Who are the most loathed athlete’s on most NFL teams? The players who seem to get under your skin the most? The most whiny, most needy, most Reggie Miller-like?
If you said long-snapper you’d be wrong. But as Ed Reckage once said to Drew Faust, “I appreciate your enthusiasm.”
The answer friends is the position of Wide Receiver.
Years ago while watching a game I heard John Madden talking about St. Louis Rams wide-out Isaac Bruce (pre-the arrival of Tory Holt). “They need to try to get Bruce the ball. I know how these guys think because I had to deal with (former Raiders WR) Cliff Branch. If they don’t get the ball, they start to pout and then they can’t focus and then you just lose them mentally for the rest of the game.” It’s fascinating that I decided to put that in quotes because I don’t actually remember if that’s exactly what Madden said, but it was close enough and it was a round-a-bout way of saying that at that moment in time in the game Isaac Bruce was about to – if he hadn’t already – quit.
But Bruce and Branch aren’t unique and are actually model citizens compared to some of their brethren. One day Randy Moss walks off the field before the game is over; another day he pretends to moon the crowd (which was the most offensive thing Joe Buck ever witnessed until Artie Lange butt-raped him on the premier of his own show) and then last year he’s accused of quitting during games.
Chad Ocho Cinco is a goof ball but is actually less annoying than his brother Keyshawn Johnson. Anquan Boldin may have been making understandable business decisions but still came off badly during his extended contract battle with the Cards. Marvin Harrison supposedly was a prima donna. And of course Terrell Owens is the poster child of the insolent and immature wide-receiver. In his defense, though, he’s fighting sexual identity issues and hasn’t found his true soul mate who likely is hanging out in the bathroom of a West Hollywood night club as we speak.
The most current example of this is Brandon Marshall. Last year during a dispute with the Denver Broncos, Marshall refused to catch any balls in practice.
That guy’s great. He actually did pull it together as the season went on only to bail out towards the end of the year again as the Broncos completed their New York Met-like annual late season swoon and once again is being shopped around the league.
At least he didn’t manage to shoot himself in the leg like ex-Giant Plaxico Burress. I mean, sure, Brandon Marshall has been arrested 4 times since 2006 but at least he knows proper gun safety.
So the question, similar to that with offensive tackles, is do you really need to use a 1st round pick on a Wide Receiver (and probably even more pertinent, should you ever trade a pick for an insolent WR).
BK, much like his view on offensive tackles, has always been in favor of this. He feels spending big money on free-agent wide-outs or trading 1st and 2nd round picks for them (as he urged the Giants to do last year for Boldin) is always worth it. “Why wouldn’t you do that – there’s proven production there.”
Maybe that’s true – maybe it’s not. The consensus 2 best wide receivers in the NFL – the Texans Andre Johnson and Cards Larry Fitzgerald – were both drafted 3rd overall in 2003 & 2004 respectively. And last year was a bumper year for 1st round WR’s. Take away the ridiculous selection of Darius Heyward-Bey with the 7th pick in the draft (who absolutely no one but the Raiders had rated that high) and you have quality (with potential for more) seasons from really all them – Percy Harvin, Jeremy Maclin, Hakeem Nicks, Kenny Britt and Michael Crabtree, who showed all sorts of upside despite holding out until basically the mid-point of last season.
But 2009 may be the exception that proves the rule. The list of 1st round wide-receiver busts is longer than that of Jennifer Love Hewitt’s boyfriends. And while explaining Hewitt’s revolving door of men might be hard to explain (she’s a dead lay, she’s gained weight, they actually heard one of her albums), first-round WR busts might be easier to decipher.
It goes like this. A friend of mind works in the entertainment industry as a production something or another – truthfully I don’t know what he does. We went to film school together and now he works a series of non-union production jobs that he likely could have gotten without the degree. But he’s a good guy and I think he’s up to like 8 kids now and he’s a Raiders fan to boot so let’s cut him a break. Anyway, he’s working on this Mazda commercial in Vancouver and they cast a model-like woman to drive the car in the commercial. And as it turns out, she’s the girlfriend of the director. And it also turns out she’s a complete bitch. We’re talking Lauren Bacall meets Naomi Campbell meets Perez Hilton. In other words, she like Terrell Owens. And she’s treating everyone on the set like their a can of corned beef hash light sautéed in urine. And he complains to me about this and wonders aloud who she thinks she is.
And my response was simply, “Stop complaining to me about your problems I’m watching West Wing.” However, when the commercial for Lemon Joy came on I did tell him, “You have to understand, she never really dreamed of being an actress. She never really dreamed of being a model. What she dreamed of, really, was being a bitch. This is what she’s really aspired to and now she has a chance to live out her fantasy and she’s taking advantage of it to the fullest.”
I believe that’s what happens to wide receivers as well. Look at this list of 1st round receivers busts just in this decade: Braylon Edwards, Troy Williamson, Mike Williams, Matt Jones (2005), Roy and Reggie Williams (2004), Charles Rogers (2003), Donte Stallworth, Ashley Lelie, Javon Walker (2002), David Terrell, Koren Robinson, Rod Gardner, Freddie Mitchell (2001), Peter Warrick, Travis Taylor, Sylvester Morris, R.Jay Soward (2000).
Now some of these guys have had their moments (Edwards, Roy Williams), some have had off-field issues cost them (Stallworth, Walker, Robinson), some were just overdrafted (Williamson, Mike Williams, Ashle Lelie), one was just a ridiculous pick (Jones) and some have just flat-out stunk the place out (Terrell, Mitchell, Soward). But all of these guys thought they were great and that the doors of NFL success, fame and riches would open up to them the way I thought nubile young coeds would open themselves up to me when I first went to San Diego State University.
But the closest I got to getting lucky my freshman year was when my dorm roommate had sex with a girl while he thought I was asleep. Still, come to think of it, that was closer than Soward ever came to being an effective player. R.Jay caught all of 14 balls in his rookie season, but that was really an anomaly as over the next 4 years he would catch a total of 14 less than that before finally being mercifully cut by the Jags.
It should be noted that the Jags deserve special mention here because they’ve selected 3 disappointing wide receivers in the first round in the past 10 years (Soward, Reggie Williams and Jones). We haven’t seen a trio that bad since Jack-in-the-Box introduced their spam, prune and lice Panini special back in ’97.
However BK would counter by saying Marshall and Owens weren’t first round picks and they’re trouble too so you never know. Actually BK wouldn’t say that, he’d more likely say something like “Yeah, dude, I don’t know.” Regardless, there’s no question Oklahoma State’s Dez Bryant is going to be trouble. The question is whether or not he can be productive before he ends up getting arrested at Mons Venus the night before a game on gun possession charges.
Bryant has been the number 1 receiver in this year’s draft before the 2009 college season even began. And no matter how hard he tries to fuck it up – from being thrown off of Okie State during his senior year to his lackadaisical, I don’t really give a shit because you’re going to draft me anyway performance at his Pro Day, Bryant is still rated as the number 1 receiver in the draft. It’s easy to see why – the ability, the physicals and the junior season stats (87 catches, 1480 yards and 19 TD’s in 13 games) are all great. But my guess is Dez will slip slip slip sort of the way Randy Moss did because as they say the past is prelude. And while I don’t really know that means, I do know I wouldn’t want to take a chance on Dez Bryant anywhere near the Top 20.
Who I would take a chance on is Arrelious Benn from Illinois. At 6’1″, 219lbs. he’s big like Hakeem Nicks and while he may not have his first step explosiveness or Andre the Giant like hands, his 4.48 40 shows he can motor. Don’t let his so-so senior season fool you because he wasn’t getting a lot of help from his teammates at Illinois. His junior season he caught over 60 balls for over 1,000 yards and he did it in an offense much more comparable to the NFL than Bryant’s Big 12 inflated numbers.
I also really like Demaryius Thomas from Georgia Tech. At close to 6’4 and over 220, the poor man’s Calvin Johnson comparisons will be numerous but his 25.8 ypg in 2009 make me think he could be an Alvin Harper-type. Maybe not a great receiver, but a big-play complement and worth a late 1st round pick.
Like others, I’m having a hard time falling in love with Golden Tate and no doubt partly it’s because his name is Golden Tate and he went to Notre Dame. Had he gone to Boise State and called him self Purple Tate, I might feel differently. And had he gone to UC-Santa Cruz and called himself Banana Slug Tate both me and BK would have loved him – except we wouldn’t have known about him because UC-Santa Cruz doesn’t have a football program. But they do have a fine Marine Biology program and who’s to say that’s not his true calling. Statistically Tate had a great season in 2009 and he can absolutely fly (a 4.42 40 at the combines) but for some reason every time I saw him play he left me wanting. Could go in the first; probably won’t go until the early 2nd and I have no feeling whatsoever for what his pro prospects are, although they seem better than another high-profile WR from a big program, Texas’ Jordan Shipley.
Shipley can also fly and projects as a slot receiver and killer return guy – but good return guys in college have less than a 50% success rate as return guys in the pros. I’m going to stand by that statistic just like Bill O’Reilly stands by his statistics even though, like O’Reilly, my statistics aren’t necessarily based on fact. Still, he’s a fragile 6’0, 190lbs. and again, like Tate, despite putting up some big numbers, there seemed to be moments when watching the Longhorns last year that he would just disappear. I’m surprised I’ve seen him in the Top 10 of so many boards.
Finally, I’m going to give some love to Southern Cal’s Damien Williams. His stats aren’t great but understand USC had inconsistent quarterback play last year which no doubt effected his numbers. Even though USC wide receivers like Williams, Colbert, and Jarrett haven’t always panned out (the G-Men’s Steve Smith being an exception), Willams is tall enough and athletic enough to be an impact player and would make a high-value mid- to late-2nd round pick.
Last year, as we began our early draft preparation, I told BK I was high on North Carolina’s big-handed flanker Hakeem Nicks for the G-Men. “I like your thinking,” responded BK. “I have had my eye on him too.” This gave me pause. The last time BK and I were so in sync with our feelings was when watching the Tim Burton directed re-make of “Planet of the Apes.” I remember sitting next to him in a now defunct movie theater in Century City and literally experiencing stomach pains at what was no doubt one of the 10 worst movies I’d ever paid to see. But scared I’d hurt BK’s fragile feelings (like the time I once shattered the perceptions of two dorm mates after proclaiming “Backdraft was a piece of shit”) I held my tongue until at the midway point of the movie BK let out an audible sigh of disgust. It was at that point I knew I could make derisive comments throughout the entire second half of the movie with impunity. Still, it makes me queasy when BK and I agree too much and therefore after he told me he was also high on Nicks, I immediately started thinking the Giants should draft Rutgers’ Kenny Britt instead. They drafted Nicks.
TOP 12 WIDE RECEIVERS
Arrelious Benn, Illinois
With Bryant falling, I predict Benn will be the first WR selected in this year’s NFL Draft. And I’m the guy who said “The Hurt Locker” would win best picture before I even saw it. So take that and smoke it chief.
Demaryius Thomas, Georgia Tech
If drafted by the right team and in the right system, he can become a terrific #2 – like the guy with the beard was to Picard in Next Generation.
Golden Tate, Notre Dame
If he had gone to Rutgers and named himself Scarlett Tate or Knight Tate or maybe had he gone to SDSU and named himself Aztec Tate. How far can I take this? As far as I need to until his DDI comes close to his BK-o-Meter.
Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State
I was tempted not to have him on my board at all. Ten years ago, I would have said “Lighten up, he’s just a kid, draft him and you’ll be happy” like I did when Randy Moss slipped. However, now that I’m nearing 40 and own a business with employees, my patience for insubordinate behavior has expired. I flat out would not draft him.
Damian Williams, USC
If he can stay healthy (which is the only thing holding down his DDI) I think he could be the 2nd best ex-USC receiver in the NFL by 2011 – although still way way way way way way behind Steve Smith.
Brandon LaFell, LSU
Sometimes guys can just play and know how to play and that’s the story with LeFell and why his DDI is so high despite a so-so BK-o-Meter. I predict he’ll be better than Jake Reed. I also predicted “Avatar” would be a box-office bomb so do with this what you will.
Dezmon Briscoe, Kansas
See above and then just say “Ditto”. Like this…”DITTO.”
Mardy Gilyard, Cincinnati
It’s possible the only conference whose defenses performed worse than the Big 12 in ’09 were those in the Big East so I don’t know what to make of him. Yet despite low DDI the BK-o-Meter remains high.
Riley Cooper, Florida
Long Arms and Big Hands – like 10 1/4″. And he won’t have to deal with Tim Tebow all preachin’ and shit to him about how God wants him to catch the ball.
Taylor Price, Ohio
I know I should be wary of guys from mid-majors who’s physicals seem to point that they should have been dominant in college but in actuality they were just okay. Still decent sized with a sub-4.4 40 and it’s not like he was terrible nor was he playing on a great team, so his DDI is okay.
Carlton Mitchell, South Florida
Another Combines Guy, but when your 6’4, can run a 4.44 40 I think he can still grow into a player despite the fact that he largely underperformed at SFU.
Jordan Shipley, Texas
He’ll probably end up in New England and they’ll make him the next Wes Welker. His BK-o-Meter is fine but his DDI is low because I’ve got a worse feeling about him than I did about the musical based on “The Wedding Singer.”
BK’S LUCKY NUMBER 13
Mico McSwain, Northern Alabama
The more likely BK pick would be little Clemson speedster Jacoby Ford but some boards now have Ford going as high as 3rd round. No such worries with McSwain, who doesn’t even have a DDI but his BK-o-Meter is surprisingly solid because with a name like that, BK believes he must be able to do something on specials.