At this time of year every NFL fan is dreaming of their favorite team’s Draft picks stepping into the starting lineup and dominating from day one. There are a handful of lucky teams each season that actually see this scenario play out, but rookie star level performance is the exception rather than the rule.
During last weekend’s NFL Draft the Jets were able to land Denzel Mims late in the second round. This pick was widely viewed as exceptional value. Mims has a number one receiver ceiling. Without much competition on the roster, he stands a good chance of starting as a rookie.
This might lead Jets fans to hope for a monster rookie season where Mims establishes himself among the best receivers in the league. Fans will likely need to have more patience than that.
Using the Pro Football Reference Play Index I recently looked at every wide receiver drafted in the last decade who eventually made a Pro Bowl team in their career excluding those who made it for special teams contributions.
Only six of those twenty-six receivers posted 1,000 yards during their rookie season. There were more receivers with zero touchdowns in their first year than with double digit touchdowns.
They averaged 48 receptions, 671 yards, and 5 touchdowns. The medians were 49 receptions, 629 yards, and 5 touchdowns.
This also might be overstating the expectations. The most productive rookie seasons largely came from players drafted in this first round. First round picks are generally more pro ready than players picked later. That’s one of the reasons they get selected in the first round.
Mims, of course, went at the end of the second round.
For players drafted outside the first round the average was 44 receptions, 576 yards, and 4 touchdowns. The medians were 41 receptions, 547 yards, and 3 touchdowns.
Keenan Allen and Michael Thomas were the only receivers from this group to go over the 1,000 yard mark. Juju Smith-Schuster and TY Hilton were the only others to even eclipse 700 yards. Half of the receivers didn’t get get to 500 yards.
(If fairness you could counter that Mims was a first round talent who only fell to the second due to the depth of the receiver position in this Draft. Still the overall numbers tell a similar if slightly more optimistic story.)
Keep all of this in mind as we go through Denzel Mims’ rookie season. There’s nothing wrong with hoping for early dominance, but many receivers require more time to develop. It shouldn’t be viewed as the end of the world if his numbers aren’t spectacular in 2020.