A Look Back at the 2008 Second-Round Receivers
A Look Back at the 2008 Second-Round Receivers
Every now and then, a draft class comes along that surprises you. Maybe for a good reason, or maybe for a not so good one. While it’s too early to give any definitive grades on the 2008 draft class, I felt it would be an interesting exercise to kind of peak in and see how one particular group of prospects are doing.
One of the big stories in 2008 was the wide receiver group. There was not an elite wide receiver prospect in 2008, but many felt like one or two of the top prospects would find a home in the late first round. None of them did – no wide receiver was drafted in the first round of the 2008 draft.
But perhaps even more interesting is the run on receivers that happened in the second round. Starting with the Rams, who had the first pick of round two, a total of ten wide receivers came off the board in the second round, many of them with back to back picks.
So, in a group where no one stood out as elite to NFL evaluators but rather everyone was mixed in together, how have they turned out so far? Let’s take a look.
DONNIE AVERY (Houston)
Draft: 33rd overall by the St. Louis Rams
Stats: 100 receptions for 1,263 yards and 8 touchdowns in 31 games (28 starts).
Summary: Avery started 12 games as a rookie opposite of Torry Holt before taking over as a full time starter in 2009. He’s suffered some bumps and bruises along the way, none more serious than the torn ligament suffered in a preseason game that will sideline him for the duration of the 2010 season. Though Avery has been a mainstay of the starting line-up since being drafted, the Rams are still waiting for him to show why they made him the first wide receiver taken in 2008.
DEVIN THOMAS (Michigan State)
Draft: 34th overall by the Washington Redskins
Stats: 40 receptions for 445 yards and 3 touchdowns in 30 games (11 starts)
Summary: Devin Thomas reportedly carried a first round grade on the Redskins draft board, but he was the second receiver taken in the second round. Thomas was criticized early in his career for a lack of maturity and poor preparation, but started to come along in 2009 before getting banged up. He’s currently a third string player for Mike Shanahan’s team.
JORDY NELSON (Kansas State)
Draft: 36th overall by the Green Bay Packers
Stats: 55 receptions for 686 yards and 4 touchdowns in 29 games (2 starts)
Summary: Nelson was drafted by the Packers due to his potential as a slot receiver in multiple receiver formations, and he began competing immediately with James Jones for the #3 receiver job. Jones surpassed him as the #3 in 2009, and appears to have done so again in 2010.
JAMES HARDY (Indiana)
Draft: 41st overall by the Buffalo Bills
Stats: 10 receptions for 96 yards and 2 touchdowns in 16 games (3 starts)
Summary: Many fans across the league were clamoring for the 6’5” Hardy, especially after his sub 4.5 forty time. But various injuries prevented him from climbing the depth chart as a rookie, and he eventually finished the season on injured reserve. He started 2009 on the PUP list and rarely made it off the inactive list during the year. He has missed training camp time in 2010 with a foot injury, and is said to be no higher than sixth on the depth chart.
EDDIE ROYAL (Virginia Tech)
Draft: 42nd overall by the Denver Broncos
Stats: 128 receptions for 1,325 yards and 5 touchdowns in 29 games (27 starts)
Summary: The 5'9" Royal ran unofficial forty times in the 4.4 range, and was snagged by Mike Shanahan to be the Broncos’ slot receiver and return man. After being targeted on 131 passes as a rookie, his numbers went down as he played outside more under first year coach Josh McDaniels. Royal is now lining up exclusively in the slot.
JEROME SIMPSON (Coastal Carolina)
Draft: 46th overall by the Cincinnati Bengals
Stats: 1 reception for 2 yards in 8 starts (1 start)
Summary: Simpson was drafted in the second round by the Bengals with the intention of having him immediately replace Chris Henry as their #3 receiver, but Jerome struggled with consistency issues as well as problems picking up the offense. He was inactive for most of his first two years, and is currently competing for the fifth WR spot on the team.
DESEAN JACKSON (California)
Draft: 49th overall by the Philadelphia Eagles
Stats: 124 receptions for 2,068 yards and 11 touchdowns in 31 games (30 starts)
Summary: Jackson’s slide to the second round can likely be explained by his diminutive size (5’9” & 169 pounds) combined with a questionable attitude. But clearly he’s been the best of the lot, starting all but two games for the Eagles over the last two seasons. Not only will Jackson remain the Eagles’ go-to receiver in 2010, but he’s scheduled to remain on punt return duties after scoring twice as a return man in 2009.
MALCOLM KELLY (Oklahoma)
Draft: 51st overall by the Washington Redskins
Stats: 28 receptions for 365 yards in 21 games (10 starts)
Summary: Once again, the Redskins draft a receiver in the second round whom they claim had a first round grade on their draft board. Kelly struggled to stay healthy as a rookie. He began to emerge as the Redskins’ #2 receiver in 2009, but found himself demoted for poor route running. A hamstring injury landed him on injured reserve in 2010, potentially ending his tenure on the Redskins.
LIMAS SWEED (Texas)
Draft: 53rd overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers
Stats: 7 receptions for 69 yards in 20 games (0 starts)
Summary: The 6’4” Sweed ran in the 4.5 range at the Combine, and earned himself a second round selection. But he struggled to make an impact for the Steelers in his first two seasons, finishing 2009 on the reserve/non-football injury list with what some believe was severe depression. He was placed on injured reserve in May 2010 with an Achilles’ tendon injury.
DEXTER JACKSON (Appalachian State)
Draft: 58th overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Stats: 0 receptions in 7 games (0 starts)
Summary: Jackson made a name for himself by running a 4.37 forty at the Combine, causing the Buccaneers to overdraft the Appalachian State receiver. Though Jackson would contribute as a return man, he never made a catch on offense and was released from the team in 2009. He was signed by the Carolina Panthers in January 2010, but was released from the team as part of their roster cuts.
So what have we learned? Well, we've seen a number of these players hindered by injuries, and most of them have been disappointments for their team. The stand-out star is Jackson, who has found success on the Eagles despite his size. The silver medal of these second round receivers likely goes to Donnie Avery or Eddie Royal, depending on whom you talk do.
Obviously you don't want to write some of these guys off after only two years, but some of them have simply had a dreadful time trying to transition to the NFL. It's rather interesting that only one of a whopping ten receivers drafted in the second round have turned into a high caliber player, with only two others really contending year in and year out for starting duties.
Truth be told, the best receiver to come out of this class not named DeSean Jackson may in fact be former sixth round pick Pierre Garcon, who emerged as a weapon in the dangerous Indianapolis passing attack last season, and appears to have locked down the starting job opposite of Reggie Wayne.
Re: A Look Back at the 2008 Second-Round Receivers
It's almost as if they all lasted until the second round for a reason...
Thank you for this. It's easy to point to DeSean Jackson and immediately criticize our organization for not drafting him. In reality, there were a lot of question marks with him as well, and the locker room/organization at the time may not have been so fortunate in molding him into the receiver he is in Philly.
Drafting Avery seems to have been the next best thing at this point. We'll just have to wait and see. I remember a lot of people being particularly critical of passing on Sweed. Shows what us lowly fans know about judging football talent, eh?