Wide receiver: How did we get here?

Seahawks WR Logan Payne  (Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

No one could've predicted Bobby Engram's shoulder injury. Neither could they have foreseen Nate Burleson, Ben Obomanu and Logan Payne being lost for the season prior to the NFL Draft last April, but it did surprise me that not a single receiver was selected by Seattle. And as Payne lay on Qwest Field's turf Sunday I began to wonder how the Seahawks arrived at the current situation they're in...

The story that was sold to us was that the Seahawks didn't need to draft a receiver because they had two solid players waiting in the wings- Courtney Taylor and Logan Payne. Taylor was said to be the next D.J. Hackett, aka the athletic guy that could haul down passes in a crowd and catch balls in traffic. Payne was going to be the second coming of Bobby Engram, finding holes in zone coverage and becoming Matt Hasselbeck's security blanket. But after two games Payne is the latest receiver to be placed on IR and Taylor has a disappointing 4 catches for 39 yards, despite starting both games.

To add insult to our injuries, I had the pleasure of watching the Denver vs. San Diego game Sunday. Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal were making the Charger defensive backs look silly, making the difficult catches look routine and always seemingly being open. Chris Chambers didn't look half bad for San Diego, either. Looks like the Chargers finally have the receiver they need to take pressure off of Gates and Tomlinson, ultimately taking their offense to the next level. Later that night, as I do every Sunday, I caught the week's highlights. Anquan Boldin made reservations for six three times. Reggie Wayne was doing his thing for Peyton Manning and even the pathetic Lions had Calvin Johnson going crazy for them. Watching these players got me thinking as to why Seattle doesn't have those type of receiving options, but it became crystal clear after doing some research. Answer: we don't Draft them!

While stats don't always tell the story, I wanted to look up receiving statistics for the past three years. I was looking for the type of receiving threats that make a difference for a team; the type of player opposing teams might have to game plan for, or at least be concerned about on game day. So I narrowed my focus to what I consider to be minimum numbers for a solid wide receiver. I settled on a player who achieved any of the following in a season: 80 catches, 900 yards receiving or 7 TDs. In addition to the numbers, I also wanted to see where those players were drafted. After all, every GM or front office person that steps in front of a microphone will tell you that the foundation of each team is building through the Draft, right?

So here's what I dug up. In 2007 37 players met my criteria for this little experiment. Of those 37, 28 were selected in rounds 1-3 of the draft, and 9 players making the list were taken in rounds 4 or lower. That makes 75% of them Day 1 (the old Day 1) draft picks. Below is 2007's list of players, followed by the round they were drafted in. You'll notice two Seahawks in bold, Bobby Engram and Nate Burleson.

2007

Players take in rounds 1-3:

Reggie Wayne, 1
Larry Fitzgerald, 1
Tony Gonzalez, 1
Randy Moss, 1
Chad Johnson, 2
Torry Holt, 1
Bobby Engram, 2
Steve Smith, 3
Roddy White, 1
Braylon Edwards, 1
Terrell Owens, 3
Kellen Winslow, 1
Joey Galloway, 1
Plaxico Burress, 1
Kevin Curtis, 3
Santonio Holmes, 1
Chris Chambers, 2
Bernard Berrian, 3
Dwayne Bowe, 1
Greg Jennings, 2
Dallas Clark, 1
Reggie Williams, 2
Anquan Boldin, 2
Nate Burleson, 3
Andre Johnson, 1
Hines Ward, 3
Heath Miller, 1
Chris Cooley, 3
Jason Witten, 3


Players taken in rounds 4 or below:

Wes Welker, FA
T.J. Houshmandzedeh, 7
Derrick Mason, 4
Brandon Marshall, 4
Jerricho Cotchery, 4
Donald Driver, 7
Antonio Gates, FA
Patrick Crayton, 7
Marques Colston, 7

How about 2006? 33 players made the total cut. 27 of them were Day 1 picks leaving only 6 as receivers taken in the 4th round of below. That's 81% of the best players coming within the first three rounds. Again, the list is below, and this time former 'Hawk Darrell Jackson graces the list.

2006

Players take in rounds 1-3:

Tony Gonzalez, 1
Mark Clayton, 1
Larry Fitzgerald, 1
Darrell Jackson, 3
Hines Ward, 3
Terry Glenn, 1
Plaxico Burress, 1
Javon Walker, 1
Joey Galloway, 1
Laveranues Coles, 3
Isaac Bruce, 2
Andre Johnson, 1
Steve Smith, 3
Terrell Owens, 3
Torry Holt, 1
Anquan Boldin, 2
Lee Evans, 1
Reggie Wayne, 1
Roy Williams, 1
Marvin Harrison, 1
Chad Johnson, 2
Kellen Winslow, 1
Mike Jenkins, 1
Jeremy Shockey, 1
Reggie Brown, 2
Chris Henry, 3
Alge Crumpler, 2


Players taken in rounds 4 or below:

Antonio Gates, FA
Jerricho Cotchery, 4
Marques Colston, 7
T.J. Housmandzadeh, 7
Mike Furrey, FA
Donald Driver, 7


Finally, there's 2005. A total of 35 players met the requiring stats. 28 of them were Day 1 selections and 7 were not. That's a grand total of 80% being taken on the first day. Take a look at the list below. You'll see that Deion Branch makes an appearance, albeit for the Patriots.

2005

Players take in rounds 1-3:

Tony Gonzalez, 1
Jerry Porter, 2
Donte Stallworth, 1
Hines Ward, 3
Deion Branch, 2
Randy Moss, 1
Antonio Bryant, 2
Jimmy Smith, 2
Reggie Wayne, 1
Eddie Kennison, 2
Chris Chambers, 2
Terry Glenn, 1
Marvin Harrison, 1
Plaxico Burress, 1
Joey Galloway, 1
Torry Holt, 1
Anquan Boldin, 2
Larry Fitzgerald, 1
Chad Johnson, 2
Santana Moss, 2
Steve Smith, 3
Eric Moulds, 1
Amani Toomer, 2
Chris Cooley, 3
Todd Heap, 1
Jeremy Shockey, 1
Joe Jurevicius, 2
Roy Williams, 1


Players taken in rounds 4 or below:

Keenan McCardell, 12 (yes, that's correct, the 12th Round)
T.J. Houshmandzadeh, 7
Derrick Mason, 4
Antonio Gates, FA
Rod Smith, FA
Donald Driver, 7
Ernest Wilford, 4


Judging by the numbers over the past three seasons, 78% of the best receiving options in the league were Day 1 picks. Granted, players like Marques Colston, Donald Driver and Antonio Gates are always going to be an exception to the rule, but they're vastly outnumbered. And take a look at the stats this year. I know we're only two games into the season, but that trend continues. Of the Top 20 players in receiving yardage, only 1 (Philadelphia WR Greg Lewis) isn't a first day pick. 11 are 1st Round picks and 3 are Round 2 selections. If you've had the patience to read this far, I think you know where this is going. IF SEATTLE WANTS AN ELITE RECEIVER, THEY NEED TO DRAFT ONE EARLY!

Now let's take a look at the receiving options the Seahawks have taken since Mike Holmgren's arrival in 1999. Four players (shown in bold) were taken on Day 1. I consider 3 of the 4 to be hits. Say what you want about K-Rob and Jerramy Stevens, but they started for the 'Hawks for a reason. Karsten Bailey was a complete bust as a 3rd round pick, catching only six passes while in Seattle. Another 3rd round pick, Darrell Jackson, was the best of the bunch. The Seahawks got lucky with 5th round pick D.J. Hackett, but his health prevented him from being elite. You'll notice all the others were busts, or in the case of Obomanu, Kent and Taylor, haven't shown anything to write home about yet.

Seattle Drafted WRs 1999-2008

Courtney Taylor, Auburn- 6th Round 2007
Jordan Kent, Oregon- 6th Round 2007
Ben Obomanu, Auburn- 7th Round 2006
D.J. Hackett, Colorado- 5th Round 2004
Taco Wallace, Kansas State- 7th Round 2003
Jerramy Stevens (TE), Washington 1st Round 2002
Koren Robinson, N.C. State 1st Round 2001

Alex Bannister, Eastern Kentucky 5th Round 2001
Darrell Jackson, Florida 3rd Round 2000
James Williams, Marshall 6th Round 2000
Karsten Bailey, Auburn 3rd Round 1999
Charlie Rogers, Georgia Tech 5th Round 1999

12 Total Players Drafted
4 First Day Picks
4 Significant Contributors- Stevens, Robinson, Jackson and Hackett
1 2nd Day pick Contributor

To prevent my numbers from being skewed, I wanted to take a look at another team as a basis for comparison. I chose Green Bay because they run a similar (how similar depends on who you talk to) offense and share a link with current GM Ted Thompson, who was with Seattle from 200-2004.

Over the same period of time, the Packers went about their approach a bit differently than Seattle. They drafted almost twice as many receivers and tight ends, 21 vs. 12, and also made almost twice as many Day 1 selections, 7 to Seattle's 4. Both Seattle and Green Bay feature multiple receiver sets, but it seems only the Packers have chosen to keep stocking the cupboard, especially with the recent selections of Nelson, Jones and Jennings- all Day 1 picks. It comes as no surprise to me, especially after looking at all the numbers above, that Green Bay's receiving corps is better than Seattle's. Even if every 'Hawk receiver were healthy, I'd take Green Bay's squad over Seattle's.


Green Bay Packers Drafted WRs 1999-2008

Jordy Nelson, Kansas State 2nd Round 2008
Brett Swain, San Diego St. 7th Round 2008
James Jones, San Jose St. 3rd Round 2007
David Clowney, Virginia Tech 5th Round 2007
Clark Harris (TE), Rutgers 7th Round 2007
Greg Jennings, Western Michigan 2nd Round 2006
Cory Rogers, TCU 4th Round 2006
Will Blackmon (KR/PR), Boston College 4th Round 2006
Terrence Murphy, Texas A&M 2nd Round 2005
Craig Bragg, UCLA 6th Round 2005
DeAndrew Rubin, South Florida 7th Round 2003
Carl Ford, Toledo 7th Round 2003
Javon Walker, Florida State 1st Round 2002
Robert Ferguson, Texas A&M 2nd Round 2001

David Martin, Tennessee 6th Round 2001
Bubba Franks (TE), Miami 1st Round 2000
Anthony Lucas, Arkansas 4th Round 2000
Joey Jamison, Texas Southern 5th Round 2000
Charles Lee, Central Florida 7th Round 2000
Dee Miller, Ohio State 6th Round 1999
Donald Driver, Alcorn St. 7th Round 1999


21 Total Players Drafted
7 First Day Picks
8 Significant Contributors- Driver, Franks, Martin, Ferguson, Jennings, Jones, Nelson (Nelson is in his rookie season, but is contributing already- first TD was on Sunday)
2 2nd Day Pick Contributors

Take a longer look at some other teams across the NFL landscape. Philadelphia has been looking for a true #1 receiving threat since the Terrell Owens debacle. They pulled the trigger on Cal's DeSean Jackson in Round 2 this year and look what he's doing. Seattle passed on him…twice! Denver had been looking for an explosive compliment to Brandon Marshall and what did they do? They pulled the trigger on Virginia Tech's Eddie Royal, also in the 2nd Round, and he looks like a veteran already.

So what's the bottom line? As Seattle continues to burn up the phones to bring in free agent receivers, or possibly trade for one, I'm already looking at next year's Draft. Seattle will feature an All-ACL team of Burleson, Branch and Payne, and Bobby Engram will be another year closer to 40. After focusing primarily on defense the past three years, GM Tim Ruskell must make adding a Day 1 receiver a priority. Seattle's offense can't afford to ignore the position any longer or expect late-round picks to contribute like starters. Here's a look at some players who might be targets in the 2009 NFL Draft.

Darius Heyward-Bey, Maryland 6'2" 205 4.35
Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech 6'3" 215 4.55
Jeremy Maclin, Missouri 6'1" 200 4.39
Percy Harvin, Florida 5'11" 195 4.39
Kenny Britt, Rutgers 6'4" 215 4.59
Brian Robiskie, Ohio State 6'2" 200 4.55
Louis Murphy, Florida 6'2" 205 4.40
Jauquin Iglesias, Oklahoma 6'0" 200 4.55
Derrick Williams, Penn State 6'0" 195 4.50


All questions or comments can be emailed to: rlrigmaiden@hotmail.com


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