I like Steve Breaston, I’ve been pounding the table for this signing all offseason and I’m very happy it went through. And, as corny as it sounds I love that we on AA have already coined a nickname for our new passing triumvirate – the Killer B’s (Bowe, Baldwin, Breaston).
I think he is an important signing not only because 2010 made it clear that Cassel needs more passing weapons, but also because the Chiefs need a #2 receiver. Wait! But we drafted big-bodied deep threat Jonathan Baldwin in the first round to be our number #2, and Breaston is much more suited to be a slot receiver!
Wide receivers not only make one of the hardest transitions from college to the NFL, but they have the highest bust-rate among 1st round picks. The main reason for this is that, like defensive linemen, most of them are physical beasts that have gotten through high school and college by simply being the best athlete on the field at all times. You watch the highlights of Baldwin back at Pitt and it makes you drool – me too. But in those highlights you see him burning entire defenses with his goofy long strides, making everyone else look like they’re going in slow motion.
That won’t happen in the NFL. Baldwin has probably never played anyone in his entire career to this point that had the talent to be an NFL-quality D-back. It’s going to be a rude awakening for him this season. But don’t take my word for it; let’s consult the numbers.
What do you expect out of Baldwin this year? If he’s going to be our starting #2, you’d expect him to start at least 10 games, have 50 or more catches for 500+ yards, with say, 5 TD’s, right? Well, that’s only going to happen if we hit the jackpot.
In the last five years, 15 wide receivers have been drafted in the first round. Of them, only six started more than nine games in their rookie season. In this abridged offseason, it’s even less likely that Baldwin will be up to speed enough to be a dependable starter this year – I don’t care how much he spent having slumber parties and playing catch with Cassel this summer.
What’s more, only three of those 15 had more than 50 receptions in their first year. Who were those three you ask? – Jeremy Maclin, Percy Harvin and Dwayne Bowe. Both Harvin and Maclin were primarily playing the slot their rookie years and Bowe got the rock a lot simply because he was the only real receiver the Chiefs had on the field in 2007 (a situation that didn’t change much in the following three years) but he had so many drops that any team with WR depth would have probably pulled him.
Rookie wide receivers in the last five years haven’t been much better in scoring. Only four scored five or more TD’s in their rookie season. The one area that they haven’t done too poorly is yardage. Ten of 15 racked up 500+ yards in their rookie seasons, but I also think this is a bit skewed towards the fact that teams often force the ball to their rookies to try and get them game experience. Still, only one rookie had truly amazing first season gaining more than 825 yards – Dwayne Bowe, but again, he was the entire KC passing game.
Also, this isn’t a new trend. The long-term prospects of 1st-round receivers are pretty bleak. While, I only looked back five years, Cold, Hard Football Facts took it 10 years further. Looking at the drafts between 1996 and 2005, they found that of the 45 receivers taken in those 10 years only three (7 percent) had turned into genuine NFL superstars – which is of course what you are looking for whenever you draft a guy in round 1. Twenty-one (47 percent) were either solid starters or journeymen. Eleven of those 45 (24 percent) were outright busts, and another 10 (22 percent) were “NFL scrubs.”
Basically that gives us a 50-50 chance that Jonathan Baldwin is going to worth anything long-term.
But, despair not Chiefs fans! This is why we signed Breaston in the first place. I think the Chiefs coaching staff is very cognizant of the fact that it is unlikely Baldwin will be a major contributor this year, thus our newest “B” was brought in to be a legit #2 for this year, and the dependable slot man of the future. Remember (as if no one else has reminded you of this), the last time he was playing the slot under Haley in 2008 he had 77 receptions for 1,006 yards. Now, there is no way that KC will every be as pass-happy a team as the 2008 Cardinals were, but that production as a #3 shows that Breaston will be able to carry the load in the flanker spot for the whole season no problem.
I also do think that we will be able to take advantage of Baldwin’s unique physical skills and send him on the occasional out route, chuck 70-yard bombs to him, and even if he doesn’t catch them, it will put the defense on their heels – giving way to an even more effective run game. And, if Baldwin does end up being that diamond in the rough of a 1st round WR that blows everyone’s socks off in his first year, then hell, this is going to be a really fun season to watch.