Go back a couple of decades and players like Ryan Switzer really didn’t even exist in the NFL. At 5’8” and 185 pounds, it’s hard to find a position for somebody of that frame, at least once the level of athleticism took a major step forward as the game of football became more monetized and the stakes were raised.
But now players such as Switzer are simply known as slot receivers, essentially a new position—and its counterpart, the nickel/slot cornerback—that has dramatically expanded the offensive passing game in the NFL.
Now heading into his third season, and his second with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Switzer spent some time earlier this offseason doing the media rounds on the sports talk shows, and he was asked multiple times about his role as a slot receiver and the path it has led him down.
Asked if he believed that the slot receiver position was being more recognized today, he said, “I feel like it. I feel like I’ve been aware of some of the deals that have been going on this offseason with, you know, Cole [Beasley] just got paid, [Adam] Humphries from Tampa Bay just got paid in Tennessee, so I feel like, as the game evolves and as time goes on, that that position is starting to be more understood”.
Another key contract to consider in this discussion would be the one signed by Jamison Crowder, who was recruited by the New York Jets this offseason with a three-year, $28.5 million contract, which included $17 million fully guaranteed.
Appearing on another show later, he was asked if he spends a lot of time thinking about the fact that if it were not for players such as Wes Welker showing that players of his body type can not only contribute but have an impact at the NFL level, he might not be here.
“Yeah, a lot. You know, coming out of high school, I was a running back, but I was always being compared to Wes”, he said. “Even though I hadn’t played the receiver position. I know that was kind of gonna be my path when I got to college. All the camps, all the coaches. I was getting recruited by Penn State, I met with Bill O’Brien, and the whole meeting, it was” all about Wes Welker”.
Switzer went from working which Mitchel Trubisky at North Carolina in college to Dak Prescott during his rookie season in 2017 as a fourth-round pick, though he played sparsely. The Steelers acquired him via trade in late August of 2018, and he had the most receptions and receiving yards among wide receivers on the team behind Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Between himself, Smith-Schuster, and Eli Rogers, however, the team now has an abundance of players who can line up in the slot. All of them can be used, but will he and Rogers both be on the roster come September? The draft will play a big role in determining that.