The 2014 wide receiver draft class has been widely commended for the immediate impact those players each had for their respective teams—players like the New York Giants' Odell Beckham Jr., the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Mike Evans, the Buffalo Bills' Sammy Watkins and the Carolina Panthers' Kelvin Benjamin.
All in all, the first 10 receivers selected in the 2014 draft combined for 523 receptions for 6,930 yards and 55 touchdowns as rookies.
While last year's group was particularly impactful, we've seen a significant investment put in the position via the draft over the past five years.
"In the last five years, there have been an average of 13 wide receivers that go in the first three rounds and an average of 3.8 in the first round," NFL Network Draft Analyst Mike Mayock noted. "Now, more importantly, last year's wideout group was historically tremendous.
"All five first-round picks were highly productive."
The Chiefs just recently released veteran Donnie Avery and waived third-year player A.J. Jenkins, so there's the need to replace those receivers on the roster whether it's through free agency or the draft.
At the NFL Scouting Combine last week, Chiefs general manager John Dorsey spoke about what he sees from the receiver class in this year's draft.
"The receiver position, I think there is some depth there," Dorsey said. "They are very similar to the draft class of last year, but I think the overall depth of this speaks volumes. There are players to be had in this draft class that can help contribute."
NFL Network's Bucky Brooks is also impressed with this year's receiver class.
"The strength of this draft is the wide receiver position," Brooks said. "I think the receivers are deep and talented. I think there's a bunch of guys you can get in multiple rounds that can come in and help you."
While receivers come in all shapes and sizes, with different skillsets and abilities, there's one way to compare last year's historic class with the group this year.
Now, it should be noted that numbers aren't everything. In fact, they are a small part of the puzzle because a player's abilities to play the receiver position aren't easily quantified.
But these numbers are an interesting part of the conversation.
This chart has the first 10 receivers who were drafted in 2014 and their respective performances at the combine last year.
|2014 NFL Draft - Top 10 Wide Receiver Numbers|
|12||Odell Beckham Jr||71||198||4.43||7||38.5||122||6.69||3.94|
|AVG||*||73.4 (in)||207.5 lbs||4.47||15.25||36.5||122.6||6.95||4.15*|
Of the first 10 receivers drafted last year, the average player was 6-foot-1, 207.5 pounds and ran a 4.47 40-yard dash. The rest of the averages are listed at the bottom of the chart.
Again, this doesn't separate slot guys versus those who play primarily on the outside, which could affect the numbers.
Now, when you compare those numbers to this year's Top 10 projected receivers, the numbers are interesting. (Projected via from NFL.com, CBS Sports and ESPN)
|2015 NFL Draft - Projected Top 10 Wide Receiver Numbers|
|AVG||73.7 (in)||210.9 lbs||4.45||15.8||37.2||122.8||6.87||4.14*|
According to the average of those top projected receivers, these numbers show that this year's class is better in every physical and athletic measurement taken at the combine compared to last year's group.
They are taller (73.7 to 73.4 inches), bigger (210.9 to 207.5 pounds), faster (4.45 to 4.47) and improved in every explosive measurement as well.
Again, the differences between .3 inches and a couple hundredths in a 40 time aren't significant when it comes to producing on the field, which is the only thing that really matters. But for as much praise as was given to last year's class, and for good reason, this is one area in which there's reason to feel good about this year's class right now.
For comparisons sake, here's a look back at the combine and pro day results in the same categories from all of the Chiefs receivers who were on the roster last season.
|2014 Kansas City Chiefs WRs' Combine/Pro Day* Numbers|
|2013||Frankie Hammond Jr.||71||190||4.44||14||33||121||6.57||4.21|
|AVG||71.8 (in)||204.5 lbs||4.58||14.6||35.86||124||6.71||4.14*|
Dorsey believes that spread offenses at the high school and collegiate level are making receivers more skilled by the time they get to the NFL.
"Everybody's passing the ball a little bit more," he explained. "Guys are becoming more skilled and have more depth in running routes, catching the ball.
"If you go around the country and kind of see these high school programs, they're starting to play this very similar offense and they're more prepared to get to the college ranks and like I said, into the pro ranks as well."
Chiefs coach Andy Reid agrees.
The top wide receivers from the 2014 and 2015 NFL draft classes.
"I think the college game has really helped," he said. "It's helped because they're throwing the football more. These guys are having more opportunity to run the routes we run and go against these different coverages that are little bit more sophisticated and have to make adjustments on those coverages."
One of the more intriguing receivers in this year's draft is former Missouri Tiger Dorial Green-Beckham, whom Dorsey spoke about at the combine.
"Physically, we think he has all the gifts in the world," Dorsey said of Green-Beckham. "We've all admired him, all of us who have been in the state of Missouri and the Kansas City area. We have seen him afar, admired his physical traits. I think now what people want to do is get a feel for him as a person, see where he is at this state."
Touted as one of the top high school recruits in the country back in 2012, Green-Beckham had a breakout season for the Tigers as a sophomore in 2013, when he finished with 59 receptions for 883 yards and 12 touchdowns.
That kind of production would be a welcomed sight for any receiver-needy NFL team.
"I think the league is set up to be productive more so than ever for rookie wide receivers and tight ends, Mayock said. "This particular class—Kevin White, Amari Cooper, DeVante Parker are consensus top-20 picks."
As a senior at West Virginia in 2014, White finished with 109 receptions for 1,447 yards and 10 touchdowns.
White was particularly impressive at the NFL Scouting Combine, where he measured 6-foot-3, 215 pounds and ran a 4.35 40-yard dash.
But Mayock believes someone else is the safest choice in this draft.
"I think (Alabama's Amari Cooper) is the safest pick of that group," he explained. "He's a really good route runner, had over 100 catches last year. He reminds me of some of those wide outs that played on the Greatest Show on Turf with Dick Vermeil in St.Louis, Torry Holt, for example—that type of wide receiver.
"Whereas the other two, Kevin White and (Louisville's) DeVante Parker, are bigger-bodied guys where you can throw it up and they can win jump balls."
In going beyond 40 times and vertical jumps, one of the most important aspects of a receiver's ability is his ability to create separation in his routes.
The margin of error in whether a pass is completed in the NFL is sometimes within inches, and the ability for a receiver to get that extra inch by running crisp, precise routes is what can many times separate them from one another even if their 40 times are similar.
"[USC's Nelson Agholor] is one of my favorite route runners in the draft," Mayock noted. "I've got a second round rate on him. He gets in and out of breaks, makes you miss like the punt returner that he is."
Agholor finished the 2014 season with 104 receptions for 1,313 yards and 12 touchdowns.
For White, Cooper, Agholor and the rest of the rookie receivers in 2015, the comparisons will continue to be made between the two classes, but it won't be until this time next year that we truly have any kind of gauge on how the two classes might match up.
What we do know—the bar has been set and it's high.