Debunking The “#1” Wide Receiver Myth

Joe Caporoso on the New York Jets mythical search for a number one receiver

The New York Jets need wide receivers. More broadly, the New York Jets need pass catchers. They need tight ends. They could use a running back who could be a factor in the passing game. This isn’t news to anybody who watched the team last season, or the season before…or the season before that.

The quarterback play has been substandard. Nobody can argue that. Yet, the reality is the Jets likely starter in 2014 is a second year quarterback, who finished 2013 relatively strong but needs some targets. The Jets cannot afford to burden him with a bottom three group of wide receivers and tight ends…again.

A term that has been frequently thrown around this offseason, to the point of inducing nausea is NUMBER ONE RECEIVER! Similar to ELITE QUARTERBACK, it is term that really means nothing. It is an adjective put in front of a position and it is an adjective that doesn’t have a concrete meaning.

Today Riley Cooper got paid a 5 year, 25 million dollar contract. Was he overpaid? Probably. Cooper is an average NFL receiver who had two monster midseason outlier games in 2013 that inflated his statistics. However, he fits well in Chip Kelly’s offense. He blocks. He can get down the field as a backside split end and has good height. There isn’t a NFL offense he’d more productive in than the Eagles. The move made sense for both sides.

The pay grade of Cooper’s contract has many freaking out about what other free agent receivers could receive. Golden Tate is likely to receive a couple of million more as Joel Corry outlined for us here and that makes sense since he is a superior player, who also brings special teams value. Players like Emmanuel Sanders, James Jones and Julian Edelman should receive comparable money to Cooper, while the value of a contract for Hakeem Nicks or Jeremy Maclin (in the unlikely case he hits the open market) remain up in the air because of injury and/or attitude concerns. Everybody is quick to say the “Jets cannot pay X for X player because he isn’t a number one receiver” or that guy is “just a number two!” or “we don’t need another guy like that, we have Jeremy Kerley.”

Please stop.

The Jets need more NFL talent at the wide receiver position. You are allowed to have more than one or two competent receivers on your roster. Nobody is a bigger fan of Jeremy Kerley than myself but the presence of him doesn’t stop you from adding ANY type of player. As we have said frequently here, Kerley lines up all over the formation, like many other players available.

The team’s current depth chart is Kerley, David Nelson and Stephen Hill. You’d be doing your offense and quarterback a major disservice by counting on Hill for anything in 2014. Kerley is a good NFL receiver, who thrives on third downs. Nelson is a capable NFL receiver. However, you have to do MUCH better than running out an offense that relies on the Kerley/Nelson duo to play 50+ snaps per game.

Yes, the NFL Draft is loaded with talent at receiver. It doesn’t mean you sit out free agency at the position. You want the flexibility to take the best player available with the 18th overall pick. If you sit out free agency at receiver and the board breaks for you to take another position at 18…then what? You are relying on a mid-round pick or two to become immediate major contributors.

Simply put, that shouldn’t be a risk the Jets are willing take with a young quarterback and a team that should have playoff expectations after this offseason.

Golden Tate. James Jones. Julian Edelman. Andre Roberts. Jeremy Maclin. All these names and other names that could come available are going to have question marks associated with them. Are they going to be “overpaid”? You should have no problem paying Tate 7 million per year or Edelman or Jones 4/5 million per year because they immediately improve your roster and give you a player who can play 50+ snaps every single week at a higher rate than any receiver the team has trotted out the past two seasons.

Collect talent. Sort out the roles later. Give your offense a chance to succeed in 2014. Don’t get caught in trying to pigeonhole receivers into fictitious roles when receivers are frequently moved all over the place and have interchangeable roles.

NUMBER ONE receivers don’t grow on trees. If the Jets draft a receiver at #18, there is no guarantee they develop into a 90 reception, 1300 yard, 10 touchdown per year type player.

Did Seattle have a NUMBER ONE receiver? How about New England? San Francisco? Carolina? What about Baltimore the year before? What is the cut off for this mythical title? At what reception number or reception yardage total does a player earn the title?

The Jets have the assets necessary to obtain the talent they need at pass catching positions this offseason. Now is time to act.

We’ve discussed the different options at length this offseason but haven’t broken out many into individual articles, outside of Emmanuel Sanders. In the next day, we are going publish evaluations of Tate, Jones, Roberts and then hopefully a few other players before free agency opens.

March 11th is coming…

Author: Joe Caporoso

Joe Caporoso is the Owner and EIC of Turn On The Jets. His writing has been featured in the New York Times, Huffington Post, MMQB and AdWeek. Caporoso played football his entire life, including four years at Muhlenberg as a wide receiver, where he was arguably the slowest receiver to ever start in school history. He is the EVP of Content at Whistle Sports