I’ll warn you in advance that today we are going down a rabbit hole. I stumbled down this rabbit hole while researching last week’s post on O’Day’s drafting. While I’m sure this information is relatively useless in the grand scheme of things, I’m sharing it anyway because maybe one of my half dozens of readers will find this as interesting as me (aka I'll feel reassured if someone is as boring and lame as me).
So we know from last week that O’Day likes to draft receivers early. So that led me to a very simple question of “How successful are Canadian receivers drafted in the first round?”. Basically, what is your likely return on investment for a first round WR.
The results are pretty awful. Now I’ll will preface this by saying that receivers are not always unique in this. The number of 1st round CFL picks that pan out is not huge. But receivers appear to be even riskier than the norm. I’m sure teams are worried about passing on the next Clermont or Fantuz but the reality is that is a pretty small risk.
Here is a list of every receiver drafted in the first round since 2011:
· Anothony Parker
· Jade Etienne
· Marco Iannuzzi
· Nate Coehoorn
· Shamawd Chambers
· Devon Bailey
· Nic Demski
· Brian Jones
· Tevaughn Smith
· Danny Vandervoot
· Nate Behar
· Mark Chapman
· Justin McInnis
· Hergy Mayala
· Dejon Brissett
· Jalen Philpot
· Sam Emilus
· Tyson Philpot
What jumps out about that list? … It contains very few studs and very many duds. I’ll reserve judgment for on the Philpott’s for now as they look to have high ceilings. But so far there is only one guy on that list that is a stud. That being Demski. He is literally a once in a decade talent. Other than Demski only two other people on that list has got over 650 yards in a season and only three others have put up 5 or more TDs in a season. That means you have less than a 50% chance of getting even a moderately impactful player and more than a 50% chance someone who will never top 350 yards. Also worth noting that over the past 10 years, only twice has a receiver drafted in the first round led the league in receiving yards by a Canadian (Fantuz 2016 and Demski 2021).
So based on how many 1st round WR end up being mediocre or worse, it got me wondering how a GM would fare if they adopted a policy of never drafting a receiver in the first round. Not saying someone would or should do it, just curious how it would pan out in theory.
Since 2011, there were 4 years that you would have had to use a 1st round pick to get the best receiver. But the other 7 years, if you have avoided the first round, you still could have gotten the best receiver in the draft (in my opinion). That includes 2011 when a record 4 receivers went in the first round but the best receiver ended up being a 4th round QB (Sinopoli). It also included 2019 when 4 receivers went in the first 2 rounds and the Argos patiently waited and got Kurleigh Gittens in the 3rd. And 2020 when the Argos were at the other end of the spectrum, using the 2nd overall pick on Dejon Brisset when the best receiver was still available 28 picks later in the 4th round when the Riders took Schaefer-Baker.
Not only are your odds better of finding the best receiver in the draft outside of the first round, if we go back to the stat that over the past 10 years, only twice has a receiver drafted in the first round led the league in receiving yards by a Canadian, in the remaining 7 seasons the top receiver was a second rounder 1 time (Durant), third rounder 1 time (Gittens), a fourth rounder 3 times (Sinopoli x 3), fifth rounder once (Getzlaf) and undrafted once (Bagg).
All this to say that while some 1st round WRs do end up being worth it, overall prioritizing drafting Canadian receivers may not be the most effective strategy.
This concludes this week's installment of insight and analysis that is most likely useless.
I think Nate Behar may get some opportunities in Ottawa. He had similar stats to Demski last year. Both played 13 games, Demski 772 yds, Behar 727 yds, both had almost identical YAC. More TD's for Demski but he played on a 1st place team, not last.
The problem is, in part, that the receiver position for CDN's is often #4 or 5 in the rotation - what I call the decoy position. They are on the field to satisfy the CDN ratio. How often are the top 1 or 2 spots filled by Americans. Demski himself sits behind Lawler & Schoen in the pecking order & was behind Ellingson when he was playing. In the 4 games Demski & Ellingson played he had 4.75 targets/game. The other 9 games 10.56 targets/game. Having said that I fully agree with what you're saying. There are much better ways to spend your 1st round picks.
Interestingly, John Hodge's mock draft has the Riders picking Lwal Uguak, a DL @ #3. I don't get that one since there are a bunch of DL's in the last top 20 ratings & only 3 OL in that group. He does have them going OL @ #11 but I don't see them getting one of the top 3 then. Edmonton, Hamilton & BC could all use a good OL in round one.
Cheer up. Though not a Rider fan (don't hate them either) I follow you regularly. Suggested reading for all fans for a good nuanced perspective on the team. Have said as much in posts on other sites.
Feels like drafting for the offensive line in the first round has a better chance at paying dividends.
Anon #1 above makes a great point on the different role Canadian receivers play as a #4 or #5 receiver. Maybe the measure of success for a Canadian receiver is longevity rather than big numbers.
Thanks for all your posts Prophet! Always an entertaining read.
Anon - You are right about role for Cdn positions. Also I think Hodge having us picking a DL first in a thin year for OL is about the most on brand thing imaginable.
Pants - Appreciate it
Dan - Longevity plays into it for sure. Also, appreciate the kind words.
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