The largest WR group in history closed out their combine and it’s time to look at their relative athletic abilities.
With 56 Receivers in this year’s class, the 2017 group had a long and drawn out combine. When all was said and done, we had a new 40 time record and a bunch of receivers who measured out enough to push their stock up and down. Laquon Treadwell didn’t see his stock drop with a poor combine showing last season, but is an exception to the normal rule that it is the top athletes that get drafted early at the wide receiver position. Today we’re going to look at the relative athletic scores (RAS) of all receivers in the 2017 draft class. Keep in mind that these scores are preliminary as we have yet to receive the 20-yard splits and some players didn’t complete every event.
43 Pro Bowl receivers qualified for RAS since 1999. Of those, 26 measured in the elite 8.00 or above range, a bit over half. This is your Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green and Odell Beckham Jr. range of athletes, the pinnacle of measurements and metrics based success. Robert Davis never nabbed a 1,000 yard season in Georgia Tech’s read option offense, but he landed the highest RAS at the combine for receivers. Both Michigan receivers, Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson, measured in the elite range. Zay Jones had an amazing Senior Bowl that saw him jump from mid-round to second-round consideration, but it was athletic concerns that made some question if he’d ever jump into first-round talk. He answered by posting an incredible 9.5 RAS at the combine, not only putting those questions to bed but forcing many an evaluator to hang their head and return to the tape.
Josh Gordon and Amari Cooper Fell into this range as did Steve Smith Sr and Golden Tate. Top pick Mike Evans and Brandon Marshall, both big guys with strong hands also fell into this range. There weren’t as many Pro Bowlers in this range, as you’d expect, as mentioned it has been the elites that dominated the wide receiver position, but plenty of strong prospects fell into this range including the Packers Jordy Nelson and former Vikings receiver Sidney Rice. Cal’s Chad Hansen measured in this range along with USC’s Juju Smith-Schuster, who has been mocked to the Detroit Lions several times this season. Malachi Dupre was considered one of the top receivers in this class early on and managed to keep himself in early round consideration with a strong showing.
Pro Bowlers like DeAndre Hopkins and T.Y. Hilton both fell into this range, so it isn’t a disqualifier if you still have NFL traits. Amba Etta-Tawo, considered a freak athlete prior to the combine, fell below average after some less than expected measurements. Cooper Kupp, recently pegged as a fit to the Lions, ended with a below average score but promising traits for a slot receiver. Air Force’s Jalen Robinette, a noted big slot option measured in this range along with Isaiah Ford. Speedster K.D. Cannon and YAC masters Carlos Henderson and Taywan Taylor ended up here as well. One thing to note about this and the below range of players is that a lot of strong NFL slot options have measured below average as well as a ton of promising complimentary receivers that have had good, long careers in the NFL.
Several huge names have fallen in this bottom tier of players. Pro Bowler Jarvis Landry posted an abysmal 0.06 RAS while Antonio Brown posted only a 1.49. Anquan Boldin famously posted a terrible set of measurements that nobody cared about due to his power and strong hands. One of the biggest things to note here is that draft stock is severely affected by a RAS this low. The aforementioned Antonio Brown fell to the sixth round while Wes Welker went undrafted. Ryan Switzer posted some promising slot traits, but still fell into this range while the versatile Kermit Whitfield and Shelton Gibson both failed to even reach 2.00 RAS. Artavis Scott out of Clemson posted the lowest score of the group with only a 0.16 out of 10.00. To be fair, that’s still 0.1 better than Jarvis Landry!
Plenty of great athletes and those who measured poorly have made Pro Bowls at receiver. The biggest thing to note is the trends that these players showed that helped them win. Calvin Johnson, I should note, not only had the highest WR RAS of all time, but the highest RAS average at any position all time. It was difficult seeing him go, but from a metrics standpoint we were blessed to have watched the greatest athlete of the past twenty years in a Detroit Lions uniform.