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Rookie receivers

Will a first-round receiver hit it big early?

I’m not super excited about the receivers who were selected early. They all come with various flaws. That said, the tendency recently has been for the early-pick receivers to get involved sooner rather than later. Gone, it seems, are the days of guys needing a few years to develop.

Not that any of the first-round receivers look great to me. Drake London is going to an Atlanta team that I think will finish with the worst record in the league. And he’ll be working with lesser quarterbacking – some combination of Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder. London is also a young guy – just 20.

With Garrett Wilson, he’s going to a Jets team that already has three other viable receivers. Elijah Moore was very good at times as a rookie, Corey Davis has had his moments, and Braxton Berrios played well enough that they re-signed him to a two-year deal worth $12 million.

Coming off an ACL surgery, Jameson Williams probably won’t play before October (and maybe not until November). And two other wide receivers selected in teens are joining teams that have multiple other viable receivers: Chris Olave (Michael Thomas, Jarvin Landry) and Jahan Dotson (Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel).

Treylon Burks is better situated for instant success, but he’s gotten off to an underwhelming start, sitting out most of the drills at Tennessee’s recent minicamp, through some combination of conditioning and some kind of asthma-type problem. Right now, it’s looking wildly optimistic to hope for him to be some kind of A.J. Brown type player.

With none of those receivers looking particularly compelling for 2022, I’m wondering whether Christian Watson (selected early in the second round) might outperform all of them. The Packers would probably like to get him in the lineup from the get-go.

But draft pedigree does count for something. And on that front, I have to concede that there’s some chance London and Wilson will be a lot better than I’m expecting. They’re top-10 overall picks, and those guys have tended to be productive early.

Since 2011, nine of the 14 wide receivers selected with top-10 picks have posted top-30 PPR numbers in their first seasons. Of the five who missed, Kevin White and John Ross hardly played because of injuries, while Corey Davis and Mike Williams were both affected by injuries. (Though time later showed that White and Ross were simply not going to be good, regardless of health, while Davis is more of a starter-caliber receiver rather than difference-maker type guy.)

I don’t expect London or Wilson to put up top-30 numbers, but both merit some attention with later-round gamble picks in drafts, I think.

2011A.J. Green, Cin.4651,0577218.017
2011Julio Jones, Atl.6549598203.521
2012Justin Blackmon, Jac.5648655184.829
2013• Tavon Austin, St.L.8404186132.953
2014Mike Evans, T.B.7681,05112245.113
2014Sammy Watkins, Buff.4659826200.027
2015Amari Cooper, Oak.4721,0706214.721
2015• Kevin White, Chi.7000.0--
2017• Corey Davis, Ten.534375071.585
2017• Mike Williams, LAC71195020.5139
2017• John Ross, Cin.90001.2--
2021JaMarr Chase, Cin.5811,45513306.65
2021Jaylen Waddle, Mia.61041,0157247.812
2021DeVonta Smith, Phil.10649165187.630
2022Drake London, Atl.8?????
2022Garrett Wilson, NYJ10?????

—Ian Allan

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