NFL

Deebo stays put but NFL teams continue to pay premium as wide receiver boom continues

By Sports Desk April 29, 2022

Perhaps the biggest storyline entering the 2022 NFL Draft did not concern a prospect, but one of the premier wide receivers in the NFL. Deebo Samuel of the San Francisco 49ers was not traded during Thursday's first round but, if there were any doubts that wideout is now a premium position, they were extinguished emphatically in Las Vegas.

Six wide receivers came off the board in the first 18 picks amid a flurry of trades, including two involving established receivers who at least have one 1,000-yard season in their first three years in the NFL.

There was mild surprise when the Atlanta Falcons made USC's Drake London the first receiver picked with the eighth overall selection, but significantly more eyebrow-raising moves were to follow.

The New Orleans Saints jumped from 16 to 11 to pick Ohio State's Chris Olave one pick after his former college team-mate Garrett Wilson was taken by the Jets with a 10th pick that was reportedly offered to the Niners as part of a package for Samuel.

It was the Detroit Lions who made the most ambitious receiver trade of the night, jumping 20 spots up the board from 32 to 12 in a deal with the Minnesota Vikings to make Jameson Williams their second selection of the first round despite doubts over when he will be ready to play after tearing his ACL in the final game of his college career.

Williams' appeal is obvious, the former Alabama star a dynamic speedster who registered a burn, which is when a receiver wins his matchup with a defender on a play where he is targeted, on 74.6 per cent of his targets in 2021.

He led all receivers in burn yards per target, his average of 19.34 nearly five full yards better than that of his nearest challenger, Cincinnati's Alec Pierce (14.74), and was also the cream of the crop in burn yards per route (4.9).

But it is the scale of the move up the board that is illustrative of just how determined NFL teams have become to add big-play receivers to their offensive arsenal, and the message was further hammered home as, after the Washington Commanders used the 16th pick on another wideout in Jahan Dotson, the Philadelphia Eagles made the defining move of the first round with their trade with the Tennessee Titans, sending the 18th pick and a third-rounder to acquire A.J. Brown.

Brown, a Pro Bowler in 2020 before injuries disrupted his 2021 campaign, was promptly reported as having received a four-year extension with Philadelphia worth up to $100million, with $47m guaranteed, the $25million average annual value of that deal reportedly what Samuel was looking to be paid before he requested a trade from San Francisco.

The choice for teams wanting to keep a playmaking receiver on the roster seems to be clear. Pay over $20m a year for one or spend a premium pick on a rookie. The Titans, in trading Brown and then selecting a rookie with a comparable playing style in Treylon Burks out of Arkansas, elected to do the latter.

"We got to a spot where it was going to be hard to get a deal done," Titans general manager Jon Robinson said of Brown after the first round.

The Ravens ran into difficulty with his namesake Marquise Brown, who was said to have requested a trade after the season and was also dealt on draft night to the Arizona Cardinals in exchange for the 23rd overall pick.

While the Titans caved in and parted with Brown, the Niners remained steadfast in refusing to trade Samuel, even with a top-10 pick seemingly on the table, their resoluteness in itself reflecting the massive value of a player who was the heart and soul of the San Francisco offense as the 49ers made the NFC Championship Game last season.

Also running the ball out of the backfield consistently in a dual role, Samuel labelling himself a 'wide back', the 2019 second-round pick is a unique case. Yet the message that was definitively reiterated through the Niners refusal to part ways with him and the hive of activity surrounding receivers in the first round is clear, receivers who can make field-flipping momentum-changing plays are firmly among the most valued assets in the NFL.

Of the top 10 receivers with the most receptions of 20 yards or more in 2021, only two – Justin Jefferson and Tyler Lockett – did not feature on playoff teams. Four – Cooper Kupp (30), Samuel (23), Ja'Marr Chase (22) and Tee Higgins (17) – played on Conference Championship Sunday, as did the 11th-placed wideout in the category, Samuel's Niners team-mate Brandon Aiyuk (16).

Quarterback is king in the NFL, and tackle, edge rusher and offensive tackle have long since been viewed as next on the hierarchy as 'premium positions'. The 2021 season encapsulated the value of explosive wideouts and, with that campaign followed by an offseason in which Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill were both traded and received mega-deals and Thursday's first-round chaos brought on by the high demand for receivers, there can be little room for argument the position now carries the same importance as those other non-quarterback spots that have traditionally had the highest billing.

Related items

  • Morgan created white-ball dynasty with England but right time to retire – Atherton Morgan created white-ball dynasty with England but right time to retire – Atherton

    England limited-overs captain Eoin Morgan has created a "white-ball dynasty" but has chosen the right time to retire from international cricket.

    That is the message from former England captain Michael Atherton, who was speaking after news circulated that Morgan is expected to announce his retirement on Tuesday.

    Morgan has endured a tough spell with the bat in recent times, managing to pass 50 just once in his past eight ODI innings and failing to score in his last two outings against the Netherlands.

    England have still won eight consecutive ODIs, their longest such winning streak since a sequence of the same length in 2017, but Morgan promised to step down when he was no longer contributing as a batter.

    Vice-captain Jos Buttler appears poised to take the captaincy from Morgan, who has rejuvenated the white-ball fortunes of England since being appointed as skipper in 2014.

    England won the Cricket World Cup in the 50-over format with a dramatic victory over New Zealand at Lord's in 2019, three years after reaching the World Twenty20 final.

    Morgan's side also reached the T20 World Cup semi-finals in 2021, and Atherton believes the 35-year-old is making the right choice to step down with his legacy still intact.

    "He created a one-day dynasty. Having taken over at a low point – the 2015 World Cup, which went badly – he decided it was time to change England's approach," Atherton told Sky Sports.

    "For seven years, England have been as good at white-ball cricket as anybody. And that's the first time really you can say that about our one-day side.

    "He will go down as one of England's most significant captains, but I think he has picked exactly the right time to go.

    "He said the other day, 'I'm feeling old', and he told Middlesex he couldn't play two T20 games in succession. If you can't do that, how are you then going to captain in a World Cup when they come thick and fast?"

    Morgan is set to retire as the all-time leading run-scorer for England in ODI and T20I cricket, with 6,957 and 2,458 runs respectively.

    Having also played 23 ODIs for Ireland, his 225 ODIs and 115 T20s are England records for appearances, and Nasser Hussain says Matthew Mott's side will lose their greatest ever leader and a brilliant batter.

    "I had an interview with Rob Key when Rob Key got the job, and I asked him about Eoin Morgan and the white-ball side," former England captain Hussain added.

    "He said that one thing about Eoin Morgan is that he will always do what is best for the team. If he's not contributing to the team and if he feels him being out of the team is better for that team, then he will go. That will be the decision that Morgan is making.

    "He has been short of form, short of fitness and there are other people now – there are so many white-ball batters who could be playing. 

    "It's not the 10 players he is taking on the field with him, it's in the one he's leaving behind because he's in that spot, and Morgan will always think of that one.

    "One thing for certain is that he has been our greatest ever white-ball captain. He's a World Cup-winning captain, and he is a superb player.

    "He was the one that was reverse-sweeping, reverse-scooping and playing all of these funky shots. He was way ahead of his time both as a player and as a captain."

  • Scudetto must be a starting point for Milan, says Pioli Scudetto must be a starting point for Milan, says Pioli

    Stefano Pioli insists the Scudetto triumph must be a "starting point" for Milan after the Rossoneri lifted their first Serie A title in 11 years.

    Pioli's side dethroned city rivals Inter by beating Sassuolo on the final day of the 2021-22 campaign, securing their first trophy since lifting the Italian Super Cup in 2016.

    The Rossoneri won their final five matches and went 15 without defeat, with their final tally of 88 points their second best in the three-points-per-win era.

    Inter will be hungry to reclaim the Serie A title in the 2022-23 campaign, with Simone Inzaghi looking set to bring in Romelu Lukaku on loan and Paulo Dybala on a free transfer.

    Pioli, speaking after receiving honorary citizenship at Noceto on Monday, expressed his delight over Milan's success but acknowledged the champions will face stern competition in defending their title.

    "I am very happy and proud to be here this morning. I am very attached to this city, I know the place well," Pioli said, as quoted by TuttoMercatoWeb. 

    "The compliments make me happy, they are deserved for a club, a team, which has always believed and has always given our best.

    "We have been able to hold on in difficult moments and that has produced great satisfaction.

    "We know we have done something special, but it must be a starting point. We know the difficulties given the competitiveness that will be in Italy and in Europe.

    "The guys have great enthusiasm and a lot of passion, every day they try to improve to be a team that knows how to accept defeats but which also knows how to enhance the strengths of their team-mates."

  • England white-ball captain Morgan set to retire from international cricket England white-ball captain Morgan set to retire from international cricket

    England white-ball captain Eoin Morgan is set to retire from international cricket.

    Morgan is expected to announce his retirement during a press conference at Lord's on Tuesday, with vice-captain Jos Buttler poised to replace him.

    The 35-year-old batter has transformed the white-ball fortunes of England since his appointment in 2014, leading his side to World Cup glory with a dramatic win over New Zealand at Lord's in 2019.

    Morgan also guided England to the T20 World Cup final in 2016, before reaching the semi-finals of the same competition five years later.

    While England have become a huge force in limited-overs cricket during Morgan's tenure, the left-hander has struggled with the bat in recent times.

    England completed an ODI series sweep over Netherlands last week – extending their winning run to eight matches in the 50-over format – but Morgan failed to score in two matches before missing the final clash due to injury.

    The Dublin-born Morgan has passed 50 just once in his past eight ODI innings since scoring 106 against Ireland in February 2020, and had vowed to step down when he felt he could no longer contribute.

    England face India in a three-match T20I series starting on July 7 and are set to do so without their all-time leading run scorer in T20I and ODI cricket.

    Morgan has scored 7,701 ODI runs and 2,458 runs in the shortest format at international level. His 248 ODIs and 115 T20s are also England records for appearances.

    A brilliant leader and destructive batter, Morgan made his international debut for Ireland back in 2006 before committing to play for England. He played 16 Tests between 2010 and 2012.

    Matthew Mott will expect England to continue playing the aggressive brand of cricket that Morgan instilled as his side go in search of T20 World Cup glory in Australia later this year.

    They will then head to India next year attempting to defend their world title in the 50-over format.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.