Schemes, team needs play large role in wide receiver decisions
What's the best way to evaluate a wide receiver? Floyd Reese looks at five questions teams must ask themselves before they sign or draft a receiver.
Scouting and, more importantly, drafting or signing a wide receiver are among the biggest NFL crapshoots. A quality group of receivers will improve a team's running game, its quarterback's effectiveness and ultimately the win-loss record.
The hard part for NFL teams is figuring out exactly which players are right for their systems. The evaluation process involves much more than height, weight, speed, hands, character and production.
Here are five questions teams must ask themselves while scouting wide receivers:
1. Does the receiver fit the scheme and/or coaching needs?
Everyone wants to bring in a receiver with ideal size, speed and hands. Unfortunately, this guy comes along once or twice every draft and seldom reaches the free-agent market. Therefore, the single best link to success is bringing in someone who fits in with your coaches and schemes.
2. Does the player fit your position profile?
A strongside receiver is different than a weakside receiver, who is different from a slot receiver. Being able to understand position needs and filling those needs solidifies not only each spot but also the group as a whole. Drafting only one type of receiver (Jacksonville is known for drafting "size" receivers) is as ineffective as indiscriminately drafting players based only on measurables.
3. Can he come down with a contested ball?
Whether a receiver can come down with the contested ball is a key characteristic. Regardless of the type of route, the corner often arrives to the ball at the same time as the receiver. If a receiver doesn't have the ability to outmuscle or outjump a defensive back, his upside is severely limited.
4. Is the receiver reliable?
On Monday night during the NFL season, ESPN highlights the weekend's biggest hits. Seven or eight of those clips involve a receiver being hit by a corner, safety, linebacker or sometimes all three. Receivers may not get hit every snap, but each reception opens them up to NFL analyst Tom Jackson's scrutiny.
5. Can he create yards after the catch?
Joe Montana and Steve Young got a lot of credit for 50-yard passes that were really 10-yard slants that Jerry Rice carried for 40 yards. As time goes on, the premium on yards after the catch continues to grow.
Former Tennessee Titans general manager Floyd Reese contributes to ESPN.com.
BEST WIDE RECEIVERS
In Part 1 of a two-part report, Scouts Inc. ranks today's wide receivers from 1 (Randy Moss) to 64 (James Jones). In Part 2, ESPN.com ranks the top 10 wide receivers of all time. In the first presentation of this occasional series, ESPN.com ranked the all-time best QBs in February. | Discuss
HOT READ PART 1: Today's best WRs• Scouts Inc.: Ranking top receivers 1-64
• Debate: Randy Moss vs. T.O.
• 49ers CB Nate Clements on his top 10
• SportsNation: Rank the top 10
• Hashmarks blog: Mosley take on top 64
• Scouts Inc.: Ranking wideouts in draft
• Floyd Reese: Scouting criteria for WRs
HOT READ PART 2: All-time best WRs• Sando: Receivers revisited
• Sando: Jerry Rice is No. 1, but who's next?
• Zoom Gallery: Top 10 receivers of all time
• Sando: Who is Don Hutson?
• SportsNation: Wide receiver quiz
• SportsNation: Rank the all-time best
• Debate: Current WRs who belong in top 10
• Green, Sando on best WRs in history
• Luksa: Bob Hayes an overlooked great
BEST QUARTERBACKS OF ALL TIME• Sando: Ranking the all-time great QBs
• ZOOM gallery: Top 10 QBs of all time
• Chadiha: Ranking the best QBs by decade
• Klancnik: Best QBs by jersey numbers
• Scouts Inc.: Ranking the top 64 QBs of today
• SportsNation: Rank the greatest QBs | Vote
• SportsNation: Think you know QBs?
• Super Bowls: Ranking every QB's performance