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Sizing Up the Wide Receivers
by David M. Dorey
July 24, 2003
 

2002 Top 20 Wide Receivers

Rank Team Player Ht Wt Age Exp Rank Team Player Ht Wt Age Exp
1 IND Harrison,Marvin 6-0 178 31 7 11 OAK Rice,Jerry 6-2 200 41 18
2 PIT Ward,Hines 6-0 200 27 5 12 NYJ Coles,Laveranues 5-11 196 26 3
3 SF Owens,Terrell 6-3 226 30 7 13 SEA Robinson,Koren 6-1 205 23 2
4 BUF Moulds,Eric 6-2 204 30 7 14 CHI Booker,Marty 6-0 210 27 4
5 MIN Moss,Randy 6-4 204 26 5 15 STL Holt,Torry 6-0 190 27 4
6 NYG Toomer,Amani 6-3 208 29 7 16 STL Bruce,Isaac 6-0 188 31 9
7 BUF Price,Peerless 5-11 190 27 4 17 CIN Johnson,Chad 6-2 192 25 2
8 NO Horn,Joe 6-1 206 31 7 18 JAC Smith,Jimmy 6-1 213 34 10
9 PIT Burress,Plaxico 6-5 226 26 3 19 WAS Gardner,Rod 6-2 217 26 2
10 GB Driver,Donald 6-0 188 28 4 20 CLE Morgan,Quincy 6-1 209 26 2

The next time you are tempted to draft a rookie wide receiver, take a look at the above table. Most likely you are two or three years from seeing your player in the Top 20 and probably about five years or more from seeing him as a Top 10 player. Being a productive receiver in the NFL takes time to develop. Obviously, the prime area of production for a receiver - and these are the best ones in the league - come between the fourth and seventh season. That accounts for 13 of the best 20 players and nine of the top ten.
NFL Player Ht Wt Age Exp
HOU Johnson, Andre 6-2 230 21 R
ARZ Boldin, Anquan 6-1 216 22 R
DAL Bryant, Antonio 6-1 192 22 1
HOU Gaffney, Jabar 6-1 193 22 1
WAS Jacobs, Taylor 6-0 205 22 R
ARZ Johnson, Bryant 6-2 214 22 R
DET Rogers, Charles 6-2 202 22 R
NO Stallworth, Donte' 6-0 197 22 1
NE Branch, Deion 5-9 193 23 1
GB Ferguson, Robert 6-1 209 23 2
DEN Lelie, Ashley 6-3 200 23 1
ARZ McAddley, Jason 6-2 204 23 1
PIT Randle El, Antwaan 5-10 184 23 1
BUF Reed, Josh 5-10 203 23 1
SEA Robinson, Koren 6-1 205 23 2
CHI White, Dez 6-1 215 23 3
TEN Bennett, Drew 6-5 203 24 2
SD Boston, David 6-2 236 24 4
SD Caldwell, Reche 5-11 194 24 1
MIA Chambers, Chris 5-11 210 24 2
KC Hall, Dante 5-8 187 24 3
SEA Jackson, Darrell 6-0 201 24 3
TEN McCareins, Justin 6-2 218 24 2
PHI Mitchell, Freddie 5-11 184 24 2
NYJ Moss, Santana 5-10 185 24 2
OAK Porter, Jerry 6-2 220 24 3
CAR Smith, Steve 5-9 179 24 2
CHI Terrell, David 6-3 215 24 2
GB Walker, Javon 6-3 215 24 1
IND Wayne, Reggie 6-0 203 24 2
KC Boerigter, Marc 6-3 223 25 1
PIT Burress, Plaxico 6-5 226 25 3
WAS Coles, Laveranues 5-11 196 25 3
WAS Gardner, Rod 6-2 217 25 2
CIN Johnson, Chad 6-2 192 25 2
ARZ Kasper, Kevin 6-0 193 25 2
CLE Morgan, Quincy 6-1 209 25 2
CLE Northcutt, Dennis 5-11 175 25 3
BAL Taylor, Travis 6-1 200 25 3
MIA Thompson, Derrius 6-2 216 25 3
CHI Booker, Marty 6-0 210 26 4
STL Edwards, Troy 5-10 191 26 4
ARZ Foster, Larry 5-10 188 26 3
DET Hakim, Az-Zahir 5-10 189 26 5
CLE Johnson, Kevin 5-11 195 26 4
MIN Moss, Randy 6-4 204 26 5
PHI Pinkston, Todd 6-2 174 26 3
ATL Price, Peerless 5-11 190 26 4
IND Stokley, Brandon 5-11 197 26 4
SF Streets, Tai 6-2 206 26 4
CIN Warrick, Peter 5-11 195 26 3
MIN Bates, D'Wayne 6-2 215 27 4
HOU Bradford, Corey 6-1 197 27 5
NYG Dixon, Ron 6-0 190 27 3
SD Dwight, Tim 5-9 180 27 5
ATL Finneran, Brian 6-5 210 27 3
JAX Hayes, Donald 6-4 220 27 5
NYG Hilliard, Ike 5-11 205 27 6
STL Holt, Torry 6-0 190 27 4
NO Pathon, Jerome 6-0 182 27 5
PIT Ward, Hines 6-0 200 27 5
GB Driver, Donald 6-0 188 28 4
DAL Glenn, Terry 5-11 195 28 7
ATL Jenkins, MarTay 6-0 206 28 4
TB Jurevicius, Joe 6-5 230 28 5
NE Patten, David 5-10 190 28 6
BAL Robinson, Marcus 6-3 215 28 6
BUF Shaw, Bobby 6-0 183 28 5
PHI Thrash, James 6-0 200 28 6
NYG Toomer, Amani 6-3 208 28 7
NE Ward, Dedric 5-9 185 28 6
NYJ Chrebet, Wayne 5-10 188 29 8
TEN Mason, Derrick 5-10 192 29 6
BUF Moulds, Eric 6-2 204 29 7
SF Owens, Terrell 6-3 226 29 7
STL Bruce, Isaac 6-0 188 30 9
SEA Engram, Bobby 5-10 188 30 7
IND Harrison, Marvin 6-0 178 30 7
JAX J.J. Stokes 6-4 225 30 8
TB Johnson, Keyshawn 6-4 212 30 7
KC Kennison, Eddie 6-1 201 30 7
CAR Muhammad, Muhsin 6-2 217 30 7
BAL Sanders, Frank 6-2 215 30 8
MIN Alexander, Derrick 6-2 206 31 9
NE Brown, Troy 5-10 193 31 10
DAL Galloway, Joey 5-11 197 31 8
NO Horn, Joe 6-1 206 31 7
MIA McKnight, James 6-1 198 31 9
KC Morton, Johnnie 6-0 190 31 9
NYJ Conway, Curtis 6-1 196 32 10
DET Schroeder, Bill 6-3 200 32 7
TB McCardell, Keenan 6-1 191 33 11
DEN Smith, Rod 6-0 200 33 8
DEN McCaffrey, Ed 6-5 215 34 12
JAX Smith, Jimmy 6-1 213 34 10
CAR Proehl, Ricky 6-0 190 35 13
OAK Brown, Tim 6-0 195 36 15
OAK Rice, Jerry 6-2 200 40 18

More interesting is that while six players managed great seasons in their second or third year, only three continued to produce well last year after their seventh season - Jerry Rice, Isaac Bruce and Jimmy Smith. Throwing out Jerry Rice as one of the most extraordinary players to ever strap on a helmet, only Smith and Bruce did well and both are clearly declining.

There is an odd consistency to the top 10 for receivers in terms of years of experience, particularly since reason says the top level should be almost pure individual talent, not some single variable. However, even in 2001 the top ten had every receiver there between four and sevens years of experience with the exceptions of David Boston (3) and Torry Holt (3) and the aging Jimmy Smith (9). The 10th through the 20th best receivers in 2001 followed a similar pattern like 2002. They were either seven players that had at least 8 years of experience or three players with two or three seasons (Kevin Johnson, Marty Booker and Darrell Jackson).

If you want a reciever in his prime, look first at the ones that are in their fourth through seventh years of playing. It is a rule that gets broken, but not enough to keep it from being a meaningful rule. The next ten players in a season will normally be either young guys just breaking out or old guys just winding down their careers with suprisingly few in the middle tier.

Which players have eclipsed that apparent seventh season? Derrick Alexander (9), Tim Brown (15), Troy Brown (10), Isaac Bruce (9), Wayne Chrebet (8), Curtis Conway (10), Joey Galloway (8), J.J. Stokes (8), Ed McCaffrey (12), Keenan McCardell (11), Johnnie Morton (9) and Frank Sanders (8) are all added to the aging concern list.

While runners are better when they are under six feet tall typically, only two players - Peerless Price and Lavernues Coles - were under that mark last season and yet managed top 20 numbers for 2002. Interesting too that both just changed teams and are veterans of only four or three years respectively.

College produces a ton of great receivers below the six foot mark, they just are unable to sustain that level of play in the NFL.

While big possession receivers were present with Terrell Owens and Plaxico Burress, the majority of top receivers were between 200 and 210 pounds. Obviously individual talent plays a significant role in a receiver's success - more so than mere physical characteristics - but the commonality of the 200-210 is useful for searching for up and coming receivers that best fit "the mold" of a prototypical great receiver.

There are so many qualities that are important to a receiver that physical characteristics are only one consideration and by no means the most important one. But the best and easiest benefit you can gain for your fantasy team is to find the breakout receivers for the season and those players - shown above - fall into a fairly regimented group in height and weight and experience.

The caliber of quarterback, offensive system and all the elements that make up a team feed into the success that a receiver can have. Consider that by the time a reciever has caught the ball, ten other players have all done their job well enough to let it happen. That all takes time, talent and teamwork.