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Wide Receiving a Rose to the NFL Combine

The NFL combine has become its own entity over the past decade, and yesterday the NFL announced who they have invited to attend this year’s event.

Just getting an invite to workout in shorts, interview with teams and supply healthy urine is relevant in itself for future draft stock and fantasy potential. Through Josh Norris of NBC, I found out that the invites stem from National Scouting and BLESTO, scouting departments paired with NFL affiliations to 27 of the 32 teams in the league. Essentially, these organizations whittle down thousands of players to a pool of prospects they deem have the best potential to provide a team something tangible in moving their organization forward. It’s kind of like making it past auditions and into the house on the Bachelor, only there are multiple suitors here.

Whether or not that process is an entirely accurate measure of “who should be invited?” is a topic for another day, but we do know that how it’s being done today is relevant in the terms of being drafted at all. Jon Moore looked at this to a degree when providing a trick to spotting undrafted running back talent, so I’m only going to focus on the wide receiver position for now. Over the past 10 years, here’s the list of wide receivers that were selected by a team in the NFL draft that failed to receive a combine invite.

20114107Kris DurhamGeorgia
20064130Domenik HixonAkron
20085153Matt SlaterUCLA
20075169Roy HallOhio St.
20065144Marques HagansVirginia
20156201Bud SasserMissouri
20136186Justin BrownOklahoma
20106199Joe WebbAla-Birmingham
20106206Kyle WilliamsArizona St.
20086171Marcus HenryKansas
20076210Jordan KentOregon
20157220Neal SterlingMonmouth
20147239James WrightLSU
20137209Brice ButlerSan Diego St.
20137216Charles JohnsonGrand Valley St.
20137224Kevin DorseyMaryland
20127231Toney ClemonsColorado
20127235Jeremy EbertNorthwestern
20117227Scotty McKnightColorado
20117236Stephen BurtonLong Beach CC
20107222Marc MarianiMontana
20097232Julian EdelmanKent St.
20087215Justin HarperVirginia Tech
20087217Brett SwainSan Diego St.
20087226Chaz SchilensSan Diego St.
20087237Adrian ArringtonMichigan
20087246Mario UrrutiaLouisville
20077229John BroussardSan Jose St.
20077249Derek StanleyWisc-Whitewater
20067209Ethan KilmerPenn St.
20067218Todd WatkinsBYU
20067231Bennie BrazellLSU
20067233Devin AromashoduAuburn
20067249Ben ObomanuAuburn
20067255Kevin McMahanMaine

Of 321 receivers drafted since 2006, only 35 weren’t invited to the NFL’s version of a trip to the Gentleman’s Club, and only two of those receivers were selected prior to the fifth round with none in the opening three rounds. If you’re someone who values a player’s draft position, you’ve already likely crossed off your list anyone who didn’t get an invite this year; The only real fantasy hit here is Julian Edelman, a career college quarterback who converted to receiver and provided a total of 69 receptions for 714 yards and four touchdowns through his first four NFL seasons.

So we already know that not receiving an invite to the combine severely lowers the probability that a team invests draft capital into acquiring a player, but what about those undrafted players that eventually go on to hit for us in fantasy? Well, the combine invitation holds some water for them as well.

For undrafted players eligible to be selected from 2000 and on, here are the receivers that have provided a top-30 scoring PPR season that also weren’t invited to the combine.

PlayerTop30 PPR Yrs
Wes Welker7
Victor Cruz3
Doug Baldwin1
Drew Bennett1
Kamar Aiken1
Mike Furrey1
Nate Washington1

Over the past 16 years, only 15 of the 480 top-30 seasons came from players who met that criteria, and seven of those came from one player: Wes Welker.

We’ve already penned a few love letters to Michael Thomas (who was perceived to be loved universally and was rumored to actually have an invite to begin with), Daniel Braverman, Paul McRoberts and Jakeem Grant, players that caught our eyes initially through their collegiate production, but did not receive an invite to this year’s combine. Not to completely close the door on them, but this paints a pretty bleak picture for how their talent is a) perceived by the league, b) their future odds on being selected in the draft, or c) ever having fantasy relevancy.

When it comes to your late round rookie picks, you should be targeting your dart throws to players that at least made it into the house to be selected.

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