For the first time since the common draft began, the first round ended without a wide receiver having been selected. As explained by the fellas over at Cold, Hard Football Facts, first-round wide receivers often turn out to be busts. Of the 43 wide outs taken in the first round over the past ten years, only two have had 1,000-yard rookie seasons: Randy Moss (1998) and Michael Clayton (2005). The last time a rookie had a 1,000-yard seasons was Marques Colston in 2006, a seventh-round pick.
Still, historically -- as with every other position -- a vast majority of the highly-talented receivers come from the first round. Since none were taken in this year's draft, we'll look for a 1,000-yard receiver from the second round and beyond. Here I'll outline the wide receivers of this year's class that I think will have the most impact this season:
1. Devin Thomas: Although he will play second fiddle to Santana Moss, he should be able to overtake Antwaan Randle El on the depth chart. He is the perfect fit for the west coast offense that new head coach Jim Zorn will run. He will favor the pass like his mentor, Mike Holmgren, and Devin Thomas will reap the benefits of that. With Jason Campbell's big arm and a plethora of other skill players, Thomas should have a huge season.
2. James Hardy: The Bills are going to feature Hardy predominantly in the offense. Opposite of Lee Evans, they don't have an established threat at wide receiver (Josh Reed and Roscoe Parrish are the top two), and they don't have a strong tight end. Young quarterback Trent Edwards will look to Hardy frequently as his safety blanket. A 6-foot-7, 220-pound product, he will definitely be able to fill that role.
3. Andre Caldwell: Although he slid a little bit further than he expected in the draft, he should out-produce his rookie teammate, Jerome Simpson. His wide receivers coach called him "more cable ready" than Simpson. He ran a 4.35 forty-yard dash at the combine, and he was amazingly dynamic after the catch at the University of Florida. He should be the third receiver behind Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
4. Limas Sweed: Ben Roethlisberger asked for a bigger target before the draft, and he got one with Limas Sweed. The Steelers have a pair of starters with Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward, but they featured three-wide receiver sets regularly last season. Sweed should fit into the role as the third wide receiver, and he should quickly become a favorite target of Roethlisberger.