Why not catch a receiver in the first round?

Here's why: As history shows, more often than not, teams get little bang for their draft buck, research by PackerReport.com's Steve Lawrence shows.

The critics are howling at Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson for his 2007 draft.

One of the loudest criticisms is why Thompson drafted a defensive tackle ahead of a host of quality wide receivers who were available in the first round, any of whom could have given Brett Favre a much-needed weapon.

Well, here is one shocking reason why Thompson decided against drafting a receiver with the No. 16 pick:

Of the 31 receivers drafted in the first round of the 2000-2006 drafts, only seven have lived up to the hype (see accompanying list). By contrast, in a round in which you hope to draft a Pro Bowler — or expect to at least land a quality starter — eight of them are out of the league.

Those stats show that, in many ways, rolling the dice on a receiver in the first round is a bigger gamble than drafting a quarterback.

For instance, seven receivers were drafted in the first rounds in 2005 and 2006. None of them are even close to matching the lofty expectations, though it's early to label any of them busts — though Mike Williams and Roddy White are well on their way.

Certainly, Thompson knows the surprisingly low success rate of first-round receivers. While there's little reason to suggest that's the No. 1 reason why he shied away from the Dwayne Bowes of the world, it might have played a role in his decision to draft Justin Harrell in the first round.

Thompson's building a defense-first team, and the hope is Harrell will help turn the defense from merely good to championship caliber.

"Run defense and running the ball on offense are things you need to win over the long haul, particularly when you get into playoff football. That's definitely one of the focuses," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Friday in discussing the selection of Harrell.

Thompson's hope is Harrell will improve the defense, while perhaps finding a sleeper receiver in third-rounder James Jones or fifth-rounder David Clowney.

While it's absurd to expect to find a better receiver in the middle rounds than the first round, it's hardly out of the question. The Packers' incomparable Donald Driver, of course, was merely a seventh-round pick. Detroit's Mike Furrey, who finished second in the NFL in receptions, wasn't drafted. New Orleans' Marques Colston, the NFL's surprise rookie last season, was the fourth-to-last player selected in the 2006 draft.

Maybe history will repeat itself. Maybe it won't. For now, Thompson will continue catching grief from the masses. At least that's more than some first-round receivers will catch.

Here are the 31 receivers taken in the first round since 2000, with short synopses of their NFL careers.

2006

No. 25, Santonio Holmes, Pittsburgh: 49 catches, two touchdowns as a rookie.

 

2005

No. 3, Braylon Edwards, Cleveland: 93 catches in two seasons.

No. 7, Troy Williamson, Minnesota: 61 catches, two touchdowns in two seasons.

No. 10, Mike Williams, Detroit: Barely got any playing time last season, and was traded to Oakland for lowly fourth-round pick during the draft.

No. 21, Matt   Jones, Jacksonville: Former college quarterback has 77 career catches.

No. 22, Mark Clayton, Baltimore: Showed potential with 67 catches for 939 yards and five TDs last season.

No. 27, Roddy White, Atlanta: 59 catches, two touchdowns in two seasons.

 

2004

No. 3 Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona: Caught league-high 103 passes (with 1,409 yards and 10 TDs) in 2005; fell to 69 catches, 946 yards and six TDs last season. No. 1 of seven on my list of good first-round picks.

No. 7, Roy Williams, Detroit: 23 career TDs; coming off breakout 82-catch season. Has 23 career TDs. No. 2 of seven on my list of good first-round picks.

No. 9, Reggie Williams, Jacksonville: Averaging just 38 catches, 1.7 TDs per season.

No. 13, Lee Evans, Buffalo: Averaged 48 catches and eight TDs in first two seasons before catching 82 balls for 1,292 yards and eight TDs last year. No. 3 of seven on my list of good first-round picks.

No. 15, Michael Clayton, Tampa Bay: Caught 80 passes for seven TDs as a rookie; has combined 65 catches and one TD since.

No. 29, Michael Jenkins, Atlanta: Just 82 catches for 1,063 yards and 10 TDs in career.

No. 31, Rashaun Woods, San Francisco: Out of the league after catching seven passes in 2004 and 2005 combined. If not for the next guy on the list, he'd be the biggest bust on this list. A healthy first-round pick playing only two seasons? That's unheard of.

 

2003

No. 2, Charles Rogers, Detroit: Easily the biggest bust of the bunch, given he was picked second overall. Oft-injured receiver is out of the league. Caught only 36 passes from 2003 to 2005.

No. 3, Andre Johnson, Houston: Underrated star caught league-high 103 passes last season. Can quarrel, though, with only 17 career TDs. No. 4 of seven on my list of good first-round picks.

No. 17, Bryant Johnson, Arizona: Decent player stuck behind Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. Averaging 41 catches and two TDs per season.

 

2002

No. 13, Donte Stallworth, New Orleans: Overrated and overpaid receiver who signed with New England during offseason. Already on third team. Never has had a 1,000-yard season, but has some big-play ability (19.1 yards per catch with Eagles last season).

No. 19, Ashley Lelie, Denver: Also on third team after joining 49ers this offseason. Showed flash with 1,084 yards, 20.1-yard average and seven TDs in 2004 with Denver, but has six TDs in other yards combined.

No. 20, Javon Walker, Green Bay: One of most dangerous players in the league. Combined 29 TD catches in 2003, 2004 and 2006. No. 5 of seven on my list of good first-round picks.

 

2001

No. 8, David Terrell, Chicago: Big-time bust. Has everything you'd want in a receiver. Caught 128 passes from 2001 to 2004 but has been out of the league since playing one game in 2005.

No. 9, Koren Robinson, Seattle: Trying to resurrect a troubled career with Green Bay. Caught 78 passes for 1,240 yards and five TDs with Seattle in 2002, but numbers have declined every year since.

No. 15, Rod Gardner, Washington: Tried to resurrect career in Green Bay in 2006 but failed. Caught two passes last year with a Chiefs team desperately short on weapons.

No. 16, Santana Moss, New York Jets: One of the better receivers in the league. Had 1,105 yards and 10 TDs with Jets in 2003 and huge year (84 catches, 1483 yards, nine TDs) with Redskins in 2005. No. 6 of seven on my list of good first-round picks.

No. 25, Freddie Mitchell, Philadelphia: Been out of the league the last two seasons after catching five TD passes from 2001 to 2004. If you could have bought him for what he's worth and sold him for what he thought he was worth, you'd be a billionaire.

No. 30, Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis: In last four years as full-time starter, has averaged 1,100 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. No. 7 of seven on my list of good first-round picks.

 

2000

No. 4, Peter Warrick, Cincinnati: Had a pair of 70-catch seasons but caught only 22 passes in his final two seasons, 2004 and 2005. Is out of the league.

No. 8, Plaxico Burress, Pittsburgh: Has put up some good numbers — three 1,000-yard seasons, and had 988 yards and a career-high 10 TDs last season. Still, with inconsistent hands and an immature streak, hasn't fulfilled enormous promise.

No. 10, Travis Taylor, Baltimore: Caught 57 passes for Minnesota last year, which was four off his career high set in 2002. Averaged 45 catches and three TDs in lackluster career, and currently is without a job.

No. 21, Sylvester Morris, Kansas City: Caught 48 passes as a rookie before a career-ending injury.

No. 29, R. Jay Soward, Jacksonville: Drugs doomed his NFL career. Caught a mere 14 passes in 13 games.

Lawrence is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com. Send comments to steve_lawrence_packers@yahoo.com.


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