No wide receivers in the draft is not common for the Packers
How about one more article on the recent NFL draft?
In addition to the chatter about how the Green Bay Packers used a first round choice on a QB, the other big news for the team was the fact that they did not select a wide receiver early in the draft… truth is they didn’t select any wide receivers among their 2020 selections.
Most experts had the Packers adding a playmaking receiver in the first couple rounds of the draft. When they didn’t select even one over the three days, a lot of people were surprised.
The last time the Packers did not select a wide receiver in any round of an NFL Draft was in 2012, eight years ago. If we check the team’s drafts from the past 50 years, it was only the ninth time since 1970 that the Pack did not choose a wide receiver in the draft.
Let’s go back to the selection of a wide receiver in the first round, again, an expected move for the Packers this season. In some respects, it should not come as a surprise that they didn’t use their first rounder on a wide receiver. Since 1970, only four times have the Packers chosen a wide receiver in the first round. The last time it happened was in 2002 when Green Bay selected receiver Javon Walker in the first round.
The other first round receivers taken by the Packers in the first round since 1970: Sterling Sharpe, 1988; James Lofton, 1978; and Barry Smith, 1973.
Both Sharpe and Lofton went onto great careers with the Packers. Sharpe had 595 catches with the Packers and ranks second behind Donald Driver’s 743 for most catches by a Green bay wide receiver. Lofton grabbed 530 passes as a Packers and ranks fourth on the wide receiver’s most catches list.
Sharpe, Lofton and Walker are the three Packers wide receivers drafted in the first round that had 150 or more career catches with the team. Of the 19 wide receivers who had 150 or more career catches with the Packers, five were selected in the second round, four were taken in the third round, four were taken in the fourth round or later, and two of the players came to the Packers via a trade or free agency, and one, Don Hutson, who ranks fifth on the list with 488 catches, was with the team before the NFL Draft was ever instituted.
Looking at the 22 NFL wide receivers that have 900 or more career catches, 10 were drafted in the first round, two were chosen in the second round, four were selected in the third round, four were taken in the fourth round, and two of those wide receivers with 900 or more career receptions were undrafted.
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Here’s how the Packers have treated their previous first-round QBs
“With the 26th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers select… Jordan Love, QB, Utah State.”
With those words, spoken from his basement, NFL Commissioner Roger Godell sent a literal wedge into Packer Nation. On one side, there are the Packer faithful who see Love as the heir apparent to Aaron Rodgers and feel the selection of Love in the first round was a sound decision for the future. On the other side, we have Packers fans who thought the selection of a QB who will likely not see the field anytime soon was a waste, especially when you consider the team has needs at other positions.
In today’s NFL, it is not uncommon for teams to use a first round pick on a quarterback, especially if they have a dire need for an upgrade at that position. But for the Packers to choose Love (JLo) when they already have Rodgers (ARod), seemed strange. (Maybe as strange as Alex Rodriguez dating Jennifer Lopez… but I digress.)
Love, who was the fourth QB chosen in the first round of this year’s draft (behind Joe Burrow-Cincinnati, Tua Tagavailoa-Miami and Justin Herbert -L.A. Chargers), is clearly looked upon as Rodgers’ eventual replacement, but that will probably not happen soon. Burrow, Tagavailoa and Herbert will likely be thrust into starting positions in their first seasons with their respective teams while Love will sit. Rodgers has said he wants to keep playing into his 40s, and if he stays healthy, Love will not get introduced as the G.B. starting QB unless Rodgers sustains an injury.
Having said all of this, it should not be surprising that the Packers franchise took this route in the draft. Consider this: Love is the fourth QB the Packers drafted in the first round since 1970. The other three first-rounders, Jerry Tagge, Rich Campbell and Aaron Rodgers, rarely took snaps as the Pack’s starting QB in their first three seasons on the team.
Tagge was a first rounder in 1972, the 11th overall pick. He did not start any games at QB for the Packers his first season; started six games his second season, and had six starts his third season. After that, he was out of football after only three seasons.
Campbell was the Packers first pick in the 1981 draft, the sixth overall selection. He spent four seasons in Green Bay, yet never started a game for the team. In fact, he played in only seven career games in the NFL. Yes, that was the Packers’ first round choice in 1981. Five eventual Hall of Famers were selected after Campbell that year.
Rodgers was the 24th pick in the first round of the 2005 draft. He did not start a game until his fourth season with the Packers. We all know what he has done since then.
There’s a really interesting stat I discovered about first round QBs taken since 1970… there have been 110 QBs taken in the first round since 1970. Did you know that only two QBs of those 110 did not start a game for his team the first three seasons with his team? Well, I gave you the answer above; Rich Campbell and Aaron Rodgers are the only two QBs taken in the first round since 1970 who did not start an NFL game for their team in the first three seasons… both quarterbacks chosen by the Green Bay Packers in the first round.
Will Love see his career go the route of the previous first round QBs taken by the Packers? We’ll see. It would not, however, surprise me if Rodgers stays healthy and Love does not start a game for the Pack in his first three seasons with the team. That would make him the third Packers first round QB to not start a game in his first three years with the team. None of the other NFL franchises has since 1970 has had even one QB fit this category.
Here are the 11 NFL quarterbacks selected in the first round of the NFL Draft since 1970 who started the fewest games in their first three seasons in the league.
0: Rich Campbell, 1981; Aaron Rodgers, 2005
1: Jim Druckenmiller, 1997
2: Dan McGwire, 1991
3: Mark Malone, 1980
4: Paxton Lynch, 2016; Tommy Maddox, 1992, Steve Pisarkiewicz, 1978, Andre Ware, 1990
5: Jack Thompson, 1979
6: Art Schlichter, 1982
In addition to Campbell and Rodgers, there are two first round QBs who did not start a game in their first two seasons. The other two are Chad Pennington and Philip Rivers. Ironically, of the 110 QBs taken in the first round since 1970, Rodgers has started the 12th most career games with 174, and Rivers has started the fifth most career games with 224.
One final note: Of the 110 QBs taken in the first round since 1970, 65 of them started 50% or more of their teams’ games in their first three seasons in the league. Twenty-five of the 110 started 40 or more of the team’s 48 games in those first three campaigns, and five first round QBs started all 48 of their team’s 48 games those first three seasons. The five: Joe Flacco, Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning, Cam Newton and Ryan Tannehill.
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Looking for longevity and durability in the NFL Draft? It will likely come from later round draft choices
The NFL Draft is this coming week and teams are looking to find just the right college players to add to their rosters.
The short-term goal for each NFL team is to have a draft where most if not all these draft choices can make the team and contribute in some way, shape or form. The long-term goal might be to draft a player or two who can become a mainstay for the franchise for years to come and be a player who provides longevity and durability as an NFL player.
You would think that the drafted players who most likely would have long careers in the NFL would be players drafted in the early rounds… those are the best college players, the cream of the crop.
History, however, tells us otherwise. Players drafted in the first round are not always the players who stay in the league a long time and play in triple-digit career games.
To prove my point, I looked at the last several college drafts going back to 2000. I looked at each year’s draft and found which player in that draft played the most career games of those players drafted that year. Here’s an example:
- In the 2000 NFL Draft, defensive end Courtney Brown was the overall number one pick in the draft by the Cleveland Browns. He played a total of 61 games in his NFL career. The player from that draft who played the most career NFL games was punter Shane Lechler who was a fifth round choice (#142 pick overall) of the Oakland Raiders. He played 286 career games in the league.
Before you raise your hand and say, “Sure, kickers drafted are going to last a lot longer in the league than non-kickers,” I’ll admit you’ll have a good point. But that was not the case in every year.
Here are the players from each draft year (2000-2014) who have played in the most career NFL games from their draft class. I have also listed the number of NFL games each number one selection from that year played in his career.
2000: Shane Lechler, punter (5th round, #142 pick), 286 career games
Number One pick: Courtney Brown, 61 career games
2001: Drew Brees, QB (2nd round, #32 pick), 275 career games
Number One pick: Michael Vick, QB, 143 career games
2002: Julius Peppers, defensive end (1st round, #2 pick), 266 career games
Number One pick: David Carr, QB, 94 career games
2003: Jason Whitten, TE (3rd round, #69 pick), 255 career games
Number One pick: Carson Palmer, QB, 182 career games
2004: Larry Fitzgerald, WR (1st round, #3 pick), 250 career games
Number One pick: Eli Manning, QB, 236 career games
2005: Dustin Colquitt, punter (3rd round, #99 pick), 238 career games
Number One pick: Alex Smith, QB, 166 career games
2006: Sam Koch, punter (6th round, #203rd pick), 224 career games
Number One pick: Mario Williams, DE, 158 career games
2007: Mason Crosby, K, (6th round, #193 pick), 208 career games
Number One pick: JaMarcus Russell, QB, 31 career games
2008: Brandon Carr, DB (5th round, #140 pick), 192 career games
Number one pick: Jake Long, tackle, 104 career games
2009: Kevin Huber, punter (5th round, #142 pick)/Thomas Morstead, punter (5th round, #164 pick) each 174 career games
Number one pick: Matthew Stafford, QB, 149 career games
2010: Ndamukong Suh, DT (1st round #2 pick) 158 career games
Number One pick: Sam Bradford, QB, 83 career games
2011: Cameron Jordan, DE (1st round #24 pick), 144 career games
Number One pick: Cam Newton, QB, 125 career games
2012: Mitchell Schwartz, tackle (2nd round #37 pick)/Russell Wilson, QB (3rd round #75 pick)/Demario Davis, LB (3rd round #77 pick) each 128 career games
Number One pick: Andrew Luck, QB, 86 career games
2013: Cordarelle Patterson, WR (1st round #29 pick)/Duron Harmon, DB (3rd round #91 pick) each 111 career games
Number one pick: Eric Fisher, tackle, 102 career games
2014: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, DB (1st round, #21 pick)/Jarvis Landry, WR (2nd round, #63 pick) each 96 career games
Number One pick: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, 75 career games.
If we go to the 2015 draft, there are five players drafted that year who have played in the maximum number of career NFL games since that year, 80. None of those five were drafted in the first round of that ’15 draft.
Even the 2016 draft has a similar result: Nine players drafted in the ’16 draft have played the maximum of 64 career games in their four-year career in the NFL. Of those nine, none were drafted in the first round.
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1,000-yard rushers in the NFL… by age
If you follow the NFL, you probably hear a lot about the need to establish the run game and have a solid defense. It all sounds well and good, but let’s be realistic… today’s game depends more on quarterbacks and receivers than running backs.
NFL runners who reach 1,000 yards for the season are still a well-sought-after milestone in today’s game. In 2019, there were 16 running backs that surpassed the 1,000-yard rushing mark. If we look back over the past 50 years of the NFL (since 1970), there have been 613 times in those 50 years that a running back had a 1,000-yard season.
(Note: pro-football-reference.com lists a player’s age for the season as the age of that player on December 31 of that year.)
But in looking at the age of these 1,000-yard rushers since 1970, there is a very distinct pattern: Most of these players have been in the 24-26 age range. In fact, 269 of the 613 1,000-yard rushers (43%) since that ’70 season (the first year of the AFL-NFL merger) was either 24, 25 or 26 years of age in that milestone season.
Looking at the 16 players who reached 1,000 yards rushing last season, 14 of the 16 were under the age of 26. The breakdown from last year: 30 years old (1), 29 (1), 25 (4), 24 (4), 23 (3), 22 (2) and 21 (1).
Here’s a look at the age of the 613 players who reached 1,000 yards rushing since 1970.
Age # of runners
In case you were wondering, John Riggins is the oldest running back to have a 1,000-yard rushing season. He did it twice, at 34 years of age and at 35. The 33-year-olds were Frank Gore, Franco Harris and Adrian Peterson.
The twelve 21-year-olds on the list are: Josh Jacobs (2019), Saquon Barkley (2018), Ezekiel Elliott (2016), Todd Gurley (2015), Marshawn Lynch (2007), Clinton Portis (2002), Jamal Lewis (2000), Edgerrin James (1999), Rashan Salaam (1995), Marshall Faulk (1994), Jerome Bettis (1993) and Barry Sanders (1989).
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The losing side of the NFL’s top QBs
When you think of Hall of Fame NFL quarterbacks, you usually think of those QBs who won big games, threw a lot of TD passes, or led their teams to championships.
What doesn’t come into play is how many games those HOF signal-callers lost. With that in mind, did you know that there are three QBs in the NFL Hall of Fame who lost more than 100 games in their careers?
Brett Favre tops the list of most losses by a Hall of Fame quarterback with 112. He is followed by Fran Tarkenton (109) and Warren Moon (101). It’s possible, however, that there might be a handful of QBs who might surpass Favre on this list.
First, here’s a look at the QBs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame who lost 80 or more career games.
Recently-retired Eli Manning could replace Favre on the above list. Manning won a pair of Super Bowls and although he probably takes a back seat to older brother Peyton when it comes to NFL careers, Eli has certainly put a career together that deserves HOF consideration. Eli lost 117 games in his 16-year NFL career with the New York Giants. He retired after the 2019 campaign.
There is also a pair of active QBs who could add to their loss totals before they hang up their cleats. Drew Brees looks like he will play another season in New Orleans; he has amassed 111 losses in his career. Philip Rivers has moved on from the Chargers to the play QB for the Indianapolis Colts on a one-year contract. He has 101 career losses.
According to research on pro-football.com, Vinny Testaverde has the top spot with the most losses for a QB with 123. He is one of nine QBs who have lost 100 or more games as a starting QB in the league.
Following are the quarterbacks not in the Hall of Fame who have lost 80 of more NFL games.
Think you can list the five Green Bay Packers quarterbacks who have lost the most games in the team’s history? If you answered Favre (93), Aaron Rodgers (60), Bart Starr (57), Lynn Dickey (56) and Tobin Rote (46), go to the head of the class.
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