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The NFL's rookie receivers can't hold a candle to last year's class

After a dazzling rookie class last year, this year's group of first-year pass catchers just isn't living up to the hype.

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Eventually, the wide receiver class from the 2014 NFL Draft could go down as one of the best ever. The start for the class of the 2015 NFL Draft is just the opposite, and the results are showing up in the standings.

In 2014, five wide receivers were taken in the first round, starting with the Buffalo Bills taking Sammy Watkins fourth overall. Statistically, Odell Beckham of the New York Giants, the No. 12 pick, had the best season with 91 catches for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns in 12 games. Brandin Cooks of the New Orleans Saints, the No. 20 pick, had the worst season of the group, catching 53 passes for 550 yards and three touchdowns in 10 games. Still, each of the five receivers taken in the first round averaged at least 55 yards receiving per game.

RD Pick Name Team Rec. Targets Yards Avg. TD Games
1 4 Sammy Watkins Bills 65 128 982 15.1 6 16
1 7 Mike Evans Buccaneers 68 124 1051 15.5 12 15
1 12 Odell Beckham Jr. Giants 91 132 1305 14.3 12 12
1 20 Brandin Cooks Saints 53 70 550 10.4 3 10
1 28 Kelvin Benjamin Panthers 73 146 1008 13.8 9 16

In this year's draft, six wide receivers were taken in the first round. Only one is averaging 55 yards receiving per game. Two of them haven't played a snap because of injury. Others just aren't getting targets or seeing the field.  None of the six teams that took first-round wide receivers has a winning record this season. It's not all on the player chosen, but the lack of production is staggering and having a negative impact.

The lone exception has been Amari Cooper, the No. 4 overall pick by the Oakland Raiders. The draft's best wide receiver has played better than expected, giving young quarterback Derek Carr a future star target. Only Beckham last year averaged more yards per game than Cooper's 77.2 heading into Week 7 this season.

RD Pick Name Team Rec. Targets Yards Avg. TD Games
1 4 Amari Cooper Raiders 28 44 386 13.8 2 5
1 7 Kevin White Bears 0 0 0 0 0 0
1 14 DeVante Parker Dolphins 4 8 49 12.3 0 5
1 20 Nelson Agholor Eagles 8 17 105 13.1 0 5
1 26 Breshad Perriman Ravens 0 0 0 0 0 0
1 29 Phillip Dorsett Colts 10 21
159 15.9 1 5

"He's just a tireless worker -- someone who runs great routes, very quick, very sudden," Carr said earlier this season. "It's hard for people to guard him and just match him with such speed and quickness. That's not a discredit to anyone. That's just a credit to him and how quick he is."

But after Cooper, the other five first-rounders are having trouble finding their footing in the pro game. White has been out all season with a stress fracture in his left tibia. Perriman injured his knee on the first day of Ravens training camp.

When the Miami Dolphins took wide receiver DeVante Parker with the 14th pick in this year's draft, expectations were high. Parker was the would-be No. 1 receiver to go along with offseason acquisitions Kenny Stills, Greg Jennings and Jordan Cameron. That group, along with second-year receiver Jarvis Landry, would give Miami a stacked passing offense around budding quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Instead, Tannehill has struggled this season completing only 56.7 percent of his throws.

Parker, meanwhile, has been slow to recover from a June surgery that replaced a screw in his foot. It's a repercussion of an injury that took place in 2014 that limited him to just seven game in his final season at Louisville.

"He’s a young guy, he’s a rookie, he’s coming off foot surgery, he’s finally starting to feel healthy and that’s been kind of part one of a two-step process," Dolphins interim head coach Dan Campbell said prior to the team's Week 6 game against Tennessee. "He is clearly improving, but he just hasn’t quite taken that step yet. He’ll flash, he’ll flash something and you go, ‘OK, my gosh, if we can get that more than one play in a row.’"

Unfortunately, Parker isn't getting that chance to string together snaps and gain consistency. He played in just five snaps on Sunday, and only one was a pass play. For the season, he's gotten on the field for only 88 out of Miami's 338 offensive plays.

Simply getting on the field has been an issue for Dorsett as well. He's played just 106 of the Colts' 429 snaps. But maybe that should have been expected. Dorsett was something of a surprise choice at No. 29 overall and is behind T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief and Andre Johnson on the depth chart.

Obviously it's easy to look back and and find more productive choices the Colts should have made at 29. Offensive tackles Donovan Smith of Tampa Bay and Ty Sambrailo of Denver have both been rookie starters and likely would have helped the Colts' line in some fashion. Now the 3-3 Colts are only afloat thanks to playing in the putrid AFC South.

Maybe for the Colts, a different first-round pick would have accounted for another win or two. Maybe not. But maybe the NFL's general managers shouldn't have banked on this year's class of wide receivers being as good as the one in 2014.