A Tale of Two Drafts

Amari Cooper was one of the few bright spots for the 2015 rookie receiving class. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Stefon Diggs was drafted in the 5th round of the 2015 NFL draft. He finished his rookie season with 52 receptions, 720 yards and 4 touchdowns. 19 wide receivers were drafted ahead of Diggs. Only one of them (Amari Cooper) had a better season.

The NFL Draft is a crapshoot. Knowing who will or won’t produce and when you can expect that production (if any) to impact your team is equivalent to predicting the weather. There are just too many factors out of your control.

Considering pass-friendly rules and an overall trend toward airborne attacks, rookie receivers are now highly coveted in the draft. After a record setting performance by the 2014 crop of rookie wide receivers, GMs hoped to add similar talent and production to their rosters in 2015. At least that was the plan.

Comparing the 2015 receiving class to its predecessor is both shocking and somewhat depressing for those of us whose team used a top a pick on a receiver (Hi, Nelson Agholor).  The 2014 crop of rookie receivers took the NFL by storm. Eight players caught at least 50 passes, 12 had more than 500 receiving yards, and three surpassed 1,000 yards (Sammy Watkins was 18 yards short). Five players scored at least 8 touchdowns while Odell Beckham Jr. and Mike Evans totaled 12 each. In 2015, only four receivers caught more than 50 passes. Five had more than 500 receiving yards and only two surpassed 700. No one eclipsed 6 touchdowns. The drop off in production from 1st round picks between the two drafts is considerable:

2014 (5 receivers): 350 REC, 4,896 YDS, 42 TD

2015 (6 receivers): 139 REC, 2,972 YDS, 11 TD

You can make the argument that only including the stats of 1st round picks is misleading. In fairness, the three best rookie receivers in 2015 after Amari Cooper were drafted in the 5th (Stefon Diggs), 3rd (Tyler Lockett) and 4th round (Jamison Crowder), so you’d be partly correct. However, only including 1st round picks meant that production from Jordan Matthews, Allen Robinson, Jarvis Landry and Allen Hurns were left off the 2014 statistics. Matthews and Landry outperformed all 2015 rookies outside of Cooper, and Hurns’ numbers were identical to Diggs’ and slightly better than Crowder’s and Lockett’s. Look at the numbers below detailing the statistics from the top 10 rookie receivers (by yardage) regardless of draft spot.

2014: 636 REC, 8,520 YDS, 67 TD

2015: 384 REC, 5,416 YDS, 34 TD

However you slice it, the 2014 rookie receiving class will probably be the best we see for a long, long time.

Hope should not be lost for the 2015 class, though. Kevin White (7th overall pick) and Breshad Perriman (26th) didn’t play a single down all season due to injuries. DeVante Parker (14th) also battled injuries most of the year but finished strong with 13 REC, 286 YDS and a TD over Miami’s final three games. The future for the 2015 class of receivers could still be bright… just not as bright as the record setting class of 2014.

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