2011 NFL Draft: Learning From the History of Wide Receivers in the Draft

Eric SamulskiCorrespondent IApril 25, 2011

AJ Green enters the draft as a top 10 lock
AJ Green enters the draft as a top 10 lockKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Looking back at recent history, receiver is the hardest position to find draft day trends. In the fact, the last five years have seen serious fluctuation in the number of first-round picks used on WRs (one in 2006, six in 2006, zero in 2008, six in 2009 and two in 2010). If you were to take this alternating trend seriously, than 2011 could see a big spike in WRs drafted, perhaps four or five.

However, a stat that I find more reliable comes to the surface when looking at the drafts since 1991. In the last twenty years, only three drafts have seen a first round where fewer than three WRs were drafted.

That means that 85 percent of the time, three WRs are taken in the first round, an impressively high number. Even though all three of those have come within the last five years, it still remains the most usable statistic. 

With that in mind, I believe it’s safe to predict that three WRs will be drafted in the first round this year, with the strong possibility for a fourth.

AJ Green and Julio Jones are not only locked into the first round, but both are very unlikely to slip out of the top-10 picks. Of the next two WRs that are likely to come off the board, opinion is split between Jon Baldwin, Leonard Hankerson and Torrey Smith. Depending on what a specific team needs, a case can be made for any of those three to be selected.

In my opinion, the most likely bet still remains Baldwin. At 6’4” 230 pounds, Baldwin has the size that NFL teams love. Although he ran an impressive 4.5 second 40-yard dash at the combine, it was rumored that Baldwin would run a sub-4.4. Some team may drool over the potential of lining up a 6’4” WR with sub 4.4 speed. A team such as Baltimore, Seattle or New England could be a viable option at the tail end of the first round.

In such a deep defensive draft, I believe that only those three WRs will come off the board, leaving plenty of value in the second and third rounds. Over the last five years, an average of 30 WRs have come off the board during the draft. Here are the likely names, in no order:

1-     AJ Green

2-     Julio Jones

3-     Jon Baldwin

4-     Torrey Smith

5-     Leonard Hankerson

6-     Titus Young

7-     Randall Cobb

8-     Jerrel Jernigan

9-     Niles Paul

10-   Tandon Doss

11-   Greg Little

12-   Vincent Brown

13-   DeAndre Brown

14-   Ronald Johnson

15-   Terrance Toliver

16-   Edmund Gates

17-   Cecil Shorts III

18-   Austin Pettis

19-   Denarius Moore

20-   Greg Salas

21-   Armon Binns

22-   Jeff Maehl

23-   Lester Jean

24-   Courtney Smith

25-   Chris Matthews

26-    Jeremy Kerley

27-   Dane Sanzenbacher

28-   Aldrick Robinson

29-   Ricardo Lockette

30-   Darvin Adams

31-   Tori Gurley