When talking about the best wide receivers in the NFL today, there is no question that Tyreek Hill belongs in the conversation. Since entering the league in 2016, Hill has not only been a threat in the receiving game but also has been a solid kick returner during his time in Kansas City. Hill started his college football career at […]
When talking about the best wide receivers in the NFL today, there is no question that Tyreek Hill belongs in the conversation. Since entering the league in 2016, Hill has not only been a threat in the receiving game but also has been a solid kick returner during his time in Kansas City.
Hill started his college football career at Garden City Community College, where he was a hybrid running back/wide receiver while also being a member of the track team. He transferred to Oklahoma State University, where he had a total of 1,811 all-purpose yards and six touchdowns. A domestic violence arrest occurred in 2014 which ultimately led to his dismissal from the team. Hill got another chance to continue his football career, as he enrolled at the University of West Alabama, where again he was used as a hybrid offensive player.
Going into the 2016 NFL Draft, Hill was projected to go undrafted, mainly due to his domestic violence arrest. Scouts were impressed with his speed and route-running but many teams did not even have him on their draft boards, which was understandable at the time. The Kansas City Chiefs took the gamble and selected Hill in the fifth round (165th overall). Since being drafted, Hill has been named to the Pro Bowl all four years he has been in the league while earning two First-team All-Pro nods (2016 and 2018).
With 4,115 career receiving yards, 500 career rushing yards, and 1,393 career return yards to go along with 41 total touchdowns, there are no questions that Hill is one of the best offensive players in the NFL. That being said, 17 wide receivers were selected before Hill. Who was drafted before him? Take a look.
- Drafted: 15th (1st Round)
- Team: Cleveland Browns
- Career Stats: 61 receptions, 789 yards, five touchdowns, 27 games (19 starts)
Coleman was the first WR selected in the 2016 Draft. He earned the Fred Biletnikoff Award (NCAA’s best wide receiver) after posting a 74 reception, 1,363 yard, and 20 TD season in 2015. The Cleveland Browns drafted Coleman in hopes to help revive the team. He has his moments in his first two seasons but injuries hurt his chances to be something great, only catching 56 balls for 718 yards and five touchdowns in two seasons. He demanded a trade, which is famously filmed when the Browns were on Hard Knocks, and was traded to the Buffalo Bills but was cut a month later by the team. He has a quick stop with the New England Patriots but signing with the New York Giants. He has some success as the team’s primary kick returner where he had 617 return yards in eight games. He looked to be the team’s starter in 2019 but an ACL on the first day of training camp ended his hopes.
Regardless if he re-joins the Giants in 2020, we all can agree that this is another case of countless draft busts by the Browns. In a re-draft scenario, no question that the Browns would have benefitted a lot more if they drafted Hill.
Spoiler alert. This is not the last time we will see the Cleveland Browns on this list.
Will Fuller V
- Drafted: 21st (1st Round)
- Team: Houston Texans
- Career Stats: 156 receptions, 2,231 yards, 16 touchdowns, 42 games (41 starts)
Fuller was a speed receiver that posted back to back 1,000 seasons at Notre Dame. The Texans selected him in the first round in hopes to form a dynamic duo with DeAndre Hopkins. He had a productive rookie season with 635 yards and two touchdowns. While on the field, he has been a solid option to throw to but the problem is that he has yet to stay on the field for a full 16 games.
In his last three seasons, Fuller has missed seven games in 2017, nine games in 2018, and eight games this past season. The talent is no doubt there but injuries have taken a toll on his full potential. Imagine Houston took Tyreek Hill here. Deshaun Watson would have had a lot of fun to throw to him and the previously mentioned Hopkins.
- Drafted: 22nd (1st Round)
- Team: Washington Redskins
- Career Stats: 81 receptions, 1,100 yards, eight touchdowns, 34 games (26 starts)
Doctson was a solid receiver at TCU, where he posted back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons. The Redskins selected him with the 22nd pick in hopes to be the star receiver the team has desperately needed. Sadly, it never panned out as he never had over 600 receiving yards during his three year run in the Nations Capital. After getting cut before the 2019 season, he signed with the Minnesota Vikings but was released after being on the team for only seven snaps. No doubt Washington would have benefitted from having Hill on the roster
- Drafted: 23rd (1st Round)
- Team: Minnesota Vikings
- Career Stats: 65 receptions, 701 yards, two touchdowns, 53 games (16 starts)
Treadwell had a successful tenure at Ole Miss, which included a 1,153 yard and 11 touchdown junior season. As a speedster WR, Minnesota drafted him to form a nice receiving core with Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. In his rookie season, he only had one catch for 15 yards. He was a non-factor the following two seasons as well, only recording 200 and 301 yards in 2017 and 2018 respectively, while also catching one touchdown pass. He was cut before the 2019 season but was signed make when injuries to the position group took place. This past season, he only caught nine passes for 184 yards and one touchdown.
Looking back now, this looks to be a draft bust and there is no question that Tyreek Hill would have been the better option here.
- Drafted: 40th (2nd Round)
- Team: New York Giants
- Career Stats: 247 receptions, 2,862 yards, 17 touchdowns, 53 games (52 starts)
Shepard was a beast at the University of Oklahoma where he had 3,482 yards and 26 touchdowns during his four years in a Sooner uniform. When the Giants drafted him, there were talks that he and Odell Beckham Jr. would be one of the best receiving duos in the NFL. While he has yet to record a 1,000-yard season (his career-best is 872 in 2018), Shepard has been a solid consistent receiver during his four years in the Big Apple. He signed a four-year contract extension last offseason, showing that he is apart of this team for the long haul. Injuries took a toll for him in 2019, playing only 10 games but looks to bounce back at the number one option.
If given the chance, the Giants may have benefitted from selecting Hill over Shepard. Imagine if Hill and Beckham were on the field together?
- Drafted: 47th (2nd Round)
- Team: New Orleans Saints
- Career Stats: 470 receptions, 5,512 yards, 32 touchdowns, 63 games (57 starts)
In my opinion, Michael Thomas is the best wide receiver in the NFL. Since coming into the league, Thomas has posted four straight 1,000 yard seasons, including a career-high 1,725 yards in 2019. Thomas is also a reception machine, with his 149 receptions in 2019 being an NFL record.
Simply put, Thomas is a beast and this is the only case on the list where the Saints are more than happy with their selection. I could have done just the receivers taken before Thomas but what is the fun in making a short list?
- Drafted: 55th (2nd Round)
- Team: Cincinnati Bengals
- Career Stats: 242 receptions, 2,902 yards, 15 touchdowns, 56 games (32 starts)
It took him a bit but Boyd is starting to become a solid receiver in the NFL. He was buried low on the depth chart for his first two seasons but posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2018 (1,028) and 2019 (1,046). He recently signed a four-year extension in Cincinnati, so he looks to be a part of the core for the Bengals for the foreseeable future.
While he has had some recent success, you have to think that Hill would have been the better selection, especially with A.J. Green lining up on the opposite side.
- Drafted: 85th (3rd Round)
- Team: Houston Texans
- Career Stats: 34 receptions, 261 yards, two touchdowns, 21 games (nine starts)
Miller was an absolute beast at Ohio State when he was the starting QB. A shoulder injury during his junior season changed his football career as he switched to a WR with the likes of J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones performing well under center. While he did not post eye-popping numbers at the receiver position (26 receptions for 341 yards and three touchdowns), the Texans drafted in the third round to see if they can unlock his full potential.
Sadly, that was not the case as he only had 261 career yards to go along with two touchdowns in two seasons. Being buried on the depth chart and injuries ultimately led to his release in before the 2018 season. Since then, he has bounced on the Philadelphia Eagles, Cleveland Browns, and Carolina Panthers practice squads but never saw the field. A case here where the gamble did not work for Houston. The Texans had two chances to take Hill and wit Fuller and Miller not planning out, you have to think they dropped the ball on that one.
- Drafted: 86th (3rd Round)
- Team: Miami Dolphins
- Career Stats: 12 receptions, 192 yards, two touchdowns, 37 games (two starts)
Carroo was a solid receiver at Rutgers, where he had 122 receptions for 2,373 yards and 29 touchdowns. Off the field concerns had him slipped to the third round and was looked at to be a solid receiver for Miami. At the time, Carroo was behind the likes of Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills, and DeVante Parker. While he saw the field at times, he failed to log in many receptions. He ultimately was released before the 2018 season and has yet to sign with another team since.
Another case where the team would have benefitted from having Hill. Imagine at the time if Hill, Stills, Landry, and Parker was the receiving core in South Beach?
- Drafted: 107th (4th Round)
- Team: Baltimore Ravens
- Career Stats: 47 receptions, 511 yards, four touchdowns, 58 games (five starts)
This one in particular hurts as a Ravens fan. Moore was the first receiver taken in the fourth round by the Baltimore Ravens. While Moore has been with the team during his four-year rookie contract, he never had more than 300 receiving yards in a season. Instead, he has been used more of a Special Teams player.
Every offseason, fans have been waiting for Moore to take the next step and it has yet to be the case. The team will likely move on from him but you can’t help but think about how Tyreek Hill would have done in this Ravens offense.
- Drafted: 112th (4th Round)
- Team: New England Patriots
- Career Stats: 32 receptions, 401 yards, four touchdowns, 14 games (six starts)
After a four-year career at Georgia, where he recorded 174 receptions for 2,350 yards and 16 touchdowns, New England drafted Mitchell in hopes to be another day three steal in the NFL Draft. He earned the starting wide receiver job alongside Julian Edelman and actually had a productive rookie season, where he helped the team win Super Bowl 51 (he had six receptions for 70 yards, with some of those catches coming in the fourth quarter during the team’s comeback). The future looked bright for Mitchell but unfortunately, a knee injury had him miss the entire 2017 season. The chronic knee issues ultimately led to his retirement from the NFL.
Mitchell looked to have a bright future in New England and sometimes, injuries are a part of the game. It is hard to say if he would have had a better career than Hill but for now, New England would have benefitted more with a healthy Tyreek Hill.
- Drafted: 116th (4th Round)
- Team: Cleveland Browns
- Career Stats: 45 receptions, 562 yards, 32 games (12 starts)
Cleveland drafted another wide receiver in the 2016 NFL Draft (and it would not be their last). Louis was an on and off starter at Auburn and looked to be a productive receiver for Cleveland. Sadly, that was not the case as injuries hurt his chances to be productive on the field. Louis missed the entire 2018 season with a neck injury and was waived after the season. He joined the Miami Dolphins in 2019 but missed the season once again with an injury. That’s 2/2 so far on Cleveland missing out on Hill.
- Drafted: 117th (4th Round)
- Team: Los Angeles Rams
- Career Stats: 50 receptions, 433 yards, one touchdown, 46 games (five starts)
Cooper was technically drafted as a kick returner but his main position on the roster is wide receiver, so he counts here. Cooper did a little bit of everything at South Carolina, from returning kicks, running, receiving, and even throwing a couple of passes. The LA Rams drafted him in hopes to be a swiss-army knife player.
He actually had hopes of being a solid player for the team, having 932 kick return yards with one touchdown to go along with 399 punt return yards in 2017, which was good enough for him to earn a 2017 Pro Bowl nod and All-Pro First-team selection. Injuries in 2018 led to his release but has turned things around with the Arizona Cardinals in 2019. No doubt Hill would have been the better selection here, especially since Hill has also been a solid kick returner in his own right.
- Drafted: 126th (4th Round)
- Team: Kansas City Chiefs
- Career Stats: 127 receptions, 949 yards, eight touchdowns, 64 games (23 starts)
The Kansas City Chiefs actually had a chance to draft Hill a round prior to where he was selected, but they selected the Florida Gator in Robinson instead. Robinson played on special teams in his rookie season but turned into a solid role receiver for the team up until this point.
Still on the roster today, Robinson has helped the team reach Super Bowl 54 but since being drafted in the same year here, Hill has beaten him out on the depth chart as the number one receiver. A case here where the could have selected Hill here and maybe draft another player in Hill’s spot. However, the Chiefs just might be happy with these selections.
- Drafted: 140th (5th Round)
- Team: Tennessee Titans
- Career Stats: 165 receptions, 1,167 yards, eight touchdowns, 47 games (28 starts)
Sharpe had a great four-year career at UMass, which included back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. Coming from a small school, he did not get a lot of attention. Regardless, the Titans saw something in him to take him in the fifth round. Sharpe had a solid rookie season, where he had 41 receptions for 522 yards and two touchdowns. A foot injury had him miss his entire sophomore season but has played the past two seasons in a limited role.
A solid contributor but the likes of A.J. Brown and Corey Davis have taken over Sharpe on the depth chart. No doubt Hill would have been the better option here.
- Drafted: 154th (6th Round)
- Team: Cleveland Browns
- Career Stats: one reception, three yards, four games
Welp, that’s 3/3 on Cleveland missing their chance in drafting Hill. It’s understandable if you miss it once but THREE TIMES. After a four-year career at UCLA, Cleveland selected Payton in hopes to form a nice young receiving core with the previously mentioned Corey Coleman and Ricardo Louis.
Payton was pretty much a non-factor during his stint in Cleveland, only having one catch for three yards. A suspension towards the end of 2016 ultimately led him to being waived before the 2017 season began and has yet to sign with another team. Three chances, three misses for Cleveland.
Side note here. Cleveland also drafted ANOTHER wide receiver at pick #172 (Rashard Higgins) but he was a few picks after Hill.
- Drafted: 163rd (5th Round)
- Team: Green Bay Packers
- Career Stats: 25 receptions, 205 yards, one touchdown, 43 games (four starts)
The final wide receiver who was taken before Tyreek Hill, three picks before exactly. Davis was drafted by Green Bay and was used primarily as a kick return but occasionally got some snaps at receiver. He split time between the Packers and Oakland Raiders in 2019 before joining the Miami Dolphins towards the tail end of 2019. People say Aaron Rodgers needs legit wide receivers to help him out outside of Davante Adams, maybe Hill would have been the offensive weapons he would have loved.
17 receivers were taken before Tyreek Hill. 14 teams took a wide receiver but outside of New Orleans (Michael Thomas) and Kansas City themselves (DeMarcus Robinson), they are scratching their heads wondering how they miss that one. Cleveland had three chances while Houston had two chances. It really comes to show that sometimes, the best players you draft come during day three of the NFL Draft.