It’s a virtual impossibility to get the total package in a wide receiver, or in any position in the game. The Pittsburgh Steelers’ Antonio Brown and the Atlanta Falcons’ Julio Jones are probably the closest things to the full package, though Brown is somewhat limited by his size and Jones has some dings against him as well, particularly his health.
Since you’re not creating a wide receiver in a video game, you have to pick and choose which qualities you value and which deficiencies you can live with, and these will vary from prospect to prospect based on his total body of work.
But one thing that the Steelers consistently value at the wide receiver position, particularly lately, is a pass catcher who is adept at coming down with the football in contested situations. Brown is one of the best in the game in this area, and last year’s rookie, JuJu Smith-Schuster, has done a good job in this area as well.
Those who were less successful at this in their tenure do tend to find themselves searching for a second contract in another city. Hines Ward made a name for himself with his combat catches. Mike Wallace did not—though they did try to give him an extension.
This is a trait that they talked about a lot last season after they drafted Smith-Schuster, and is something that they brought up multiple times this offseason when the discussion has turned to the wide receiver position. Even with Brown and Smith-Schuster, they may continue to target a wide receiver early in the draft.
Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert explained why the team focuses on the “competitive catch ability”, as he called it, saying that “in the NFL you will always be covered and always in traffic if there is not a coverage bust, so you have to have that ability, and only certain guys can do that”.
The team is fortunate to have two players who do it well. Martavis Bryant has not exactly been among them, or at least not consistently, but he will have another opportunity during the 2018 season to prove that he is more than capable of maximizing his size advantage.
He may have to do this while holding off another rookie who is looking to take over his role. Bryant is expected to leave in free agency in 2019, and the Steelers could be planning to have his replacement in the pipeline and already contributing by then.
If they do add such a player, it figures to be a player who can make combat catches, and who boasts similar traits. Describing his ideal wide receiver, Colbert listed the following qualities: “you want big, fast, the ability to get in and out of a break, the ability to catch the ball in competitive situations, the ability to run after the catch and the ability to block”.
But as I said, it’s virtually impossible to get the full package in a real live human being. So you have to pick and choose what is most important to you.