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Rookie Receivers: A Look at History

I have been very uneasy about going into the 2010 season with the receiver corp we currently have, but as I sought to rely on logic to guide my actions, I wanted to look to the past to see if my fears were unfounded. This is my research that I found and compiled, in the hopes of finding a conclusion.

As I went about doing this, I compiled a lot of data, and this is just a compact version, any longer might be too long, which I think it might already be. So as we head out, be patient, or if you are impatient, head to the final secion, and read the summery. For those of you who want the whole story, read on:

Rookie Receivers in the League as a Whole:

So to begin, I just wanted to look at rookie receivers as a body in the league. So I took all the numbers from the rookie receivers from the past decade and put them together to get some averages for each season, here they are:

Year

Average Receptions

Average Yards

Yards/Rec

Average Touchdowns

2000

31.3

395.5

12.64

2.3

2001

33

480.4

14.56

2.3

2002

37.4

492.3

13.16

3.5

2003

34.3

491.3

14.32

3.3

2004

40.3

582.9

14.46

4.7

2005

31.2

417.4

13.38

3

2006

28.2

428.4

15.19

2.4

2007

34.7

404.3

11.65

2.3

2008

38

464.3

12.22

2.2

2009

48.2

678.3

14.07

4.7

 

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Rookie Receivers Individually:

Here's a look at receivers from the past ten drafts, now I only listed those who caught at least one pass their rookie season or if they were a first round pick, otherwise this list would be much longer, and the shear volume of later round receivers would flood that data. In the yards column, any bold number is for the player who reached a 1,000 yards, in the touchdowns column, bold equals five or more. In the team column, if the starting quarterback was a Pro-Bowler that season, their team is in bold. This is quite a long table, but if you want to get a feel of how rookies usually do, it would be good to read this. I also apologize about the length again, but if I didn't put the table in, I would probably get called out, so for the sake of proof, here it is:

 

Name

Pick

Yards

Touchdowns

Team

2000

Peter Warrick

4

592

4

Cin

Plaxico Burress

8

273

0

Pit

Travis Taylor

10

276

3

Bal

Sylvester Morris

21

678

3

KC

R.J. Soward

29

154

1

JAX

Dennis Northcutt

32

422

0

Cle

Todd Pinkston

36

181

0

Phi

Jerry Porter

47

6

0

Oak

Laveranues Coles

78

370

1

NYJ

Darrell Jackson

80

713

6

Seattle

2001

Koren Robinson

9

536

1

Seattle

Rod Gardner

15

741

4

Was

Santana Moss

16

40

0

NYJ

Freddie Mitchell

25

283

1

Phi

Reggie Wayne

30

345

0

Indy

Quincy Morgan

33

432

2

Cle

Chad Ochocinco (Johnson)

36

329

1

Cin

Chris Chambers

52

883

7

Miami

Steve L. Smith

74

154

0

Car

Justin McCareins

124

88

0

Ten

T.J. Houshmandzadeh

204

228

0

Cin

2002

Donte Stallworth

13

594

8

NOR

Ashlie Lelie

19

525

2

Den

Javon Walker

20

319

1

GB

Antonio Bryant

63

733

6

Dal

2003

Charles Rogers

2

243

3

Det

Andre Johnson

3

976

4

Houston

Bryant Johnson

17

438

1

Ari

Anquan Boldin

54

1377

8

Ari

Nate Burleson

71

455

2

Min

Kevin Curtis

74

13

0

St. L

2004

Larry Fitzgerald

3

780

8

Ari

Roy Williams

7

817

8

Det

Reggie Williams

9

268

1

JAX

Lee Evans

13

843

9

Buf

Michael Clayton

15

1193

7

TB

Michael Jenkins

29

119

0

Atl

Rashaun Woods

31

160

1

SF

Jerricho Cotchery

108

60

0

NYJ

2005

Braylon Edwards

3

512

3

Cle

Troy Williamson

7

372

2

Min

Mike Williams

10

350

1

Det

Matt Jones

21

432

5

JAX

Mark Clayton

22

471

2

Bal

Roddy White

27

446

3

Atl

Reggie Brown

35

571

4

Phi

Vincent Jackson

61

59

0

SD

2006

Santonio Holmes

25

824

2

Pit

Chad Jackson

36

152

3

NE

Sinorice Moss

44

25

0

NYG

Greg Jennings

52

632

3

GB

Brandon Marshall

119

309

2

Den

Marques Colston

252

1038

8

NOR

2007

Calvin Johnson

2

756

4

Det

Ted Ginn Jr.

9

420

2

Miami

Dwayne Bowe

23

995

5

KC

Robert Meachem

27

Injuried

Injuried

NOR

Craig Davis

30

188

1

SD

Anthony Gonzalez

32

576

3

Indy

Sidney Rice

44

396

4

Min

Dwayne Jarrett

45

73

0

Car

Steve Smith

51

63

0

NYG

Jacoby Jones

73

149

0

Houston

Yamon Figurs

74

36

0

Oak

Jason Hill

76

6

0

SF

James Jones

78

676

2

GB

Johnnie L. Higgins

99

47

0

Oak

Steve Breaston

142

92

0

Ari

Legedu Naanee

172

69

0

SD

2008

Donnie Avery

33

674

3

St. L

Devin Thomas

34

120

0

Was

Jordy Nelson

36

366

2

GB

James Hardy

41

87

2

Buf

Eddie Royal

42

980

5

Den

Jerome Simpson

46

2

0

Cin

DeSean Jackson

49

912

2

Phi

Malcolm Kelly

51

18

0

Was

Limas Sweed

53

64

0

Pit

Dexter Jackson

58

97

0

Car

Early Doucet

81

90

0

Ari

Harry Douglas

84

320

1

Atl

Mario Manningham

95

26

0

NYG

Andre Caldwell

97

78

0

Cin

Keenan Burton

128

172

1

St. L

Josh Morgan

174

319

3

SF

Pierre Garcon

205

23

0

Indy

Chaz Schilens

226

226

2

Oak

Davone Bess

Walk-on

554

1

Miami

2009

D. Heyward-Bey

7

124

1

Oak

Michael Crabtree

10

625

2

SF

Jeremy Maclin

19

762

4

Phi

Percy Harvin

22

790

6

Min

Hakeem Nicks

29

790

6

NYG

Kenny Britt

30

701

3

Ten

Brian Robiskie

36

106

0

Cle

M. Massaquoi

50

624

3

Cle

Derrick Williams

82

52

0

Det

Brandon Tate

83

11

0

NE

Mike Wallace

84

756

6

Pit

Deon Butler

91

175

0

Seattle

Mike Thomas

107

453

1

Ari

Brian Hartline

108

506

3

Miami

Louis Murphy

124

521

4

Oak

Austin Collie

127

676

6

Indy

Johnny Knox

140

527

5

Chi

Julian Edelman

232

359

1

NE

A Few Thoughts and Facts:

- Rookies with Pro Bowl quarterbacks average 451.3 yards and 2.4 touchdowns and drafted around the 81 spot versus 369.1 yards, 2 touchdowns and taken 54th overall. So a great quarterback makes about  82.2 yards and .4 touchdowns difference with lower ranked players. Pro Bowl quarterbacks make their receivers either better, or at least make the numbers look better. Receivers without Pro Bowl quarterbacks, on average, do worse then those who do.

- Since this doesn't include players who never caught a pass their rookie season, the data leans more so to the side of rookie success, because about 30% of rookie receivers never take a snap, thus putting a lot more 0's in the number to off-set the data. Now I'm not ignoring those players, but for the sake of the study, I wanted to just narrow it down to those players who at least got onto the field.

- After reviews the tables and data, I found that while their has been an upward trend in receptions, yards per reception and total yards, if you look back, the only reason there is an upward trend was because it was climbing back to it's original mean where it was four or five seasons ago. Yards and receptions are at a decade high, but they are only slightly above what they were at in 2004. Yards per reception are actually at a median point, rather then at a high. Now the touchdown chart is the most interesting, because of the huge jump seen from 2008 to 2009. But compared to 2004, it isn't the highest this decade, and from what I can tell, seems more like a rare spike, similar to the one in 2004, rather then a new level of play that's to be expected.

- Last seasons rookies were some of the strongest in a long time, with six being selected in the first round. A class this strong hasn't been seen since 2004 and 2005, both seasons that were above average. Looking at this years receiving class, we aren't even close to as strong as those years. Also due to the fact that from the 1st two rounds only Dez Bryant went to a team with a Pro Bowl quarterback, I don't think this rookie class will do as well. In the 1st three rounds, only three went to Pro Bowl lead teams, Taylor Price to New England and Damian Williams to Tennessee, whose Vince Young was the second alternate and made it in due to Manning, Rivers and Brady all sitting out the Pro Bowl. Now if you look at those who had success, reaching 600+ yards, that leaves eight receivers, of those eight, five had Pro Bowl quarterbacks. Last season was quite a rare season, and isn't a new level of play to be expect, but rather it was great quarterbacks making receivers even better.

- My pick for the lead receiver this next season: Dez Bryant. He is playing for a very balanced offense lead by Tony Romo, and will likely be matched up against the second corner or even the nickel back, which will allow him even more success. Being surrounded by talent, and with a accurate, strong quarterback leading the way, I see Bryant putting up around to 800 yards and 5 touchdowns. Compared to Thomas and Tate, who are on teams that have a group of experienced players fighting for the #1 spot, but lacking a real #1 receiver, they will succeed, but not likely to the level of Bryant. Now I was a little surprised I chose Bryant, he's a talented guy, but there are other talented receivers out there, but I found that have a great team around you makes it much easier to succeed.

- I don't expect, nor do the trends show that there will be a large jump in rookie production next season, and actually as a league, I expect it to fall from it's high point last season. As an average for the past ten seasons, you get 35.7 receptions, 483.5 yards, 13.57 yards per reception and 3 touchdowns. I think we could expect numbers similar to those next season. Now I'm not falling back on the data, but we will likely not be leader by a great passer next season. Orton will play well, but his expected average next season isn't much higher then it was last season, whereas Bryant will have Romo, a player who will likely top 4300+ yards next season. So my prediction for Thomas is 600 yards and 4 touchdowns, give or take 50 yards and a touchdown. Decker I think will be more limited, 400 yards with 3 touchdowns, playing a bigger role in the red zone and on 3rd downs, similar to that of Stokley last season.

- So from what I've seen, do I think we are set because we have two rookies, no, but I am a bit more secure then I was before, knowing that they will still likely contribute to helping our passing game. I just don't see enough from our team to say the Thomas or Decker will come close to a 1,000 yards or more then 5 touchdowns, especially if Royal returns to form and Gaffney keeps the #1 spot.

So for those of you who lived through this, thank you and hope it was informative.

This is a Fan-Created Comment on MileHighReport.com. The opinion here is not necessarily shared by the editorial staff of MHR

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