Will Kevin White Be Larry Fitzgerald or David Terrell?

How good will Kevin White be?

The seventh-overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft has been compared to Larry Fitzgerald, one of the best of his generation. But Bears fans remember the last time the team used a top-10 pick on a WR: David Terrell came to Chicago and accomplished in a career what should have been done in a single season.

So which one will White be? There’s no way of knowing, but I’ve attempted to find the range of possibilities.

I used Pro Football Reference to run a report giving me all the WRs drafted in the top 10 over the last 20 years. I then sorted the WRs by weighted career approximate value (more details on that stat here) and cleaned up the report in a spreadsheet (here) before exporting the results into this graph:

(Interactive version of this chart here.)

First, a couple caveats:

  • Using the top 10 (instead of, say, the top 15 or the entire first round) is an arbitrary endpoint used just to make the results a little easier to digest. Extending it to include the entire first round would likely result in a stronger study and include players like Reggie Wayne, Randy Moss and … Rae Carruth, who is now a prison janitor.
  • I left active players like A.J. GreenJulio Jones and Sammy Watkins on this list. Obviously, their careers are not over.

So can we learn anything from this list? Probably not, but it’s plenty entertaining.

As you’d expect, history tells us the range of possibilities is wide. At the top are superstar players, a few of whom could end up in the Hall of Fame: Torry Holt was a semifinalist this year, two of Andre Johnson‘s top comparables are HOFers, Fitzgerald will have a case and Calvin Johnson is off to a great start.

At the bottom are guys who flamed out for a variety of reasons. Revisionist history noted, you could easily argue several of them should have never been top 10 picks: Red flags surrounded guys like Charles Rogers and Justin Blackmon before they were drafted. And we should probably just ignore everything the Lions did in the first decade of the century. (ex. Rogers, Mike Williams).

Others, though, just never panned out. Troy Williams caught just four TDs in five seasons and is now making sandwiches. Terrell did little in four years in Chicago and blames his quarterbacks. Tavon Austin, a West Virginia product like White, is just two seasons in but hasn’t been a game-changer at all.

Then in the middle you have an interested mix of players who 1) clearly had first-round talent (Braylon Edwards, David Boston) and couldn’t sustain their production or 2) were probably overrated to begin with (Ted Ginn, Peter Warrick).

So where does this leave us with White? Who knows. First-round picks are high beta. As you can see in the chart, the ceiling is high and the floor is way down there.

Let’s hope he’s Fitzgerald and cross our fingers he isn’t Terrell.

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