DEBUNKED – Rookie Wide Receiver is Not Missing Piece to Reach Super Bowl

Brian Gutekunst received a lot of criticism this past year by not drafting a wide receiver early on in the draft. The familiar theme of dejected Packers fans seemed to be that they were one playmaker away from reaching the Super Bowl and that we could have found one in the draft. This made me start to wonder about the impact that receivers have on pushing a team over the top. The results are not good for outraged Packers fans

Methodology & Data Table

To do my research, I looked at every wide receiver drafted from 2010-2019. I then looked to see how many of them reached the Super Bowl with the team that drafted them (i.e. Sammy Watkins wouldn’t count because he made the Super Bowl with the Chiefs but was drafted by the Bills). Below are the data points I used. Most are objective but one (Impact) is subjective that I used to present my analysis. That results is based off of a player’s regular season, playoff, and Super Bowl stats for a given year.

Data Points

PlayerName
Draft YearYear they were drafted
RoundRound they were selected
PickOverall pick number
TeamTeam that drafted them
ImpactHigh, Moderate, Low, Very Low, None – roster only
Super Bowl YearYear(s) the team that drafted them made the Super Bowl
Super Bowl ResultIf their team won or lost the Super Bowl that year
Year in LeagueHow many years were they in the league when they reached that Super Bowl
Reg TargetsRegular season targets
Reg ReceptionsRegular season receptions
Reg YardsRegular season yards
Reg TDRegular season touchdowns
Playoff TargetPlayoff targets
Playoff ReceptionsPlayoff receptions
Playoff YardsPlayoff yards
Playoff TDPlayoff touchdowns
Super Bowl TargetsSuper Bowl targets
Super Bowl ReceptionsSuper Bowl receptions
Super Bowl YardsSuper Bowl yards
Super Bowl TDSuper Bowl touchdowns
PlayerDraft YearRoundPickTeamImpactSuper Bowl YearSuper Bowl ResultYear in LeagueReg TargetsReg ReceptionsReg YardsReg TDPlayoff TargetPlayoff ReceptionsPlayoff YardsPlayoff TDSuper Bowl TargetsSuper Bowl ReceptionsSuper Bowl YardsSuper Bowl TD
Demaryius Thomas2010122DEN4 – High2013Loss4142921430143828306318131181
Demaryius Thomas2010122DEN4 – High2015Win6177105130462176006180
Golden Tate2010260SEA3 – Moderate2013Win49964898515861043170
Emmanuel Sanders2010382PIT3 – Moderate2010Loss15028376213791032170
Eric Decker2010387DEN4 – High2013Loss41368712881118811105160
David Reed20105156BAL1 – Very Low2012Win36566000000000
Antonio Brown20106195PIT2 – Low2010Loss119161670859003110
Julio Jones201116ATL4 – High2016Loss612983140962419334344870
Torrey Smith2011258BAL3 – Moderate2012Win21104985582511233262350
Jerrel Jernigan2011383NYG1 – Very Low2011Win1000000000000
Tandon Doss20114123BAL1 – Very Low2012Win2177123100000000
A.J. Jenkins2012130SFO1 – Very Low2012Loss1000000000000
Tommy Streeter20126198BAL0 – None (roster only)2012Win1000000000000
Aaron Dobson2013259NWE1 – Very Low2014Win25338000000000
Josh Boyce20134102NWE0 – None (roster only)2014Win2000000000000
Kelvin Benjamin2014128CAR0 – None (roster only)2015Loss2000000000000
Paul Richardson2014245SEA1 – Very Low2014Loss144292711212100000
Cody Latimer2014256DEN1 – Very Low2015Win2116591333100000
Kevin Norwood20144123SEA1 – Very Low2014Loss1109102000000000
Nelson Agholor2015120PHI3 – Moderate2017Win395627688181516700000
Justin Hardy20154107ATL2 – Low2016Loss231212034221800000
Malcolm Mitchell20164112NWE3 – Moderate2016Win14832401411775076700
Demarcus Robinson20164126KAN2 – Low2019Win455324494633500000
Tyreek Hill20165165KAN4 – High2019Win489588607271721321691050
Mike Thomas20166206LAR0 – None (roster only)2018Loss3000000000000
Cooper Kupp2017369LAR3 – Moderate2018Loss25540566600000000
Josh Reynolds20174117LAR3 – Moderate2018Loss253294025188121073280
Mack Hollins20174118PHI2 – Low2017Win12216226121900000
Shelton Gibson20175166PHI1 – Very Low2017Win13211000000000
Trent Taylor20175177SFO0 – None (roster only)2019Loss3000000000000
Dante Pettis2018244SFO2 – Low2019Loss22411109200000000
Richie James20187240SFO2 – Low2019Loss2106165100000000
Deebo Samuel2019236SFO4 – High2019Loss1815780231810127095390
Mecole Hardman2019256KAN4 – High2019Win141265386642901120
Jalen Hurd2019367SFO0 – None (roster only)2019Loss100000000000

Overview

There were 312 wide receivers drafted between 2010-2019 and only 34 of them made the Super Bowl with the team that drafted them. In fact, only one (ONE!) had two Super Bowl appearances with the team that drafted them and that was Demaryius Thomas.

To say that none of the players drafted had an impact would be incorrect. Obviously players like Thomas, Tyreek Hill, Julio Jones,and Tyreek Hill were critical to their team success. There were also several players like Deebo Samuel, Mecole Hardman, Nelson Agholor, and Eric Decker, that weren’t game changers but were certainly useful in helping their team reach the Super Bowl. 

There were far more misses than hits and there were 6 that provided no value at all by either being placed on injured reserve or just not appearing in games. Below is the breakdown of my impact ratings:

High7
Moderate7
Low6
Very Low9
None – roster only6

Rookie Impact?

To address the concerns of fans that the Packers didn’t select a receiver this year’s draft, I wanted to look at the impact rookie receivers have had in the past. Below is a table of all of the receivers that made the Super Bowl in their rookie year

RoundPickPlayerTeamImpact
382Emmanuel SandersPITModerate
6195Antonio BrownPITLow
383Jerrel JerniganNYGVery Low
130A.J. JenkinsSFOVery Low
6198Tommy StreeterBALNone (Roster only)
245Paul RichardsonSEAVery Low
4123Kevin NorwoodSEAVery Low
4112Malcolm MitchellNWEModerate
4118Mack HollinsPHILow
5166Shelton GibsonPHIVery Low
256Mecole HardmanKANHigh
236Deebo SamuelSFOHigh
367Jalen HurdSFONone (Roster only)

There are some big names on this list like Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown but they became stars after their rookie season. Sanders had a modest impact while Brown only had 16 receptions for 167 yards. They were hardly the reason why the Steelers made the Super Bowl.  Mecole Hardman’s biggest impact was as a returner. The one player that made a big impact was Deebo Samuel with the 49ers last season. The only first round pick in the group, A.J. Jenkins, never recorded a reception.

First Round Impact?

Alot was also made of the Packers not taking a receiver in the first round. While Julio Jones, Demaryius Thomas, and Nelson Agholor were critical pieces to their team reaching the Super Bowl, they also did in years 6, 4 & 6, and 3 respectively. As mentioned above, A.J. Jenkins provided no impact nor did Kelvin Benjamin who was on injured reserve the whole 2015 season for the Panthers. I think there were nice complimentary players found in the later rounds like Eric Decker (3rd),  Cooper Kupp (3rd), and Josh Reynolds (4) similar to what Marquez Valdes-Scantling is for the Packers. One could argue that the player that made the biggest impact of all is Tyreek Hill and he wasn’t drafted until round 5.

2020 Rookie Wide Receivers

That brings us to review this past draft. Justin Jefferson had one of the best rookie seasons of a receiver of all time. He was also selected before the Packers had a chance to draft him. So while Jefferson has been great and Lamb and Aiyuk have been really good, Ruggs, Reagor,  and Jeudy have just been ok. And unless the Cowboys beat the Giants AND the Eagles beat the Washington Football team, all five will be home for the playoffs including three (Vikings, 49ers, and Eagles) who made the playoffs last season.  

How Do the Packers Receivers Compare

Here is the same chart as above, only with the Packers current receivers mixed in with this season’s stats. I did include Lazard although I know he wasn’t drafted by the Packers. It is very possible the Adams will be first in yards and touchdowns after this week’s game against the Bears and Valdes-Scantling is 11th in yards, only slightly behind where first round pick Nelson Agholor was when the Eagles went on their run in 2017 .

Final Thoughts

I am not against drafting receivers high. In fact, I love 2nd round and 3rd round picks to be used on receivers especially since the Packers had so much success with Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson, and now Adams. However, expecting them to be THE missing the piece that puts a team over the top right away isn’t realistic. That’s why the focus of the draft should always be long term and not try to address and immediate need, particularly at skill positions.

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