Which receivers were truly most effective with the ball in their hands last season? We look at the leaders in YAC+ for 2014 and the last nine years.
10 May 2014
compiled by Andrew Potter
For this year's NFL Draft, we're bringing in our usual in-season Audibles at the Line feature, combining our Twitter feeds with e-mail discussion. Both Friday and Saturday morning, we'll have a selection of tweets from us and a few reader tweets we found particularly insightful. To follow these tweets live during the first three rounds of the draft, or to contribute your own thoughts or a question for the FO staff, you can use hashtag #FOAud. We then also have an e-mail conversation among the staff writers after each of the first two days of the draft.
After both Thursday and Friday, we will compile a digest of tweets and e-mails to produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed, not entirely grammatically correct, and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.
Audibles is still being written from our point of view, meaning the comments in this feature are often written from a fan perspective as much as an analyst perspective; in order to properly accuse FO writers of bias, please check our FAQ.
Tom Gower: Texans had so many needs they could only screw that up pick by not taking a good player. XSF is good.
@MilkmanDanimal: The post-Gordon Browns are going to emulate Carolina; mobile QB, a TE, zero WRs. Excellent plan.
Scott Kacsmar: Matt Schaub will probably start Week 1, but Raiders with a top 40 pick at QB now, making it 26 out of 32 teams.
@matthew_carley: Bucs continue a good offseason, added LT, WR, DT, now a big TE. If Lovie gets the D to work they could be much improved.
Tom Gower: The draft would be a much better TV event if we didn't know they were 2+ picks behind less than an hour into the broadcast.
Aaron Schatz: This "let's have retired players announce picks" thing is really slowing down the TV version of the draft.
Scott Kacsmar: They did it last year too and I don't recall it being this bad.
Aaron Schatz: New Chicago Bears theme song.
@Mercurius100: Our long national nightmare is over. We no longer have to hear the forced narrative about no RBs being selected. Thank goodness.
@MilkmanDanimal: The NFL Network is currently employing Matt Millen and Greg Schiano, I assume for the sole purpose of quarantining them.
@matthew_carley: The jags should take a qb, if my quarterback was Blake Bortles then I think I'd need a quarterback.
Aaron Schatz: Wow, Patriots with a colossally wasted pick, taking Jimmy Garoppolo, a QB with serious flaws. So much for maximizing Brady's window. Much better picks for Pats would include taking a chance on Louis Nix's knees, or taking David Yankey. Gee, if the point is to take a QB of the future, would even be better to take a guy who dropped due to ACL, like Mettenberger in 3rd. Not only does this not make sense, it makes less sense if they don't deal Mallett. Otherwise why not wait 1 more year for Brady heir?
@Mercurius100: Somewhere Andy Reid is thinking he could handle clock management better than the NFL Draft people.
Rob Weintraub: Interesting Falcons pick. Southward almost surely going to play S. He can fly, but tackles like a Falcon. You know what that means.
Vince Verhei: The middle class of D-lines in the NFL is disappearing. Rich keep getting richer.
Aaron Schatz: Great pick by Texans to take Louis Nix in third. Despite the knee risk, value is great.
@matthew_carley: Nix must have had some major concerns over medical issues. His tape looks like the love child of Keith Traylor and Vince Wilfork.
Aaron Schatz: Anyone who followed me on Twitter tonight knows how I feel about the Pats taking Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round. Maybe I'm depending a bit too much on Matt Waldman's scouting report here, but we're talking about a quarterback with definite flaws. I don't see why he's so much better than, say, Zach Mettenberger -- especially if you are looking for an heir apparent to Brady who likely doesn't play for two or three years, so Mettenberger's ACL recovery doesn't cause an issue. The Pats could have used so many other things to improve the team to try to make one more Super Bowl run during Brady's last couple years -- Louis Nix to give them another young DT, a guard or center, a tight end... I liked this move with Ryan Mallett because it was the end of the third round, not the second, and the Pats weren't yet in "Brady's got very little time left let's WIN NOW" mode. Now, I don't like it.
I'm also not a big fan of Carlos Hyde to the 49ers. I guess he fits their scheme really well, but how many running backs does one team need in the modern NFL?
You've got to wonder what is going on with Louis Nix's knees that he fell all the way to 83, but that's a great risk for Houston to take there.
Scott Kacsmar: I've spent the last week bashing QB succession plans, especially ones that involve a second-round pick, so obviously I think the Patriots made one of the dumbest picks of the night. Ian Rapoport also reported the Patriots would have taken Blake Bortles at 29 if he was there, so maybe they have some concerns about Brady's not-so-long-term. But I fundamentally don't believe in using a good pick like that for someone who may be the quarterback for the next coach of the Patriots. They have to be in win-now mode with every decision and that's the farthest thing from it.
I thought for sure the Steelers would get their usual CB or WR selection in round 3, but they just took RB Dri Archer. At best you're talking about a third-down back who will play behind Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount, so I don't see how that's very helpful for a team with big question marks at DT and certainly corner. I also realized since Mike Tomlin's been the head coach, six of the 13 picks in the first two rounds have gone on front seven players. The Steelers used to be able to get those guys with late picks, such as Joey Porter, Jason Gildon, Greg Lloyd, Aaron Smith, Brett Keisel, Larry Foote, James Harrison (UFA), etc. Now it's always a high pick and they haven't hit the mark nearly as well. That's frustrating.
Loved how the 49ers were dealing all night. They could have their own farm team at this point (don't forget Tank Carradine and Lattimore from last year).
Can't believe Houston might go into the season with a QB depth chart of Ryan Fitzpatrick/Case Keenum/T.J. Yates. I don't think trading for Ryan Mallett does anything to help. Drafting Zach Mettenberger might be a good move, but he's got some red flags for sure. Could be a tough draft to remember if any of those guys like Bridgewater, Carr or Garoppolo work out.
No idea if it will work out, but I love Jacksonville's offense-heavy approach. That team has to start scoring more points. It's been putrid since 2011. Even if they're not winning, give the fans something better to watch. Bortles has two rookie receivers to work with and maybe Justin Blackmon will get his head right.
As much as I said I liked the Ebron pick yesterday for Detroit, I do hate giving up the 10th pick for a tight end. The Jets getting Amaro at 49 looks much better in comparison. They had to do something better than Cumberland at that position.
Aaron Schatz: Actually, this could just be a one-season fluke, but Cumberland was No. 2 among starting tight ends in DVOA last year. But of course, with most teams playing two tight ends at this point, it was still a need for the Jets and I liked the Amaro pick a lot.
Scott Kacsmar: Okay I was kind of midstream when the pick came through, but maybe the Steelers just want Archer to return kicks and a minimal number of touches (or a Sproles role, though I can't see that in Pittsburgh). I'm still not sure that's worth a third-round pick with the other needs, but he might be the fastest player in the draft. Al Davis would have been all over this one.
Vince Verhei: My summary of the first two days of the draft: The middle class of defensive lines in the NFL is disappearing. A lot of the rich teams (St. Louis, Carolina, Arizona) got richer, and Houston could join them if it all comes together.
Also, on the list of losers, we must add the Cowboys. Not because of any player they picked or trade they made, but because of Jerry Jones' admission of the way his team handled the first round. Jones admitted that Johnny Manziel was the top player on Dallas' board, but they couldn't take him because of Tony Romo's contract -- which in turn came about because of prior salary cap mistakes by Jones and company.
In short: The common perception (and I do stress the words "common perception") of Romo just went from "good QB who chokes in the clutch," to "good QB who chokes in the clutch and makes way too much money," to "good QB who chokes in the clutch and makes way too much money and COST US OUR SHOT AT JOHNNY F. FOOTBALL." Yeah, that's going to go over well.
Cian Fahey: Dri Rainey Archer McCluster is another small, straight-line running receiving back who Todd Hailey will render ineffective. Wonderful.
Tom Gower: The lesser investment and, frankly, expectations that should be associated with second- and third-round picks make Day 2 a bit harder than Day 1 to talk about from a sheer macro team-building standpoint. The Titans traded back to get more picks in a fairly deep draft, a move that made sense, and still took the first running back. From a macro-level perspective, that made sense. Making Sankey the back they took, well, that's where my second-guessing comes in.
Similar story with the 49ers taking Hyde. Frank Gore is old, everybody knows that. Old running backs often decline, we know that. Gore's performance level could fall off a cliff any day. Taking Marcus Lattimore and giving him a redshirt year last year made sense, but we really have no good idea just how good Lattimore is right now. LaMichael James, he's not a Gore replacement. They have a number of running backs, but which of them, if any, are good? Hyde could take over as their lead back this season or he could be another rarely-used spare part like James. And now the 49ers get another redshirt candidate in Brandon Thomas, albeit one coming off I believe only his first major injury. It's smart from a team-building perspective, as everyone else will tell you.
Oh, yeah, and outside of Derek Carr (Raiders, second round, made a lot of sense) and Jimmy Garoppolo (Patriots, no sense), teams didn't pretend there were quarterback solutions. We may see a run early in the fourth like we did last year at the position, but good for them.
Vince Verhei: A few other notes:
* Atlanta's draft, like their whole offseason, has been very boring, and very smart.
* Panthers could use secondary help, and haven't added any DBs. However, consider this: Their second-string defensive line (2012 fourth-rounder Frank Alexander, Colin Cole, 2013 second-rounder Kawann Short, and 2014 second-rounder Kony Ealy) is better than the starting line on some teams.
Cian Fahey: Louis Nix dropping to the third round was obviously a massive pick for the Texans, but right now they look like they're going to be the 2013 Carolina Panthers without Cam Newton. The defensive tackle that really caught my eye was Will Sutton. He should be a very effective player from the first week of his rookie season in that defensive line in Chicago.
I'm surprised Bruce Ellington has lasted to the fourth round, but it's understandable because of his size(or lack thereof).
The Miami Dolphins have had a really good draft without receiving too much plaudits. Addressing both the right guard and right tackle spot to round out their offensive line should dramatically help Ryan Tannehill.
Speaking of helping under-appreciated quarterbacks, Sam Bradford is going to have a great year. The Rams recognized their real issue, running the ball, and didn't force a receiver pick that really wouldn't have altered their offense. Stacy and Mason could combine for 450 carries and 2,500+ yards next season. That's how good I think their offensive guard pairing and RB duo can be.
By establishing that run they should open up more space for the receivers to work in.
The Jets have had a really good draft so far and they can still add a quality receiver to complement their other moves on offense so far. It's bizarre that the Browns haven't taken a wide receiver with the Gordon news and the 49ers trade for Stevie Johnson was brilliant for both sides involved. The Rashede Hagemann pick in Atlanta doesn't make sense to me, they need an edge rusher. He's just an interior pass rusher where they already have 3/4 contributors who need snaps. I like Donte Moncrief, but Colts fans are going to hate that pick because he's very similar to DHB.
The Vikings are having the best draft so far, Crichton was massive value. I have no idea what the Tennessee Titans are doing(Sorry Tom).
Rivers McCown: What is a quarterback succession plan and what is a quarterback?
Jacksonville completely moved on from Blackmon after dropping two picks on Lee and Allen Robinson, admitting they weren't expecting anything from Blackmon. While I don't -like- that, I think they've done a good job adding talent.
I actually liked the Dri Archer pick, but perhaps I'm overrating his chances to stick as a back. I wouldn't have taken him in the third round, but he's got homer potential.
I'm not big on Atlanta's offseason. I liked the Jake Matthews pick, but I'm not sure guys like Asamoah and Soliai are cost-efficient solutions. Hageman isn't the sort of pick I'd want in the second either.
I agree with most of what Cian said, but Sam Bradford has to actually play well before I'm ready to say he'll have a great year. And I thought Ja'Waun James was perhaps the biggest reach in round 1.
Among the drafts we haven't talked about yet, I'm a big fan of what Green Bay and Chicago have done to this point.
Rob Weintraub: Cincinnati's draft is unexciting, but solid as is their wont. Top quality CB, Law Firm upgrade, and a Michael Johnson clone, while not forcing the backup QB play. Grab some interior beef and I'll be satisfied.
To Vince's point, the second-string defensive line in Cincy is Hunt (2nd), Clarke (3rd), Thompson (3rd) and Still (2nd). That doesn't even count Robert Geathers, who was hurt last year and may be odd man out but was starter before injury. The first four is not quite the Rams or Panthers, but as an 8-man group they're right there.
41 comments, Last at 22 May 2014, 7:10pm by liquidmuse3