First round receivers bust at a pretty alarming rate. I dug into a ten year sample size to find out if that's just my perception, or reality. 2000-2009 is the sample size, so as to not unfairly grade a draft class within three years.
I used three different categories to separate receivers, each with a non-statistical definition. The first category is “stars,” meaning that the receiver is a primary target for the offense, and the defense has to change from standard coverage schemes to account for the receiver. The second category is “average,” meaning that the receiver is good and contributes, but may not be the primary target, and the defense can play standard coverage packages. The third is “bust,” meaning that the receiver never panned out.In those ten years mentioned above, 43 receivers have been taken in the first round. Of those 43 receivers, there are 12 “stars,” 11 “average,” and 20 "busts." 53% of receivers in the first round over ten years make an impact on their team. But only 28% are elite.
Breaking it down even further, most of the busts are inside the top 16 picks of the first round. Of the 20 busts, 13 have been from picks 1-16. Only 7 busts have come from picks 17-32. The breakdown is pretty even for “average” receivers. Six have come picks 1-16, and five from picks 17-32. 8 of the 12 “star” receivers have come from picks 17-32. Only four “stars” have come from picks 1-16: Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson, and Plaxico Burress.
Suspicion: if a team is drafting inside the top 16 picks, and don't have an opportunity to draft a difference maker, as in the four listed above, the team is well advised to pass and select another player. For fans calling for Buffalo to draft Justin Blackmon (if he falls) or Michael Floyd, the question is: do you see either of those two in the Johnson/Fitzgerald category? If not, Buffalo takes a huge risk in selecting one of them.