Evaluating The 2012 Wide Receiver Draft Class: Givens, Blackmon, Gordon, And Wright

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Oct 7, 2012; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Justin Blackmon (14) makes a first quarter catch against the Chicago Bears at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE

Justin Blackmon

Blackmon had been regarded at a Top 10 draft pick for the last two season, after putting up monster numbers at Oklahoma State. Blackmon was a two-time Biletnikoff Award winner (top wide receiver), two-time All-Big 12 first-team player, and was the MVP of the Fiesta Bowl in 2012. Blackmon chose not to participate in the Combine, but ran a 4.46 40 at his pro day, with a 10 ft., 3 in. broad jump, and 35 in. vertical. During the draft, Rams fans cringed when the commissioner announced that the Jacksonville Jaguars had traded with the Tampa Bay Bucaneers, allows the Jags’ to jump St. Louis and snag Blackmon before he could fall to the sixth spot.

Rec Yds Avg TD 20+ 40+ 1st(%)
Blackmon 18 193 10.7 0 1 0 12 (66.7)

Blackmon has been a disappointment so far this season, to say the least, especially considering the Jaguars are 1-6 at the midway point of the year. Blackmon has had only one game this season with over 50 yards receiving and has yet to score a touchdown in the NFL. Worse, he is has only caught the ball on 18 of the 45 times he was targeted with the pass, a dismal 40.0% catch rate. Blackmon is being outplayed by Cecil Shorts, a second-yard man drafted by the Jags’ with the 114 pick of the 2011 draft. Shorts has 20 receptions for 400 yards, including 3 touchdowns, on only 41 targets. Blackmon has clearly not been the playmaker that Jacksonville drafted him to be when they traded up with the Bucs’, and it is not for lack of playing time or lack of targets

September 16, 2012; San Diego, CA, USA; Tennessee Titans receiver Kendall Wright (13) during the third quarter against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. The Chargers won 38-10. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-US PRESSWIRE

Kendall Wright

Kendall Wright may be remembered as the wide receiver from the 1st round that panned out immediately. Many suggested the Wright received too much publicity as a result of playing with RGIII at Baylor. Even so, the Tennessee Titans bit on the speedy receiver, selecting him with the 20th overall pick in the 2012 draft.

Rec Yds Avg TD 20+ 40+ 1st(%)
Wright 40 351 8.8 3 3 0 23 (57.5)

Wright has not been the “star” of the Titans receiving core, but he has been the most consistent. Wright has been targeted a team-high 60 times by Locker/Hasselbeck, with a 66.7% catch rate. Although the 8.8 yards per reception average may seem a bit disheartening, the number is misleading in that it suggested Wright has not been able to do much after the catch. In fact, quite the opposite is true, recording 159 out of his 351 total receiving yards (45.3%) after the initial reception. Wright has easily been the most “productive” receiver of the class, leading all rookies in receptions and 1st downs, and is second in overall yards.

Sep 16, 2012; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon (13) makes a catch while being defended by Cincinnati Bengals defensive back Terence Newman (23) in the fourth quarter at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-US Presswire

Josh Gordon

Josh Gordon is the definition of a “gamble” in the NFL draft, with a college rap sheet completely covered in red markings. In October 2010, Gordon was arrested after falling asleep in the drive-through line at a Taco Bell, and was arrested after the police found marijuana in the car. Luckily, Gordon was allowed to finish out the season, but, unluckily, was suspended “indefinitely” by Art Briles in 2011 for testing positive for marijuana during a routine drug test. Gordon transferred to Utah, but passed on the chance to play his senior year, opting instead to enter the supplemental draft. As a draftee, he was projected to be drafted anywhere from the 2nd round to the 5th round, with teams wavering between his 6 ft., 4 in. frame and his “character issues.” Cleveland decided to take a chance on the troubled player, dropping their 2nd rounder in 2013 in exchange for his services.

Rec Yds Avg TD 20+ 40+ 1st(%)
Gordon 17 379 22.3 4 6 2 14 (82.4)

The Cleveland Browns began the year with a rookie quarterback, rookie running back, and two rookie wide receivers. The Browns, after starting the season with 5 straight losses, have won 2 out of their last 3 games. Brandon Weeden has progressed nicely, as has Trent Richardson, on way to a promising start for the young, rebuilding franchise. Josh Gordon is a big reason for the “success” of the Brown offense, leading the team in receiving yards, receiving touchdowns, and first down catches. He is also the leader of the rookie class in a majority of areas, including yards, touchdowns, and 20+ yard receptions. The only downside to his play so far this season has been the amount of dropped balls, an epidemic that has spread throughout the Cleveland Browns receiving corps. Gordon has only caught 17 of the 41 passes thrown in his direction, leaving him with a 41.4% catch rate. One of those drops likely cost the Cleveland Browns a win against the Indianapolis Colts. Still, Gordon has been the playmaking wide receiver that the Browns hoped they had picked up in Greg Little, and with Trent Richardson manning the backfield, Gordon should have plenty of chance to exploit some man-to-man coverage on the outside. He should clearly be a candidate for the Offensive Rookie Wide Receiver of the Year, an award that doesn’t necessarily exist, but should…

Oct 21, 2012; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Rams wide receiver Chris Givens (13) carries the ball against the Green Bay Packers during the second half at Edward Jones Dome. The Packers defeated the Rams 30-20. Mandatory Credit: Scott Kane-US PRESSWIRE

Chris Givens

Unlike the rest of the receivers on this list, Givens was not touted as top tier wide receiver coming out of college. Much of that had to do with the fact that he was playing for Wake Forest in the Atlantic Coast Conference, although the 5 ft., 11 in. frame did not help in setting him apart from the rest of the class either. Draft analysts raved about his speed, acceleration  and footwork, with NFL.com claiming [Givens] is a polished player who could be selected late in the first round; he has all the traits of a productive NFL receiver and an immediate No. 2 option.” However, there were questions about his size, his opponent’s talent level in college, and his run blocking abilities. As a result, Givens fell to the St. Louis Rams at the 96th overall pick in the draft, with 13 wide receivers being taken off the board before his name was called.

Rec Yds Avg TD 20+ 40+ 1st(%)
Givens 13 333 25.6 2 5 5 8 (61.5)

Early in the season, there were some evident timing issues between Bradford and Givens, with long balls falling just out of reach of the rookie receiver on a semi-regular basis. Coupling that with  Danny Amendola seeing nearly 60% of the targets from Bradford in any given game and Givens only getting between 15-20 snaps, and it would be hard for any player to build chemistry with their quarterback. However, with the injury to Amendola against the Cardinals, Givens was thrust into the spotlight, increasingly getting more snaps on the field and, subsequently, more targets from Bradford. Since that time, Givens have had 10 receptions for 272, including his 2 touchdowns. Givens scored the only touchdown for the Rams in London against the New England Patriots, a reception that gave Givens the rookie record for consecutive games with a 50+ yard catch. He lead all rookies in average yards per catch, and leads the NFL in 40+ yard receptions. In fact, no other player in the NFL has more than 3 of those long catches this season, and only 6 players have more than 2 receptions for 40+ yards. Givens is the definition of “dynamic” in the league right now, averaging 24.7 yards every time he has touched the ball on offense. With the return of Amendola in Week 10, and the emergence of Daryl Richardson as a playmaker out of the backfield, the sky is truly the limit for Givens the rest of the season.

Here is a breakdown of the Top 10 rookie receivers:

Draft # Team Rec Yds Avg TD 20+ 40+ 1st(%)
Gordon 33-65 CLE 17 379 22.3 4 6 2 14 (82.4)
Wright 20 TEN 40 351 8.8 3 3 0 23 (57.5)
Givens 96 STL 13 333 25.6 2 5 5 8 (61.5)
Hilton 92 IND 18 253 14.1 1 4 1 8 (44.4)
Hill 43 NYJ 14 196 14.0 3 3 0 13 (92.9)
Blackmon 5 JAC 18 193 10.7 0 1 0 12 (66.7)
Jeffery 45 CHI 14 184 13.1 2 2 1 10 (71.4)
Randle 63 NYG 9 154 17.1 0 2 1 5 (55.6)
Streater UD OAK 14 142 10.1 1 1 0 8 (57.1)