For the last three years, the NFL Draft has produced a high number of high-quality receiving prospects—we’re in the midst of something of a young receiver renaissance. Players like DeAndre Hopkins, Travis Kelce, Tyler Eifert, Odell Beckham, Allen Robinson, Jarvis Landry, Amari Cooper, and Tyler Lockett have made a huge impact on the NFL in their first few seasons in the league. We may be in the best run of receiving prospects in NFL history.
Some NFL teams are sincerely hoping the 2016 class continues that trend, but that certainly is far from guaranteed. While some years, receiving talent seems to be bursting onto the scene and making incredible plays from the get go, other years find the cabinet somewhat dry. Sometimes, there are no players deemed worthy of being drafted very high. Other years, all the can’t-miss prospects, well…miss, and join the ranks of the NFL’s all-time greatest busts.
Only time will tell how well Corey Coleman, Will Fuller, Josh Doctson, Laquon Treadwell, and the rest of this year’s crop of highly-touted receivers will fare in the harsh world of the NFL. For all we know, they could be another legendary class like the fabled 1996 receiver squad—or they could all wash out of the NFL in a few years.
Here are the 15 draft classes that you don’t want to be compared to when discussing receivers. They’re the worst classes in the common draft era, producing busts left and right, with only a few meager highlights in between. These are the worst of the worst.
Only one receiver was taken in the first round of the 1992 draft—Desmond Howard out of Michigan went to Washington. He did earn a Super Bowl MVP, but that was as a kick returner; he finished his NFL career with just 1,597 receiving yards. That’s it for first-round talent—the league mostly decided to stay far, far away from the receiving class this year. There were some later steals and gems, with both Carl Pickens and especially Jimmy Smith having good careers out of the second round, but this class never managed more than about 10% of a year’s receiving yards. Even the worst classes managed to get enough players on the field early to contribute some raw numbers; 1992 saw only 5,296 receptions from the entire class, the lowest number in history when you adjust for era. 1992 was one of the worst draft classes of all time and nowhere was that felt more keenly than at the receiver position.
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