This Is A Wide Receivers’ League Now
1:49 PM EDT on April 28, 2022
Drew Magary’s Thursday Afternoon NFL Dick Joke Jamboroo runs every Thursday at Defector during the NFL season. Got something you wanna contribute? Email the Roo. And buy Drew’s new book, The Night The Lights Went Out, through here.
The NFL Draft is tonight and savvy folks like you and me know that the Draft represents the best chance NFL teams have to get superior talent at bargain prices. A great QB on his rookie contract, like Joe Burrow, gives any team in possession of one a hard and quantifiable advantage in resources to build to around that quarterback. But QB is the hardly the only position where a team can benefit from savvy early drafting. Let Jason Fitzgerald of Over The Cap show you:
Here we see the widest gaps between positions on the rookie contracts versus their second contracts. The higher the second contract, the more value you get out of the rookie contract. Makes sense, yeah? You see other, long-established stalwart positions occupying the right flank of that chart: left tackle, corner, edge rusher, etc. Those positions have long been codified as Franchise Positions.
But there’s one other position due east of that y-axis that stands out: wide receiver. You cannot have enough wideouts and you cannot find enough things for them to do. Ask the Rams, who won a Super Bowl by abandoning any pretense of a nuanced game plan and getting the ball—by air and by land—to their only good remaining wideout for the entire fourth quarter. Ask their opponent in that game, the Bengals, who drafted Ja’Marr Chase the year after Burrow and were rewarded so handsomely—and so quickly!—for the decision that even they still can’t believe how far they got.
They should believe it, and you should, too. It always stood to reason that, since the NFL evolved into a passing league, the guys catching those passes would become intensely valuable. In fact, back in 2005, Moneyball legend Michael Lewis wrote a New York Times profile of then–Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach that explained the value of player who can exploit free spaces on the field, detailing Leach’s Air Raid offense in celestial terms:
Leach and his offense are approaching the natural end of a path football strategy has been taking for 50 years. They are testing a limit. Synergy, in Leach's view, doesn't come from mixing runs with passes but from throwing the ball everywhere on the field, to every possible person allowed to catch a ball… The trouble with running plays, as Leach sees it, is that they clump players together on the field -- by putting two of them, during a handoff, in the same spot with the ball. "I've thought about going a whole season without calling a single running play," Leach says, only half-joking.
The rest of the football world would soon come to the same epiphany. Texas Tech, minus Leach, would go on to produce Patrick Mahomes, who arguably finds and exploits open space on a football field better than any passer who has ever lived. No open patch of turf is safe from Mahomes, in part because he has long had receivers who can get to those patches before defenders can. Tyreek Hill was one such receiver, which is why the Dolphins traded away the top of their 2022 draft to acquire him. Davante Adams fetched an even a steeper price from the Raiders. Deebo Samuel, who dragged the Niners offense to the NFC title game by both catching the ball and running the ball to daylight, could fetch an even bigger price.
These are not simply exciting players. These are the most valuable non-QB players in the sport. If you want to reach open pastures, a wideout offers you the fastest route (no pun intended) there. We’re only just now seeing teams, along with the players themselves, acknowledging that fact. Adams forced his way out of Green Bay, just as Samuel hopes to force his way out of San Francisco. Given what other teams are willing to pay, especially the Jets, he might just get his wish.
This was not always the case. As long as I have lived, wideouts have been tarred as divas who vastly overstate their own importance to the game at hand: Terrell Owens dancing on the Star, Joe Horn hiding a cell phone under the goal post pad, Keyshawn Johnson titling his memoir Just Give Me The Damn Ball, Cris Carter signaling first down on every catch, Odell hanging out on a boat, etc. I fucking hated some of these players. I hated TO, and still do in some ways (in my defense, the man really could be a true dickhead back in the day). I didn’t like wideouts who, in my opinion back then, overstated their role in their team’s success. Now I know that they can’t overstate that shit enough. So if you wanna ride with the Phil Mushnicks of the world, you can hold on to outdated anti-wideout takes and look away from the position in disgust. You can bemoan modern receivers flexing their muscles to NBA-ify pro football by forcing their employers to let them choose their respective destinies. You can jerk off to old footage of Buddy Ryan punching out Kevin Gilbride on the Oilers sideline during that team’s run-and-shoot era. You can be an asshole.
I won’t be doing that. Instead, I’ll be celebrating these players for finally attaining a standing that they have long deserved. Because wideouts are my favorite players, and likely yours too. When a football game is broken open, it’s almost always a wideout doing the breaking. Thanks to the standard broadcast camera angle during games, you often can’t tell if a wideout is open until the camera pans downfield as a pass sails through the air. That moment is, as far as I’m concerned, the most exciting part of any football game. You can hear the play-by-play guy’s voice rise. You can hear the crowd holding its collective breath. And then, at long last, you can see Tyreek Hill wide the fuck open and ready to pay off all of that anticipation.
Some running backs—Bo Jackson, Chris Johnson—had that vaunted power to break games open. But you know the deal with running backs now. The good ones are replaceable, the great ones merit a salary that’ll cripple the rest of your roster for the length of their respective contracts, and virtually all of them are dependent on the men blocking for them to succeed. Running backs are fungible, and a remnant of a sport that no longer exists. Wide receivers, by contrast, ARE the sport. They are not fungible. They each have a style of their own. And when you need your offense to do something vital—especially if it’s been shit all game long—it’s usually a wideout who either ends the funk or keeps the momentum alive. Like here:
These were all astonishing plays because that was what the moment called for. If your team doesn’t have a wideout, it needs one. If your QB blows, a good wideout can bail him out on contested catches. If your offensive line is shit—and did the 2022 Bengals ever have a terrible line—a good wideout can minimize that weakness with misdirection runs and quick-developing routes. If you can’t run the ball, well, having a good wideout means you don’t have to run it all at if you don’t want to. You can skip the whole “let’s run it for three yards on second-and-10!” bullshit that many NFL teams still swear by. You can be free. As Mike Leach showed Michael Lewis, football is a game of space, and today’s wideout is perfectly suited to thrive in that space.
My team does not “need” a wideout presently. They also didn’t need one back in 1998, when they drafted Randy Moss. But they drafted Moss anyway and subsequently had their best season in my lifetime. That wasn’t a coincidence, just as it won’t be a coincidence if your team neglects some other glaring need to take Jameson Williams, Garrett Wilson, Treylon Burks, Drake London, Skyy Moore (great name), Chris Olave, or some other shit-fast wideout and then prospers. Not all of these players will hit. Some of them will turn out to be Jalen Reagor. This is the draft, after all. Even the smartest teams are vulnerable to busts. But if you get a wideout that hits, you’re set. You now have license to break the game. And, in 2022, football is a sport designed to be broken.
All draft nights in the Jamboroo are evaluated for sheer watchability on a scale of 1 to 5 Throwgasms.
Tonight: I’m not bullshitting you when I tell you that I’m looking forward to this draft more than perhaps any other. My team isn’t picking No. 1. They almost certainly won’t be taking a quarterback. No one even knows if this QB class is worth a shit. I haven’t watched the entire first round in quite some time. No matter. I have read the draft guides time around, and I know the terrain of draft analytics better than I ever have. I am prepared. I know what every team needs and what kind of fuckups the bad ones are poised to make. Most importantly, I am ready to do nothing. So I’m gonna order a bunch of shitty Chinese food, then lie down on the couch and—and this is the clutch move—put my leg on top of the back of it. That’s how true draftniks roll. You increase the “dorm common room” energy by 700 percent when you put a leg up on the couch.
Also, I’m gonna watch the Mel Kiper broadcast of the Draft tonight, even though Mel is working from home because he’s, predictably, an anti-vaxxer shithead. I am conditioned for Mel. I require Mel. I need the pick announced, and then I need them to cut to Mel yammering over game footage as he clearly judges players based on whether or not he’s buddies with that player’s agent. It’s inane shit. You will be stupider for taking anything Mel says at face value. But, as a football fan, I YEARN to be dumber. I don’t actually want to be a smart person who, like, cares about the world. I wanna be hoisin sauce-drenched imbecile who’s like DURRR MEL SAYS THIS GUY HAS SERIOUS REACHABILITY DURRR when my team drafts an eventual bust. That’s my favorite way, my only way, to enjoy this evening’s festivities. Roger Goodell is ferrying picks over to him on a BOAT tonight, for fuck’s sake. Intelligence is not warranted here.
Tomorrow night: Now that the draft has been spread out over three days, Goodell and company use every pick as a miniature Oscar presentation. I gotta sit there while the Ginger Hammer either gives a shoutout to the troops or introduces a decrepit former player to announce the pick before I get to actually hear this pick. It’s especially egregious on Day Two, when Rog is too lazy to announce the picks himself. This is horseshit. Just read the name and then get the fuck out of my face.
Saturday: And you know what else? The draft should only be five rounds. Every player chosen in the sixth and seventh round blows. Fuck that shit. Tom Brady was a sixth rounder over 20 years ago. Don’t show me his goddamn face on Day Three like that’s what’s in store for us. Chop two rounds off the current draft format and make the RFA pool that much deeper. That way, the NFL gets to keep the draft in place while commies like me who oppose the entire draft process get a little bone tossed their way. Everybody wins, unless you’re some cut-rate guard from Texas A&I hoping to get a phone call on Saturday. There. I have spoken my piece. Now let’s talk about some random crap:
• I am fully PFF-pilled now in that I will only refer to defensive ends and pass rushing outside linebackers, collectively, as EDGES now. That’s the new terminology. Don’t get left behind like you’re Phil Simms or some other loser.
• You’re gonna see a lot of financial service ads during this draft, just as you do during normal game telecasts. I will never understand why these firms advertise their wares in such sober, clinical terms. If I ran a retirement fund, you better believe that I would always refer to your nest egg as your TREASURE. Your account will be your TREASURE CHEST. Any capital gains you make will be listed as PLUNDER. Dividends will be paid out in gold doubloons. All statements will be printed on charred parchment paper. The location of our offices will be an undersea cave whose location is advertised only via crudely drawn map. All employees will be forced to wear eyepatches. Let’s have some goddamn fun with your money, man.
• I had to wear a suit the other day for something. When I went to put the one suit I own on, it didn’t fit. And I hadn’t gained a single goddamn pound from the last time I had last worn it. The injustice is staggering. I don’t even have to gain weight to be fat anymore. Turns out my preexisting body fat will simply migrate to the most conspicuous places on my body anyway. This is BULLSHIT. I demand recompense. And a new suit. Having your pants be too small is the worst goddamn feeling on Earth.
• Having your SHIRT be too small, however, is actually kinda fun. I get to be like NOTHING CAN CONTAIN THESE GUNS BABY, when it’s my expanded pit fat getting in the way of everything.
• I’m in an odd spot as a parent right now where my kids are old enough to not subject me to the same Disney movie 1,000 times over (I have still never seen Encanto, which would not have been the case 10 years ago), but still young enough where they outright refuse to get in and out of things, especially the car, in the most efficient manner possible. It’s astounding. The kid sitting next to the window will always get in first, and then the other kids will ignore the opposite door in order to crawl over him. They always take the path of most resistance. I do not understand it.
• I bought a Tommy Bahama swimsuit this offseason. That’s right. I’m a Tommy Bahama guy now. All I need is the matching shirt and my transformation into Chris Berman will be all but complete.
• While we’re on the subject of clothes, this is where I tell you that I can’t abide having cuffs on my sweatpants. Makes it too hard to get my foot through in the morning. Gotta leave those pants legs free and open, baby.
Needless to say, if you’ve read this far in the column, you’ve probably read too much.
Predraft Song That Makes Me Wanna Run Through A Goddamn Brick Wall
“Be All, End All,” by Anthrax. Not enough heavy metal riffs start out as cello riffs. You hear the lone cello to open “Be All, End All” and you know that the guitars are coming soon thereafter. And by God, they do. DUN-NUN! DUN DUN DUN DUN DUN-NUN!!! DUN DUN DUN DUNNNN DUN! Primo shit. I never actually bothered to learn the lyrics to this song. I figured they matched the riff in terms of sheer meanness. This is Anthrax we’re talking about, after all. But I was wrong. “Be All, End All” is actually an anti-suicide anthem, which frankly kinda ruins the whole atmosphere. I want my heavy metal songs to be PRO-violence. Why else slaughter me with riffs?
Nothing's ever easy when you do it yourself
All you can do is try
Life's not unfair, life's just life
Death not suicide
Be all, and you'll be the end all
Life can be a real ball
State of mind
In fairness to Anthrax, this is a lyrically solid effort compared to other attempts in late-'80s metal positivity. Alice Cooper didn’t thread this needle quite so deftly.
I wonder how many heroin addicts listened to this song and were like, “Goddamn, Alice is right! I AM being stoopid! No more junk for me!”
Bad Local Commercial Of The Week!
David Komie, the attorney that rocks! From Bryan:
Dude has billboards all over Austin. I'm not sure wtf this commercial is supposed to convey. See if you can figure it out.
I think it’s quite clear what the ad is supposed to convey. If you live in Austin, and you want a lawyer who looks like Rob Zombie but is NOT Rob Zombie, David Komie will run through a brick wall to get that DUI arrest expunged from your record. The man shouts DOSTOYEVSKY! and VOLTAIRE! right at the beginning of his set in this commercial, so you know you’re dealing with an intense philosophical mind.
By the way, given the current state of things in Austin, I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that David Komie is the only genuinely weird thing left there.
Fire This Asshole!
Is there anything more exciting than a coach losing his job? All year long, we’ll keep track of which coaches will almost certainly get fired at year’s end or sooner. And now, your potential 2023 chopping block:
I’m a big fan of Bruce Arians futilely attempting to rebut the widely held belief (fact) that Tom Brady would only return to the Bucs if he was off the coaching staff:
"Tom just sent me a picture [Sunday]. He got a present for me. It's a $50,000 watch. He says he's bringing it to me. Who does that if we hate each other? As soon as he's back in town, we'll play golf."
So true. Who has ever paid off someone they inherently dislike? That’s not how America works, come on. Gimme a break!
Great Moments In Poop History
Reader David (not Komie) sends in this story I call POOPIN’ ON MY MIND:
I took my first trip overseas the summer after my freshman year of high school, when my favorite teacher took a group of us to Europe for a week, a few days in Paris and a few more in London. Obviously, it was a blast for an uncultured suburban southern rube such as myself, but between the richer food and the uniformly substandard European toilet paper, every single pair of underwear I had wound up skidmarked like the winner's circle at Talladega. Each day we'd come home from our museum-going or medieval-tower-visiting or whatever, and each day I'd have a new pair of befouled tighty-whities to desperately hide from anyone who could possibly see it.
When we got back, my mom picked me up at the Atlanta airport and immediately headed north with me and my little sister to visit our relatives up in northern Virginia. Because my plane landed late in the afternoon, we stopped in Charlotte and spent the night at a dirtbag Days Inn near the airport. And the next morning, we found one of our Taurus station wagon's windows smashed and a bunch of our stuff missing: most of our luggage, a bag of cassette tapes, and a crate of Georgia peaches we were taking up to our relatives.
Mom called the Safelite guy and spent the next couple hours stringing together the kinds of expletives they would've been ashamed to use on Def Comedy Jam. When the window was finally replaced, I tried to cheer my mom up by telling her about my, uh, hygienic challenges in Europe. She laughed her ass off and said, "So all they got was some skidmarked underwear, some tapes, and the peaches? Serves them fucking right. And I hope those peaches give them the shits."
My mom kept it real as fuck then, and she does to this day. Also switching to boxer briefs changed my life.
Never wear white underwear. This is the lesson.
Which Idiot GM Is This?
You know your team is in good hands when the man in charge of the roster is a professionally sweaty guy who MEANS BUSINESS. Which team does the man below hold in his meaty paws?
That’s right … it’s Seattle GM John Schneider! Such a thin line between John Schneider and a John Schnatter. Has this man ever filmed a video of himself while driving? I think you know the answer.
Draft Time Snack Of The Week
Let’s get a fat-ass sub going on for the Draft. I’m single-parenting all the way through Friday, so I may as well treat myself to some quality dad food. You already know about the Chinese food. Next on the docket after that? Fat-ass sub.
Now, here is where I can lay down a rather obvious take, which is that the single most important ingredient in any sub is the bread. I’ll eat garbage cold cuts. I do so with a regularity that would frighten my cardiologist. You can make a good sub with said cold cuts, so long as the bread is high quality. But if your bread is shit, the sandwich is ruined. I don’t care if you stuffed it full of hot pastrami right off the counter from Katz's Deli, the sandwich will still suck if the bread is wrong. And it’s not like my bar for good bread is high. An average deli usually has good enough bread for me. But you go to, like, a Subway, and it’s incredible how shitty the bread is. How do you fuck it up so badly? Did you Subway people not get into breadmaking during the pandemic like everyone else did? What’s your excuse, fuckos? Such a disappointment.
Cheap Beer Of The Draft
Piton! From Ed!
I have no idea where he got it, but my brother-in-law just made me drink Piton during this lame bachelor party he dragged me to (no strippers, gambling OR beef/pork/BBQ chicken spread?!?!?!). Mystic mountain brew from the West Indies? Not surprisingly, I feel like I just threw back a pint of bong water.
[Robert Plant singing]
Walkin' in the park just the other day, baby
What do you what do you think I saw?
Crowds of people sittin' on the grass barfin up Piton said
Hey Boy do you want to score?
This is easily one of the worst looking beers I’ve featured here, and I’ve featured label-less beer used in Russian prisons. By the way, remember Mistic iced tea? Perhaps Piton is the next evolution of that product.
Draft Night Movie Of The Week For Rams Fans (No First Rounder)
The Hit, an old '80s crime drama featuring Terence Stamp and his piercing eyes as the good guy(!), plus John Hurt as his captor and a young Tim Roth as the hotheaded mob goon assigned to beat Stamp’s ass whenever he gets out of line. This is an extremely small mob story, which I appreciate. It’s not a family epic that spans generations. You don’t need an org chart to know which character works for which. It’s a road trip featuring three scumbags, plus one innocent woman, who all want each other dead. Perfect little setup. You don’t have to make movies big. Just gimme small people senselessly murdering each other over petty horseshit. That’s my kinda flick.
Gratuitous Simpsons Quote
“Bah! Far too much dancing, not nearly enough prancing!”
Enjoy the draft, everyone.