Shiny Hood Ornaments: Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places

We're about to witness the greatest period of false hope in all of American sports: the annual NFL draft, which begins tonight in Chicago. 

The biggest question we have is this: which teams are going to be foolish enough to put all those false draft-day hopes in a Shiny Hood Ornament wide receiver in the first round, despite the decades of evidence that this is a bad move?

This period of false hope comes two months after the dumbest, most insignificant cattle market in America: the NFL Combine, where pro football hopefuls are poked, prodded then branded a stud or a dud based upon skills that have nothing to do with playing football.

Year after year, decade after decade, we see Combine and Draft-Day studs flop in the NFL. Jamarcus Russell, anyone? And year after year, decade after decade, we see Combine and Draft Day duds go on to Hall of Fame careers. Tom Brady anyone? 

Foolish false draft hopes are never more evident than when it comes to the position of wide receiver – the most overrated and most insignificant position in all of North American sports.

Wide receivers are what we dubbed long ago “shiny good ornaments.” They run fast and look good: all sleek and sexy on the hood of an NFL offense. They make people “ooh” and “ahh” – especially simple-minded NFL talent evaluators.

But they simply do not make the engine of an NFL offense run better. We've offered over the years hundreds of stats, examples and statistical trends to prove that these shiny hood ornaments are overvalued by NFL teams and analysts.

We call it the Shiny Hood Ornament Man Law. It's not just a theory. It's a law of the gridiron universe, no longer to be called into question. The foundation of the Shiny Hood Ornament Man Law is five-fold:

ONE – Wide receivers, for all their eye-catching flash and dash, are little more than shiny ornaments on the hood of an NFL offense. Oh, sure, they're nice to have and they look all bright and sexy. But they don't necessarily make the engine run any better – and they rarely if ever make your team any better.

TWO – You should add a flashy wide receiver only when all the other pieces of a great team are in place: a great driver (the quarterback), some sporty tires that provide plenty of traction (the offensive line and ground game), a powerful motor (the defense) and a great transmission (special teams) that allows you to change gears quickly and effectively.

THREE – Even the greatest receivers of all time can make a big impact only when all those pieces are in place, and even then the impact is largely overstated. The greatest wide receivers touch the ball only 4 to 5 times per game, fewer than 4 percent of all snaps in an NFL game.

It's simple arithmetic, people. Shiny Hood Ornaments simply do not touch the ball enough to make the expected impact. 

What about a speedburner who can "take the top off a defense?" This is fool's gold. The difference in 40 speed between an elite speedburner and your average NFL wide receiver is measured in hundredths of a second; and it's not often that a QB is given 4.32 seconds anyway to seek out a guy streaking downfield. This speed factor is vastly overrated; and assumes that just being fast means you can also catch the ball or even play football. 

FOUR – Quarterbacks make wide receivers; wide receivers do not make quarterbacks. You can have a receiving corps of Rice, Don Hutson, Randy Moss, Homer Jones and the Catawba Claw … they won't make many game-changing plays if the quarterback can't get them the ball. Year after year, decade after decade, teams with great QBs win, regardless of the receivers around them. Teams with elite wide receivers struggle without a great QB to get them the ball. 

FIVE – Drafting wide receivers in the first round is almost always a bad decision; they NEVER provide the anticipated impact. Go look at the list of first-round WRs who made an average team a contender or an average QB a champion. Good luck. You won't find him. 

The Shiny Hood Ornament Man Law is like gravity. It exists. If you jump out a second story window, you'll land with a thud, proving the existence of gravity. If you draft a wide receiver in the first round, he and/or your team with land with a thud, thereby proving the existence of gridiron gravity: the Shiny Hood Ornament Man Law. 

Humans who jump out second-story windows quickly discover that they can't break the laws of nature and don't do it again. NFL teams and talent evaluators never seem to learn their lesson, though.

Many NFL teams and talent evaluators, however, are not interested in facts, history, reality or the power of gridiron gravity. They're interested only in landing prize cattle that look good in tight pants. The Combine is where they go to ogle those prize cattle; the Draft is where they go to round up the herd.

Once again, media, analysts and so-called NFL talent “experts” are drooling on themselves like an elderly nursing home drunk over the prospect of an “impact” wide receiver who poses a “downfield threat” and can “take the top off a defense” – thereby changing the fortunes of a struggling offense and struggling franchise.

Here's the reality, proven by year after year and decade after decade of evidence: wide receiver is the single most overrated position in football, and probably in all of sports. With very few rare historic exceptions – Randy Moss most notably – wide receiver is a low-impact position that will do little or nothing to improve a team's fortunes.

Only dumb teams draft wide receivers in the first round, ignoring all the decades of evidence that these players will offer little to no impact on their fortunes.

Jerry Rice is the greatest wide receiver in history. Yet even he was a low-impact player. He did not make the 49ers a great team. The 49ers made him a great receiver. Rice was fortunate enough to be drafted in 1985 by the defending Super Bowl champion 49ers, who went 18-1 in 1984, scored 475 points, second best in the NFL, and destroyed Dan Marino's record-setting Dolphins 38-16 in the Super Bowl.

The 1984 49ers were probably the greatest team in franchise history. It was this dominant team that drafted Rice.

The 49ers played 10 years with the G-O-A-T Jerry Rice at wide receiver before they matched the 475 points they scored without him in 1984. In fact, only twice in 16 years with the G-O-AT Jerry Rice at wide receiver did the 49ers match the 475 points they scored without him in 1984 (505 in 1994; 479 in 1998).

Sure, the 49ers won three Super Bowls over the next 10 years with Rice at wide receiver (1988, 1989, 1994). But they had already won two Super Bowls in the previous four years without him (1981, 1984). Rice, like every other WR, was a non-impact player, despite his vast skills. 

Why was he a non-impact player? Because even the G-O-A-T Jerry Rice, the all-time leader in every receiving category, touched the ball just 5 times a game. That's it. In a sport with about 140 snaps per game, Rice touched the ball just on just 3.6 percent of all snaps in game. That's it. And he's the best of all time.

It's just common sense that wide receivers have minimal impact.

Teams that draft wide receivers in the first round almost always suffer as a result. They never get the impact expected. And these players, even when they do work out and became legit NFL receivers, do little to nothing to help a team get better.

Last year, five teams were duped into drafting Shiny Hood Ornament wide receivers in the first round:

No. 4 Buffalo Bills – Sammy Watkins, Clemson

No. 7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Mike Evans, Texas A&M

No. 12 New York Giants – Odell Beckham Jr., LSU

No. 20 New Orleans Saints – Brandin Cooks, Oregon State

No. 28 Carolina Panthers – Kevin Benjamin, Florida State

The overall impact was largely non-existent; the overall results largely devastating for these five teams.

2013: average 8-8 record; 21.26 PPG scored; 21.31 PPG allowed

2014: average 6-10 record; 21.75 PPG scored; 23.71 PPG alowed.

These five teams on average improved slightly on offense, but declined noticably on defense. The overall results were a net loss: these teams averaged two fewer wins in 2014 than they did in 2013.

Any real improvement in offense – and only the Giants showed any – was offset by declining fortunes on defnese. Overall, each of these teams were WORSE in 2014 in 2013. Their faith in wide receivers proved false – as we knew it would.

We could look at any draft in any year in an era – and we have – and find similar fates for the sad-sack teams who chased Shiny Hood Ornament wide receivers in the first round.

The most embarrassing recent example came out of Atlanta in 2011, when the Falcons idiotically surrendered five draft picks to move up the board and grab Shiny Hood Ornament wide receiver Julio Jones with the No. 6 overall pick.

It's produced a predictable disaster for the organization.

The misfortune began in that very first 2011 season with Jones on the roster: the Falcons scored 12 fewer points, surrendered 62 more on defense, and tumbled from 13-3 and the NFC No. 1 seed in 2010 to 10-6 and the No. 5 seed in 2011.

The 2011 season for the Falcons ended in playoff disaster: the Atlanta offense was humiliated in a 24-2 loss to the N.Y. Giants in the wildcard round. Atlanta's only points came via safe generated by the defense. The offense, even with its once-in-a-lifetime, break-the-bank-talent at wide receiver, failed to score a single point.

Talk about no impact. That's it, right there. 

Atlanta has never really recovered from this draft day mistake. They've never been as good as they were in 2010 (13-3, +126 points) defore drafting Jones; and over the last two years they've won just 10 of 32 games.

We can only wonder how good this team on the cusp of greatness might have been had it horded all its precious draft picks and not fallen in love with a Shiny Hood Ornament on Draft Day.