football Edit

Take Two: Why are recent first-round WRs struggling in NFL?

Take Two returns with a daily offering tackling a handful of issues in the college football landscape. National Recruiting Analyst Adam Gorney lays out the situation and then receives takes from National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell and an expert from the network.

THIS WEEK'S TAKE TWO: How will the battle for five-star Trey Standers shake out? | How special will Saquon Barkley be in the NFL?

Calvin Ridley
Calvin Ridley (USA TODAY Sports Images)


The 2014 first-round receiver class in the NFL Draft has turned out to be excellent with Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham, Brandin Cooks and Kelvin Benjamin.

Since then, only one first-round wide receiver - Alabama’s Amari Cooper - has made the Pro Bowl and there have been some significant busts. The 2015 first-round class was Cooper, Kevin White, DeVante Parker, Nelson Agholor, Breshad Perriman and Phillip Dorsett.

In 2016, Corey Coleman, Will Fuller, Josh Doctson and Laquon Treadwell were first-round selections. Last year, Corey Davis, Mike Williams and John Ross went in the first round and injuries slowed them early in their pro careers.

Is the wide receiver position being downgraded as a first-round selection especially after recent classes have struggled early in the NFL? There is a good chance Alabama’s Calvin Ridley is the only receiver taken in the first round this year.

NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock has some opinions on why receivers have struggled especially in the last few years coming from college football to the pros.

“There are really three things,” Mayock said. “One, the lack of quality press coverage in college football. It’s hard to watch wideouts get challenged realistically on tape. Number two, it’s a whole different conversation about the complexities of NFL defenses versus what a lot of these kids are seeing in college football.

“Number three, I’m getting to the point where there were three first-round receivers a year ago, Corey Davis, Mike Williams, John Ross, all three of them had hints of durability issues. All three of them struggled to get on the field last year because of injuries. The production was way down. On top of everything else, we need to be more aware of any kind of injury history with the wide receiver position and also what does it take to be successful?”

CLASS OF 2019 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | State | Position | Team

Corey Davis
Corey Davis


“Wide receiver has been a poorly-drafted position for a long time, and that won’t change moving forward. Despite success for teams like the Patriots – who continue to win despite not having drafted a receiver in the first round since 1996 – scouts and executives will continue to fall in love with measurables, and players like Corey Coleman, Kevin White, Phillip Dorsett and Breshad Perriman will continue to get over-drafted.

“The lack of first-round projections at wide receiver says a lot more about this particular draft class than it does any NFL trends. Equanimeous St. Brown has outstanding measurables and potential, but his lack of high-end draft status has more to do with his struggles at the line against physical corners and his inability to make plays downfield on the football than it does any reaction to recent misses at wide receiver.

“A player like James Washington could be one that is being punished for past misses, but that is about the system at Oklahoma State producing busts more than a trend at the position as a whole. He is also hurt by an underwhelming performance at the NFL Scouting Combine.

“If Equanimeous St. Brown had better film or if he ran a 4.3 at the combine like Will Fuller, he’d be talked about as a first-round pick. At the end of the day, scouts will continue to fall in love with receivers who possess elite measurables in hopes of finding the next Julio Jones, Larry Fitzgerald or DeAndre Hopkins, regardless of how unsuccessful past drafts have been at the position.”

Equanimeous St. Brown
Equanimeous St. Brown (USA TODAY Sports Images)


“It is a cyclical thing. There will probably be one running back taken in the first round this year, maybe two. Running back has sort of risen and wide receiver has sort of dropped a little bit. I don’t know what’s causing it. It used to be big receivers, everybody wanted, and now smaller receivers are OK. Neither of those types of players have been successful.

“I don’t think it’s going to be downgraded on the high school level or the college level because everything is a spread offense and those guys can still put up crazy numbers. At the NFL level, even though everything has opened up, for some reason those first-rounders are not having success.”