NFL wide receivers come in all shapes and sizes. But in today’s league it might really boil down to two types: freaks and geeks. Let’s look at some of the top receivers in our league and see what are the attributes consistent with being successful in the NFL. Also, we’ll discuss the Jets receivers, what categories they fit into and who has the most potential for success.
Listen to further discussion on this topic and more in episode 3 of BUCK THE TREND below:
When it comes to WRs, you can define the “freaks” as the players who are physically gifted. Receivers that have uncommon size or uncommon speed fit in here. Players like Alshon Jeffrey, Devin Funchess, Kelvin Benjamin, John Brown, John Ross and many others fit this category. Coming out of college, they intrigued teams with their athletic ability but were somewhat lacking in terms of their mechanics.
When it comes to WR, NFL teams like a big targets and speedsters. But not every one of these type of players pan out. Many of these players never develop their game beyond athletic ability and eventually have a hard time sticking to an NFL roster. For example, we just saw Dez Bryant get cut from the Dallas Cowboys because he had a hard time getting separation last season. Jets fans know all too well about why Stephen Hill never stuck in New York. Cordarelle Patterson was expected to be much more than a return specialist and a part time RB coming in to the NFL.
Physical gifts are far from a guarantee for NFL success at wide receiver. However, we still find every year that the more athletically gifted receivers go higher in the draft because NFL teams will always believe they can be the ones to sculpt that talent.
The “geeks” are the players who have well crafted the “art” of the wide receiver position. These are the players that get open, through precise route running and craftiness. These receivers might not test as well, but they’re more refined in their discipline. Some players I’d classify as geeks in the NFL are Antonio Brown, Doug Baldwin, Julian Edleman, and Keenan Allen. Some of you might say, “Why’s Antonio Brown here?” Coming out of college he definitely was not desired as an athlete. He recently reminded us all of his scouting report:
6th Round. 195th overall.
“Lacks functional strength…”
I’m still hungry.
Just watch !! pic.twitter.com/vxvciWAK6Q
— Antonio Brown (@AB84) February 27, 2017
That is the common thread among all of these “geeks” I mentioned. They didn’t test in the realm of what NFL teams consider special. Yes, even Deandre Hopkins (ran a 4.57). But they all have turned out to be wildly successful in the NFL because they have almost flawless technique.
Wide receiver is about so much more than running past people. We often overlook the different ways receivers can get open. What the “geeks” do well is compensate for any lack in athletic ability with an understanding of leverage, hand usage, and body control.
Of course, I’m sure there are an innumerable amount of stories of wide receivers that were technically sound but could never make it in the NFL. You can’t really teach height or speed. The “geeks” often don’t fail as loud because it’s hard enough to get attention as a prospect without physical traits that make you stand out.
Often athletically gifted receivers rely on whatever physical advantage they have to carry them. However, they often eventually become ineffective as a result. On the other side, though, a lack of athletic ability often puts a low ceiling on what a player can be. However, you may have noticed I didn’t mention a few players that we’ve considered some best the NFL has to offer for the last few years. That’s because they actually encompass both ends of the spectrum.
Guys like Julio Jones, Odell Beckham Jr., A.J Green, and Larry Fitzgerald came into the NFL with intriguing physical ability but really took their game to the next level by perfecting their technique. They are all essential to their respective teams offenses because they excel in every aspect of the position. You can see some of the younger receivers in the NFL on this path as well. Tyreek Hill came into the NFL as what many thought was a one trick pony at WR. Last year, he showed incredible improvement as a receiver and posted an impressive 1000+ yard season. But let’s talk about two receivers most of you readers know really well: Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson.
Both Enunwa and Anderson’s futures should really excite Jets fans. They both have shown great improvement as receivers since coming into the league. Anderson has worked to be more than just a deep threat by rounding out his route tree. Enunwa showed in 2016 that he’s much more than an athletic H-back, finding success on the outside as well as from the slot. If Enunwa and Anderson continue to trend upwards as they have the last two years, with a now much improved QB depth chart going forward, the Jets might be better off at WR than many think.