One man's recipe for perfect WR

A dose of Michael Irvin's toughness, a dash of Paul Warfield's smoothness, a pinch of Jerry Rice's durability -- those are just some of the ingredients for the perfect wide receiver, Matt Mosley writes.

Updated: March 23, 2007, 9:09 AM ET
By Matt Mosley | ESPN.com

Ron Wolf accomplished much during his 38 seasons in pro football, but he'll always be remembered as the guy who traded for Brett Favre. And as far as labels go, one could do a lot worse.

You wouldn't blame the former Packers general manager and longtime Raiders personnel man for basking in the glow of distinguished service, but he'd just as soon talk about his failures.

Ron Wolf: Former Packers GM
Ron Wolf: Former Packers GM

When I reached Wolf by phone, he was in Jupiter, Fla., where he and longtime pal Bill Parcells are spending the month at the spring-training home of the world champion St. Louis Cardinals.

"I like what they've done getting this kid [Adam] Kennedy from the Angels, and I think they're going to be pretty strong again," Wolf said.

Since this is wide receiver week at ESPN.com, I wanted to hear Wolf's thoughts on how to build the perfect wide receiver, a position he knows pretty well after spending time with guys such as Cliff Branch, Fred Biletnikoff and Robert Brooks, whose name looks a bit strange on this list. But Brooks was a vital part of Green Bay's Super Bowl teams in the 1990s.

One of the things Wolf and a lot of other people across the league discovered over the years is how hard it is to predict the performance of a wide receiver. Just take a look at the 2001 draft class, which is the last one Wolf presided over for the Packers.

For every Santana Moss and Reggie Wayne, there's a Freddie Mitchell and David Terrell.

That's part of the reason Wolf never drafted a receiver in the first round during his nine years as Packers general manager. But it's not something he's particularly proud of.

Michael Irvin
Cliff Welch/Icon SMIMichael Irvin, elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame last month, was known for his toughness.

One of his biggest regrets was passing on Randy Moss in 1998 (the Packers took defensive tackle Vonnie Holliday).

"I let outside influences that were not all that important get to me," he said. "Looking back, they didn't have any credence, and that's a big regret of mine."

He said former Raiders receiver Warren Wells was one of the two best players he was ever associated with. The other was Hall of Fame running back Marcus Allen. The troubled Wells, who spent time in jail, had 42 touchdowns and averaged more than 23 yards per catch during his four seasons with the Raiders.

Asked to come up with the ingredients for the perfect wide receiver, Wolf spent about 10 minutes talking about former Chicago Bears great Harlon Hill.

"My God, that was the perfect wide receiver," he said. "He was like 6-4, 215 and he could run like the dickens."

Here's the recipe that Wolf finally came up with for the perfect receiver:

"I would take Michael Irvin's toughness, Paul Warfield's smoothness, Raymond Berry and Biletnikoff's hands, Jerry Rice's durability, [Cliff ] Branch's speed and Tim Brown's versatility and Sterling Sharpe's mental toughness. And I haven't even mentioned Marvin Harrison. He has to be the best receiver playing today."

When evaluating a wide receiver, Wolf said the first thing he always looked for was size. Next, he looked at a player's hands and his ability to get in and out of breaks quickly.

"I really want to know if a guy's going to catch the ball in a key situation," Wolf said. "And Michael Irvin was the perfect guy in that situation."

When I called Keyshawn Johnson to ask him to build the perfect receiver, not surprisingly he chose the ingredients that have made him successful.

"Toughness is the biggest thing," he said. "If you're not mentally tough, you'll never make it. Then you better talk about hands right after that."

Almost everyone I talked to said quickness was much more important than pure speed. The ability to gain separation seems to be the common denominator in all successful receivers.

"Once you get even, you're leavin'," Wolf said of a receiver's ability to break free.

Now, please feel free to send me your own recipes.

Matt Mosley covers the NFL for ESPN.com. He may be reached at matt.mosley@sbcglobal.net.