ESPN's Todd McShay posted a top five mock draft as we enter 2009. Some people might be surprised by whom McShay has Seattle taking with the fourth pick - Aaron Curry (LB, Wake Forest). He briefly mentions that Seahawks fans would 'second guess' passing on Crabtree but lists the 'risk' involved taking a receiver this early. He goes on to add that if the 'Hawks lose Leroy Hill in free agency, linebacker becomes more of a need. For reaction to McShay's mock, click HERE.
I don't disagree with McShay that Curry will be an accomplished talent and I fully expect him to enter the NFL and have a similar impact to Jerod Mayo and Patrick Willis (the previous two defensive rookies of the year). In fact linebackers have won the last six awards in that category.
However, looking at previous drafts I see no real reason to discount selecting Crabtree (or any other receiver for that matter) based on history alone. For example, in 2003 the Detroit Lions (led by Matt Millen) selected receiver Charles Rogers second overall. He proved to be a huge bust. Just one pick later though, the Texans took Andre Johnson - currently one of the few elite receivers in the NFL.
In 2004, two receivers were taken in the top 10. Larry Fitzgerald was picked up by the Cardinals third overall and Roy Williams was taken by the Lions with the 7th pick. Fitzgerald has gone on to become a central figure in the Cardinals offense and Williams has had enough success to provoke the Dallas Cowboys to part with their 1st and 3rd round picks in 2009.
A year later, Braylon Edwards was selected third overall by the Browns and although he hit a proverbial rock this year has proven his ability in the past. No receivers were taken with the top picks in 2006 or 2008, but Calvin Johnson (2nd overall, 2007) has been a shining beacon in an otherwise gloomy port for the Detroit Lions in their 0-16 campaign.
The top five receivers in the NFL this year were: Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Smith, Roddy White, Calvin Johnson. Of that list, only Smith wasn't a first round pick.
Although there have been some 'busts' at the position there is also evidence to suggest the most talented receivers are often found in the earlier picks. Crabtree, Maclin and friends must be judged purely on talent and not on the concept that receiver is a risky pick. Lest we forget that a linebacker taken with the 6th overall pick last year, Vernon Gholston, has to date failed to have an impact on the NFL.