Conventional logic says that it’s hard to expect relatively huge production from a rookie receiver — even a first-rounder — right off the bat, as they can take time to really bloom compared to some other positions. While Calvin Johnson was basically Megatron the moment he stepped on the professional field, it’s taken fellow man-beast Dez Bryant a good three years to become the consistently dominant force he’s clearly capable of being. Demaryius Thomas and Michael Crabtree also took their time before exploding in 2012, though having a quarterback that can open the field always helps dramatically.
However, about six of the 15 first-round receivers taken between 2006 and 2010 we can safely call sunk costs for the team, and I wasn’t even counting Santonio Holmes thanks to the free pass he received in the edge of the end zone against Kurt Warner‘s Arizona Cardinals.
In an attempt to evaluate how much value has been returned on first-rounders at this position in recent years, I’ve compiled each first-round selection from 2006-2010 (leaving out any player with less than three seasons of experience) and added a value rating relative to draft spot. Each pick is evaluated from -3 to +3 depending on value expected by draft slot versus value delivered and promise shown, and the bolded names went top 10.
Picks in the top 10 of the NFL draft are graded harsher than picks 11-32 due to the heightened value expected from the top. At the bottom of the spreadsheet I’ve included the composite “Safe Rating” value, evaluating the position’s overall return on pick position in recent years. This attempts to compare the risk involved in drafting each position at the top of the draft, not weighting how valuable one position is over another.