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Where Mike Shanahan Finds Wide Receivers

Posted by Matt Terl on April 13, 2011 – 12:25 pm

Comcast SportsNet’s Rich Tandler has written a couple of pieces lately (or maybe it’s one article and a director’s commentary on that article) detailing just how bad Mike Shanahan is at drafting wide receivers. Here’s a solid summary, from Tandler’s RealRedskins.com piece:

Simply put, Shanahan’s record when it comes to drafting receivers has been less than stellar. In 15 drafts (14 with Denver and one with the Redskins) he has selected 16 of them. Only one, 2006 fourth-round pick Brandon Marshall, has proven to be a pick productive enough to justify the draft position. And even Marshall, who had three straight 100-catch seasons and four straight 1000-yard seasons, carries the baggage of being a high-maintenance player.

Only one successful selection at wide receiver in sixteen attempts? This all sounds terribly damning. I mean, if things were that dire, if Mike Shanahan is that bad at selecting wide receivers … who was catching the ball during his entire Denver tenure? Jake Plummer and Jay Cutler both had 4,000 yard seasons with Shanahan. John Elway and Brian Griese both had multiple 3,000 yard seasons with the coach. So it stands to reason that there must have been SOMEONE to catch the ball.

The number one receiver during Shanahan’s time with the Broncos was Rod Smith. In twelve seasons, he caught 849 passes for 11,389 yards and 68 touchdowns. Number two on the list is Ed McCaffrey, who — in nine seasons — added another 462 catches for 6,200 yards and 46 touchdowns. Number three isn’t a wide receiver at all: it’s tight end Shannon Sharpe, who — in seven seasons (with a two-year break to go win a Super Bowl in Baltimore) — racked up 425 catches for 5,373 yards and 38 touchdowns.

(Ashley Lelie, whom Tandler deems a “good pick” who “played fairly well in four seasons” comes in fourth, the first of Shanahan’s drafted wide receivers on the list, with 168 catches for 3,007 yards and 12 touchdowns. Tandler’s main knock on Lelie is that the Broncos only got four years out of him before trading him away, and, Tandler says, “you would like to get more than four seasons out of the 19th overall pick in the draft.” The picks received in trade combined with his numbers over four years are enough to edge Lelie into “good pick” territory for Tandler. I don’t need quite so much convincing, because the question here concerns Shanahan’s ability to identify receiving talent, and it certainly seems like Lelie fit his scheme well enough. His first three years are actually comparable to Roddy White’s first three seasons — and Shanahan also knew when to cut bait on the guy and ship him out of town.)

But it’s those first three guys that concern us. If Shanahan’s so terrible at drafting wide receivers, how’d those three guys come to town? Read more »

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