Daily Herald
If Bears draft a wide receiver early, don't count on immediate results
By Bob LeGere | Daily Herald Staff
Published: 3/13/2009 12:02 AM

Last week at chicagobears.com, Bears general manager Jerry Angelo was asked about upgrading at wide receiver and indicated he would rely on the draft.

"Naturally, we're going to look at that real hard, in all likelihood in the draft," Angelo said of the wide receiver position. "We're not looking for backup wide receivers. What we want are potentially starting wide receivers. What we're looking at is the top of the wide receiver position. Where does that come from? It comes with a premium receiver in free agency, if there's one out there, and/or in the draft."

Other than 15-year veteran Marvin Harrison and maybe D.J. Hackett, there aren't any standout unrestricted free-agent wide receivers, and the Bears have shown no interest in either of them.

That leaves the draft, which, when it comes to wide receivers, has been a crapshoot in recent years, especially in the early rounds. It's a bad gamble to count on even the best wide receivers to produce decent numbers in Year 1.

Of the top 10 wide receivers taken in each of the past four years, only seven of the 40 put up starter-type numbers as rookies: Eddie Royal, DeSean Jackson and Donnie Avery last year, Calvin Johnson and Dwayne Bowe in 2007, and Santonio Holmes and Greg Jennings in '06. In '05, Reggie Brown was close with 43 catches for 571 yards.

NFL teams appeared skittish last year about using first-round picks on wide receivers. None were taken in the first round, but 10 were snagged in the second round, including nine in the first 22 picks of Round 2. But six of those 10 caught fewer than 10 passes as rookies. In 2007, five of the top 10 receivers drafted caught 20 passes or less, and only one of those five has not been a disappointment or a bust.

Only one wide receiver was taken in the first round in 2006, and seven of the top 10 drafted caught fewer than 15 passes as rookies, although one of the seven, the Bears' Devin Hester, played cornerback his first year. Of the seven, Hester is one of just two who haven't been a bust, although of the five busts, four were third-round picks. On the other hand, six wide receivers were drafted in the first round in 2005, and four have had careers that can be described as excellent, or solid, as long as Matt Jones' off-the-field problems are ignored.

How the top 10 drafted receivers have fared

On an evaluation system starting with "excellent" at the top and followed by "solid," "below average," "disappointing" and "bust," and taking into account where the player was drafted, wide receivers taken early in the draft have not produced encouraging results over the previous four years.

2008

Rookie year Career Career stats Team Player (overall draft number) Rec-Yds-TDs to date Rec-Yds-TDs

Rams Donnie Avery (33) 53-674-3 Excellent 53-674-3

Redskins Devin Thomas (34)* 15-120-0 Disappointing 15-120-0

Packers Jordy Nelson (36) 33-366-2 Solid 33-366-2

Bills James Hardy (41)* 9-87-2 Bust 9-87-2

Broncos Eddie Royal (42) 91-980-5 Excellent 91-980-5

Bengals Jerome Simpson (46) 1-2-0 Bust 1-2-0

Eagles DeSean Jackson (49)* 62-912-2 Excellent 62-912-2

Redskins Malcolm Kelly (51)* 3-18-0 Bust 3-18-0

Steelers Limas Sweed (53) 6-64-0 Disappointing 6-64-0

Bucs Dexter Jackson (58) 0-0-0 Bust 0-0-0

x-Bears Earl Bennett (70) 0-0-0 Bust 0-0-0

2007

Lions Calvin Johnson (2)* 48-756-4 Excellent 126-2,087-16

Dolphins Ted Ginn Jr. (9)* 34-420-2 Solid 90-1,210-4

Chiefs Dwayne Bowe (23) 70-995-5 Excellent 156-2,017-12

Saints Robert Meachem (27)* 0-0-0 Bust 12-289-3

Chargers Craig Davis (30) 20-188-1 Bust 24-247-1

Colts Anthony Gonzalez (32)* 37-576-3 Excellent 94-1,240-7

Vikings Sidney Rice (44)** 31-396-4 Disappointing 46-537-8

Panthers Dwayne Jarrett (45)* 6-73-0 Bust 16-192-0

Giants Steve Smith (51) 8-63-0 Solid 65-637-1

Texans Jacoby Jones (73) 15-149-0 Disappointing 18-230-0

2006

Steelers Santonio Holmes (25)* 49-824-2 Excellent 156-2,587-15

Patriots Chad Jackson (36)* 13-152-3 Bust 14-171-3

Giants Sinorice Moss (44) 5-25-0 Disappointing 38-403-2

Packers Greg Jennings (52) 45-632-3 Excellent 178-2,844-24

y-Bears Devin Hester (57)* 0-0-0 Solid 71-964-5

Browns Travis Wilson (78) 2-32-0 Bust 2-32-0

Dolphins Derek Hagan (82) 21-221-1 Disappointing 53-645-3

49ers Brandon Williams (84) 0-0-0 Bust 0-00

Bucs Maurice Stovall (90) 7-102-0 Bust 20-213-1

Steelers Willie Reid (95) 0-0-0 Bust 0-0-0

2005

Browns Braylon Edwards (3) 32-512-3 Excellent 228-3,558-28

Vikings Troy Williamson (7)* 24-372-2 Disappointing 84-1,097-4

Lions Mike Williams (10)* 29-350-1 Bust 44-539-2

Jaguars Matt Jones (21) 36-432-5 Solid 166-2,153-15

Ravens Mark Clayton (22) 44-471-2 Solid 200-2,636-10

Falcons Roddy White (27) 29-446-3 Excellent 230-3,536-16

Eagles Reggie Brown (35) 43-571-4 Solid 168-2,419-17

Bears Mark Bradley (39) 18-230-0 Disappointing 68-963-7

Bills Roscoe Parrish (55)* 15-148-1 Disappointing 97-1,052-5

Packers Terrence Murphy (58) 5-36-0 Bust 5-36-0

Note: Juniors are designated with an asterisk (*), and third-year sophomores with two asterisks (**)

x-Bennett was the 11th wide receiver taken in 2008.

y-Hester played cornerback his rookie season.