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Comparing wide receivers based on the round they were drafted

There has been an ongoing debate among the Colts community on whether the Colts should select a receiver with the 26th pick. You might find an answer to the debate here.

2018 NFL Draft Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Following a suggestion by Stampede Blue member “ColtsLine”, I analyzed wide receiver statistics and compared them according to what round they were selecting on, taking into account the last 3 Drafts.

Analyzing receivers based on round selected

1st Rounders Catches Yards Touchdowns GP
1st Rounders Catches Yards Touchdowns GP
DJ Moore 55 788 2 16
Calvin Ridley 64 821 10 16
Corey Davis 99 1266 4 27
Mike Williams 54 759 10 26
John Ross 21 210 7 16
Corey Coleman 58 738 5 21
Will Fuller 107 1561 13 31
Josh Doctson 81 1100 8 33
Laquon Treadwell 40 385 1 31
Average Season 42.7 562.4 4.42
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2nd Rounders Catches Yards Touchdowns GP
Courtland Sutton 42 704 4 16
Dante Pettis 27 467 5 12
Christian Kirk 43 590 3 12
Anthony Miller 33 423 7 15
James Washington 16 217 1 14
DJ Chark 14 174 0 11
Zay Jones 83 968 9 31
Curtis Samuel 54 609 5 22
JuJu Smith-Schuster 245 2343 14 30
Sterling Shepard 190 2286 14 43
Michael Thomas 321 3787 23 47
Tyler Boyd 152 1856 10 40
Average Season 66.6 787.7 5.19
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3rd Rounders Catches Yards Touchdowns GP
Michael Gallup 33 507 2 16
Tre'Quan Smith 28 427 5 15
Cooper Kupp 102 1453 11 23
Taywan Taylor 53 697 2 29
ArDarius Stewart 6 82 0 15
Chris Godwin 93 1367 8 32
Kenny Golladay 98 1540 8 26
Braxton Miller 34 261 2 21
Leonte Carroo 12 192 2 37
Average Season 34.3 487.9 2.99

The chart shows that over the last 3 seasons, receivers selected in the first round have failed to live up to their game-changer potential. Guys like Calvin Ridley and Mike Williams look set to develop nice careers but they are nowhere near the elite status of guys like Julio Jones, OBJ or DeAndre Hopkins. There are also several big time busts, like Corey Coleman, Laquon Treadwell, or John Ross. Overall the results of drafting a wideout in the first round have been rather disappointing. If one goes deeper, then the class of wide receivers drafted in the first round gets drastically better, guys like A.J Green, OBJ, DeAndre Hopkins, or Julio,have been drafted in the first round. However, over the past 7 drafts there have been much more busts than elite receivers selected in the first. For every DeAndre Hopkins there are two Kevin Whites or Laquon Treadwells.

The second round, however, is a whole different story. Posting the best average season, the second round wide-receivers boasts game-altering players like JuJu Smith-Schuster and Michael Thomas. Also the second round has valuable players such as Sterling Shepard or Tyler Boyd. Looking at the chart, the second round might be the best spot to draft wide receivers. Looking at the best receivers, the common denominator seems to be that receivers with a great combine shoot up draft boards and end up being drafted way ahead of where they should have been (Guys like Dorsett, Ross, etc.) and receivers with average combines drop on draft boards just because they run one tenth of a second slower. This is the main reason why DK Metcalf poses plenty of risk, and prospects like JJ Arcega-Whiteside make much more sense to me.

As for the third round, the results were quite uninspiring. While you do have solid receivers like Cooper Kupp and Kenny Golladay, there was also a guy named Carlos Henderson, who never played a single snap in the NFL and is now bouncing around the League, or ArDarius Stewart, who has an astonishing 6 catches in 15 games played. The third round seemed like the boom or bust round for me. This seems to be the round were franchises take a big swing and try to land a high risk/high reward type of player. Perhaps a player with one glaring weakness but also a couple of elite traits.

Another factor that repeated itself, and that could be worth researching for another article, is how much the 40 yard dash matters when you are a wide receiver. Many times it seemed like the difference between being a 1st, or 3rd round pick was exclusively your 40 time, which just seems stupid. Every NFL franchise should know by now that speed does not make elite receivers. You can run like Usain Bolt, but if the player cannot run a proper route-tree or cannot catch contested balls or passes not thrown right into their hands, then the player won’t be successful in the NFL.

All in all, the point of not drafting a wide receiver in the first round, as it usually does not pan out, makes plenty of sense, as there are still plenty of valuable prospects in the later rounds, but if I learnt anything compiling the chart, is that wide receivers are extremely hard to analyze coming out of college. This might be the riskiest position to Draft besides quarterback, as there is never a sure-fire pick, and more often than not, the receiver fails to live up to expectations.