The Raiders made Henry Ruggs the first receiver chosen in the draft. Probably more teams had Jerry Jeudy or CeeDee Lamb as the top pass catcher on their board. But if form holds, none of those three receivers will be the most productive of the rookie receivers.

It’s a deep class this year, and a lot of the guys selected in the second and third rounds look very impressive. Can anybody, for example, say with any certainty that Devin Duvernay won’t be the best wide receiver for the up-and-coming Ravens? Or that Laviska Shenault, Michael Pittman or Brandon Aiyuk won’t be the top guy. Kyle Shanahan says the 49ers believe that Aiyuk is the best of these rookie receivers.

There’s a lot of talent out there. And for Lamb, Jeudy or Ruggs (pictured) to finish with the best numbers, they will have to outperform all of them.

If you look at the historical numbers, it’s kind of a sucker bet. Only rarely does the first receiver drafted finish with the best numbers of the first-year receivers. Remarkably, it’s happened only three times in the last 30 years. And all three of those receivers (I’ve got them in bold) came into those seasons with far more buzz as potential difference makers – A.J. Green, Amari Cooper and Peter Warrick. (Warrick didn’t have a great career, but he was a phenomenal college player, and everybody was excited about his potential.)

Nobody is suggesting Ruggs, Lamb or Jeudy is an A.J. Green type prospect. There was never any suggestion of them being selected in the top 5.

If we look at the top rookie receivers of each of the last 30 years, in 60 percent of those seasons, the most productive player wasn’t even selected in the first round. (I’ve got them tagged with black dots.) In the table here, the final column shows where the top rookie ranked among all wide receivers (using PPR scoring).

YearPlayer (rd)NoYdsTDPPRRk
2019• A.J. Brown, Ten. (2)5210519217.122
2018Calvin Ridley, Atl.6482110208.820
2017• JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pitt. (2)589178197.720
2016• Michael Thomas, N.O. (2)9211379259.77
2015Amari Cooper, Oak.7210706214.721
2014Odell Beckham, NYG91130512297.08
2013• Keenan Allen, S.D. (3)7110468223.618
2012• T.Y. Hilton, Ind. (3)508618187.028
2011A.J. Green, Cin.6510577218.017
2010• Mike Williams, T.B. (4)6596411227.416
2009Percy Harvin, Min.607908200.523
2008• Eddie Royal, Den. (2)919805231.914
2007Dwayne Bowe, K.C.709955199.522
2006• Marques Colston, N.O. (7)7010388221.816
2005• Reggie Brown, Phil. (2)435714124.649
2004Michael Clayton, T.B.8011937244.314
2003• Anquan Boldin, Ariz. (2)10113778290.73
2002• Antonio Bryant, Dall. (2)447336157.345
2001• Chris Chambers, Mia. (2)488837177.233
2000Peter Warrick, Cin.515927167.030
1999• Kevin Johnson, Cle. (2)669868212.022
1998Randy Moss, Min.69131317306.72
1997Rae Carruth, Car.445454124.849
1996Terry Glenn, N.E.9011326243.412
1995Joey Galloway, Sea.6710399240.317
1994• Darnay Scott, Cin. (2)468665175.925
1993• James Jett, Oak. (FA)337713128.143
1992• Carl Pickens, Cin. (2)26326270.674
1991• Lawrence Dawsey, T.B. (3)558184161.730
1990• Ricky Proehl, Ariz. (3)568024160.630

If we look instead at the first receiver drafted, more than half didn’t finish as one of the top 4 rookie receivers in their first season. Three finished No. 1 (the same guys, of course, and I’ve still got them in bold). Six others ranked 2nd, three ranked 3rd and two ranked 4th. So that’s only 14 of the 30 finishing somewhere in the top 4.

On the draft here, I’ve added an additional column that’s in bold. It shows where the player ranked among the other rookie receivers.

So in general, unless you see something that you really like from Ruggs, Jeudy and Lamb, I wouldn’t bother making them much of a priority in drafts (especially with the coronavirus wiping out the offseason).

We’ve all heard the quip about trading down to pick up more lottery tickets. If you’re in a dynasty draft, that looks particularly true this year. If you had a less-coveted first-round spot (the 6th pick, perhaps) the probabilities indicate it might make sense to trade it for multiple picks later on. In general, I would rather have two of the wide receivers selected in the second round rather than one of the guys chosen in the first.

YearPlayer (pick)NoYdsTDPPRRk1st
2019Marquise Brown, Balt. (25)465847146.4467
2018DJ Moore, Car. (24)557882163.0362
2017Corey Davis, Ten. (5)34375071.5857
2016Corey Coleman, Cle. (15)33413393.3829
2015Amari Cooper, Oak. (4)7210706214.7211
2014Sammy Watkins, Buff. (4)659826200.0275
2013Tavon Austin, St.L. (8)404186132.9536
2012Justin Blackmon, Jac. (5)648655184.8292
2011A.J. Green, Cin. (4)6510577218.0171
2010Demaryius Thomas, Den. (22)22283262.49510
2009Darrius Heyward-Bey, Oak. (7)9124129.311818
2008Donnie Avery, St.L. (33)536744151.3393
2007Calvin Johnson, Det. (2)487565158.8382
2006Santonio Holmes, Pitt. (25)498243150.7382
2005Braylon Edwards, Cle. (3)325123101.2675
2004Larry Fitzgerald, Ariz. (3)587808185.4313
2003Charles Rogers, Det. (2)22243366.0888
2002Donte Stallworth, N.O. (13)425948149.6502
2001David Terrell, Chi. (8)34415499.5614
2000Peter Warrick, Cin. (4)515927167.0301
1999Torry Holt, St.L. (6)527886169.3362
1998Kevin Dyson, Ten. (16)21263259.7877
1997Ike Hilliard, NYG (7)24206.213312
1996Keyshawn Johnson, NYJ (1)638448197.4233
1995Michael Westbrook, Was. (4)345222109.6596
1994Charles Johnson, Pitt. (17)385773113.6584
1993Curtis Conway, Chi. (7)19231258.5776
1992Desmond Howard, Was. (4)320112.41217
1991Herman Moore, Det. (10)11135024.510512
1990Alexander Wright, Dall. (26)11104130.0999

—Ian Allan