Commandment V –
Thou shalt not overdraft Wide Receivers.
There is no greater position with the level of flux as wide receiver. A stud quarterback in September will almost certainly be a stud quarterback in December. The same holds true for running backs, but on a much less frequent basis. However, each week, new and exciting wide receivers pop onto the radar. Rookies go from “who’s that” to “every week starter.” Third or fourth-string wideouts become first- or second-tier players in an instant.
So, what to do? There are, at any one time, probably fewer than five or six wide receivers in the entire league that are of such high quality they deserve to be drafted early. Their raw talent, combined with a perfect storm of quarterback ability and offensive scheme, makes them invaluable. However, once they are off the board, it would pay to wait until later rounds to start drafting wide receivers again.
Another potential gold mine for star wide receivers is the pool of rookies. Each year teams draft rookie wide receivers, and if they have the talent and opportunity, a few hit it big. In order to evaluate the talent level of rookies, you will have to read professional scouting reports published by specialists, statistics from official university sources (usually available on the internet), and accounts from local newspapers from the college towns where these wideouts played before being drafted into the National Football League.
This is not perfect, and college football is not the same as professional football. Often what works in a college environment against other college players doesn’t work in the NFL, due to the experience of the defenders, skill of the defensive players, and better defensive schemes formulated by the coaches. However, you can still get some idea. This is where your skills during the draft will come into play. Towards the middle-to-late rounds of the draft you might be able to pick up one or two wide receivers with high potential, names your competition won’t even know. If you’ve done your homework, they will hear about these wide receivers during the season (but they will already be on your roster).
Some of these guys will have been college studs. Others will be players coming off injury-laden seasons. Still others will be second or third string wide receivers whose situations have changed, such as when their team’s No. 1 or No. 2 wide receiver retired, suffered major injury, or got lured away by another team.
Another source for solid wide receivers is the No. 2 guy on a team’s roster. For every stud wide receiver, there is another guy lining up on the other side of the field. The top wide receiver will face double or triple teaming. He’ll be sandwiched between two or more defenders all day long. Or, he’ll get covered by the other team’s “shut down corner.” Sometimes this is so threatening to the quarterback that he won’t even attempt many passes to his top wide receiver. Instead, he’ll turn to his tight end or – and here is where you swoop in – his secondary wideout. In a few cases the No. 2 wide receiver is a legitimate star in his own right, but those guys tend to be more obvious draft picks for the other team owners, so they are not hidden gems.
It is the wideouts that get overlooked who provide great value and help you build a winning team. You might end up with a group of wide receivers that other owners passed by. But, suddenly, with a few fortuitous events, these “forgotten men” will be front and center on the field and on your roster. To recognize these players, you’re going to have to do a little homework, but isn’t a league championship worth the effort?