Probably wide receiver run in the first round?

If your favorite team needs a wide receiver in the 2022 NFL Draft, it would be imperative for them to act fast.

“There will be a race on receivers in the first (round) and they can go boom, boom, boom,” an AFC college scouting director told Yahoo Sports. “You’ll have to be on your toes, ready to jump when it starts.”

One reason for this is that the draft for at least the fourth year in a row offers good talent for the position. There may not be a Justin Jefferson or Ja’Marr Chase in this year’s class, and you could argue that finding a CeeDee Lamb or Jaylen Waddle is not safe either.

“There’s good depth in the position, but I’m not sure there’s one player stepping in right away like the true alpha (like a rookie),” the instructor added.

But another, more significant reason for the potential madness at wide receiver seems to be what happened during the veteran part of the offseason.

The Packers traded Davante Adams to the Raiders. Chiefs swapped Tyreek Hill for the Dolphins. The Rams sent Robert Woods to the Titans – for a penny, no less. Amari Cooper was also treated, and went from Dallas to Cleveland. And just last week, the Patriots traded for DeVante Parker of Miami, in a rare intradivisional trade.

Hill’s new contract pays him an average of $ 30 million annually. Adams checks in for $ 28 million. Cooper ($ 20M) and Woods ($ 16.25M) had large enough salaries for their former teams to accept quarters on the dollar in return for their similar talent.

New money also flowed into the position of free agency in March, with recipients at the second and third levels as Christian Kirk (four years, $ 72 million), Marquez Valdes-Scantling (three years, $ 30 million), Russell Gage (three) . years, $ 30 million), Zay Jones (three years, $ 24 million) and Cedric Wilson (three years, $ 22.05 million), all of whom are cashing in big.

Add extensions to players like Stefon Diggs (four years, $ 96 million), Brandin Cooks (two years, $ 39.6 million), DJ Moore (three years, $ 61.9 million), Mike Williams (three years, $ 60 million) and Chris Godwin (three years, $ 60 million), and it’s easy to see where the bonkers wide receiver market has gone.

“Many teams still need (recipients),” said an AFC pro-scout. “Some teams were willing to spend there. Some were not. Those who did not or could not bet that 80 or 90% of the talent at 25% of the price is worth the risk. It will be interesting.”

The problem with the 2022 NFL draft receiver class

It is fair to say that we have another harvest of very talented wide receivers in the April draft. Having a single position is considered strong, relatively speaking, four cycles in a row is considered an unusual traction phenomenon.

It’s easy to talk about the last two years’ recipients and also overlook the impressive 2019 draft party: DK Metcalf, Deebo Samuel, Terry McLaurin, AJ Brown, Marquise Brown, Diontae Johnson, Hunter Renfrow and others.

And that group has suddenly been pushed into the news lately because trade rumors have been swirling around a couple of them lately, including Metcalf, Samuel, McLaurin and AJ Brown. While some of these deals do not come true out of season, it’s clear what’s going on here.

“All contract driven,” the pro scout said. “Some teams just will not pay there.”

Expect Ohio State WRs Garrett Wilson (5) and Chris Olave to go high in the 2022 NFL draft. (Photo by Mike Mulholland / Getty Images)

But counting on an immediate contributor – and more specifically a ready-made star – from this year’s class should not be taken for granted.

In conversations over the past few months with NFL evaluators, it is clear that there is a healthy appreciation for the talent available. We could see six or more wide receivers taken in round 1, followed by another eight to 10 landing in rounds 2 and 3, which would keep up with the totals we’ve seen the last couple of drafts.

But there is also the hesitation of labeling any of them instant coffee.

“The Ohio State kids (Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave) are leaving early and they’re getting ready to go. (Buckeyes WR coach Brian) Hartline is really getting those guys ready for the league,” said the director. “But I do not think that either. they do what Ja’Marr Chase did last season. “

Injuries are also of great importance.

Alabama’s Jameson Williams is in the running for WR1 honors in this class, but his ACL tear in January puts the start of his season in doubt. The same goes for his Bama teammate, John Metchie III, a possible choice on Day 2, who sustained a previous ACL injury.

Another likelihood of the first round, USC’s Drake London, suffered an ankle injury that ended the season and was unable to train on the NFL combination or on the Trojans pro day. (He has a training session for NFL teams set for this Friday.)

There are also possible medical concerns – more of the chronic variety – for talented wideouts like Georgia’s George Pickens, Clemson’s Justyn Ross, North Dakota State’s Christian Watson, SMU’s Reggie Roberson, Michigan State’s Jalen Nailor and others.

Additionally, there are some concerns about the level of competition that could slow down the development of a few higher rated recipients, such as Watson, Western Michigan’s Skyy Moore and South Alabama’s Jalen Tolbert. It is worth noting that Tolbert and Watson seemed to belong when they were matched against major school talents at the Senior Bowl. But almost all of the recent first-year stars on the receiver (with 700 plus yards as rookies) played on Power Five programs.

Then there are case studies like Arkansas’ Treylon Burks, a likely big-time first-time player who was a do-it-all threat in college but whose pro-projection is not crystal clear. He handed in some so-so test numbers and will likely be asked to expand his route tree and play a different role than he did for the Razorbacks.

“I’m not saying at all that it’s a bad group,” the director said, “but there are a few pitfalls here.”

How free agency helped increase draft recipients’ stocks

Want to guess which team has the most salary caps committed to wide receivers for 2022? Here’s a tip: The answer may shock you.

The New York Giants, ladies and gentlemen, are currently leading the NFL in most WR cap dollars to an amazing $ 40.9 million. That’s nearly 20% of their allotted salary for the upcoming season, with Kenny Golladay eating more than half of the Giants ’money this season at the position.

“This is where you can get yourself in trouble,” said the professional scout. “(Golladay) gets hurt, quarterback (Daniel Jones) fights and you’re toasted.”

The Giants paid big bucks for Kenny Golladay, but have yet to receive similar value in his game.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac / Getty Images)

The Giants paid big bucks for Kenny Golladay, but have yet to receive similar value in his game. (Photo by Jim McIsaac / Getty Images)

In third place on the WR money list for 2022 is the Patriots at $ 39 million – and the second highest team (Tennessee) is all the way down to $ 34 million committed to the position. The Patriots were so concerned about the health of the position that they felt compelled to trade with the rival Dolphins to land Parker.

Perhaps it’s a reflection of New England’s concern that a round 1 wide receiver race starts well before their 21st overall pick. Maybe they are not quite as happy with this group of wideouts as others are. Or maybe they saw some value in adding Parker, who has two years left on his contract and cap hits in the $ 6 million range, even at the expense of sending more drafts to a team in the division.

“Trading with Tyreek (Hill) was a business decision. Trading with Davante (Adams) was a business decision. If DK (Metcalf) or any of these others (recipients are traded), it will be a business decision, ie they will not pay him, “said the pro scout.” With Tyreek and Davante, they are established. But not everyone was paid this offseason, and some of the teams (signing them) will regret these contracts in a year or two. “

It used to be that quarterbacks got paid the most, followed by pass rushers and left tackles. Now, receivers have infiltrated the top of the market in a huge way. Hill (12th), Adams (16th) and DeAndre Hopkins (18th) all rank among the top 20 NFL salaries by average per capita. year. Pass rusher TJ Watt (15th) and Joey Bosa (19th) are the only other non-quarterbacks in the top 20.

When Larry Fitzgerald signed an $ 120 million eight-year extension in 2011, his first-year salary on that deal ate up 13.4% of the Cardinals’ salary cap that season. No other broad recipient was over 10% at the time. Even as recently as 2018, only one recipient passed this threshold – Odell Beckham, barely enough, at 10.2%.

For 2022, four recipients are currently above the 10% mark (Hopkins, Keenan Allen, Cooper and Michael Thomas), with four more (Golladay, Hill, Allen Robinson and Tyler Lockett) just below that level.

So now we have a draft cycle with a number of teams owning more selections in the first round: Lions (Nos. 2 and 32), Texans (3 and 13), Jets (4 and 10), Giants (5 and 7) , Eagles (15 and 18), Saints (16 and 19), Packers (22 and 28) and Chiefs (29 and 30).

“And one could argue that almost everyone looks at the recipient,” the director said.

If so, our advice to them: Stay on your toes and be prepared to move up. With the number of big-name recipients changing teams and / or cashing in, the value of a first-round receiver contract is beginning to creep up against the quarterback sphere as a potential market inefficiency.

Chase, number 5 in last year’s draft, signed a $ 30.8 million rookie deal over a standard four-year period. DeVonta Smith, selected as number 10 overall, is signed for four years and $ 20.1 million. Rashod Bateman, who was elected near the end of Round 1 in 2021 as No. 27 overall, has a deal worth just $ 12.6 million.

Compare them to the high-end second and third wideouts that receive, and it’s not hard to figure out why the positional value of a receiver on a rookie deal could push some of them higher in the draft than expected.

“I think the race starts somewhere near the back end of the top 10 picks and goes pretty fast right after that,” the instructor said.

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