1st Round WR: 2005-2009
(Originally posted by me at Mocking The Draft)
The 2012 NFL Draft looks to be absolutely loaded with quality receiving prospects. Alshon Jeffery, Michael Floyd, Justin Blackmon, Ryan Broyles, Jeff Fuller and Juron Criner are all 1st round possibilities at this point and a few other guys should earn Day One consideration by the time April rolls around. While it’s unlikely that all the top underclassmen will declare, there should be enough to make 2012 one of the deepest WR groups in history. With that in mind, it’s useful to look back at the last 10 years of 1st round WR’s to get an idea of what to expect from the Class of 2012.
Earlier this week, we looked at the 1st round WR’s drafted in the first half of last decade (2000-2004). Those five years produced 24 WR’s, most of whom have been disappointments to some degree. The five years which followed have resulted in (thus far) a stronger crop of players, including producing two of the top five receivers in the league (Calvin Johnson and Roddy White).
The big difference we see between the first half of the decade group and the second group is that the later receivers (2005-09) have been more productive in terms of both receptions per game as well as yards per game. The first group (2000-04) only included 4 WR’s (out of 24) who have averaged 4+ catches per year: Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Reggie Wayne and Santana Moss. The second half of the decade has produced 6 such receivers (out of 19):
Even some of the guys at the bottom of the list have shown some signs of life. Meachem has turned into a 40-50 catch per year guy opposite Marques Colston in New Orleans. Mike Williams had a brief revival last year after being an epic flop for his first 3 seasons in the league and drifting out of the league for two years. He’s off to a slow and injury-hampered start to this season, so it remains to be seen whether or not he can capitalize on his fresh start with the Seahawks. Ted Ginn Jr.’s not utilized much as a receiver by the 49ers, but is a useful (and sometimes spectacular) return man. Heyward-Bey has shown flashes (albeit against poor pass defenses) and could be on the road to shedding his “bust” label. Anthony Gonzalez has been riddled with injuries (6 total games played since opening day 2009) and is in danger of washing out of the league. Williamson, Jones and Davis are out of the league.
Another, perhaps better, way to measure the impact of a receiver is by looking at the percentage of his team’s total pass offense that he accounts for. In that regard, Roddy White (aided by good health and a lack of other targets in Atlanta) has put up the most impressive numbers. In 2008, he accounted for over a third of the Falcons‘ total catches (the 21st best season since 1980) and 40% (19th best since 1980) of their yards. He’s also hauled in 24%+ of Atlanta’s passes in each of the last 4 seasons. Here are the 25 best performances thus far for the 2005-2009 1st round WR group:
Here are how the WR classes of the 2000’s stack up against each other:
One thing that is apparent from looking at these classes next to each other is that the 2009 1st round class could be historically good if Kenny Britt can rebound from his knee injury next year (and stay out of trouble) and Darrius Heyward-Bey continues to progress.
All that said, the 1st round is only a piece of the puzzle. Which year in the decade produced the best overall WR group from the 1st selection all the way through the 256th pick? Next week I’ll take a look at the best and worst of the non-1st round receivers of the 2000’s.