Raiders fans say “no duh” when they read the title of this article, but allow me to explain. The Raiders and Packers are built similarly from a philosophical perspective. On offense, their new coach Matt LaFleur has transitioned the Packers to a ball control offense that eschews the modern run-pass ratio, opting for a much more conservative route with one run play to every 1.4 passing attempts.
We all know the Raiders have a ball control offense and Jon Gruden’s propensity to call run plays resulted in the Raiders running the ball once every 1.2 passing attempts. LaFleur, of course, worked under Sean McVay, who got his start under Gruden himself. So, the strategy on offense is quite similar. One of the biggest differences, however, is the presence of a truly dominant wide receiver on the Packers named Davante Adams, who torched the Seahawks defense with 8 catches for 160 yards and a pair of scores.
Before we get into Adams, let’s examine what a true No. 1 wide receiver really is. A true No. 1 receiver needs blazing speed or insane athleticism, right? Sure, speed helps, but if you look at the top 10 wide receivers in football right now, they collectively averaged just over a 4.5 40-yard dash at the combine. Guys like Michael Thomas, DeAndre Hopkins, Keenan Allen, and yes, Davante Adams, don’t have an elite top gear, yet they still are able to put up crazy numbers. Ahletic freaks like Julio Jones (6-foot-3, 4.39 40-yard dash) are awesome, but a team doesn’t necessarily need a player to be a combine superstar to have a No. 1 wideout. The average top 10 wide receiver over the past three seasons looks approximately like this from an athletic testing perspective:
- Height: 6-foot-1
- Weight: 209 pounds
- 40 yard dash: 4.51
- 3 cone: 6.83
- Vertical jump: 36 inches
This paints the picture of a great athlete sure, but by NFL standards these aren’t eye-popping numbers. Indeed each of these numbers falls well within one standard deviation of the average WR testing numbers that have come into the NFL since 1999, per mockdraftable.com. For instance, Tyrell Williams eclipsed all of the above athletic testing numbers except for weight, but was only able to muster 651 receiving yards and 6 TDs in 2019.
The question of what really makes a No. 1 wide receiver then still hasn’t been answered. Time to take your data analysis caps off and grind some tape.
A true No. 1 wideout needs to have volume. Volume receivers aren’t running fades all game, they need to be able to win underneath. The play above shows Adams running the shallowest route in a flood concept to the right side of the field. Adams gives just enough of a hesitation at the beginning of the play to make the CB freeze and play catch-up for the rest of the rep.
A true No. 1 wideout needs to be able to win outside with consistency. This double move exploiting the Seahawks coverage rules is one way to get a 4.50 receiver open deep on the outside. Adams isn’t the fastest guy, but his route running is impeccable. The Packers had a great play call to a great player.
Yards after catch
Yards after catch isn’t always about blinding speed. A player needs great stop-and-start quickness and the vision to take angles that make it tough for defenders to catch them in the open field. The route shown above again is a double move to Adams, but once he catches the ball he’s not done, reversing field and running another 20 yards to pay dirt.
So in summation, a true No. 1 wide receiver is able to handle a high volume of targets, meaning he’ll need to run a variety of routes; short, intermediate, deep, inside and outside. A complete route tree is necessary to be effective from week to week. A true No. 1 also needs to be able to win on the outside with consistency an area where the Raiders struggled in 2019. Lastly, a legitimate No. 1 needs potent run after the catch ability.
No receiver on the current Raiders roster fills each of these categories. Maybe Williams can be more consistent on the outside in 2020 once he fully recovers from his foot injury. But he has never been one to run a complete route tree or display much run after catch ability across his NFL career.
Hunter Renfrow has more wiggle and made some plays after the catch, but his stature is better for a true slot receiver and he’s more effective on the inside rather than trying to win on the outside.
Darren Waller is one of the most dangerous tight ends in the NFL and led the Raiders in receiving last season. The Raiders did try to get him going on the outside, but he was much more effective when targeted across the middle of the field.
True No. 1 wide receivers don’t hit free agency often, and when they become available via trade, it’s usually because of injury or off-field concerns. Instead of the Raiders continuing to bang their head against the wall trading for WRs (Martavis Bryant, Antonio Brown, Trevor Davis, Zay Jones) it’s time the position was addressed in the draft. Who is your favorite do-it-all receiver in the upcoming NFL draft? Answer the poll after the jump.
Which WR in the 2020 NFL draft has the best chance of becoming a true No. 1 WR?
This poll is closed
CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma
Jerry Jeudy, Alabama
Laviska Shenault, Colorado
Tee Higgins, Clemson
Henry Ruggs, Alabama
Tyler Johnson, Minnesota
Other: write in comments below