Examination of Santan Moss, Elite wide receivers and NFL draft Busts
An original by: WolfGANG
November 20th 2007
Examination of Santana Moss, Elite wide receivers and NFL draft Busts:
Some recent discussion revolving around the argument of Santana Moss referring to if he is one of the NFL’s elite wide receivers caught my attention. That conversation has inspired me to dig a little deeper into what are the qualifications for being “elite” at the receiver position in todays NFL. The line between an elite and good receiver is a vague subject. There are many factors that combine to create a successful wide out in the NFL. They are the offensive system, play of the quarterback, effectiveness of the running game, play calling and offensive line just to name a few.
Wide out is one of the most frustrating positions for a coach or general manager to select in the NFL draft with any consistent success. Countless players that were amazing while in the collegiate ranks looked lost when introduced to the pro game and never pan out. This phenomenon is due in part to players in college running easier offenses, playing weaker defenses and being able to rely strictly on their speed or physical tools. Then, when the player enters the league they have to have the total package to succeed and more often than not are exposed as to where their real talent level is.
This discussion will involve the wide receiver class from the 2001 NFL draft, due to the fact that Santana Moss was drafted that year, and because there was a vast array of wide outs taken: from huge busts to extraordinary play makers. When listing the statistics I will purposely leave out the 2001 season since some of the players did not start and others did play, which would misrepresent the translation of those stats. Also this 2008 season will be omitted for the same reasons as above.
First off a look at the base of this discussion, Santana Moss’, who selected 16th overall by the New York Jets out of Miami University. Moss is listed at 5'11" and 200 pounds and is currently 28 years old. He spent his first four seasons with the Jets before being dealt to the Redskins in a high profile trade, and has spent his last three seasons as the Redskins top wide out. Moss has had several quarterbacks delivering him the ball: Vinny Testeverde and Chad Pennington in New York and Mark Brunell and Jason Campbell in Washington.
- In the five seasons eligible for discussion Santana Moss has topped 1,000 yards receiving twice, highlighted by his 2005 season in which he recorded a career high 1,483 yards. Moss averages 929.8 yards a season and has amassed 4,629 in total.
- Santana averages 61.7 yards a game with a 16.14 yards per reception median
- In touchdowns Moss’ career high is 10 recorded in 2003 with the Jets. He averages 6.8 touchdowns per season.
- Injuries have been a small problem for Moss, he played 95% of his games in the five years of eligible seasons. Note that Moss has missed a lot of this season with nagging injuries.
- Moss’ longest reception was for 78 yards. He has 74 total receptions of 20+ yards (a 14.6 average) and 26 total receptions of 40+ yards (a 5.2 average). Also Moss has five total fumbles and 200 first downs (40 per season).
Next we will look at Reggie Wayne, wide receiver for the Colts, who was drafted 30th overall in 2001, 14 spots after Moss. Wayne was a collegiate star at Miami University also and a teammate of Moss. Wayne is listed at 6'0" and 198 pounds, and he is 28 as well. Wayne has enjoyed the added luxury of playing his entire career so far for the Colts and only having one quarterback to throw him the ball: one time NFL MVP and super bowl champion Peyton Manning.
- In the five seasons Reggie Wayne has topped 1,000 yards receiving three times, highlighted by his 2006 season in which he recorded a career high 1,310 yards. Wayne averages 1,025.8 yards a season and has amassed 5,129 in total.
- Wayne averages 64.1 yards a game with a 14.12 yards per reception.
- In touchdowns Wayne’s career high is 12 recorded in 2004and he averages 7.4 Touchdowns a season.
- Injuries have been a non-factor for Reggie, he played all 16 games every season.
-Wayne’s longest reception was for 71 yards. He has 67 total receptions of 20+ yards (a 13.4 average) and 14 total receptions of 40+ yards (a 2.8 average). Also Wayne has four total fumbles and 269 first downs (53.8 per season).
Following this initial analysis both wide outs look relatively impressive. Wayne has better totals in yards, touchdowns and first downs and Moss seems to be a little more explosive with more long catches. Reggie Wayne is a 2nd wide receiver on a talented offense and Moss is a top wide receiver on a less talented group. The real question is though, are either of these players “elite?” That’s a difficult answer to give thus far, next we will compare numbers from a receiver that has not lived up to expectations to see how much better Moss’ numbers are than an obviously average receiver.
Rod Gardner was selected with the 15th overall pick in 2001, one spot before Santana Moss. Gardner was an unstoppable force at Clemson and his size and strength helped make him the 3rd wide receiver taken that year (David Terell was picked 8th by the Bears and Koren Robinson was picked 9th by the Seahawks, both now considered busts). Moss’ eventual team, the Washington Redskins, used their 1st round pick on Gardner, a 6'2" 215-pound phenom. Gardner spent his first four seasons with the Redskins, then in 2005 spent 11 games with the Panthers and the remainder with the Packers. In 2006 Gardner moved to the Chiefs and is currently out of the league. Gardner played with countless quarterbacks throwing to him, the best being in 2005 with Jake Delhomme and Brett Favre. Gardner never lived up to his enormous potential.
- In the five seasons Rod Gardner has topped 1,000 yards receiving once, in 2002 he recorded a career high 1,006 yards. Wayne averages 484.8 yards a season and has amassed 2,424 in total
- Rod averages 32.3 yards a game with a 12.3 yards per reception.
- Gardner’s career high in touchdowns came in 2002 with eight, he averages 3.8 a season
- Injuries have not really been Gardner’s problem, just not getting starts has been!
- Rod’s longest reception was for 51 yards. He has 29 total receptions of 20+ yards (a 5.8 average) and five total receptions of 40+ yards (a 1 average). Also Gardner has two total fumbles and 120 first downs (24 per season).
Obviously Moss has been a much better wide out than Rod Gardner, who was picked before him. Gardner had one very good season in Washington but after that has been very average. It is obvious that Moss is better than Gardner and better than average, but the question remains unanswered: is Santana Moss elite? We have come to the conclusion so far that Moss is at least an above average WR by any standards, now let us see how he stacks up against a player that most experts and fans alike would consider one of the very best at the wide receiver position. Maybe that will shed some light on the question at hand.
Chad Johnson was drafted last out of the group of wide receivers in this discussion, which proves how much of a roulette wheel spin it is to draft a receiver. Johnson was selected 36th overall by the Bengals out of Oregon State. Johnson is listed at 6'1" and 198 pounds, and he is currently 29 years old. Similar to Wayne, Johnson has the luxury of spending his whole career thus far with the team that drafted him. Another positive is that he only had to play with two different quarterbacks: the gun-slinging Jon Kitna and Carson Palmer, who is becoming one of the leagues elite signal callers with the help of Johnson, despite the Bengals having a tough year. Bad defense is not a good thing for a team but since the Bengals defense annually allows so many points it often forces the Bengals to pass even more than they want and gives Johnson more chances to shine. That being said Johnson uses his natural talent to burn any corner lined up on him and consistently outperforms nearly every wide out in the national football league. Lets look at how a WR considered elite stacks up to Moss and Wayne’s numbers and try to draw some conclusions from that information.
- Johnson has been excellent reaching more than 1,000 yards in each of his five seasons (compared to Moss’ two). His best year came in 2005 when Johnson amassed 1,432 yards (51 less than Moss’ best). Chad averages 1,319.2 (389.4 more than Moss’ average) yards a season and has amassed 6,596 (1967 yards in total more than Moss) in total.
- Johnson averages 82.5 (20.8 more a game than moss) yards a game in his career for an average of 15.0 (1.4 less than Moss) yards a catch
- Chad’s career best in touchdowns came in 2003 with 10 and averages 8 Tds a season
- In the five seasons being discussed Chad Johnson didn’t miss a single game.
- Chad’s longest reception was for 82 yards. He has 82 total receptions of 20+ yards (a 16.4 average) and 31 total receptions of 40+ yards (a 6.2 average). Also Johnson has 3 total fumbles and 327 first downs (65.4 per season)
Chad Johnson is obviously an “elite” wide receiver, when you draft a WR the type of production Johnson gets is all you can ask (and pray) for. In comparison to Moss Johnson has been much more consistent, a bigger playmaker and a better overall WR. Does the fact that Johnson is a more productive wide-out our rule Moss out of being in the elite class? Not necessarily, but the fact that Moss has not been consistent enough really hurts his chances.
The fact that Moss’ best season was actually better than Johnson’s show that if given the right opportunity that Santana CAN be an elite WR. If he could consistently produce seasons similar to the amazing one he had in 2005 there would be no doubt in my, or anyone else, mind that he would be among the best. In the end my conclusion is that Moss is not on the elite level of NFL receivers, but has all the tools to eventually be there. It is a very tough thing to reproduce the kind of performance Chad johnson does every season with defenses doubling up on you and game planning around you. If Moss can breakthrough he will eventually be in this exclusive club, but as of now, he is one the outside looking in. Watching Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, Chad Johnson, Marvin Harrison and Steve Smith do the Soulja Boy and spike footballs. Hey maybe it’s better off left out of that room!
Last edited by WolfGANG; 11-20-2007 at 09:54 PM.