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The Sutton Conclusion: Wow, what a year
By Nic St. Marie
Special to gzl-football.com

The ideal number 1 WR is both reliable under heavy usage, and explosive. After a ridiculous rookie season, Courtland Sutton has checked both of those boxes better than any rookie this league has ever seen.

Sutton was somewhat ridiculed as a Lions pick (or because he was a Lions pick) at 3rd overall in the 1st round. A heated debate developed, not just because of a defensive Lions GM, but also because graders and readers didn't agree on whether Sutton was a small, medium, or gigantic reach in a very nice, top-heavy draft. There have been bigger debates, and this one somehow ended in a reasonable number of pages. But it didn't fade away for very long, as in game one Sutton made his statement game gaining one more yard than Josh Gordon's best game as a rookie WR, and following it up with a monster game 3 that helped him win the first wire to wire yardage crown I can remember.

Below, are the top 5 rookie seasons based on yardage.

Name              Rec  Yards    Avg  TDs   YAC
Courtland Sutton   86   1694   19.7   15   380
Josh Gordon        91   1652   18.2   13   372
Ja'Vonte Nix       94   1468   15.6   12   394
Demaryius Thomas   81   1400   17.3    6   224
Aaron Drogan       90   1381   15.3    4   116

For a long time, Josh Gordon was the standard for many reasons. This year, Nix and Sutton both challenged him in different ways, but at the end Sutton was clearly the #1, despite the unanimous belief that Nix is and will always be the better WR.

One of the things that made Gordon the standard was his insane consistency, on top of his explosive big games. His eight games with 100 yards or greater, and 10 games with a score made him not just a hot prospect to watch, but the true #1 weapon on the team. Gordon also had his signature game, marking his territory as a stud in this league.

I wrote the following about Gordon when looking at Sutton's incredible first game. I looked at all of the biggest rookie WR games. But below I isolated just the 1st rounders I gathered, as well as my notes at the time.

me :
Josh Gordon - 1.2 (1st WR 2017)
Courtland Sutton - 1.3 (2nd WR 2022)
Terrance Williams - 1.15 (2nd WR 2014)
Brad Edwards - 1.28 (4th WR 2014)

Pair this with Tyler's research to get a sense of how good these players are on a per-year basis. Only the top three (Gordon, Sutton, and Williams) were drafted with the expectation of being a mismatch in both height and speed against most teams. Past those three most of the players were fast and short, and caught several streaks in the course of accomplishing their feats. Josh Gordon's year was one of the most dominant I've ever seen of a rookie, and has yet to be challenged. He actually led the league in number of games above 150 yards, 125 yards, and tied for the most games above 100 yards with 8. As a rookie!

Josh Gordon and Sutton have more in common than Sutton and Terrance Williams. But Gordon is better than Sutton, who is better than Terrance. Either way, both players have been stars in this league, which bodes well for Sutton.

I thought about Josh Gordon when Sutton came out as well, but instead compared Sutton and Julio Jones, mostly due to Sutton's weakness and to highlight that height and speed matter more than strength, and Jones certainly has shown in his career. But anytime a deep threat at 6'3" comes out, there is only a very small group of athletes to compare them to.

This season Nix and Sutton both crossed the 100 yard mark 6 times. Sutton had 10 games with a TD, with 4 of those being multiple TD games. Nix not far behind with 9 games with a score.

The biggest difference was that Nix filled up his season with receptions, while Sutton was the bigger threat on deep routes, with two huge games in the first three weeks. Nobody was more of a big play threat than Sutton this season with 182, 195, and 244 yards in different games this season.

Nix was not as explosive as these other two as a rookie. So we'll leave him out of this conclusion.

Bottom Line
Gordon was more consistent of a force, Sutton was more explosive. Sutton owns all of the rookie records, while Gordon was a better athlete as a rookie. One does not have to choose one vs the other, Gordon if you had to. But it was one of those memorable seasons that makes this league so much fun. When a pick is trashtalked as not explosive enough of a player, then explodes into something like this, it makes him a name we'll remember forever.

But that's not how this is done. We already saw the stats above. Gordon lost each of his rookie records, with Sutton taking the Lions share of them. Here were each as a rookie (post rookie TC boosts):

And both are 6'3", for reference.
Name              SPD/AGI/ACC STR  AWR/CTH JMP
Josh Gordon        94/92/95    62   66/84   96
Courtland Sutton   94/91/91    55   60/81   93

I'd rather have Gordon.
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