All positions in the NFL play a critical and vital role in a team's overall success. From a quarterback commanding an offense with his arm to running backs tucking the ball in their belly and running head-on into opposing defenders. Still, with that said, there’s something intricately different about a wide receiver.
Many marvel at the way they're able to go up and make contested catches down the field. Their ability to shrug off tacklers or make them look silly is mesmerizing as well. With the important role they often play, NFL franchises normally become enamored with their highlights in college and are willing to move heaven and earth in order to get their man.
In some cases, such as the ones we are about to dive into, wide receivers who thrive at the collegiate level are simply unable to adjust their games to the pros.
So who are some of the more notable receivers who dissected defenses on a nightly basis in college but failed to do much of anything in the pros? Let’s find out.
#5 Justin Blackmon
There was an undeniable star power about Justin Blackmon, one that was a direct result of his dominance on the field in college.
After suffering through growing pains in his first season at Oklahoma State, Blackmon became impossible to guard one-on-one. The 6’1” physical receiver finished his second season as a college phenom by registering 1,782 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns. The following year, Blackmon continued to impress. He finished his junior and final year in college with 1,522 yards and 18 scores.
Even without a bonafide playmaker from the quarterback position, Blackmon excelled in his first season in the NFL. The former fifth overall pick racked up 865 yards and five touchdowns. But just when the Jacksonville Jaguars believed they had the league’s next big thing, Blackmon’s career took a turn for the worse.
Ultimately, Blackmon’s promising career was derailed by drugs and poor choices. With only four games played in his second season. Blackmon would never suit up to play another NFL game ever again.
#4 John Ross
John Ross' college tape was completely ignored heading into the 2017 NFL Draft. At the University of Washington, Ross was mostly underwhelming with his production and injury proneness. Yet, all of it was swept under the rug following a historic combine workout.
With a 4.22 40-time, Ross holds the fastest combine time since 1999. He was quickly taken number nine overall in the 2017 NFL Draft, but the injury woes and lackluster play that plagued him in college have followed him to the pros.
Thus far, Ross has yet to play a complete season. When he does, his production is meager. In 10 games last season for the New York Giants, Ross finished the year with just 224 yards and one touchdown. Although he’s still young, it’s doubtful that Ross will manage to turn things around.
#3 Kevin White
Everything about Kevin White’s game screamed future NFL superstar. He didn’t have the most impressive college career, but in 2014, he became a household name.
While suiting up for West Virginia, White registered a ridiculous 109 catches. In the process, he racked up 1,447 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. Seemingly once a game, the slender receiver made, at least, one eye-popping play. With his ability to take the top off the defense and leap into the air and snag contested balls, White was near the top of just about everyone’s draft board.
As the incredibly talented receiver remained on the board with the seventh overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears didn’t hesitate. However, if they could do it over, they would leave White exactly where they found him.
With five years of experience now under his belt, White has played for five NFL teams already. His inability to stay healthy has held him back more than anything. When he's been on the field, he’s been incredibly underwhelming. The five-year vet is yet to register a single season in which he has accumulated 200 yards. He also doesn’t have a single touchdown to his name.
#2 Matt Jones
Matt Jones' career got off to an unusual start. But before we discuss his on-the-field work, his off-field story is a sad one. The former number 21 overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft struggled with substance abuse, something that led to his suspension in 2008 and ultimate ousting from the league.
Now, back to his on-the-field work. Coming out of Arkansas, Jones was a decent player but not one who was viewed as a true NFL talent. He played the quarterback position and in his best season, he threw for 2,073 yards and 15 touchdowns. As he attempted to prove himself during the combine, scouts were taken aback as he ran his 40-time in under 4.4 seconds.
This intrigued the Jacksonville Jaguars, who nabbed him with the 21st pick in the 2005 draft. Unsurprisingly, Jones struggled well before his substance abuse issues were unveiled. During his best season, he did catch 65 balls for 761 yards, but he was never first-round pick worthy to begin with.
#1 Peter Warrick
Peter Warrick's overall explosion grabbed the attention of both fans and NFL owners. During his transient time in college, Warrick was nearly impossible to stop with one defender.
During his best season, Warrick torched defenders and left defensive coordinators clueless on how to stop him. He racked up 61 receptions, 1,232 receiving yards, and 12 touchdowns. With a stellar senior season shortly after, it was enough for the Cincinnati Bengals to take him with the fourth overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft.
Things never quite played out the way Warrick was expecting. He battled inconsistent play and numerous injuries. In 2003, he did appear to be turning things around. He caught 79 balls for 819 yards and seven touchdowns -- all career highs.
Unfortunately for Warrick, he was unable to build off that season due to injuries. His 5’11” frame was unable to withstand the physical demands of an NFL season, and in 2005, at just the age of 28, Warrick was forced to retire.