Austin Collie, Michael Crabtree, Chris Williams, Mike Hass, and Roddy White: The common thread between all these men are that they are former Division I FBS receiving leaders and they are currently on NFL rosters.
Although every player on this list entered the league at different draft points and under different circumstances, they share a common thread. What does Collie's success at the collegiate level tell us about his prospects at the NFL level? Let's take a look.
Crabtree was one of the big names in this year's draft
Michael Crabtree, 2007:
Anyone who followed the NFL Draft this year knows Crabtree's name. Following the 2007 season, he was not eligible to declare for the draft, declaring instead following the 2008 season.
Interestingly enough, he finished second to Collie in a number of categories the past college season, as well as tied for first in a number of others. His measurables and upside gave him the edge over Collie, which is why he was taken tenth overall by the San Francisco 49ers and Collie was taken towards the tail end of the fourth round by the Colts.
Although receivers rarely make a big impact in their rookie season, Crabtree appears to have the tools succeed in the NFL.
Chris Williams, 2006:
Williams actually accomplished this feat as a sophomore at New Mexico State. He put up some pretty staggering numbers for the Aggies — 246 receptions for 3,555 yards and 32 touchdowns — but his size was a limiting factor when it came time for him to declare for the 2009 NFL Draft. He is 5-feet-7 and 170 pounds and, although he ran a 4.3 in the 40-yard dash at his Pro Day, he ended up going undrafted and was signed as a free agent by the Miami Dolphins.
However, the books are far from closed on Williams, since Davone Bess did rather well for himself as an undrafted rookie for the Dolphins last season.
Mike Hass, 2005:
Heading into the 2006 Draft, Hass had the momentum of being the leading receiver in Division I FBS and the fact that he possessed prototypical size for a wideout at 6-feet-1 and 206 pounds.
He was projected to go in the third round, but his underwhelming 40 time at the Combine of 4.61 seconds hurt his draft stock and he ended up going to the New Orleans Saints in the sixth round.
He did not make the 53-man roster in 2006, was released, and was quickly picked up by the Chicago Bears, where he spent the 2006 season on their practice squad. He made the regular roster in 2007, was waived in 2008 prior to the start of the season, and spent the remainder of that season on their practice squad. He is currently with the Seattle Seahawks, hoping to catch on.
It took several years, but White is starting to fulfill his potential
Roddy White, 2004:
White followed a fairly typical trajectory when it comes to first-round wide receivers. He struggled to find his rhythm in 2005 and 2006, succumbing occasionally to dropped passes and inconsistency.
He started to catch on through the course of the 2007 season, finishing strong with 83 receptions for 1,202 yards and six touchdowns. His breakout campaign came in 2008, where he was able to string together several meaningful and successful games, finishing with 88 receptions for 1,382 yards and seven touchdowns.
He showed all the tools the Falcons thought he had when they selected him 27th overall in 2005 draft, proving that patience at the position can be the ultimate payoff.
Patience, it seems, is a virtue when it comes to rookie wide receivers. Even players drafted in the first and second round have no guarantee of success. Anthony Gonzalez, drafted in the first round by the Colts in 2007, just got his first uncluttered shot at a starting job.
The other thing to take away from this list is that Collie has the best shot of any of the men mentioned here at making a significant contribution to his new team.
White was stuck on a running team that was still trying to find its identity. Hass faced a loaded depth chart at receiver. Williams is undrafted. Crabtree was selected by a team that is unsettled at quarterback and along the offensive line.
Collie has a rare opportunity as a successful college receiver that is not burdened by draft status. After Gonzalez and Reggie Wayne, the depth chart at the position is wide open. Indianapolis regularly deploys three receiver sets as their base offense.
Collie will be tutored by veteran receivers, has the benefit of stability at quarterback and along the offensive line, and does not face an uphill battle to make the roster. All he needs to do is assimilate the offense, learn his role, and take proper advantage of his talents.
This is not to say that he will have 1,000 yards receiving this season. It's just saying that he is currently in a far better situation than any of the men on this list faced when they came into the league.
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