Yesterday I discussed my philosophy for the running back position and how it relates to the current roster and draft. Today I’m going do the same with wide receivers.
Since 2010 there have been 23 receivers drafted in the first round and 25 in the second. This list is stunning:
|First Round WRs||Second Round WRs|
Out of 48 total receivers drafted in the last six years I’ve highlighted 19 who have already emerged as top players on their teams. I would also include Justin Blackmon, whose talent was clear but personal issues have gotten in the way. That’s a little over 40% success in finding league-leading talent at receiver in the first two rounds.
That success rate soars when you consider the following:
- Two of last year’s rookies, Kevin White and Breshard Perriman, didn’t play at all due to injury. Many felt White was the top prospect in the class, even over breakout star Amari Cooper, and Perriman was not far behind them.
- Six of the listed players were rookies last year. Some of them were buried on depth charts and others were in poor offensive systems. They haven’t had a chance to really prove themselves.
- Though not offensive leaders, guys like Michael Floyd, Dexter McCluster, Rueben Randle, Greg Little, Robert Woods, and Tavon Austin have made big impacts in supportive roles.
The facts are clear; you stand a good chance of getting either top-notch receiver or at least very strong contributor if you draft a receiver in the first two rounds. What’s especially encouraging is that out of those 23 first-round receiver only three have been total busts: A.J. Jenkins, Jonathan Baldwin, and Cordarrelle Patterson (on offense, not special teams). That’s only a 13% instance of a busted pick; about as much draft confidence as you could ever hope for.
So, this was a very elaborate way of saying that you can feel good about any pick your team makes at receiver. The return on investment has been excellent for years now. College is producing NFL-ready talent at the position like no time in history.
The old rule was that you had to wait about three years for a receiver to be able to contribute in the NFL. We’ve clearly seen how outdated that logic is. Receivers are having monster rookie seasons and often building on that success the following years. They are often now instant contributors with the potential to be offensive leaders right away.
This is all great news for the 2016 Dallas Cowboys. They are in great position with the 34th pick to land a first-round talent who slides or perhaps even move up into the late first-round to grab someone they like. Fortunately, they also have enough talent already on the roster that they don’t have to force their hand.
The big name of this year’s WR class is Laquon Treadwell from Ole Miss. Some Dallas fans would like them to draft Treadwell with the fourth overall pick but I can’t get on board with that. You already have your franchise receiver in Dez Bryant and two go-to targets in tight end Jason Witten and slot receiver Cole Beasley. There just isn’t enough need for me to justify using such a high pick at the position.
I’m not all that high on Treadwell after his poor combine and pro day results, either. He certainly has great ball skills but you still have to be athletic enough to get away form the top cornerbacks in the league. He may be a guy who can abuse second-tier corners but what if Dez gets injured? Spending a first-round pick on a guy means he should be able to fill those shoes and keep the offense going. If Treadwell can get taken out of games by elite corners then you just wasted a pick.
If Dallas takes a WR then it should be in the second round or later. They have potential to be in range of any of the receiver prospects after Treadwell; Will Fuller, Corey Coleman, Michael Thomas, Braxton Miller, and others. Both Thomas and Miller are large, impressive athletes who could be breakout stars despite their second-round projection. As our list above showed, plenty of league leaders have come out of that round.
With Terrance Williams and Brice Butler both on expiring contracts the Cowboys have plenty of reason to add a solid rookie talent. That player can not only compete with the veterans now but will give them leverage when deciding on new contracts for Williams and Butler, perhaps even allowing Dallas to let both walk away.
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Clearly, the Cowboys have all the power here. They don’t have to take any receiver this year but can certainly justify it if talent is available when they’re on the clock. Thankfully, the last several years have proven that it probably won’t be a wasted pick.