When a team drafts a wide receiver in the first round | Forum

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 of the NFL draft Chidobe Awuzie Jersey , many fans expect to get the equivalent of a Calvin Johnson, a Julio Jones, or an Odell Beckham without the mouth and attitude. Guys who (barring injury) have consistently produced 1,000+ yard seasons. Nobody expects their team to draft a player like Charles Rogers, whom the Lions drafted with the second overall pick in 2004 but was out of the league after just three years due to injuries and off-field issues. In those three years, Rogers totaled 440 yards in 15 games. The reality is that there is no guarantee that you’ll land a franchise player in the first round of the draft, not at wide receiver, and not at any other position in the draft. And you may have to wait a while before that first-round wide receiver produces the way you were hoping for. 73 wide receivers were drafted in the first round between 2000 and 2017. Only five of them (7%) totaled more than 1,000 receiving yards in their rookie seasons. So expecting a 1,000+ yard season from a first-round rookie is simply unrealistic. If we lower that threshold to 800+ receiving yards we get 16 first-round wide receivers (22%) who’ve met that threshold in their rookie seasons. And while the first round is the most likely place to find these 800+ yard rookies, it is not the only place: an additional 15 wide receivers drafted since 2000 put up 800+ yard rookie seasons. Here’s an overview of all 31 players:The Cowboys haven’t invested a lot of high draft picks into the wide receiver position this decade. Dez Bryant was their last first-round WR in 2010, Terrance Williams and Michael Gallup were added with third-round picks in 2013 and 2018 respectively, and the Cowboys have supplemented their picks with UDFAs like Miles Austin and Cole Beasley. And now they’ve spent a 1st-rounder on Amari Cooper. Here’s a look at how long it took for each of those players to reach the 800+ yard threshold: If Dez Bryant hadn’t fractured his ankle in his rookie season, he’d have probably exceeded 800 yards in each of his first five seasons in the league, a feat that’s only been achieved by six wide receivers since 1990 (A.J. Green, T.Y. Hilton, DeAndre Hopkins, Keyshawn Johnson, Randy Moss, Frank Sanders).Williams cracked 800 in his third season, Austin in his fourth season, and Beasley in his fifth season. With 190 yards in six games, Michael Gallup is currently on track for a little over 500 receiving yards. His production over the last few games has improved, so his arrow is pointing up, but he’ll have to average 60 yards per game for the rest of the season to hit 800 receiving yards, and that may be difficult given the Cowboys’ run-oriented offense and Amari Cooper’s arrival Jourdan Lewis Color Rush Jersey , but it’s not impossible.With the trade for Cooper, a lot of chatter over the last couple of days has centered around whether investing a first-round pick in next year’s draft or investing that pick in Cooper will be the magic bullet that fixes what’s ailing the Cowboys’ offense.There is no clear-cut answer to that question, as you’d have to factor in cap implications, assumptions about the quality of QB play, assumptions about a potential rookie’s performance, and much more into the equation and would still end up with no clear answer.But what we can do is look at how easy or hard it is for first-round wide receivers to have an immediate impact in their first year in the NFL. The table below shows the percentage of draft picks, by round, that totaled 800+ receiving yards, split by the first five seasons of their career.For the rookie season, I looked at all wide receivers drafted between 2000 and 2017, for the second season, I looked at all wide receivers drafted between 2000 and 2016, the third year is limited to 2000-2015 and so on. I chose the fifth year as the cut off for this analysis, as that’s typically the length of the first contract the first-round wide receivers sign.Observation # 1: You’ve got to be really lucky to draft a first-round wide receiver who’ll become a significant contributor immediately.Only 22% of all first-round picks (or a little less than a quarter) hit the 800-yard threshold in their rookie season. Things look better in the second and third years, where about two out of five first-rounders hit the 800-yard mark, but frankly, two out five isn’t particularly impressive.The Cowboys have been pretty impressed by their own track record in the first round (Stephen Jones: “We’ve had an extended amount of success with our number one draft picks”), but you can only defy the odds for so long.Rabblerousr goes on to add that the Patriots are one team aware of this difficulty, and as a result have tended to trade draft picks for WRs instead of using their picks to draft WRs. That way they get guys who have proven they can win in the NFL. Observation # 2: Almost half of all receivers drafted in the first round never achieve 800+ yards receiving in their career.Russel Clay of fantasyguru.com put together the following chart (which provided the inspiration for this post) showing the number of 800+ yards receiving seasons by draft round. Clay’s chart is a little different than mine in that he looks at how many 800+ yard seasons a player has over his career, whereas I focused more on when players have their 800+ yard seasons - if it all.Per Clay’s chart, only 56% of all wide receivers drafted in the first round have at least one 800+ yard over their entire career. Which means almost half of all first-rounders never reach that 800-yard threshold. Talk about draft busts!Both approaches agree that the odds of hitting on a wide receiver who will become a significant contributor quickly and consistently are not good. Observation # 3: Amari Cooper will likely outperform a 2019 first-round rookie in his (first) two years in Dallas.Cooper will likely already produce this season, something a 2019 pick won’t be able to. Also, Cooper’s track record (two Pro-Bowl seasons with 1,000+ receiving yards, and one season of 680) suggests he’ll be the No. 1 receiver in Dallas in 2019 and should hit 800+ yards. The odds are stacked against a first-round pick hitting that mark in his rookie season.Of course, part of the allure of a first-round pick is that you get him for relatively cheap on his five-year rookie contract https://www.dallascowboysfanshop.com/Rico-Gathers-Jersey , and that’s something that Cooper won’t offer, especially if the Cowboys sign him beyond 2019.The Cowboys paid a steep price for Cooper, but as rabblerousr argues in the Twitter thread above, they are getting a proven WR rather than taking a gamble on a dude who *might* emerge in 2021. Dane Brugler offers a similar argument:Observation # 4: 2019 looks to be a weak wide receiver classThis has nothing to do with stats, but the consensus seems to be building that next year will be a weak first-round class for wide receivers.Bucky Brooks of NFL.com writes that there’s not a Top 10-worthy WR in the 2019 draft class, and that snagging Cooper (Top 5 pick/2x Pro Bowler) is a better option than picking a WR next year despite Cooper’s flaws.Gil Brandt, formerly of the Cowboys and now also at NFL.com, looked at the top 50 players for the 2019 draft (including underclassmen he thinks are coming out) and didn’t see a wide receiver in the Top 25. He goes on to say that the Cowboys would be reaching for a wide receiver less capable than Cooper, regardless of where they’ll end up drafting.Dane Brugler of The Athletic doesn’t have a wide receiver in his Top 25.What this all means for the CowboysWR depth can be found everywhere in the draft. If you are looking for a No. 2 or No. 3 guy,you can get a guy like that on the second or third day of the draft, or you can get a cheap, proven veteran in free agency to do just that job. This what the Cowboys did this year, and as Todd Archer of ESPN points out, by acquiring Cooper the Cowboys are effectively admitting that the WR committee was a mistake.If you’re looking for that elusive No. 1 receiver, you’ll probably need to invest a first-round pick and you’d better make sure the guy you get for that investment is going to be a difference maker. And the data of the last 17 years shows that those guys are hard to come by in the NFL draft. Earlier today, we posted part one of our two-part series on the best 10 moves by the Cowboys front-office over the past four years. If you missed it, go back and check out decisions 10-6 in our ranking.Below, we list the top five decisions. These are decisions that have built the Cowboys for today and also helped build them for the future. Note: These are player personnel decision so coaching moves are not considered, and let’s face it - we could almost come up with an entire top 10 list of those things alone. So, Kris Richard, Ben Bloom, and Marc Colombo - we still love you, just not in this piece.Now, for the top 5...5. Not paying DeMarco Murray (2015)After DeMarco Murray set the Cowboys franchise single-season rushing record with 1,845 yards in 2014, everyone wanted the team to re-sign him in order to keep the band together. Unfortunately Geoff Swaim Jersey , his cost was too high and he ended up getting a five-year, $40 million deal with the Philadelphia Eagles. Murray would have a disappointing season with the Eagles, only rushing for 702 yards before being dealt to Tennessee. And after two years with the Titans, Murray is now out of the league.Now, this could be the part where we play six-degrees-of-DeMarco-Murray and talk about all the things that happened as a result, but were not going that route. The only things that matter here are (1) the Cowboys saved a lot of money by not re-signing him and (2) they got a compensatory pick for 2016. And that comp pick turned out to be huge as we’ll see later.4. Passing on Paxton Lynch (2016)One of my favorite articles I’ve ever read is Peter King’s inside the war room of 2016 that gave us a lot of insight to what the Cowboys brain-trust was thinking that day. One of the things discussed was going after Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch. The Cowboys had Lynch 12th overall on their board and was looking to pounce if he fell. Getting a quarterback to backup an often ailing-Tony Romo was important and Lynch was their top target.Garrett wanted to hold out for Connor Cook or Dak Prescott later in the draft so they could use those Day 2 picks to spruce up the defense.The Cowboys kept trying to offer a second and a fourth, but everyone wanted a second and a third. Stephen Jones wouldn’t bite and the Cowboys couldn’t consummate a deal and when the Denver Broncos were able to pull it off, Jerry had regret.Jerry will sure let you know it if he regrets something. We had to listen to him talk about how much he wanted Johnny Manziel over Zack Martin in 2014 and he also couldn’t resist talking about how he didn’t give up enough to trade for Paxton Lynch in 2016.3. Drafting Leighton Vander Esch (2018)The Cowboys have drafted a lot of All-Pro players in the first-round during the Jason Garrett era, but all of them are on offense. That could be changing soon as they have a star in the making with Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch. With the whole world expecting them to draft a wide receiver, the Cowboys were overjoyed to see Vander Esch still available when it was their turn to pick.Vander Esch already has 103 tackles for the season. He also has two interceptions, both occurring during the Cowboys four-game winning streak. Vander Esch has great quickness and doesn’t allow ball carriers to escape those long arms. He does a great job diagnosing the play, shedding blocks, and stopping running backs behind the line of scrimmage.Some people thought this was a super-reach because he was only a starter for one year in college. The upside for him was huge if he could replicate this level of play and based on what we’ve seen so far - that’s exactly what’s happening. His strong play, week after week has him making a serious push for Defensive Rookie of the Year.You may think it’s a little premature to have him so high on this list, but when he becomes the first Cowboys player since Harvey Martin (1977) to win Defensive Player of the Year, we’ll agree that he’s not high enough.2. Taking Ezekiel Elliott over Jalen Ramsey (2016)It’s hard to go wrong with either of these guys and picking one over the other is like splitting hairs. Both are All-Pro’s and two of the best at their respective positions. Ezekiel Elliott was fast out of the gate, earning his All-Pro bid his rookie season after rushing for 1,631 yards and 15 touchdowns. Then it was Jalen Ramsey who emerged as one of the game’s best corners in just his second year in the league. With Zeke missing six games due to a suspension it was Ramsey that looked like the better pick last season.With year three on the final stretch, Elliott has once again established himself as one of the league’s best offensive weapons while Ramsey has struggled at times. Both are still great players, but Ramsey has developed a reputation as a big trash talker, publicly criticizing other players in the league. Zeke, on the other hand, is a man of few words and let’s his play on the field do the talking. In fact, Elliott has shown great maturity this season and is seen as one of the clubhouse leaders.But this isn’t a popularity contest; it’s about who’s the better pick for Dallas. And once again, coach Garrett was advocating for his guy on draft day.You can’t go wrong with either guy, but Elliott is right choice for a team that has build a strong offensive line as a foundation. The Cowboys have leaned heavily on Zeke this season and he hasn’t disappointed.If you build it Anthony Brown Color Rush Jersey , he will run.1. Drafting Dak Prescott (2016)In the offseason of 2015, the Cowboys signed Greg Hardy to a one-year, $8.8 million deal, but lost DeMarco Murray (five-years, $42 million) and Jermey Parnell (five-year, $32 million) in free agency. The net result was a fourth-round compensatory pick (135th overall) awarded to the Cowboys in 2016. Typically, that’s nothing to get too excited about, but when a DUI caused Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott to fall to them, fans became intrigued. Prescott was player who was on our radar quite a bit leading it to the draft, however, none of us would’ve guessed what would happen next.Prescott stepped up right away and tore up the preseason. But hey, that’s just preseason. Preseason turned to regular season when a back injury to Tony Romo forced him to miss time. Prescott carried his preseason success into games that counted and slowly and surely the worry of a shelved Romo started disappearing. So much in fact that when Romo was finally healthy, the Cowboys stayed with Dak.Prescott had the best rookie performance of any quarterback in NFL history and in the process, sent franchise-leading QB Tony Romo into retirement. The Cowboys took a dead money hit, but ultimately saved quite a bit money in the long run. More importantly - the constant fear every time we saw our quarterback go to the ground, vanished.We are now in year three of Prescott’s career and fans are conflicted. Dak has had some struggles at time as he gets rattled under duress and hasn’t been able to attack downfield as much as we would like. But he’s also a big time playmaker. In some ways, he’s taking us on a similar rollercoaster that Romo took us on when he came in the league. Some good stuff, some bad stuff, and every once in a while - he makes a play that astonishes us.The cement is far from dry on what type of quarterback Prescott is going to be, but when you consider the team may have their franchise quarterback for the future, snagging him with a fourth-round comp pick is a gold star move for this organization. Some may not be sold on him yet, but the owner and head coach love him so we might as well buckle up and enjoy the ride.As a nice capper for our list, we present the following:

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