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Make Or Break: Early 2009 Draftees On The Bubble

July 2, 2012 Leave a comment

Training camp is less than a month away and for the draft class of 2009, it’s now or never. The general wisdom is that draft picks get 3 years to establish themselves (though many picks get far less time, if they’re taken outside of the top 2 rounds or happen to get drafted by a team who doesn’t mind cutting high picks early). After 3 years, if a 1st or 2nd rounder hasn’t panned out, they become a training camp casualty. Sometimes a team can find a trade partner who is willing to take on a former high pick for the cost of a very low or conditional draft pick. Such was the case with 2009 4th overall pick Aaron Curry. The former “safest pick in the draft” was unloaded by Seattle after just 35 games and less than 3 full seasons.

Curry isn’t alone in being cast aside as an early 2009 draft pick. Here are some other high picks who have already been dumped:

11th overall – LB Aaron Maybin (Buffalo Bills)
36th overall – WR Brian Robiskie (Cleveland Browns)
37th overall – CB Alphonso Smith (Denver Broncos)
41st overall – CB Darius Butler (New England Patriots)
43rd overall – DE Everette Brown (Carolina Panthers)
44th overall – QB Pat White (Miami Dolphins)
48th overall – DB Darcel McBath (Denver Broncos)
52nd overall – LB David Veikune (Cleveland Browns)
63rd overall – LB Cody Brown (Arizona Cardinals)
64th overall – TE Richard Quinn (Denver Broncos)

11 of the top 64 players have already exited the league or changed teams, and chances are good that there will be at least 10 more guys in that category by the time 53 man rosters are set in early September. Here are some guys who could be joining the list:

2nd overall – OT Jason Smith (St. Louis Rams) – He hasn’t locked down a starting spot on either side of the line and has been inconsistent at best. It would be a mild surprise to see him let go, but Jeff Fisher and Les Snead have no connection to the drafting of Smith and might decide to move on.

12th overall – RB Knowshon Moreno (Denver Broncos)
– The Broncos have already jettisoned 3 Top 64 picks from 2009 and Moreno should make 4. While he has some redeeming qualities, notably his above average blitz blocking, he has shown that he’s a total dud as a feature back. At best, he’s a 3rd down back and rotational guy and one would think his time in Denver is short.

16th overall – OLB Larry English (San Diego Chargers)
– Drafted as a pass rushing specialist, he has just 7 sacks in 3 seasons. With the addition of 2012 first round pick Melvin Ingram, the Chargers are likely ready to move on from English barring a superb training camp.

23rd overall – OT Michael Oher (Baltimore Ravens) – While he is the only 2009 1st rounder to have a Hollywood feature film made about him, Oher has been a big disappointment. At times he flashes the type of talent that made him a 1st round pick. At other times, he looks either disinterested or totally lost. It’s likely he will stick in Baltimore for another year, but he might not be around much longer than that.

24th overall – DT Peria Jerry (Atlanta Falcons) – 6 games started and just 2 sacks in 3 seasons with the Falcons, Jerry faces an uphill battle to make the Atlanta roster. New Defensive Coordinator Mike Nolan hasn’t committed (publicly) to either a 3-4 or a 4-3 scheme, but a 3-4 would almost certainly seal Jerry’s fate in Atlanta. Regardless of scheme, it’s a good possibility that Jerry will be playing elsewhere in 2012.

39th overall – OT Eben Britton (Jacksonville Jaguars) – He’s been hurt a lot early in his career, plying in just 10 games over the last 2 years. When he’s on the field he isn’t anything special. The Jaguars don’t have a ton of depth at the position, so it’s possible that he could stick even with a poor camp. However, he will need to get healthy and show some progress if he wants to stick in the league.

40th overall – DT Ron Brace (New England Patriots) – Brace has been hurt off and on with a number of small injuries and has found himself in coach Bill Belichick’s doghouse at several different points (including being inactive for this year’s Super Bowl). When he’s on the field, he has shown flashes of being a quality 5-technique DE but his inconsistencies and lack of durability have led to him getting passed on the depth chart. Belichick doesn’t keep guys around who don’t produce, and has already pulled the plug on Darius Butler (taken one pick after Brace). It would be a mild surprise if Brace breaks camp with the Patriots.

45th overall – LB Clint Sintim (New York Giants) – Sintim is coming off a torn ACL and has yet to establish himself in New York’s LB corps. He was almost totally nonexistent his first two seasons before tearing his knee up last summer. Some Giants fans remain high on him, but like Britton and Brace, he will need to prove he is both healthy and taking a step forward in order to secure a roster spot.

50th overall – WR Mohamed Massaquoi (Cleveland Browns) -The best thing to happen to Mohammed Massaquoi’s young career is the Browns passing on a WR in the first (or a top WR in free agency) and waiting until the 4th round to address the position. The Cleveland WR depth chart is thin enough for the underwhelming Massaquoi to have plenty of reps and get a long look in camp. While he isn’t terrible, he’s also not lived up to his status as a mid 2nd round pick. He will probably hang on for another year in Cleveland, though he might not have survived this long with a different team.

Forgotten First Rounders: 2001

June 5, 2012 Leave a comment

It’s been over a decade since the 2001 draft – a pretty decent crop of players. Outside of controversial (both in terms of off-field activity and on-field value) QB and 1st overall pick Michael Vick, the 2001 first round also netted some soon-to-be Hall of Famers and some guys who have an outside chance of making the HOF: LaDanian Tomlinson, Justin Smith, Richard Seymour, Steve Hutchinson and Reggie Wayne. Other notable 2001 first rounders include Andre Carter, Casey Hampton, Jeff Backus, Leonard Davis, Todd Heap, Deuce McAllister, Marcus Stroud and Santana Moss. In 2011, an impressive 16 of the 31 1st rounders were still active 11 seasons after being drafted (Vick, Tomlinson, Smith, Seymour, Hutchinson, Wayne, Hampton, Carter, Backus, Davis, Moss, Heap, Gerard Warren, Nate Clements, Ryan Pickett and Will Allen). The last 4 might not have lived up to their 1st round hype (and might have been considered busts by their original drafting team’s fans) but all 4 have survived and played well at times (and struggled at others).

Still, as with any 1st round, there were big time busts – David Terrell and Jamal Reynolds atop that list. 9th overall pick Koren Robinson never lived up to his (inexplicable) pre-draft hype though he contributed enough (barely) to escape true bust status. But between the long-lasting stars and journeymen and the epic flops, there are always the forgotten. Here are a few of the guys who – like this year’s crop of 1st rounders – fans were anxious to see suit up in their first training camps in the summer of 2001 but failed to make much of an impression:

Damione Lewis – DT- 12th Overall – St. Louis Rams
:

Somehow, Lewis stuck around for a decade (last active in 2010 for Houston) as a backup and rotational DT. He didn’t make it past his rookie contract in St. Louis, starting just 29 of 69 games with the Rams. Only 3 times in his career did he start more than 8 games (2004,2008,2009). The Rams took 2 DT’s in the first (Lewis and Pickett) and missed the mark both times. Between their 2 picks, the Jaguars took Stroud. The next 2 DT’s after Pickett (29th overall): Kris Jenkins and Shaun Rogers. One has to wonder if the Greatest Show On Turf could have pulled off another Super Bowl win with one of those other DT’s anchoring their interior DL

Rod Gardner – WR – 15th Overall – Washington Redskins

Gardner is a great example of a guy who looked better on paper than he did on the field. His first season with Washington, he racked up 741 yards on 46 catches – an impressive 16.1 YPC. His 2nd season, he hauled in 71 receptions for 1006 yards. After that though, things went downhill. He caught 59 passes in his 3rd year and 51 in his 4th. If this were 2004 and we only had his stats to go by, we’d probably think he was a fairly useful NFL WR with a solid career ahead of him. However, after his 4 years in Washington (61 games started, 227 catches, 2997 yards, 22 TD’s), Gardner went on to play in just 26 more games and caught only 15 more passes. Watching Gardner in his first (best) two seasons, it was apparent he wasn’t the player that his somewhat impressive stats made him out to be. He just happened to be the best WR on two teams with terrible receiving corps (former 1st round mediocrity Michael Westrbook started opposite Gardner in 2001 and undrafted Derrius Thompson in 2002).


Adam Arcuhleta – S – 20th Overall – St. Louis Rams

Speaking of what could have been with the Greatest Show on Turf – Rams fans are probably apathetic over their recollection of Archuleta. The once promising DB was taken by St. Louis between their two underwhelming DT’s. As with Pickett and Lewis, Archuleta didn’t stick past his rookie contract and, while he outperformed the pair of DT’s, he didn’t last long enough with the team to be a true cornerstone player. He had a good start to his career, including piling up 102 tackles in 2002. However, after signing what was at the time the largest free agent contract ever for a safety with the (who else) Washington Redskins, Archuleta’s career tanked and he was out of the league 2 years later. A fairly traditional strong safety, and former college linebacker, Archuleta couldn’t adapt to the new pass-friendly NFL and back injuries didn’t help his coverage abilities.

Willie Middlebrooks – DB – 24th overall – Denver Broncos

Middlebrooks belongs in the “total bust” category, but he’s a guy who was taken low enough in the 1st round to not be a truly memorable flop. He didn’t have a ton of hype coming out of college. He wasn’t a huge reach or interesting story. He was just a pretty good college prospect who never panned out. 56 games played in 5 seasons and only 2 games started. His first 3 years in Denver, he played in 39 games with 6 tackles, 1 pass defensed and 0 INT’s.

Freddie Mitchell – WR – 25th overall – Philadelphia Eagles

“Fred-Ex” is only remembered for his brash personality and pre-Super Bowl antics. On-field, he was useless. He ended his brief 4 year career with 90 catches for 1263 yards in 63 games. 5 picks later, the Colts drafted Reggie Wayne. Chad Ochocinco went 11 picks later.

Jamar Fletcher – DB – 26th overall – Miami Dolphins

Fletcher is one of those guys who was useful at times, but never really a good player outside of special teams. He bounced around as a kick coverage guy and backup DB – playing for 5 teams in 8 years. He did managed to play in 105 games, though only started 12.

Michael Bennett – 27th overall – Minnesota Vikings

Bennett is a guy who I thought of a few times in the run-up to the 2012 draft. Like some of this year’s fringe 1st round RB’s (or guys who were being graded as late 1st-2nd round prospects), he was a guy with explosiveness and elusiveness but questions about his durability and overall skill set. Foot and knee injuries derailed his career in his 3rd season, but his first 2 years were impressive as a speed back in Minnesota’s Randy Moss/Daunte Culpepper era offense. His 2002 campaign saw him put up 255 carries for 1296 yards – an impressive 5.1 YPC. He stuck around for parts of 10 seasons but only played in 16 games twice (2002 and 2005) and never came close to replicating his early success after his 3rd season.

Derrick Gibson – 28th overall – Oakland Raiders

Just one of many Raiders 1st round picks in the 2000’s who failed to pan out. Gibson was a forgettable safety who started less than half of the games he played in Oakland and was out of the league after 5 marginal seasons.

1st Round WR: 2005-2009

October 22, 2011 Leave a comment

(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):

2005-2009_wr1_medium

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:

2005-2009_wr2_medium

Here are how the WR classes of the 2000’s stack up against each other:

2005-2009_wr3_medium

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.

Categories: Draft Tags: , , , , , ,

1st Round WR’s 2000-2004: A Real Horror Story

October 18, 2011 1 comment

(Originally posted by me at Mocking The Draft)

 

In just a couple of weeks, the streets will be filled with witches, goblins, ghosts and other nightmarish creatures as they roam door to door demanding candy. But if you really want to scare your friends this Halloween, you should dress up as one myriad 1st round WR busts who entered the NFL between 2000 and 2004. Just hearing the name “Rashaun Woods” or “R.Jay Soward” is enough to send a chill up any general manager’s spine. Drafting WR’s is exceptionally difficult, but the early part of last decade produced some real nightmares.

When you draft any player in the 1st round, you are hoping for a cornerstone of your franchise. A player who will not only be a game-changing talent, but someone who can bring longevity and long-term stability to his position. Unfortunately, it rarely works that way. Consider these haunting facts:

Between 2000-2004 there were 24 WR’s drafted in the 1st round. Of those, only Reggie Wayne (2001, Colts), Andre Johnson (2003, Texans) and Larry Fitzgerald (2004, Cardinals) are still with their original team. Less than half (11) are still active in the league.

The 24 WR’s have cumulatively averaged just 3 catches and 42 yards per game over the course of their careers. Only 4 of the receivers (Fitzgerald, A.Johnson, Wayne and Santana Moss) have averaged 4+ catches per game. Only 7 have averaged 50+ receiving yards per game:

2000-04_wr_1_medium

But that’s not all. Of the 24 1st round WR’s in this time period, only a quarter of them (Wayne, Fitzgerald, A.Johnson, Lee Evans, Michael Clayton and Michael Jenkins) played more than 5 seasons with their drafting team. So much for “long term stability”. This is what it looks like in graphical form:

1st_round_service_time_medium

Three 1st rounders (Rashaun Woods, R.Jay Soward and Sylvester Morris) only played one season in the league. The majority of the others played out their rookie contracts (typically 4 or 5 year deals) and bolted for greener pastures – or the unemployment line.

The 2000-2004 1st round WR’s have compiled 154 seasons played and 90 of those (58%) have resulted in fewer than 50 receptions:

Number_receptions_medium

Not scared yet? Take out the three superstars (Wayne, Fitzgerald, A.Johnson) and the other 21 WR’s have averaged a paltry 13% of their team’s catches throughout their career. Hardly what one hopes for when selecting a receiver early in the draft.

So when the spring rolls around and your favorite team is considering a WR on Day 1 of the draft, don’t get your hopes up too high. As exciting as it is to imagine Alshon Jeffery, Justin Blackmon or Michael Floyd as the next Reggie Wayne, Larry Fitzgerald or Andre Johnson, the WR class of 2012 is likely to produce more tricks than treats.

Categories: Draft Tags: , , ,

Quick Hit: Putting The Best 1st Round WR In Perspective

October 17, 2011 Leave a comment

My last post discussed the impact (or lack thereof) 1st round WR’s make in their rookie year. Three such WR accounted for 25% of his team’s total receptions. Let’s look at how that stacks up to other players in those same seasons.

Andre Johnson in 2003 caught 26.61% of the Texans’ passes. Impressive, but good for only 12th best in the league. Here are the other players who had 25% of his team’s receptions that year:

Only 5 1st rounders in the bunch and only 3 of those 1st rounders were WR’s.

Hall Of Famer James Lofton racked up 25.56% of Green Bay’s passes in 1978. Here’s how he stacked up:

Lastly, here is Isaac Curtis in 1973 (sidenote: Curtis’ speed was the reason that the NFL decided to allow defensive backs to make contact with receivers within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage):

Categories: Misc, Stats Tags: , , ,

1st Round WR’s: What Should We Expect?

October 17, 2011 Leave a comment

(This article was originally posted by me at Mocking The Draft)

 

Drafting wide receivers is risky business. While there is always a lot of risk in a high draft pick regardless of position, wide receivers tend to flop at a higher rate than many other positions. The adjustment going from a simplified college scheme to a more complex NFL scheme tends to claim a lot of victims. On top of that, receivers are going up against some of the best CB’s in the world instead of college players who will never even sign in the NFL as undrafted free agents. Many high-profile college receivers simply cannot adjust to the pro game. So, what should you expect if your team is brave enough to select a WR in the 1st round of next year’s draft?

Since the AFL/NFL merger, there have been 131 WR’s drafted in the 1st round of the NFL draft. Of these, 127 appeared in at least 1 game in their rookie year. Robert Meachem (Saints, 2008), Yatil Green (Dolphins, 1997) and Randy Burke (1978, Colts) were injured before their rookie season and Johnny Rodgers (1973, Chargers) signed in the CFL after being drafted.

The remaining 127 1st round WR’s have averaged a mere 2.23 receptions and 33.77 yards per game in their rookie campaign. Not so impressive. 27 1st round WR’s (18%) caught 1 or fewer passes per game. Here’s the distribution in graphical form:

Catches_per_game_medium

Only 12 averaged 4+ catches per game (including Charles Rogers, who was injured much of his rookie season):

Best_wr_medium

Looking at those rookie standouts, two things stand out:

1. Only 5 (including Rogers) of the best rookie seasons come from top 10 picks. There have been 43 top 10 WR picks and they have fared only slightly better than the non-top 10 (2.5 receptions/game, 35.9 yards/game).

2. Big rookie seasons don’t mean big careers. The top two rookie performers dropped off after their great 1st season: Terry Glenn averaged 4.12 catches per game for the rest of his career and Michael Clayton a meager 1.93 (and never caught more than 38 in a season after his rookie year).

With all of that in mind, the NFL has certainly changed over the years. Considering the proliferation of the spread offense and the rule changes favoring offenses, it’s not surprising that 10 of the top 12 reception-per-game seasons have come since 1995. In order to understand receiver impacts across the years (as well as reducing the impact of playing for a pass-heavy team), it’s more useful to look at the percentage of a team’s passing offense that a WR has contributed. To that end, we see the top receiver performances as this:

Best_wr2_medium

Here we see the 15 1st round WR’s who accounted for more than 20% of his team’s total passing offense. We see a lot of the same names, but the top reception-per-game guys drop down the list a little bit. Interestingly, we see only 5 top 10 receivers in this list. This suggests that the impact a rookie receiver makes isn’t affected by how early in the round he is selected.

Viewed with respect of percentage of a team’s offense, 1st round rookies average 11.26% of his team’s catches and 14.17% of his team’s total passing yards. Based on the league average in 2010 (328 completions, 3545 yards), that works out to be 36 receptions for 502 yards. To put that in context, there were 75 WR’s in 2010 who hauled in 36+ passes and 69 who had 502+ yards. In other words, the average 1st round WR doesn’t produce top 50 WR numbers in his first year.

Later this week, we’ll look at the 1st round duds and explore the middle rounds of the draft.

Categories: Draft Tags: , ,
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