It hasn’t happened since 1996, and it may not happen again for a long, long while, but with waves of wide receiver talent entering the NFL over the last few years, what will it take for a receiver to be taken first overall again?
A 6-foot-4 blend of unique traits unseen in the years prior, Keyshawn Johnson was ‘that dude’ during the pre-draft cycle in 1996. He was physical, smooth, and his blend of route-running, athleticism and alpha mentality on the outside had teams drooling over his potential when he came out of USC. In two seasons with the Trojans, Johnson amassed 2,796 yards with 16 touchdowns. They were video game-like statistics, and for the New York Jets, it was a no-brainer to take him No. 1 overall. However, a lot has changed in the 26 drafts that have followed.
In a pass-happy NFL, either you have a franchise talent, or you’re looking for one. As we’ve seen – especially over the last decade – general managers will do anything to get their hands on a potential face of the franchise no matter the opportunity cost, or vacant holes for talent outside of under center. And conversely, as offenses have diversified and strengthened, defenses have become quicker and faster. Identifying the best way to counter a passing game isn’t rocket science – get after the quarterback.
No matter who’s been available the last few years as a game-changing offensive weapon, whether it’s Ja’Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle, Kyle Pitts, Justin Jefferson, DeVonta Smith, quarterback and edge still reign supreme.
The quarterback’s ability ultimately shines a spotlight on pass-catchers, and creating separation is a consistent art mastered by few in today’s game. With prospects entering not just the NFL, but the college game refined as they’ve ever been, it shouldn’t be long to see a talent that checks off the boxes of production, size, speed, and potential – among many others – to sway a team to use that first overall capital on a pass catcher.
Jefferson, Chase, Pitts and Waddle have spoiled audiences and caused to many to ask ‘why didn’t we draft him earlier?’. The 2022 class of wideouts was yet example of the potential movement towards a wide receiver coming off the board first in future campaigns. There were six talents that heard their name called in the first round this year – each with unique, explosive ability at the position. Players will only continue to improve at younger ages and as trends continue to sway towards bolstering a high-octane aerial attack, the need for cornerstone pass-catchers – and allocating premier assets to acquire such – has become an increasingly popular norm for general managers in hopes of solidifying their offensive arsenal… it’s just a matter of time before someone pulls the trigger No.1 overall.
New York Jets
- Jun 27, 2022
- Jun 27, 2022