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View Full Version : SI.com "Success of rookie wide receivers trending downward" aka Eddie Royal


Bronco Rob
06-10-2009, 02:45 PM
The prototypical NFL receiver is big and fast, capable of making big plays down the field by either out-muscling or simply out-running the defenders. Think Randy Moss and Terrell Owens over the past 10 years, sans the baggage and the drama.


Teams are constantly trying to find such players, which is why in the first round of this year's draft the Raiders, 49ers, Giants and Titans took Darius Heyward-Bey, Michael Crabtree, Hakeem Nicks and Kenny Britt, respectively. Each is at least 6-foot-1 and all are over 210 pounds, so they fit the mold. But is bigger necessarily better when it comes to getting immediate production from these players? Recent history suggests otherwise.


Though there were no wide receivers taken in the first round in 2008, 10 went in Round 2, and a quick look at their first-year statistics paints an interesting picture. The success among the smaller guys was led by 5-10, 182-pound Eddie Royal of Denver, who embarrassed then-Oakland cornerback DeAngelo Hall in the season opener on Monday Night Football to the tune of nine catches for 146 yards and a touchdown. That was just the opening salvo in a season that saw Royal finish with 91 catches for 980 yards in 15 games.


Philadelphia's DeSean Jackson is another example of a small receiver having a big impact as a rookie. At 5-10, 175, he finished with 62 catches for 912 yards, but only two touchdowns. Even the surprise first receiver taken in 2008, 5-11, 184-pound Donnie Avery of St. Louis, had a stellar debut. He had 53 catches for 674 yards and three touchdowns, not too shabby for a 'rook.'


What about the big boys? They had virtually no impact. The biggest of the bunch, Buffalo's James Hardy (6-5, 212) and Pittsburgh's Limas Sweed (6-4, 220), were non-factors for their franchises. Washington's duo of Devin Thomas (6-2, 220) and Malcolm Kelly (6-4, 227) were doubly disappointing in their first seasons. Of the big wide receivers, Jordy Nelson (6-3, 217) of Green Bay had the best numbers, with just 33 catches for 366 yards.


So, what gives?

"I really don't know," said Royal when asked about the discrepancy between big and small. "I think we were fortunate to be in good situations with good offenses."


There is some truth to that sentiment given that Royal and Jackson caught balls from Jay Cutler and Donovan McNabb, respectively. But the Rams didn't have a very good offense and that didn't slow down Avery. Sweed, meanwhile, played for the Super Bowl champion Steelers and still managed only six catches from Ben Roethlisberger.


None of the receivers I spoke with had a good explanation, so I asked somebody on the other side of the ball, someone who has to cover these guys for a living -- Bills cornerback Terrence McGee. "Royal and Jackson are quick and fast and it is hard to stay with them in open space," he said. "For the most part it is harder for me to go against the shiftier, quicker guys. I can't even get a hand on [them] sometimes. The bigger guys usually just try to muscle you."


One school of thought, piggybacking off what gives McGee problems, is that it takes bigger receivers longer to learn how to fight off the jam at the line of scrimmage, whereas smaller guys use their quicks, which is more natural for a rookie or young player.


Don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to intimate that the era of the dominant man-child receiver is over. Not even close. In fact, Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald (6-3, 220) and Houston's Andre Johnson (6-3, 223) are clearly the two best receivers in the world right now and both look like Tarzan and play like him. Maybe with the recent crop of rookie receivers it will simply take the more physically imposing guys longer to get their careers started and the smaller guys will find they have a ceiling and are somewhat limited as a result of their stature. It's possible.


But there has to be something to this when it comes to rookie wideouts in the modern NFL making an impact. What is that expression again? Once (Royal) is an accident, twice (Jackson) is a coincidence, but three (Avery) times is a trend. It certainly seems to be the case based on last season, especially when you consider how little their oversized counterparts did.


What does all this mean for this year's rookies? I would keep my eyes on Minnesota's Percy Harvin (5-11, 192) and Philadelphia's Jeremy Maclin (6-0, 198). Though neither guy is as small as Royal, Jackson or Avery, they also aren't your standard physical specimens either. Most reports indicate both of those guys are already lighting it up in spring workouts while their bigger counterparts Heyward-Bey and Crabtree have been limited by injuries and are behind the eight-ball at the moment.


Given last year's trend among second-rounders, maybe this big vs. small debate is not just limited to the big-money picks. It will be interesting to see how undersized 2009 third-rounders like Seattle's Deon Butler (5-10, 182) and New England's Brandon Tate (6-1, 195) stack up in terms of production versus the likes of monster ball-catchers like the Giants' Ramses Barden (6-6, 229) and Miami's Patrick Turner (6-5, 223). Based upon recent precedent, my money is on the little guys.






http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2009/writers/ross_tucker/06/10/wrs/index.html?eref=T1

Gcver2ver3
06-10-2009, 02:49 PM
not that its a big deal, but i wish we could've gotten Royal those 20 more yards...

Paladin
06-10-2009, 02:59 PM
not that its a big deal, but i wish we could've gotten Royal those 20 more yards...

I believe they tried, but Quitler threw an interception.......

TheReverend
06-10-2009, 03:08 PM
not that its a big deal, but i wish we could've gotten Royal those 20 more yards...

I had this argument a few years ago when Shaun Alexander was a few shy of the rushing title.

The person I argued with said, "out of that many carries, he could've lowered his shoulder a few times instead of going out of bounds, and he'd have had it".

He was exactly right.

Eddie's an awesome player, and I love how he plays bigger than his size. I'd be worried about him putting too much on his body.

But that being said... he had over NINETY opportunities. There also were several games where he could not get open. Maybe he was fighting through injury, if so, good on him. Regardless, not getting 1k is on him.

Man-Goblin
06-10-2009, 03:13 PM
Maybe Royal and Jackson were just the best two receivers of the draft class...

gyldenlove
06-10-2009, 03:21 PM
I think it is generally easier for a small WR to transition to the pro game than for a big WR. A big WR can largely rely on size and strength while playing in the NCAA to beat cornerbacks to the ball and screen defenders for the catch, in the pro game that is much harder because defensive backs are bigger and stronger and the mismatch is not nearly as easy to exploit. A small guy on the other hand has learned early on how to jump for the ball and how to adjust to make catches and get open because they can't rely on just outmuscling the defense.

jayman_37
06-10-2009, 03:23 PM
not that its a big deal, but i wish we could've gotten Royal those 20 more yards...

Eddie also had a few drops in that game.

Beantown Bronco
06-10-2009, 03:23 PM
in the pro game that is much harder because defensive backs are bigger and stronger and the mismatch is not nearly as easy to exploit.

Unless, of course, you are a #3 WR this year facing the Broncos defense.

Sorry.....had to do it.

footstepsfrom#27
06-10-2009, 05:07 PM
Keep an eye on Kenney McKinley, who I think may surprise as the next Brandon Stokley for this team. He's quick, runs tight routes, has good hands and he's savvy on how to get open. He might thrive in this offense.

gyldenlove
06-10-2009, 05:21 PM
Unless, of course, you are a #3 WR this year facing the Broncos defense.

Sorry.....had to do it.

Ooooh a zinger!

Killericon
06-10-2009, 05:22 PM
Remember the days when Micheal Clayton was an aberration, and it took receivers 3 years to get up to speed? Ahhh...Good times.

Gcver2ver3
06-10-2009, 05:28 PM
I had this argument a few years ago when Shaun Alexander was a few shy of the rushing title.

The person I argued with said, "out of that many carries, he could've lowered his shoulder a few times instead of going out of bounds, and he'd have had it".

He was exactly right.

Eddie's an awesome player, and I love how he plays bigger than his size. I'd be worried about him putting too much on his body.

But that being said... he had over NINETY opportunities. There also were several games where he could not get open. Maybe he was fighting through injury, if so, good on him. Regardless, not getting 1k is on him.


fair enough...

my intentions weren't to lay blame on Shanny and or Cutler for Eddie missing 1,000 yds...really, i was just wishing he had gotten to 1,000 yds...

Eddie had his opportunities and he just missed it...no big deal...

TheReverend
06-10-2009, 08:54 PM
fair enough...

my intentions weren't to lay blame on Shanny and or Cutler for Eddie missing 1,000 yds...really, i was just wishing he had gotten to 1,000 yds...

Eddie had his opportunities and he just missed it...no big deal...

Never said you were. Great year for a rookie, just wished he would've been able to make more of some of his opportunities.

tsiguy96
06-10-2009, 09:05 PM
Never said you were. Great year for a rookie, just wished he would've been able to make more of some of his opportunities.

you can say taht about every player in the NFL. for a first year player, eddie royal made the most of a LOT of opportunities, a special talent. there should really be no complaining or criticism about his rookie year.

maher_tyler
06-10-2009, 10:27 PM
you can say taht about every player in the NFL. for a first year player, eddie royal made the most of a LOT of opportunities, a special talent. there should really be no complaining or criticism about his rookie year.

No...he definitely played better than i thought he was going to going into last season thats for sure!

cutthemdown
06-10-2009, 10:38 PM
not that its a big deal, but i wish we could've gotten Royal those 20 more yards...

Meh it doesn't matter except the fact Royal need to get his yards per recpetion better. Look at Jackson in Philly, 30 less balls and pretty much the same yardage.

He dropped a few but also was missed a couple times wide open deep. Hopefully Cutlers ability to get the ball to the wr quickly wasn't the only reason he was good. I'm thinking Royals yrdage goes down to about 700 this yr, but he does it on about 60 balls not 90.

cutthemdown
06-10-2009, 10:41 PM
No...he definitely played better than i thought he was going to going into last season thats for sure!

Basically the board was in consensus that Royal a stupid pick. Then after a few days people warmed to the good reports on him. Then he ripped raiders in first game and that made him an instant star.

I mean how many WR for Broncos have ripped Oakland for 160 yrds? We hate Oakland, Royal plays well against them= Denver will love him.

cutthemdown
06-10-2009, 10:47 PM
Also I remember talking on the board with a couple other guys about WR that are small coming back in vogue. The reason is simple. The NFL started cracking down on helmet to helmet hits, leading with crown of helmet. Let's be honest there is a good chance Eddie Royal would have ended up like Nate Lewis if he had a head hunter like Dennis Smith gunning for him.

The biggest thing though is NFL cut down and how much the let CBS and FS/SS grab, clutch etc etc. As they make Dbacks keep hands off small and fast will work better and better.

Still a physical game though and players like Fitz and Marshall needed on one side.

I think big at on WR, small fast on the other, big TE, and a fast TE is a pretty combo.

Oh yeah and one huge Rb/fb along with some smaller shiftier ones also pretty good idea.

Broncos should be able to go small and fast, or big and powerfull in many different formations.

broncocalijohn
06-11-2009, 12:29 AM
Royal wont be called on for the fade pass in the corner endzone like TO or Moss (and even our own reformed? flava clown) but his job is to catch in the open field and sprint to the endzone. We have a great combo package.

HILife
06-11-2009, 06:03 AM
not that its a big deal, but i wish we could've gotten Royal those 20 more yards...

and 9 catches.

alkemical
06-11-2009, 07:13 AM
Royal wont be called on for the fade pass in the corner endzone like TO or Moss (and even our own reformed? flava clown) but his job is to catch in the open field and sprint to the endzone. We have a great combo package.

No, but he seems to have a knack for finding spots in the zone. Not to mention with his quicks he could be a good 'utility' player for redzone packages.

FireFly
06-11-2009, 07:16 AM
Well concerning the difference between big and smaller recievers, I agree that there is definitely a place for the smaller WR in the modern game, but I still think that finding that big, physically dominating WR is more important and if you can get one your offense is going to be moving in the right direction!

cutthemdown
06-11-2009, 07:19 AM
Well concerning the difference between big and smaller recievers, I agree that there is definitely a place for the smaller WR in the modern game, but I still think that finding that big, physically dominating WR is more important and if you can get one your offense is going to be moving in the right direction!

I agree. Small quick players IMO are role players and need the big physical ones to help them make plays.

Let's face it if your a safety you watch Marshall more because you know he can overpower people. Corners can tackle Royal 1 on 1 if they catch him. Marshal often just straight arms corners.

They compliment each other very well. As do Graham and Scheff.

Mcdaniels should have the versatility to go big, or go small.

LonghornBronco
06-11-2009, 09:50 AM
Royal wont be called on for the fade pass in the corner endzone like TO or Moss (and even our own reformed? flava clown) but his job is to catch in the open field and sprint to the endzone. We have a great combo package.

Don't forget the two endzone catches to win the game (Can't recall the opponent), this play seems just as deadly as the fade.

Gcver2ver3
06-11-2009, 09:59 AM
Meh it doesn't matter except the fact Royal need to get his yards per recpetion better. Look at Jackson in Philly, 30 less balls and pretty much the same yardage.

He dropped a few but also was missed a couple times wide open deep. Hopefully Cutlers ability to get the ball to the wr quickly wasn't the only reason he was good. I'm thinking Royals yrdage goes down to about 700 this yr, but he does it on about 60 balls not 90.

i don't see that happening at all...

i see him having over 1,000yds for sure and maybe even 100 grabs...his ypc may not be much better if he's playing welker's role in the offense...and that's what i expect...

BroncoInSkinland
06-11-2009, 10:14 AM
i don't see that happening at all...

i see him having over 1,000yds for sure and maybe even 100 grabs...his ypc may not be much better if he's playing welker's role in the offense...and that's what i expect...

I tend to agree, a little concerned with Ortons ability to get him in stride so he can get big gains after the catch, but I think he will be a frequent target, and Orton could well prove me wrong. I wasn't happy about the whole Cutler situation, but I am trying to give Orton the benefit of the doubt until I see it on the field.

Beantown Bronco
06-11-2009, 10:27 AM
Don't forget the two endzone catches to win the game (Can't recall the opponent), this play seems just as deadly as the fade.

Please tell me you're joking.

ZONA
06-11-2009, 10:32 AM
I think it is generally easier for a small WR to transition to the pro game than for a big WR. A big WR can largely rely on size and strength while playing in the NCAA to beat cornerbacks to the ball and screen defenders for the catch, in the pro game that is much harder because defensive backs are bigger and stronger and the mismatch is not nearly as easy to exploit. A small guy on the other hand has learned early on how to jump for the ball and how to adjust to make catches and get open because they can't rely on just outmuscling the defense.

I would agree with that but also add in that not just any small guy would do. It has to be a smaller guy with excellent physical skills, he gotta be damn quick and run great routes. Look at Largent and Stokely, small guys who run crisp routes and have/had good quicks, Royal too.

TheReverend
06-11-2009, 10:33 AM
Please tell me you're joking.

:rofl:

Most replayed/controversial highlight of the season

Gcver2ver3
06-11-2009, 11:24 AM
I tend to agree, a little concerned with Ortons ability to get him in stride so he can get big gains after the catch, but I think he will be a frequent target, and Orton could well prove me wrong. I wasn't happy about the whole Cutler situation, but I am trying to give Orton the benefit of the doubt until I see it on the field.

that's the spirit...

nice to see a good broncos fan...

its okay to be skeptical but at least give the guy a shot...

unlike some of these other McD/Orton hating yahoos...

TheReverend
06-11-2009, 11:47 AM
that's the spirit...

nice to see a good broncos fan...

its okay to be skeptical but at least give the guy a shot...

unlike some of these other McD/Orton hating yahoos...

There's an encyclopedias worth of reasons to be skeptical.

No one's turning in their fan card. Some people have a "wait and see" approach; some people have a "I'll believe it when I see it approach".

Feeling one POV is a superior fan is the height of ignorance, imo.