robiskie's probably not going to be the No. 1 guy next year either.