John Murphy (Yahoo) Part 4 - WR and TE's

A total of 31 wide receivers have been selected in the first round of the NFL Draft over the past seven years (2000-2006), the results of how those players have faired once they have reached the league is something far less impressive.

Take for example two years ago when a total of six receivers came off the draft board between pick #3 and #27 of the first round. Those six pass catchers combined to score just 16 touchdowns, while the following six receivers who were selected between rounds two and four matched that exact scoring total of 16.

Last year's only first-round receiver Santonio Holmes produced 824 yards receiving and a total of three touchdowns, while the only rookie 1,000-yard receiver was Marques Colston, who nearly went un-drafted before the Saints grab him at the end of the seventh round. He caught 70 passes and scored eight times to go along with his 1,038 yards, and of all the receivers with at least 1,000 yards and five touchdowns he had the longest pass play from scrimmage, which covered 86 yards.

In fact, we can take it one step further, as the combination of 2005 first round tight end Heath Miller and third round tight end Alex Smith had more impressive production between them with 80 catches and eight touchdowns during their rookie campaign than any receiver duo from the same draft. Meanwhile, sixth round tight end Bo Scaife even had more catches (37) than all but two of the wide receivers taken in the 2005 draft with Mark Clayton (44) and Reggie Brown (43) being the lone exceptions.

Most rookie wide receivers need time to adjust to the physical play of the defensive backs, develop chemistry with their quarterbacks and learn how to block downfield and/or play on special teams in order to earn an active spot on the roster each week. They must also earn the trust of their position coach and offensive coordinator that they will remember the play call and catch the ball when given the chance to play.

This combination of factors can lead to some very inconsistent production in first round receivers as even with the impressive stats posted by Arizona Cardinals All-Pro wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (#3 overall in 2004) and somewhat solid numbers of Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson (#3 overall in 2003) there are a host of others, including David Terrell (Chicago), Koren Robinson (Seattle/Green Bay), Charles Rogers (Detroit), Ashley Lelie (Denver/Atlanta), Mike Williams (Detroit) and even Reggie Williams (Jacksonville), that have failed to consistently meet any type of ideal expectations after being taken in the first round the past seven drafts. So it is buyer beware come April 28-29th, especially since this is considered a very talented and deep group of early round wide receiver prospects, which actually could allow a Chris Chambers-type (2nd round, 2001) player to be found in the early-to-mid rounds if you are a shrewd buyer.

PRODUCTION AT TIGHT END IS USUALLY… WELL, TIGHT: This year's class of tight ends includes a pair of possible first-round talents, Arizona State's Zach Miller and Miami, FL's Greg Olsen. It comes on the heels of a solid draft class of players at the position a year ago, which include Vernon Davis, Marcedes Lewis, who went in the first round and solid contributors like Anthony Fasano, Tony Scheffler, Owen Daniels and Dave Thomas.

This year's duo will have a lot of "Catching" to do in order to provide consistent enough numbers to warrant being taken within the first few rounds of the draft, since if you review the statistics posted by the tight end classes since 2000 (seven years) there is a certain trend jumps out at you almost immediately; a lack of production.

A total of 35 tight ends have been selected in the first three rounds of the draft during that span of time (2000-2006), and out of that group only eight of those players have managed to gain at least 350 yards receiving during their initial campaign, only three have caught 35-or-more passes, including Heath Miller, Alex Smith and Jeremy Shockey, although Owen Daniels did come close with 34 catches for 352 yards and five touchdowns.

Shockley grabbed 74, as a rookie in 2002, but his next closest competitor over that period of time (2000-2006) was Doug Jolley, who caught just 32 passes after being taken in the second round of the same 2002 NFL Draft. Meanwhile, only one player, Chris Cooley, who was taken in the third round by Washington in the 2004 NFL Draft, had been able to score more than five touchdowns (six) in his first campaign before Heath Miller did it two years ago.

The most well-known names in the group of tight ends does not include Randy McMichael, who had 39 catches for 485 yards and four touchdowns, as a rookie in 2002 because he was taken in the fourth round of that draft. However, Alge Crumpler managed just 25 catches for 330 yards and three scores his first season and Todd Heap came through with a mere 16 catches for 206 yards and one score. The lack of production initially from Kellen Winslow Jr., a first round pick in the 2004 NFL Draft, brings down his entire class of tight ends, which also featured another first round selection Ben Watson, who also missed time due to an injury, so as of today the most productive member of that class has been Cooley, a third round pick with Courtney Anderson having been a pleasant surprise of that group two years ago, since he was not taken until the seventh round.

John Murphy is with Yahoo Sports.


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