Do the Redskins need to upgrade at wide receiver?

Do the Redskins need to upgrade at wide receiver?
February 22, 2013, 11:15 am
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I was listening to the radio last weekend and the topic of the Redskins’ team needs for this offseason came up. One of the hosts said that wide receiver must be a need because the Redskins didn’t have any receivers break 650 yards receiving (Pierre Garçon led the team with 633) or 50 catches (Josh Morgan led with 48).

But if you just look at the raw numbers you get a distorted picture of the productivity of the team’s group of receivers. You have to consider the fact that only NFL two teams attempted fewer passes than the 442 the Redskins threw in 2012. The NFL average for attempts was 556, about 25 percent more than the number the Redskins threw.

While there are always dangers in playing “what if” with numbers because things can get distorted, let’s look and see what numbers the Redskins’ wide receivers might have put up if the team had thrown more passes.

Here are the Redskins’ four leading wide receivers’ actual numbers and a simple projection of their stats had the team thrown the NFL average of 556 passes:



Even when you look at the projected numbers, no one receiver stands out (we’ll get to that in a minute). But under this hypothetical set of circumstances the Redskins’ quartet would have been one of the most productive wide receiver corps in the NFL.

Looking at the projections, all four of the Redskins’ receivers would have had at least 600 yards receiving. In 2012, no NFL team had four wide receivers gain over 600 yards. Three teams, the Packers (558 pass attempts), Eagles (618), and Saints (671) had four pass catchers go over 600 yards but in each case one of them was a tight end.

Although the projections are hypotheticals, it is fair to say that the productivity of the Redskins’ wide receivers is distorted due to the fact that the Redskins just didn’t throw much.

But what about the lack of a No. 1 receiver? Even if you project Pierre Garçon’s actual numbers over 16 games (he missed six games with an injured toe), you get 70 catches and barely 1000 yards. Those are not No. 1 receiver numbers.

So should the Redskins try to get a 1? Do they need a 1?

The supply of true No. 1 receivers, players who keep defensive coordinators up late at night, change coverages, and put up big numbers despite getting extra attention from the defense, is pretty low. Anybody’s list is going to include Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald (his poor 2012 numbers can be excused by the fact that his team didn’t have a competent NFL QB), Andre Johnson, Brandon Marshall, A. J. Green, and Julio Jones. Vincent Jackson could be considered to be one, Dez Bryant is on the verge, and Reggie Wayne has been one for most of his career, as has Steve Smith.

So that’s six who are surely 1’s and four more who could be called 1’s. If you want to stretch the definition some more, add Hakeem Nicks, who has No. 1 traits when he’s healthy, and Roddy White, who was a 1 before Jones came into his own and would still be one on many other rosters. Put in a few more of your favorites and you have 15 or so, or enough for about half of the teams in the NFL.

You might note that none of the 1’s played in the Super Bowl. Of the 12 playoff teams only four had a 1. Having a 1 does not lead to success nor is having a 1 necessary for success.

If the sample size here is too small, let’s go back to 2011. Five of the 12 playoff teams had a 1. In 2010 and 2009 it was 2 of 12.

If you can get by without a 1, your capologist will thank you for it. Andre Johnson’s 2013 cap hit is north of $14.6 million, Calvin Johnson consumes $12.2 million of the Lion’s cap, Fitzgerald eats up $10.25 million of the Cardinals’. Others like Green, Nicks, Jones, and Bryant are still on their rookie contracts and will command deals that eat up eight figures annually when they become free agents.

It’s not that the Redskins’ receiver corps can’t be improved. This will probably be Moss’ last year and it is unclear if Aldrick Robinson can replace him in the slot. I’m a little bit higher on Leonard Hankerson than some but he needs to develop consistency in his third season or a replacement will have to be located for him. Morgan needs to step up and he might if the ankle he broke in 2011 is fully healed. In any case, the rest of his contract voids after this season.

But that doesn’t mean that the Redskins have to spend a high draft pick (they don’t have a first) or go out after a high-priced free agent (they are working under an $18 million salary cap penalty).

If a wide receiver is the best player on the board when the Redskins draft, they should take him. If one is available in free agency who fits the offense and is there at an affordable price, sign him.  

If neither of those situations arises, the Redskins will be fine if they stand pat at receiver in 2013. The Redskins won 10 games and the NFC East title with them and Robert Griffin III was among the league leaders in passer rating and yards per pass attempt throwing to this group. It would be a mistake to forego other needs and reach in the draft and spend precious cap dollars to improve a position that is functional.