By: Joe Pohoryles
The Washington Redskins are now on the clock…
Well, technically the Cincinnati Bengals are, but all 32 teams must plan extensively for one of the most exciting events of the offseason: the NFL draft.
When the draft rolls around in late April, the Redskins will own the second overall pick, barring a last-minute trade. It is widely expected that the Bengals will use their top slot on Heisman-winner Joe Burrow from LSU, in hopes of selecting their quarterback of the future. Assuming that happens, the Redskins will be in a prime position to select one of the top prospects in the draft, specifically Ohio State’s standout edge rusher (and Maryland native) Chase Young, a Heisman finalist and the best defensive player in the country.
Another one of those top prospects is Alabama’s superstar wide receiver Jerry Jeudy. The 2018 Biletnikoff winner (awarded to the top receiver in college football) has all the traits you could ask for in a receiver: elite route running, sticky hands and jaw-dropping athleticism.
The Redskins are in need of receiving talent, and Jeudy would help greatly in that department. It seems like the perfect match.
Except it’s not.
The Redskins should not, under any circumstances whatsoever, draft Jerry Jeudy with their first round pick. It would be the wrong move, and that is nothing against Jeudy, nor does it even have to do with Young. Everything I said above is true, Jeudy is a fantastic player, and if the Redskins had to pick a receiver, Jeudy would be my first choice.
The reason why I single out Jeudy is that this year the Redskins are in a great position to take him, and based on the way the front office operates, they may decide to select him, even with Young predicted to still be on the board. (And if they decide to trade back from the two slot, there’s an even better chance they take Jeudy.)
The truth is selecting a receiver in the first round of the draft, especially in the top 10, is just a terrible idea. Of course, every situation is different, but generally speaking, it is not an intelligent move if you are trying to rebuild a football team and have holes in many other places. The Redskins have far more needs than just pass-catchers, and they should look to fill a more impactful position in the first round.
Why do I have such an aversion to first-round receivers? It really boils down to three reasons:
- Wide receivers on their own are not impactful enough to justify such a valuable selection.
- First-round receivers as of recent have rarely panned out as well as expected, and as a result teams have passed on superstar players in other positions.
- Far more top receivers were selected in the later rounds, meaning teams actually have a better chance of finding a diamond in the rough than hitting on a supposedly “can’t-miss” prospect.
Addressing the first point, I only mean that on a relative basis. Having a great quarterback or defensive line are more important to a team’s success than having the best receivers in the league. Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and Julio Jones are some of the best receivers in recent history. Combined, they have zero Super Bowl wins. Is that their fault? No, because receivers are not relied on to carry teams to Super Bowls. (And I’m sure you’re screaming “Jerry Rice! Jerry Rice!” which is valid, but how many Jerry Rice’s are there in the world?)
The Redskins selected Josh Doctson (left) in the first round of the 2016 draft, but he never became the top receiver he was drafted to be, and was released prior to the 2019 season. Terry McLaurin (right) was drafted in the third round in 2019, and has already emerged as the Redskins’ top target.
As for the second point, I’m going to list every single receiver selected in the first round of the draft since 2010:
Odell Beckham Jr.
Looking at this list, clearly we see players that have had successful careers thus far. Perennial Pro Bowlers, a few All-Pros, and some of the faces of today’s game. I’m not saying you can’t find great receivers in the first round, but look how many of these names never panned out.
Even out of the ones who did, how much did they really help their teams? Demaryius Thomas had a great season when the Broncos won the Super Bowl in the 2015 season, but it was their defense that got them to where they were. Julio Jones got to the Super Bowl with the Falcons in the 2016 season, but that came at the hands of Matt Ryan’s MVP play. AJ Green and Dez Bryant can’t even say as much, despite being great receivers. Hopkins, Beckham Jr., Evans, Cooper: all great receivers, but their teams have not accomplished much with them.
Again, that’s not their fault. It’s just great receivers are not as impactful as other positions. It’s nice to have them, but certainly not crucial. Moore, Ridley, Hollywood Brown, and even Harry look like they could develop into fine receivers, but looking at the rest of the list, there are far more disappointments than there are standouts.
And by selecting those disappointments, teams have missed out on far more impactful players, and I will use the 2017 draft as an example. That draft saw three receivers selected in the top 10: Corey Davis, Mike Williams and John Ross. Three names that have developed into contributors on their respective teams, but are fairly underwhelming considering the places they were selected.
Davis went to the Titans fifth overall, and the Jets selected safety Jamal Adams sixth, and he is already one of the best defensive backs in the league. Williams went seventh to the Chargers, and the Panthers selected running back Christian McCaffrey eighth. McCaffrey is having one of the best offensive seasons in history. Ross went ninth to Cincinnati, and the Chiefs traded up to 10th to select Patrick Mahomes.
Adams, McCaffrey and Mahomes are some of the best players in the entire league. Davis, Williams and Ross are not even the top receiver on their own teams. If the Redskins were to select Jeudy, that could mean passing up on potential All-Pros, such as Young, cornerback Jeff Okudah, offensive tackle Andrew Thomas and several more.
If we pass up on Jeudy in the first round, there will still be quality options to choose from as early as the second round, if not later. Just look at last year. The Redskins took Terry McLaurin in the third round, and he’s having the best rookie season for a receiver in franchise history, despite issues at the quarterback position.
That leads to my next point. Now I will list some notable receivers selected in the second round or later since 2010:
Marvin Jones Jr.
Many of these guys are or were number one receivers on their teams. Plenty have gone to Pro Bowls. Several were arguably the best receiver in the league at some point in their careers (Brown, Adams, Thomas and Hill). All of these guys are as good, if not better than guys like Davis, Williams and Ross. Adam Thielen and Robby Anderson were not even drafted, and they’ve become the top receivers on their respective teams.
The Redskins do need receiving help, but using their top selection on the best receiver available, passing up on potential All-Pros in more impactful positions, is the wrong move. That need can be addressed in the later rounds, likely with better success than the first round pick.
This April, Jerry Jeudy will enter the NFL, and may one day become one of the best receivers in the league. For the best interest of the franchise, we should hope that when his name is called on draft day, Roger Goodell does not hand him a Redskins uniform.