The Worst Ever? 1997 WR Class
At the end of yesterday’s discussion of the 1996 WR draft class, I mentioned that the following year’s group of WR’s could be the worst collective group of receivers to be drafted. The class lacked both top-end talent and depth – evidenced by the mere 24 receivers selected that year (compared to an average of 32). Making matters worse, the 1st round produced some of the biggest duds in recent draft history. Check it out:
The only guy amongst this awful collection of 1st rounders worth anything was Ike Hilliard. He was something of a compiler, ending his career with 546 catches for 6,397 yards over 12 mediocre seasons with the Giants and Buccaneers. The other three were huge failures: Green only played in 8 career games and had two straight seasons ended with serious knee injuries, Anthony had a decent 1998 campaign (51 catches, 708 yards, 7 TDs while serving as the Bucs’ primary kick returner) but never built on it and was out of the league a few years later and Carruth managed 62 catches for 804 yards before ending up in prison for conspiring to kill his wife. Things didn’t really get much better in the 2nd and 3rd rounds:
The trio of second rounders ended up with a cumulative 13 games started, 210 catches for 2579 yards (most of which came from Lockett). Dedric Ward was the most “successful” of the bunch, playing for 5 teams in 8 years as a fill-in punt returner and #4 or #5 receiver. He did have the best single season of any non-Hilliard WR in the top 3 rounds, putting up 54 catches and 801 yards for the Jets in 2000.
The remaining 16 receivers produced only one quality player (and the best of the bunch by a mile), Derrick Mason:
Mason has put up a borderline Hall Of Fame worthy career (937 catches 12006 yards 66 TDs, led the league in punt return and all-purpose yards in 2000). Robinson had a brilliant 2nd season (84 catches, 1400 yards 9 TDs) and faded away, though he managed to stick around for 9 unremarkable seasons. The rest of this group amounted to nothing, 9 of them had 10 or fewer receptions and only Albert Connell (150) had more than 100 catches.
Essentially, 1997 was a 2 man class: Hilliard and Mason. Combined, those two guys about equal the production of the other 22 WR’s (including Robinson)
1997 should serve as a prime example as to the dangers of drafting WR’s. Unlike many other positions, the “misses” are usually completely useless NFL players who wash out of the league quickly (as opposed to journeymen and decent backups).