Football Is Changing To Make It Easier On Rookie Receivers

With the Packers looking to draft a wide receiver, the topic of how quickly they can contribute keeps coming up.

The old rule used to be that it took 3 years for a rookie receiver to make a contribution.

Notice I said “old” rule. This doesn’t apply any more. Just look at the 2019 rookie class of AJ Brown, Terry McLaurin, Deebo Samuel, and DK Metcalf (none of who were even 1st rounders), who all topped 800 yards.

Let’s look at how the 2019 wide receiver draft class fared:

  • Of the top 42 leaders in receiving yards, 4 were rookies – that’s about 10% of the top receivers.
  • Of the top 70 (basically the top 2 best receivers on each team) there were 8 rookies – that means about a quarter of the league depended on a rookie to be WR1 or WR2 last year, and couple of Day 3 picks (Darius Slayton and Hunter Renfrow).
  • In 2019, 6 rookies led their team in receiving touchdowns (and only one of them was 1st round pick).
  • Both Super Bowl representatives depended on 2nd round rookie wide receivers (Deebo Samuel and Mecole Hardman) to make it to the big game.

That should put a rest to the talk that rookies can’t contribute.

The big question is: why?

The answer: the CBA.

In 2011, the CBA started putting serious limits on practice time. That means that teams can’t spend endless hours over countless weeks implementing a complex precision passing scheme any more. They need to simplify.

Offenses have to get up and running quickly. They need to be easier for players to pick up.

This is one of the reasons why college coaches are getting more attention in the pros – they have to get a system up, running, and functional when they only have a four-year window with players (and restrictions on practice time). Coincidentally, this is the same window NFL teams get for most of their rookies.

Since offenses have simplified to be easier to understand, players don’t need multiple years to grow at the skill positions – they come in with the skills they need are they work an offense simple enough for them to pick it up quickly; an offense that is similar to what they ran in college.

Given the simplification of offenses and the historically talented class coming out this year, 2020 could be the most prolific rookie receiving class of all time.

It should be quite a draft – the only question is when to draft them.

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