Think back to the 2008 NFL Draft. The Buffalo Bills had a moribund passing attack, had no legitimate No. 2 receiving option after a two-year experiment with Peerless Price fizzled out, and were looking for a red zone complement to speedy top receiver Lee Evans.
2008 was the wrong year for the Bills to be in the market for a receiver. Of the 37 wide receivers selected that season, only one - Philadelphia's DeSean Jackson - has averaged 1,000 receiving yards per season. The man closest to him in that department, Miami's Davone Bess, was an undrafted free agent.
Still, not all was lost, as this rather poor draft class has produced some late bloomers. One of them is Jordy Nelson, who is coming off a 15-score season with Green Bay. Another, as you're well aware by the headline, is the Bills' own Stevie Johnson, picked behind a whopping 30 receivers that April.
Johnson has only really been productive for two of his four professional seasons, and already ranks near the top of his draft class in receptions, yardage and touchdowns. Where exactly does he rank? Find out after the jump.
In terms of receptions, Johnson ranks fifth among his draft classmates, having hauled in 170 passes throughout his career. 158 of those receptions have come in the last two years. He falls behind Bess (260), Jackson (230), Eddie Royal (206) and Pierre Garcon (188) in career receptions. For now.
As far as yardage goes, Johnson is sixth, with 2,189 career receiving yards - 2,077 of which have come in the past two seasons. That ranks him behind Jackson (4,096), Bess (2,669), Nelson (2,531), Garcon (2,519) and Mario Manningham (2,315).
Johnson's 19 career touchdowns - 17 of which have come in 2010 and 2011 - rank him third on the list, where he trails only Jackson and Nelson, who have each recorded 21 touchdowns.
We keep mentioning the last two seasons because, again, Johnson wasn't a significant part of Buffalo's offense until last season, when Chan Gailey arrived as the new head coach. Let's stack Johnson's numbers up versus the six names mentioned above (Bess, Jackson, Royal, Garcon, Nelson and Manningham) to see how each has performed in the last two years:
|Stevie Johnson, BUF||7||224||158||2077||13.1||17|
|DeSean Jackson, PHI||2||49||98||2017||20.6||10|
|Jordy Nelson, GB||2||36||113||1845||16.3||17|
|Pierre Garcon, IND||6||205||137||1731||12.6||12|
|Mario Manningham, NYG||3||95||99||1467||14.8||13|
|Davone Bess, MIA||UDFA||130||1357||10.4||8|
|Eddie Royal, DEN||2||42||78||782||10.0||4|
There you have it: Johnson is tops in receptions, yards and touchdowns (despite one heck of a surge from Nelson in that department) amongst the 2008 NFL Draft receiver class over the past two seasons. Between Johnson, Nelson and Jackson, the poor draft class has been able to salvage a trio of really good receivers; add in Garcon and Manningham, not to mention a large contingent of productive depth options that we won't name here, and the class isn't all that bad at all.
Thankfully, Buffalo emerged with Johnson, and has allowed Bills fans to forget about 2008 second-round pick James Hardy, who has 10 receptions for 96 yards on his career.