Marques Colston was a seventh-round draft pick of the New Orleans Saints in 2006. That was 449 catches ago, not counting the seven he had in a Super Bowl victory.
Stevie Johnson was a seventh-round pick of the Buffalo Bills in 2008. Over the last two seasons, he had 158 receptions, 17 for touchdowns.
But there are a lot more like Aundrae Allison and Arman Shields and Ryne Robinson.
Who? Exactly. They were wide receivers taken in the fourth and fifth rounds of recent drafts who have never left much of a footprint on an NFL field.
Iowa’s Marvin McNutt isn’t on certain footing himself when it comes to being on an NFL active roster come September. Who inside our borders would have suggested such a thing before this weekend?
McNutt, widely acknowledged as the top receiver in Hawkeyes history, was a forgotten face in the crowd to NFL teams. He finally — finally! — was taken by the Philadelphia Eagles in the sixth round, the 194th player picked.
If there was anything good for McNutt about his so-called slide down the draft chart, it’s that he went to a team that had yet to draft a receiver. Which is saying something, since he was the 26th wideout selected.
It become apparent this weekend that McNutt wasn’t held in quite the same regard outside Iowa and the Big Ten that he was inside it. The million-dollar question (or $465,000, given what 2011 sixth-rounders were paid) is why.
Was it because McNutt presented little perceivable special-teams value? Did NFL executives and scouts see too many drops over his last three seasons of games, and during Senior Bowl week in January?
Were they wary of the way he was blanketed in his final two Iowa games, by Nebraska (Alfonzo Dennard) and Oklahoma (Jamell Fleming, the Insight Bowl’s Defensive Player of the Game)? He had eight 100-yard games in 2011, but totaled just 75 yards against the Huskers and Sooners.
But how much of that was on McNutt and how much was on Iowa’s offense?
Here’s what NFL.com said:
McNutt can struggle when running routes across the middle. There are consistency and effort issues when blocking and running decoy routes that aren’t intended to him, and he can struggle off the line if he isn’t decisive and powerful with his first step.
The site listed plenty of strengths, too. If you saw McNutt play, you already know them. The guy was simply a wonderful college wide receiver.
But the NFL isn’t college ball. And NFL people do actually know a lot of things about players that untrained eyes like mine and (I assume) yours don’t.
Iowa is a beloved program of NFL execs. Except when it comes to the Hawkeyes’ passing game. None of the three Hawkeye wide receivers drafted in Kirk Ferentz’s 13 years as coach went higher than the sixth round, and the only quarterback to get picked in that time was Ricky Stanzi last year in Round 5.
When new Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis recently spoke of a need for speed among receivers, that was fresh eyes seeing an old story here.
Now, NFL people certainly aren’t always right in April. See Colston and Johnson, and many others late-round picks who blossomed at other positions.
But if I heard this right Saturday during NFL Network’s draft coverage, only 9 percent of sixth- and seventh-rounders become starters in their careers.
In 2010, five receivers were taken over Rounds 5 and 6. One is Riley Cooper, a player McNutt will battle in Philly for playing time behind solid starters DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. Cooper has 23 receptions over his two seasons as a backup.
Another is 2010 sixth-rounder was Dezmon Briscoe, who had 35 receptions and six TDs for Tampa Bay last season. But the other three have a combined three NFL catches.
Poker calls it a chip and a chair. If you have a seat at the table, you have a chance to succeed. McNutt has a seat at the table.
He may not want to purchase any real estate just yet. But those of us who watched McNutt for the last three years won’t believe he can’t contribute to an NFL team until we see otherwise.
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