What Matters Most for Wide Receivers
There’s no doubt that you want your receivers to be as fast as possible. Even if the benefit is minimal, it never hurts to have more speed. When we look at the game’s most productive receivers, some, like Calvin Johnson, have blazing speed, while others, like Dez Bryant, do not. But one trait that almost all of the NFL’s elite wideouts have in common is size.
As much as it’s popular to say that speedsters can “take the top off of a defense,” it’s the tall, bulky receivers who are moving the chains and putting the ball into the end zone. Take a look at the top 10 receivers in yards for 2012. The average height and weight is over 6-2 and 218 pounds. Nine out of the 10 players, a list that includes Johnson, Bryant, A.J. Green, Demaryius Thomas, Brandon Marshall and Vincent Jackson, are at least 6-0. Amazingly, six of the 10 are at least 6-3. Only two, Reggie Wayne and Wes Welker, weigh in below 200 pounds.
If you want to put the ball in the end zone, the need for a big, physical receiver is even greater. The average height and weight for the league’s top scorers is still 6-2, 217 pounds, but every single one of them is over 6-0, and eight out of the 10 are at least 6-2.
Need more evidence? Since 2008, there have been 29 instances of a wide receiver posting 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns in a single season. Only one of those, Greg Jennings in 2010, came from someone who stands shorter than 6-0.
Further, if we break down the NFL success of wide receivers based on their 40-yard dash times, you can see that speed just isn’t as important as it is for running backs.
While the fastest running backs, those who ran in the top 33 percent of their class, have found way more success than even moderately-fast running backs, the fastest wide receivers have been only modestly more productive than slower receivers. Again, it isn’t that speed doesn’t matter for receivers, but rather that they can get away with average speed, as Bryant has, with great size.