At what point do you give up on a struggling first-round pick? Quentin Johnston, as a recent example, had an underwhelming rookie season. Are we at the point where you’d rather trade him out for a receiver selected in the second or third round of the upcoming draft?

The Chargers, I would think, will give Johnston the opportunity to turn things around. They’ll likely be releasing Mike Williams, and they could use a receiver to step into that void. They thought enough of Johnston a year ago to select him just ahead of Zay Flowers and Jordan Addison. (Oops.)

The Chargers have an up-and-coming superstar quarterback, and Jim Harbaugh has seen Johnston at his very best. (Johnston came up huge for Texas Christian in a national semifinal win over Michigan in January, 2023.)

But Johnston was underwhelming as a rookie. He had ample chances to make an impact (with Williams missing most of the season) but was generally ineffective, catching 38 passes for 431 yards and 2 TDs. The low point came when he sealed a loss at Green Bay with drop late in the game.

The historical numbers indicate that when a receiver doesn’t show much in his first season, the odds go way up of him simply not being much of a player.

In the 32-team era, 36 other wide receivers picked in the first round have failed to catch 40 passes in their first season. Only six of those players ever put together a top-20 season (using PPR scoring). Only four others ever compiled a top-30 season.

Granted, there have been some notable exceptions. Roddy White, Demaryius Thomas, Javon Walker and Braylon Edwards all put together top-5 season. But there have been far more big misses, like Jalen Reagor, John Ross, Laquon Treadwell, Josh Doctson and Kevin White.

If we’re picking today, I would select Johnston with a flyer pick in the late rounds. But let’s see how the offseason unfolds. The Chargers may have soured on him enough to where they obtain some other receiver that they think will be better.

In the chart below, you’re seeing all first-round receivers picked since 2002 who didn’t catch 40 passes as rookies. The final column (“best”) shows the highest they ever ranked in their career among wide receivers using PPR scoring. The six who put up top-20 numbers at some point are tagged with black dots.

YearPlayerPkNoYdsTDNext YrBest
2002• Javon Walker, G.B.2023319141-716-93
2002Ashley Lelie, Den.1935525237-628-227
2003Bryant Johnson, Ari.1735438149-537-148
2003Charles Rogers, Det.22224330-0-088
2004Reggie Williams, Jac.927268135-445-035
2004Michael Jenkins, Atl.297119036-508-341
2004Rashaun Woods, S.F.31716010-0-0122
2005• Roddy White, Atl.2729446330-506-01
2005• Braylon Edwards, Cle.332512361-884-64
2005Matt Jones, Jac.2136432541-643-437
2005Mike Williams, Det.102935018-99-141
2005Troy Williamson, Min.724372237-455-077
2007Ted Ginn, Mia.934420356-790-433
2007Anthony Gonzalez, Ind.3237576357-664-442
2007Craig Davis, S.D.302018814-59-0106
2009Darrius Heyward-Bey, Oak.79124126-366-128
2010• Demaryius Thomas, Den.2222283232-551-41
2011Jonathan Baldwin, K.C.2621254120-325-1101
2012A.J. Jenkins, S.F.300008-130-0133
2015• DeVante Parker, Mia.1426494356-744-411
2015Nelson Agholor, Phil.2023283136-365-223
2015Breshad Perriman, Balt.2600033-499-351
2015Phillip Dorsett, Ind.2918225133-528-271
2015Kevin White, Chi.700019-187-0123
2016Josh Doctson, Was.22266035-502-657
2016Corey Coleman, Cle.1533413323-305-283
2016Laquon Treadwell, Min.23115020-200-090
2017• Mike Williams, LAC71195043-664-1113
2017Corey Davis, Ten.534375065-891-429
2017John Ross, Cin.900021-210-774
2019N'Keal Harry, N.E.3212105233-309-298
2020Henry Ruggs, L.V.1226452224-469-286
2020Jalen Reagor, Phil.2131396233-299-291
2021Kadarius Toney, NYG2039420016-171-389
2022Jahan Dotson, Was.1635523749-518-451
2022Treylon Burks, Ten.1833444216-221-078
2022Jameson Williams, Det.12141124-354-382
2023Quentin Johnston, LAC21384312?-?-?74

—Ian Allan