Recent WRs drafted in top 10 have been hit-or-miss
In selecting Texas A&M's Mike Evans with the No. 7 pick in Thursday night's draft, the Bucs have addressed perhaps their biggest need for 2014, and in doing so, they've used a top-10 pick on a receiver for the first time in the franchise's 39 drafts.
Evans is in line for significant playing time and has a coordinator in Jeff Tedford known for his offensive mind, but over the last 10 years, there's been a high bust rate among receivers taken in the top 10 in the draft.
What kind of statistical impact can Evans be expected to make? It wouldn't be hard for him to exceed the average contribution of the 14 receivers taken in the top 10 since 2004: 41 catches, 581 yards and four touchdown receptions. Could he top 1,000 yards, the easy milestone for a successful receiving season? If he does, he'll join just one player out of those 14: Cincinnati's A.J. Green did so in 2011, getting 1,057.
To be sure, there are huge successes among those WRs taken with top-10 picks -- Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald, taken third in 2004, has topped 1,000 yards six times in his 10 seasons, and Detroit's Calvin Johnson, taken second in 2007, has done it five times in his seven years. Green, the fourth overall pick in 2011, has topped 1,000 yards in all three of his NFL seasons. Those three have something significant in common with Evans in their size -- he's 6-5, as is Johnson; Fitzgerald is 6-3 and Green is 6-4.
But after those three stars -- who all went in the top four overall -- the remaining 11 receivers taken with top-10 picks since 2004 have combined for just four 1,000-yard seasons in a combined 54 tries. There's a handful of clear busts: Reggie Williams (Jaguars, 2004), Mike Williams (Lions, 2005), Troy Williams (Vikings, 2005) never got to 1,000 yards and were out after five unmemorable seasons. Ted Ginn (Dolphins, 2007) and Darrius Heyward-Bey (Raiders, 2009) are still seeking their first 1,000-yard season.
One area where high-pick rookie receivers can make a quick impact is touchdowns. Julio Jones (Falcons, 2011) had eight touchdowns as a rookie, as did Fitzgerald and Roy Williams (Cowboys) in 2004; Green had seven his rookie year with the Bengals. All of them, in fact, fall short of the 11 touchdown catches that the Bucs' Mike Williams had as a rookie after Tampa Bay got him in the fourth round in 2010.