When a player is selected in the top five of the NFL Draft, the expectation is for the player to be an elite contributor for a franchise.
The Tennessee Titans selected wide receiver Corey Davis with the fifth overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft, so it’s safe to say they’re expecting to see a lot of production from the former Western Michigan standout.
Davis, who battled through hamstring issues during his rookie season, has yet to live up to the “elite” expectations that were placed on him by media analysts and fans.
Though it’s admittedly still very early in Davis’ career, we’re living in a time where young players aren’t given a couple of years to develop. If expectations aren’t met early, players are often labeled a bust.
I definitely don’t think you can call Davis a bust yet (that’s actually absurd to even consider that). He hasn’t even been on the field enough to show what he’s fully capable of doing in the NFL. So there’s no way to know whether or not he’ll end up living up to the lofty expectations that were placed on him.
But here’s the thing, even if Davis doesn’t fully live up to those expectations, it’s ok. The Titans don’t necessarily need him to be an elite wide receiver to reach the Super Bowl.
I’ve long been of the belief that elite wide receivers and running backs are overrated when it comes to composing the roster of a team. Sure, it obviously helps to have a dynamic playmaker to count on in crunch time. But it’s not nearly as important as other aspects of the roster (quarterback, offensive line, pass rushers, secondary).
If you were to ask a group of people who the top five wide receivers in the NFL are right now, there’s a good chance the top answers would look like this:
- Antonio Brown
- Odell Beckham Jr
- Julio Jones
- DeAndre Hopkins
- AJ Green
Not everyone will agree with that list, but I think most folks wouldn’t argue against those guys being labeled as the top wide receivers in the NFL.
Now, here’s the fun part. Those five seemingly elite wide receivers have a grand total of two Super Bowl appearances collectively (Julio Jones 2016, Antonio Brown 2010).
And honestly, I’m not sure you can count Brown’s Super Bowl appearance, since it came in his rookie season when he was an afterthought (he had one catch for one yard in the Steelers’ loss to the Packers).
So essentially, Julio Jones is the only guy on this list that’s helped his team to a Super Bowl.
Even if you expand the list to include names like Keenan Allen and Larry Fitzgerald, you still would only add one Super Bowl appearance (Fitzgerald in 2008).
How about we take it a step further?
In the last six years, five of the teams to reach the Super Bowl didn’t even have a 1,000 yard wide receiver (2017 Eagles, 2015 Panthers, 2014 Seahawks, 2013 Seahawks, 2012 Ravens). And three of those teams ended up wining the Super Bowl.
(Full disclosure: Tight end Greg Olsen had over 1,000 receiving yards for the Panthers in 2015.)
The Titans don’t need Davis to reel in 90 receptions or finish the season with 1,300 receiving yards to make a Super Bowl run. They need their secondary to live up to the pre-season hype, they need an effective pass rush, and they need an offense tailored to Marcus Mariota’s style of play.
If Mariota and new offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur mesh well, it means the Titans are going to spread the ball around a lot. Tennessee has several capable pass catchers on the team, including running back Dion Lewis and tight end Delanie Walker. When you throw Tajae Sharpe, Taywan Taylor and Rishard Matthews (if he gets healthy) into the mix, then it’s easy to see how a 1,000 yard season could be hard to come by for Davis.
And that’s 100 percent ok.
Davis shouldn’t be judged by his final stats on the season. If Davis plays in at least 14 games this season, and the Titans’ offense is efficient (making the most of field position, limiting three-and-outs, etc), then he’s lived up to his draft slot. Because if the Titans are doing those things offensively, there’s a good chance they’re going to win a lot of games. And if that’s the case, it doesn’t really matter how many yards Davis has by his name at the end of the year. Those numbers never tell the true story as it is.
In a world where fantasy football stats are all that matters, it’s easy to dismiss a player because he doesn’t have eye-popping numbers each week. Davis might end up with some weeks that blow folks away, but I’ll bet there will be some weeks where it looks like he didn’t do much and the Titans end up winning.
And that’s a stat that Davis, or any Titans fan, will take every week over a 100 yard receiving game.
Featured image via USA Today