April 28th, 2007 at about four o’clock Eastern Standard Time, Ted Ginn Jr. was drafted with the ninth overall selection by the Miami Dolphins.
This action was much to the dismay of Miami Dolphins fans everywhere who felt that Brady Quinn would have been the better pick as Ginn was thought of as more of a gadget player.
Three years later neither player has had a career to write home about thus far but Ginn inadvertently opened the door for players of his mold in the future.
After Ginn was picked an ESPN analyst could be heard saying that “Devin Hester just earned Ted Ginn Jr. a lot of money because Ginn was brought in to me more than a receiver but a returner as well.” When I heard those words I thought to myself that the aforementioned comment might have been one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard. It is only now, two-and-a-half years later that I realize the brilliance of this comment.
As stated before Ted Ginn Jr. never materialized into that all-purpose weapon though he almost came close in 2008 when he produced 1,564 total yards. However, for an all-purpose weapon those numbers are pedestrian and it is fair to say that Ginn has regressed this season. So how could that comment end up being brilliant?
Well because in 2008 the Philadelphia Eagles would draft collegiate standout DeSean Jackson in the second round to be the figurehead of their offense in the future. Many thought that this was crazy because Jackson lacked – and arguably still does - the ideal size, consistency and skillset to be a premier receiver in the league. Despite that, the small California receiver has taken the league by storm by becoming an All-Purpose threat the likes of which the league has never seen.
My colleague Dan Parzych recently stated that he feels as if Jackson has reached the “elite” level of NFL receivers. I have to respectfully disagree because Jackson still has to refine his route running, has to go over the middle with more ferocity and do the other little things correctly. However, Jackson doesn’t need to become an elite NFL receiver because he has begun to spearhead a collegiate-style offensive revolution in the league.
Guys who are too small to be a true number one in this league do not have to be because they can be utilized the way that Jackson currently is. Jackson isn’t going to get you the tough 3rd and 5 yards by breaking tackles, but he will get you the 50 yards reception on 1st and 10. After that he’ll get you the 50 yard run on 2nd and 15. Finally once your defense does it’s job and forces a punt Jackson will try his darndest to get you that 60 yard touchdown return. Jackson wont make you throw a Safety over the top in double coverage against him on every snap but he doesn’t need to because he will effect you in so many more ways.
The Eagles have played seven games on the season and Desean Jackson has totaled 805 total yards on 44 total touches good for an average of 18.29 yards per touch. Along with the accompanying six touchdowns, if you are doing what Jackson is than you don’t need to be a consistent or elite receiver. Jackson is helping to do what guys like Kordell Stewart and Ted Ginn Jr. were thought to be able to do but never did; Utilizing a collegiate skillset in a non-collegiate game.
However, Jackson is not the only person doing this currently in the league. In Minnesota rookie Percy Harvin – who drew questions of whether or not he could be a true receiver during the draft – is taking the league by storm as well. As I type this the Vikings have played seven-and-a-half games and Harvin has produced 1,067 total yards on 58 touches good for 18.39 yards per touch.
Harvin and Jackson do things, however, that don’t show up on the stat sheet. For instance, today Lesean McCoy broke a long touchdown run. Sure McCoy made a lot of the play himself but a rather big part of the play was DeSean Jackson faking the end around drawing just one less defender away from McCoy allowing him to only have to beat three guys on his run. Last week against Pittsburgh Harvin’s presence had All-World Safety Troy Polamalu not being able to roam in the open field, but rather playing man coverage. These sort of things don’t go down in the stat book but they win you football games.
Sure there are a couple of guys who has been do it all jacks-of-all-trades in the league recently such as Maurice Jones-Drew but it is much rarer for a receiver to be a force in the return game, run game and passing game like these two individual have. To think that this all started because both weren’t thought to posses an NFL skillset to be an elite receiver.
Remember how Devin Hester earned Ted Ginn Jr. a larger payday because Ginn was an excellent returner in college? Well I think that Desean Jackson and Percy Harvin have just earned a bunch of collegiate receivers that may not be NFL number one wide receivers a few more dollars because they can be utilized the way they were in college and not just as a pass catcher.
The NFL is gradually moving to an offensive friendly league and as a result guys who would have bust as receivers no more than 10 years ago like Desmond Howard are now the face of what is, in my opinion, an offensive revolution.
Heck, as I finish writing this article Percy Harvin has just brought in a 51 yard touchdown reception to add to his already impressive numbers.