As we head into another year of NFL’s free agency, we have another high-priced receiver set to receive huge money, and reset the market for the position as well as a couple big trades. Now, before I get into this, it’s important to understand the players I’m about to mention are not bad players, but my point is simply this; throughout what we have heard on the media, news outlets, etc. etc. the wide receiver position might be the most overvalued position in all of football.
Premise to the case
I’ll start by saying that for every Jerry Rice, and Michael Irvin, who, you could make a case the teams they played on would still win Super Bowls without them, they are the out liars here. Most people would agree they played on some of the greatest teams of all time and would be the first people most think of when I brought up my initial point. So with that, I think most agree they go hand-in-hand with their respective team’s success, but to disprove my point, they would mention them just to do it and not acknowledge how great the team was around them.
Players like: Tim Brown, Sterling Sharpe, Cris Carter, Randy Moss, T.O., Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Brandon Marshall, Julio Jones, Chad Johnson, Calvin Johnson, Dez Bryant, AJ Green, Antonio Brown, Deandre Hopkins, Odell Beckham, Mike Evans, Mike Thomas, Amari Cooper, the list goes on and on. You know what all of these guys have in common?
None of them have a Super Bowl.
Some of them don’t even have a playoff win, but we feel the need to have one of these elite receivers on our team, eating up a huge piece of the team’s salary cap. Some of these guys are or will be first-ballot HOF’s, and rightfully so, but there’s something about this position that doesn’t translate to winning Super Bowls. Are we supposed to believe that all of those players have had bad QB’s? Or they were all bad in clutch spots? Or that they’ve all been dealt a bad hand in some of the biggest spots? With that, I’ll reiterate; I’m not saying these are bad players, but maybe the Wide Receiver position is overvalued.
Do great receivers win Super Bowls?
With the Chiefs’ Super Bowl win, and Sammy Watkins receiving his ring, he is the first receiver, previously selected in the 1st round to win a Super Bowl since Nelson Agholor. But who talks about Agholor and Watkins like one of these stud receivers who ended up living up to the draft hype? Sammy Watkins gets paid like an elite WR, but rarely shows us what we thought the league was getting when Buffalo selected him out of Clemson. Before him we had Cordarrelle Patterson, same scenario. A WR who didn’t live up to the hype, except this time he’s playing situational RB and Special Teams to stay on a roster.
We date back to 2010 when Demaryius Thomas was selected by Denver to get one of these real borderline elite receivers winning a ring. And still, I’ve heard lots of people say he was on his way to becoming a bust before Peyton Manning came in and saved his career as he did with so many other receivers. In Thomas’ first 2 seasons, he missed 15 games, started 7 of the 21 games he played, caught 54 passes with just 6 touchdowns. In 2012, with Manning, Thomas played all 16 games, caught 94 passes on almost 150 targets for over 1,400 yards and 10 TD’s. I think one can see a lot of that was Peyton’s doing.
The receiver position is as important as it’s ever been. Teams throw more than they ever have, and the rules have never been more in their favor. It’s important to have a group of receivers that can occupy each spot on the field. You need your guy who can go deep, can find the soft spot in the zone, can work the shallow stuff across the middle. Maybe you’re lucky and have someone who’s 6’4 that can do these things, maybe your guys runs a 4.3 or he’s always a step or 2 ahead of the defense.
But what I think we see is, the better these players are, the more attention they get from their own team. The more attention, the more production, and they become such and integral part of the offense, that when a defense shuts them down, they shut down a huge part of the opposing team and other players are asked to do things they haven’t done all year.
Receivers are overpaid
On March 16, DeAndre Hopkins (who is expected to ask for more money) was traded to Arizona which got social media in a frenzy, Stefon Diggs was moved to Buffalo and later that night, Amari Cooper signed a 5-year $100M with Dallas.
I don’t agree with the Cooper deal, and although Houston should have received more, they traded an elite level player playing an overvalued position. Nonetheless, where are all the AFC Championship appearances the Houston had? Where are all the rings Minnesota won with Diggs and Thielen? When the Giants traded Odell, people liked it because of the things off the field Odell had been doing. For Hopkins, it isn’t like that at all. He’s the complete opposite in that regard, but the result is still similar; lots of money, lots of attention, and no real success to show for it.