There was a time when rookie wide receivers rarely ever came in and had an immediate impact. Before players like Randy Moss and Anquan Boldin came in and had immediate impacts that changed the perception of what a good rookie year was. While those two set the bar high the general accepted rule for receiver success has long been that wide receivers break out in Year 3. It could happen on occasion in Year 2, but almost never in Year 1. However, there's always an exception to the rule and many receivers over the past five years have shown immediate success -- whether that be just leading their respective teams in receiving yards, touchdowns receptions and catches or ranking among the tops in the league in those categories -- not too much unlike Moss and Boldin's rookie campaigns. Not all of these players over the past five seasons that have done so have been drafted in the first round either...
Top rookie contributors at the receiver position over the past five years...
Every now and again one of those rare talents comes out of college. One of those guys you look at and just know can step into the NFL and immediately become one of the best receivers in the league. Guys like Randy Moss for example. A.J. Green is one of those guys. He'll be one of the top receivers in this league for a long time to come and he showed why as a rookie. Green led all rookies in receptions with 65 and receiving yards with 1,057, while his 7 touchdown receptions were the second highest rookie total in the league.
The Falcons may have payed a lot to move up 21 spots and select Jones but the talented rookie repayed them by leading all rookie receivers in touchdown receptions with 8 while his 54 catches for 959 yards ranked second among rookies in each category, behind only A.J. Green.
Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland [2nd round (58th overall) Baltimore Ravens]
Don't expect much from Smith. He's raw and needs time to develop his game. He won't have an immediate impact. All things you heard about Smith coming into the season. Despite lacking NFL readiness Smith came in and played well at times. He finished the season with 50 receptions, 841 receiving yards and a team leading 7 receiving touchdowns.
Greg Little finished second in catches behind only A.J. Green with 61 in his rookie season. His 709 receiving yards which ranks him in the top three behind only A.J. Green and Julio Jones. He had only two receiving touchdowns though.
Denarius Moore, WR, Tennessee [5th round (148th overall) Oakland Raiders]
After a strong training camp and preseason Moore continued to shine throughout his rookie season finishing with 33 receptions for 618 yards and 5 touchdown receptions. He also added a rushing touchdown.
In his rookie season as a Seattle Seahawk, he led the team both in receptions 51 and receiving yards with 788. So much for paying Sidney Rice all that money.
This is how it's suppose to work but rarely ever does. The top drafted receivers finish #1 and #2 in this class. The middle rounds had solid talent too. Even the later rounds and undrafted players held some surprises.
45 catches for 561 yards and 6 touchdown grabs is not bad for the 2nd picked receiver in the draft but it wasn't the best either that honor belongs to...
Mike Williams, WR, Syracuse [4th round (101st overall) Tampa Bay Buccaneers]
Williams led all rookies in receptions, yards and touchdowns. Outplaying fellow rookie-teammate Arrelious Benn, WR, Illinois [2nd round (39th overall)]. Wlliams scored in his first NFL game and kept going -- catching a pass in every game and finishing the season with 65 receptions for 964 yards and setting the single-season record for receiving touchdowns (11) in Buccaneers history. Williams' receiving totals even tied for 19th in the NFL that year.
Jordan Shipley, WR, Texas [3rd round (84th overall)]
His 52 receptions were the second most by all rookie wide receivers, and 30 catches were good for first downs.
A classic example of a first-round talent falling to the fourth round and coming in and outplaying all the higher selected players because he had a chip on his shoulder. If we're looking back at this class with what we now know one of the better steals at the WR position was Antonio Brown, WR, Central Michigan [6th round [195th overall] Pittsburgh Steelers]. While he didn't explode onto the NFL scene right away as a rookie he is now one of the better up-and-coming receivers in the league. In 2011, Brown became the first player in NFL history to have more than 1,000 yards receiving and returning in the same year. He finished with 69 receptions for 1,108 yards (16.1avg) and two receiving touchdowns. He also racked up 737 (27.3avg) kick return yards + 325 (10.8avg) punt return yards for a total of 1,062 return yards. He brought back one punt for a touchdown.
The AP Offensive Rookie of the Year, the only one on this list, finished the regular season tied for the rookie lead in receptions and yards with 60 for 790 with eight total touchdowns, two on kickoff returns where he also added 1,156 return yards and ranked 4th in the NFL averaging 27.5 yards per return on the season. Harvin also rushed for 135 yards with a rushing average of nine yards per carry. A threat to take it the distance anywhere he lined up on the field Harvin’s 2,081 combined yards broke the Vikings franchise mark.
Hakeem Nicks, WR, North Carolina [1st round (29th overall) New York Giants]
Nicks stepped in right away with a strong rookie season finishing with 47 receptions good for 790 yards and 6 touchdowns. He only played in 14 games.
42 catches for 701 yards and three touchdowns is not bad for a rookie.
Mike Wallace, WR, Ole Miss [3rd round (84th overall) Pittsburgh Steelers]
Wallace caught 39 passes for 756 yards and 6 touchdowns. While overall Wallace's rookie stats didn't jump off the page at you he did show some signs of things to come. Wallace finished his rookie season leading the entire league in average yards per reception with 19.4 yards.
Austin Collie, WR, BYU [4th round (127th overall) Indianapolis Colts]
Collie led all NFL rookies in receiving TDs (7) and tied Percy Harvin for most receptions with 60 catches for 676 yards. While Harvin won Rookie of the Year honors many felt Collie was the better "receiver" since a lot to do with Harvin winning was his kick return ability. Though one could counter Collie's quarterback Peyton Manning did have a lot to do with his success too.
Mike Thomas, WR, Arizona [4th round (107th overall) Jacksonville Jaguars]
As a rookie he started four of the 14 games in which he played, and had 48 receptions for 453 yards and a touchdown. His 48 receptions were tied with Michael Crabtree for fourth among all rookies.
Had 45 catches for 527 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Collie is yet another fine example in recent years of a 4th round pick who was able to have an immediate impact in his first NFL season and finished his rookie season among the top statistical leaders for all rookies at the wide receiver position. He outplayed players like Percy Harvin, Jeremy Maclin, Michael Crabtree, Hakeem Nicks, and Kenny Britt to do so.
Eddie Royal, WR, Virginia Tech [2nd round (42nd overall) Denver Broncos]
Royal embarrassed then-Oakland cornerback DeAngelo Hall in the season opener on Monday Night Football to the tune of nine catches for 146 yards and a touchdown. That was just the opening salvo in a season that saw Royal finish with 91 catches for 980 yards in 15 games. His 91 receptions are second most in NFL history for a rookie, behind only Anquan Boldin who had 101. His 980 yards and five touchdowns are both Broncos rookie records. He was seventh in the league among wide receivers in receptions, and sixth in the NFL in total yards.
Jackson finished a successful rookie season with 912 receiving yards setting a new Eagles rookie record. He was the first rookie to lead the team in receptions, he had 62. He also added four total touchdowns on the season.
Avery was the surprise first picked receiver in 2008 but he had a stellar debut. He had 53 catches for 674 yards and three touchdowns plus a rushing touchdown, not too shabby.
Though there were no wide receivers taken in the first round in 2008, 10 went in Round 2. Overall this has got to be one of the least talented WR pools in recent years. No real late round steals besides maybe Mario Manningham, WR, Michigan [3rd round (95th overall) New York Giants] and Josh Morgan, WR, Virginia Tech [6th round (174th overall) San Francisco 49er's].
In his rookie season, Bowe led all first-year receivers in receptions (70), yards (995), and touchdowns (5). Led all NFL rookies with 13 catches of 20+ yards. Considering one of the most talented receivers to ever come out was in this class [Calvin "Megatron" Johnson - 1st round (2nd overall) Detroit Lions] that makes it all the more impressive. His reception and yardage totals set franchise records for Chiefs' rookie receivers. His five receiving TDs tied as the third-highest total by a rookie in Chiefs history.
In fact, ESPN had this nugget from an article following the 2010 NFL Draft.
In seven of the past 10 seasons, the wide receiver who either led the NFL or tied for the lead in catches by a rookie was a player selected outside of the first round. The list:
|2009||*Austin Collie (Colts)||4|
|2008||Eddie Royal (Broncos)||2|
|2007||Dwayne Bowe (Chiefs)||1|
|2006||Marques Colston (Saints)||7|
|2005||Mark Clayton (Ravens)||1|
|2004||Michael Clayton (Bucs)||1|
|2003||Anquan Boldin (Cardinals)||2|
|2002||Antwaan Randle El (Steelers)||2|
|2001||Chris Chambers (Dolphins)||2|
|2000||Darrell Jackson (Seahawks)||3|
|*Tied with Minnesota first-rounder Percy Harvin, with 60 receptions|
And as we know now after 2010 leader Mike Williams [4th round] and 2011 leader A.J. Green [1st round] that extends to 8 out of 12 times and it makes it 2 out of the last 3 years for a 4th round receiver to do so... Hmmm.
That's all fine and dandy but neither Austin Collie nor Mike Williams are legit #1 WR's in the NFL. Neither of them have had a 1,000 yard season and both have seemingly regressed since their rookie seasons.
Well here are a few example of players that are legit #1 WR for their team and that were drafted 4th round or later...
In the 2006 NFL Draft Brandon Marshall was selected in the 4th round (119th overall) by the Denver Broncos. Marshall got hurt in his rookie year before the regular season even began, suffering a slight tear to his PCL in a pre-season game but he was able to return and play 15 games (1 start) totaling 20 catches, 309 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns for his rookie year. While Marshall and fellow rookie quartberack Jay Cutler [1st round 11th overall] might have struggled in year one they quickly took off in year two. During the 2007 season, Marshall posted team-highs and career-highs in receptions (102), receiving yards (1,325) and receiving touchdowns (7). Up to that point he was only the fifth wide receiver in NFL history to have at least 90 receptions in his second season. It was only his first of many 100-catch 1,000 yard seasons to come though.
Only three players have had at least 1,000 yards receiving each of the last five seasons: Larry Fitzgerald, Roddy White and Brandon Marshall. From 2007-08, Marshall had 206 receptions with (104) & (101) only Wes Welker [went undrafted] had more in that span with 223 (111) & (112). Marshall’s 2,590 yards ranked third behind Fitzgerald and Reggie Wayne as well in that span. He was clearly Cutler’s favorite target and for good reason. In 2008, Cutler targeted Marshall a league-high 179 times, 33 more than any other QB-receiver combination. That’s the most times a QB has targeted a player in a single season in the last four years.
The same year Denver took Marshall, Miles Austin went undrafted. He signed with the Cowboys and didn't get the opportunities early in his career but when he did he made the most of them. Austin got his first NFL start on October 11, 2009 against the Kansas City Chiefs. Austin who was replacing a injured Roy E. Williams, had 10 catches for 250 yards (a Cowboys record for receiving yards in a single game) and 2 touchdowns including the 60-yard game winner in overtime. Austin made his second career start on October 25 against the Atlanta Falcons replacing Patrick Crayton as the No. 2 receiver in the lineup. Austin solidified his place as a starting receiver with 171 receiving yards along with 2 touchdowns. After only two weeks as a starting wide receiver, Austin was the ninth-most productive receiver in the National Football League. He went on to lead the NFC (third overall in the NFL) with 1,320 receiving yards for the 2009 season. He also tied for first in the NFC with 11 receiving touchdowns(tied for third in the NFL) and he only started 11 games.
Those are all fine examples in the recent past of players drafted later or even undrafted that outplayed their draft position. But enough is enough... Child(s) Please! Spit it out already! What are you trying to say?
Alright, I am trying to make a point that I like the Vikings chances of finding an impactful starting receiver in 4th round pick (134th overall) Greg Childs. I know that overall the farther down you go in the draft the less likely teams are to find good players. For every one of these rags to riches guys with amazing success stories mentioned above there are 10 or 20 that don’t pan out. However, the same could be said for 1st round picks or any round for that matter. A 4th rounder can be just as talented as a 1st rounder. (Especially when that 4th rounder was once considered a 1st rounder.) What round they go in in not exactly an indicator of their talent level. It is often determined by other things then talent like injuries, competition level they faced in college, and off the field concerns.
I honestly don’t think there is a big difference in how talented Greg Childs is compared to any receiver in the draft. He was a 1st round talent and likely 2nd round pick had he never gotten hurt. There is a concern about his health. Yes he needs to show he's back to being healthy and he needs to show he's back to playing football at a high level after the injury, which may take some time, but if he can do those things I see a Mike Williams-type impact from the young Viking with a chip on his shoulder.
"There's a very big chip on my shoulder," said Childs, who admitted he attempted to return too quickly from the injury. "I'm not going to sit here and lie and say it's not, because before I got hurt I was considered one of the top receivers. Since I got hurt, I may have not gone in the round I wanted to go in but I'm going to come out here give it my all."
Like Mike Williams had in his rookie season, Childs will have a second-year quarterback -- who is still learning the game himself -- throwing him the ball. In fact looking at the two quarterbacks situations Christian Ponder and Josh Freeman have a lot in common. With Williams presence the young Buc quarterback took off and his completion percentage jumped from 54.5 as a rookie to 61.4. Ponder, who's a athletic QB like Freeman, had similar numbers as a rookie with a 54.3 pct completing 158/291 pass attempts (Freeman was 158/290 in his rookie season. Almost identical.) While those numbers are eerily similar there is more even if you look further into it.
The Buccaneers held the third overall pick in the draft (same as the Vikings) but it was their fourth round selection that delivered the star receiver that allowed them to have such a successful season in 2010. The Buccaneers entered the season attempting to improve on their 3–13 record and last place finish in their division from 2009. The same task the Vikings face and the same record from a year ago. The Buccaneers accomplished that feat after only six games. Take a look at the Vikings 2012 schedule, especially our first two games, and tell me we can't do the same. The Buccaneers finished their season improving by seven wins and finishing 10-6 but fell just short of the playoffs due to a strength of victory tie-breaker. While I don't see the Vikings getting 10 wins due to our division being tougher I could easily see us surprising some people and getting 8 or 9, but that's besides the point. What will Ponder do with his new weapons (and protection) and will he take that next step in his development like Freeman did?
Freeman, like Ponder, also only started about half of the 16 games he could've played in as a rookie (Freeman started 9 and played in 10 Record of 3-6 as a starter | Ponder started 10 and played in 11 Record of 2-8 as a starter) but in year two Freeman started every game and raised his passing yardage from 1,855 to 3,451 and flipped his TD/INT ratio from 10/18 to 25/6. Ponder is expected to take similar big steps forward from his modest 1,853 passing yards and 13/13 TD/INT ratio.
Taking an excerpt from Joan Niesen:
It's hard to blame Ponder for the Vikings' 3-13 record last season, just as it's hard to blame any rookie quarterback when his team falters. And despite that record, Ponder performed better than several of his classmates, including the vaunted Gabbert. Among rookies, only Newton and Dalton had higher completion percentages and quarterback ratings than Ponder, who finished the year completing 54.3 percent of his passes and with a 70.1 rating. That's not bad for a player few expected to start, and Ponder for the first time feels that the Vikings are his team as he starts offseason workouts in preparation for his second year.
His team. That's a big statement for a 24-year-old with a smile so wide and a "Wedding Crashers" quote as his Twitter bio (Rule #76: No excuses-play like a champion.), but Ponder is on his way to making good on all of the promises and effort that being in control of a team require. His biggest task this season: Ponder must become something of a leader, and he's already made the right impression.
That means film studies. It means talking with coaches, introducing himself to rookies, staying late after workouts to throw and urging teammates to do the same. Ponder is treating this offseason as an opportunity — "It's only going to help," he said. "It's not going to make me worse" — and for a member of that strange class of lockout rookies, it's no surprise he sees it that way.
"It was weird being a rookie… that shows up right at training camp," Ponder said. "It's hard to establish yourself as a leader. Having Donovan (McNabb) here, obviously he was a leader, and some of the other guys. So now, being in a position where I can comfortably say that this is my team, it definitely helps."
He manages to say it without the slightest hint of cockiness, all the implications of duty and obligation and the specter of 3-13 somehow enveloped by his smiling assurances that, yes, he can lead. Ponder knows that right now, he can't just talk himself up. He's fortunate he can't claim full responsibility for the team's failures of last season, not even for its problems at quarterback. Still, though, it's hard to argue that Ponder was anything more than good enough last season, a future promise for a faltering team.
He knows it. Teammates and coaches know it. Tapes reveal it, and Ponder is absorbing it all. He's watching footage of loss after loss, talking it over with coaches and wincing as he witnesses mistake after mistake. He can see all the times he scrambled out of the pocket too early, the bad reads and botched plays, but instead of beating himself up, Ponder is allowing those mistakes to give him hope.
"Just seeing myself on film, there's so much I can do better," Ponder said. "I get so frustrated watching myself from last year… Just watching stuff, it gives me so much more confidence that I can be so much better next year."
If Ponder can come through on his end and follow in Josh Freeman's footstep I believe Greg Childs will do the same as Mike Williams did in 2010 and if this is how their season plans to play out then big things are in store for this QB-WR tandem.
Greg Childs BEAST MODE (via millertime6888)