I cannot blame them. When we look at the past several NFL drafts, we can see that teams are struggling to get even adequate production from their first-round receivers, let alone players that are living up to their draft value.
Consider this: since 2012, there have been nine receivers drafted inside of the top 10. Just two have made the Pro Bowl (Amari Cooper and Mike Evans). Four of the nine receivers have failed to crack 1,000 career receiving yards. To show how hit and miss the top-10 has been for receivers, here is the full list since 2012:
2014 (4th overall) – Sammy Watkins
2015 (4th overall) – Amari Cooper
2012 (5th overall) – Justin Blackmon
2017 (5th overall) – Corey Davis
2014 (7th overall) - Mike Evans
2015 (7th overall) – Kevin White
2017 (7th overall) – Mike Williams
2013 (8th overall) – Tavon Austin
2017 (9th overall) – John Ross
Of those nine, how many would you say have become productive NFL players? How many are bonafide No.1 receivers? Two or three at most, right?
Things become even bleaker the further you expand. Since 2012, there have been 25 receivers who have been drafted in the first round. Just four of those players have gone to a Pro Bowl as a receiver (Odell Beckham, Amari Cooper, DeAndre Hopkins, and Mike Evans). Of those 25 players, nine have yet to crack 1,000 career receiving yards. More often than not, teams are getting a bust in the first round, rather than a useful NFL player. That is quite telling.
The biggest question is why are teams struggling to draft receivers in the first round or even in the second round, for that matter? Are teams just misevaluating these players or is there something more going on? The answer is complicated and multi-faceted.
Though you can make a solid argument that spread offenses in college are hurting the development of wide receivers, many teams in the NFL are adopting these spread concepts. The transition from college to the NFL has never been easier for most players.
Simply put, the biggest reason teams have trouble drafting receivers in the first round is that they are often reaching for need. Because the NFL has become such a passing league, teams are in desperate need to find playmakers on the outside. Therefore, they are willing to overdraft receivers in hopes they can turn into elite NFL players. We even saw this play out at the NFL trade deadline. Teams such as Dallas, Philadelphia, and Houston would rather trade high picks for “rental” players, as they at least know they can get some production from a receiver right now.
The NFL draft is such a mystery box when it comes to picking receivers.
However, that shouldn't be the case. Drafting receivers should not be as tricky as teams make it seem. It is impossible to nail every pick, but there are ways to improve the odds of avoiding a draft whiff. Instead of telling you why so many of these players failed, maybe it would be easier to create a step-by-step instruction guide to drafting receivers in the first round. Without further ado, here are four ways to avoid busting on receivers in the first round.