Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

30 Nov 2006

FO on BSMW: WR-A-Go-Go

This week's post goes BACK IN TIME to 2002. Looking back in the eighteen years of previous player history, was there anything to tell Matt Millen whether Charles Rogers, Roy Williams, and Mike Williams would even be good wide receivers?

Please also note that those three wideouts don't appear in the numbers because they haven't played the necessary number of seasons (5) to qualify for the study's results.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 30 Nov 2006

37 comments, Last at 01 Dec 2006, 9:06am by stan


by B (not verified) :: Thu, 11/30/2006 - 2:25pm

There ought to be a better way to judge WRs than which conference they come from and what round they were drafted. I wonder if games started/catch % or YPC would be useful here. Honestly, though, I think any statistical measure of college WRs is going to be skewed because the best ones come out after only a few years, as opposed to QBs who tend to stick around till they graduate.

by Travis (not verified) :: Thu, 11/30/2006 - 2:33pm

I'm going to look at all the wide receivers who were drafted from 1983 (the draft from the year following the bye) to 2001, and evaluate how they did in their first year, their first three years, and their first five years (2001 will be the endpoint so that we can look at five years' worth of statistics for those players).

I think you confused "bye" and "strike" again.

Is the 2001 draft included in this analysis? I don't see any mention of any 2001 players, so I'm guessing no. (FWIW, the two best first round WR from 2001, Santana Moss and Reggie Wayne, both played for Miami, and the busts came from all over.)

by BlueStarDude (not verified) :: Thu, 11/30/2006 - 2:35pm

Enjoyed the article quite a bit. A couple of things:

Mike Sherrard's numbers are poor becuase he injured both knees, IIRC, pretty severely. I think it was pretty outstanding, at that time, to even come back and make a career of it. He would have been a great one and was a good pick by the Cowboys, who couldn't have predicted the injuries.

And I'm pretty sure Matt Jones was from the SEC - and he was definitely a QB, so not really relevant here.

by Brad (not verified) :: Thu, 11/30/2006 - 2:46pm

Matt Jones - Arkansas - SEC

by Travis (not verified) :: Thu, 11/30/2006 - 2:55pm

Anthony Carter really shouldn't be thought of as a 12th rounder - he signed with the USFL in late February, 1983, two months before that year's draft.

Also of note - Scanning the WR draft lists, I noticed that the Cowboys drafted Carl Lewis (yes, that Carl Lewis) in the 12th and final round of the 1984 draft. I guess they had visions of turning him into the next Bob Hayes.

by zip (not verified) :: Thu, 11/30/2006 - 3:07pm

I can't believe the only measurable you're using from these WR's college experience is the conference they played in. Did you look at any other variable? Years stayed in, catches/season, catches/game, yards/game, tds/game, etc etc... so many more things you could have looked at than something as vague as the conference they played in.

I know the title of the article is "WRs delineated by conference," but that just seems so... narrow. It's not a bad article if that's really all you wanted to do, but if you're trying to project WRs (like Lewin's college qb projection), you've got a long way to go.

by The Broilermaster (not verified) :: Thu, 11/30/2006 - 3:22pm

It's still a useful exercise, if only to show that the data doesn't seem to correlate strongly enough to make claims like "pac-10 recievers are over/under-rated because they catch so many balls in a pass-happy/poor-defense conference"

by Bobman (not verified) :: Thu, 11/30/2006 - 3:35pm

Nobody else picked up on the Najeh Davenport pooping in the sorority closet reference? Which was excellent, BTW.

I can think of nothing else when I hear his name. I tell ya, the man can solve world hunger and poverty, bring peace to the mideast, and I'll still think of him: "Hey, the guy who pooped in the college girl's closet..."

I am a bad, bad man....

by Mnatr (not verified) :: Thu, 11/30/2006 - 3:57pm

Rip on Millen all you like, but werent' all those wideouts rated about that highly by most other teams and all the pundits?

by Disco Stu (not verified) :: Thu, 11/30/2006 - 4:03pm

Doesn't Aaron have something in the projection formula that likes/dislikes recievers by conference? I know he's high on Larry Fitzgerald because "the system likes Big East recievers"

by Eric P (not verified) :: Thu, 11/30/2006 - 4:05pm

#9) Maybe the pundits, but all we'll ever know for sure about the other team's opinions is that no other team liked them as much or more as the lions.

by Fiver (not verified) :: Thu, 11/30/2006 - 4:11pm

I dunno if it's fair to pass (negative) judgment on Matt Jones and Mark Clayton in the middle of their second season. Even more, Clayton is projected to have 900+ yards this season in a weak passing offense. Pretty good sophomore year in my book.

Rashaun Woods? Well, yeah, considering he's out of the league already, I'd say the comment does apply to him.

by Disco Stu (not verified) :: Thu, 11/30/2006 - 4:50pm

Charles Rogers was pretty much penciled in as the #2 pick IIRC. The whole drama in that draft was "What would Houston do at #3?" You can't kill a GM for making a consensus pick.

by Bill Barnwell :: Thu, 11/30/2006 - 5:08pm

2001 draft isn't included. Would be for next season. Yup, I said "bye" instead of "strike" again. I suck.

My bad on Matt Jones, too. Brain fart at 4 AM.

#6 - Not trying to project college performance onto a pro scale with this, certainly. Just wanted to present some evidence about the differences between college stats and what they mean for potential pro performance. It would be a small part of that potential system.

#10 - Yup.

#12 - I didn't mean to pass judgment on Clayton - he's actually pretty good - but I meant more in the sense that even if Clayton turns out to be a good WR, he'll be dragged down by Woods and, it looks like, Jones as well.

I didn't kill Millen for making the consensus pick! I said it was a good idea!

by Zac (not verified) :: Thu, 11/30/2006 - 5:15pm

So does Independent = Notre Dame, or are some of the players from other Independent schools?

by Dean (not verified) :: Thu, 11/30/2006 - 5:19pm

What year did Penn State join the Big 10? I know Kenny Jackson should be compiled as in Independent, and possibly McDuffie, too.

by Eric P (not verified) :: Thu, 11/30/2006 - 5:25pm

13) Of course you can. Who's consensus are we talking about here? The media? Scouts (or what the scouts tell the media)? There's no such thing as a consensus pick, because the only people whose consensus matters are the 32 NFL GMs, and they aint talking.

by zip (not verified) :: Thu, 11/30/2006 - 5:35pm

To clarify my earlier point, the article is fine in terms of examing WRs by conference, but the Millen lead-in seems really weak. Examing the article, you said NOTHING about Mike Williams. You said about Roy Williams, "the recent shift to the Big 12 leaves data for that conference pretty incomplete." Charles Rogers was given a sentence about how Big 10 receivers actually seem to be pretty decent.

So anyway, my point is that this article has almost nothing to do with Detroit's WR drafts. Suggesting that it does (in the teaser) leads to it falling short of expectations.

by Bill Barnwell :: Thu, 11/30/2006 - 5:46pm

#18 - I spent a paragraph pointing out how Pac 10 wide receivers drafted in the first round didn't do as well as Big 10 receivers, which I discussed several times in the article. A sentence is rather understating it. In short, I respectfully disagree.

Penn State joined the Big 10 in 1993.

by Yaguar (not verified) :: Thu, 11/30/2006 - 5:48pm

I think it's the Mike Williams pick that is totally indefensible.

Charles Rogers' character issues and injuries weren't so obviously foreseeable, and he was the consensus #2 pick.

Roy Williams was really good in college, projected to be picked far earlier, and he has turned out quite good. Broken clocks are right twice a day, and Matt Millen can make an occasional good draft pick.

Mike Williams was the third receiver in a row. He's very slow by pro standards, he had obvious work ethic issues even in college, he sat out of football for a year, and DeMarcus Ware was still on the board.

by Travis (not verified) :: Thu, 11/30/2006 - 5:49pm

Re: 14

Thanks for answering. I'm still confused, though - why were the players from the 2001 draft not included when they've already played 5 full seasons (2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005)? Did you mean 6 full seasons?

by zip (not verified) :: Thu, 11/30/2006 - 5:52pm


What this points to at least anecdotally, though, is that Big 10 receivers (like Rogers) tend to perform significantly better than receivers from the Pac-10 (like Williams) or the SEC.

My apologies, I missed this sentence both times I looked through trying to figure out where you mentioned Mike Williams.

by Basilicus (not verified) :: Thu, 11/30/2006 - 6:05pm

Not all realize that Roy Williams has turned out to be a very good receiver. He's 6th in DPAR for the year. Not that Bill disputes this; I just didn't see it pointed out.

Charles Rogers was the consensus number two that year but a lot of pre-draft rumor had teams backing off of him.

I'm amazed anyone considered Mike Williams as a first round pick. He didn't play for a year and didn't have a pro team on top of him to keep him in shape.

by Disco Stu (not verified) :: Thu, 11/30/2006 - 6:08pm

We've all got our hindsight glasses on. Carson Palmer was the agreed on best player in that draft, and Charles Rogers was second best. Then the debate started. Take this year's draft. The Saints chose Reggie Bush #2. If he goes bust, would you rip the Saints GM for not taking Michael Huff #2? Or would you look at it honestly and say "Bush was a bust, but sometimes that happens, and it was the right pick at the time."

by Disco Stu (not verified) :: Thu, 11/30/2006 - 6:17pm

Mike Williams was dominant at USC. Man-against-boys stuff. After seeing him in the bowl game I thought he would be a terrific pro. Kiper had him #4 overall on his board IIRC. A lot of articles were written saying the Lions got a steal.

And I think by that point Millen had discounted Rogers as a sunk cost, so drafting another star reciever opposite Roy made sense.

The maddening thing about the Lions draft is that all three picks were defensible, even logical at the time.

by Yaguar (not verified) :: Thu, 11/30/2006 - 6:26pm

On Roy Williams:

He had 817 yards as a rookie. If he hadn't had Joey Harrington throwing to him, he could have had an Anquan Boldin or Randy Moss style rookie season. Now that he finally has just a mediocre quarterback, he's a top 10 DPAR receiver.

It's not Roy Williams' fault that he's played for bad coaches and an even worse team. It's not his fault that Joey Harrington threw to him his first two years. And most importantly, it's not his fault he was drafted in between two of the worst draft busts in recent history, both at his position.

It's just not fair to refer to Charles Rogers, Roy Williams, and Mike Williams as a group.

by Eric P (not verified) :: Thu, 11/30/2006 - 6:46pm

Some may have their hindsight glasses on, but you apparently have your Mel Kiper Jr glasses on. All this talk about consensus picks, but you haven't addressed my point that there is no such thing. NFL GMs don't reveal their draft boards to each other, or you. So who really knows what the consensus is, among those who really matter?
These guys get paid big bucks to make the right decisions. You can't defend a poor one with "Well, Mel Kiper Jr. thought it was a good idea at the time too!" The only defense is a player that pans out. A player that busts is a poor choice, regardless of how high the media was on him.

by Boston Dan (not verified) :: Thu, 11/30/2006 - 6:51pm

re: Some people are still enamored with Mike's performance at USC. A buddy of mine still raves about him to this day, even though QB Josh McCown has passed him on the depth chart.

by Mnatr (not verified) :: Thu, 11/30/2006 - 6:53pm

So we're still ripping Millen for drafting one very good wideout (Roy Williams), one wideout the FO system likes (Rogers), and one who sucks? Can't we rip him just for the Williams pick and for sucking at every other aspect of his job (except hiring Martz)?

by Bill Barnwell :: Thu, 11/30/2006 - 7:12pm

#21 - Because I suck and I compiled the data without them. Again, I'm an idiot-they should have been included.

The thing about not grouping Williams in with the other two is I'm not really analyzing their skill with this piece, I'm analyzing Millen's selectivity and whether the choices he made were good.

Matt Millen is supposed to be better than the media and a good GM should be better than common sense (the Edgerrin James pick comes to mind). This article looked at whether there was anything that pointed away from the common sense that Millen should have realized.

by Disco Stu (not verified) :: Thu, 11/30/2006 - 7:19pm

I wouldn't say "a player who busts is a bad choice". There are a lot of things that contribute to a bust. Poor coaching, poor work ethic, poorly matched personnel... I think that a draft pick is a good draft pick judged on the information available at the time.

I don't recall much about MWilliams' cobmine or scouting reports- I just remember him at USC. If the scouting reports/interviews said he was lazy, out of shape, and uncoachable, then yes, it was a poor pick. If he sat out of football for a year, put up good combine numbers, Carroll gave a good word on him, and he seemed primed to pick up where he left off (like a player coming off of an injury year), then maybe it wasn't a bad pick. A 75-25 gamble might not work out 25% of the time, but that doesn't mean it's a bad choice.

by Yaguar (not verified) :: Thu, 11/30/2006 - 7:55pm

"If the scouting reports/interviews said he was lazy, out of shape, and uncoachable, then yes, it was a poor pick."

They did. He had such a problem with his weight that the NFL scouting report suggested he "could grow into a tight end." They also criticized his work ethic. Those are very undesireable qualities in a receiver, especially in one that sat out a year.

by noah of the ark (not verified) :: Thu, 11/30/2006 - 8:14pm

I'm surprised at the characterization of Ricky Nattiel and Mark Ingram as busts, and Alvin harper and Ike Hilliard as mediocrities. Were these guys really that bad? What I remember of these guys is the "3 amigos," Ingram catching passes from Marino late in his career, Harper complementing Irvin, and Hilliard being a consistent performer over the years.
Is that just perception, or were you a bit harsh with these guys?

by Bill Barnwell :: Thu, 11/30/2006 - 8:39pm

Nattiel had 78 catches in his first two seasons - good, but not great numbers - and then had 44 catches for the rest of his career.

Ingram was competent, certainly, but he never had more than 51 catches or 6 TDs in a season. He was a decent #2 receiver. For me, that's a bust as a first round pick.

Alvin Harper was one of the most overhyped receivers in NFL history. He had 20, 35, 36, and 33 catches as a Cowboy (granted, he had a great YPC), signed with the Buccaneers, had 46 and 19 catches in two years with the Bucs (and his YPC went down to the 14 range), and was out of football a year later.

Hilliard had the best numbers of the four -- that's probably just my own bitterness at him not being a star as opposed to a solid #2 WR. I'll give you that one.

by Basilicus (not verified) :: Fri, 12/01/2006 - 3:09am

Wait a minute, is the title on the link a Viewtiful Joe reference? If so, bravo.

by emcee fleshy (atl/sd) (not verified) :: Fri, 12/01/2006 - 4:15am

The following guys were all essentially #1 picks in ATL: Price, Lelie, Jenkins, White

Millen's practically a genius, at least he got Roy Williams.

by stan (not verified) :: Fri, 12/01/2006 - 9:06am

If you really want to have fun, do this with running backs. SEC late round picks totally dominate Big 10 first round picks.