The patented Chris Ballard "who?" pick in the 2021 NFL Draft came in the seventh round, as he selected wide receiver Michael Strachan out of Charleston University. While Strachan had a great pre-draft process, he was far from a household name come draft day.
Standing at 6'5" and 228 pounds (while also running a 4.46 forty yard dash), Strachan is an intriguing player to take a shot on that late in the draft. He came into camp with a lot to learn, but he made the most of his opportunities, catching 10 passes for 130 yards in the preseason.
With his size profile, along with a strong preseason, Strachan has built up quite a "hive" among the Colts' fanbase. I am certainly high on the future potential of Strachan, but today I will play the role of the antithesis to his biggest supporters in year one.
Historical Data is Not on His Side
Doing some recent historical research into wide receivers taken in the seventh round led me to this interesting article by Corey Spala of TheFantasyAuthority.com. Spala dove into the recent history of rookie wide receivers and divided up players based on their targets in their rookie season.
Going back to 2011, Spala looked at the 238 receivers taken in the NFL Draft. In his chart (that is in the article linked here) he has 28 receivers taken in the seventh round over that time. Of those 28 receivers, each and every one of them had less than 49 targets in their rookie season.
I dove a little deeper into those numbers to find some players who were drafted in the seventh round in that span, and I looked into their stats as rookies. Here were the most notable players that I found:
- Rishard Matthews (2012): 11 catches for 151 yards.
- Brice Butler (2013): Nine catches for 103 yards.
- Michael Campanaro (2014): Seven catches for 102 yards and one touchdown.
- Charone Peake (2016): 19 catches for 186 yards.
- Marcell Ateman (2018): 15 catches for 154 yards and one touchdown.
- Richie James (2018): Nine catches for 130 yards and one touchdown.
So, while Strachan may be an outlier, recent history suggests that he is unlikely to hit more than 20 catches (or over 200 yards receiving) as a rookie. In actuality, strictly going by numbers, he is more likely to not have a reception than he is to end up on this list of players even.
Opportunity Just Isn't There
Numbers are one thing, but they don't account for outliers. Strachan is an outlier by simply being drafted at all, so maybe he can overcome the odds and have a big rookie season regardless.
The issue is, the opportunity just may not be there in year one. Here is what Colts' Offensive Coordinator Marcus Brady had to say about Strachan in a recent post-practice media session:
Through training camp, he just progressed through training camp. He’s still learning because he is young and the more reps that he gets, the better that he’s going to get. It’s just going to be our job of just managing that aspect. Don’t overload him with too much, keep it simple early and then let him progress throughout the season.
When asked about what positions that Strachan is still learning, Brady's response was, "you can say he plays in one spot, but we move guys around a lot. So, he’s got to learn every position."
Coaches typically won't divulge too much information in these media sessions, but it is easy to read between the lines and see that Brady is going to take this season slow with Strachan.
Even with T.Y. Hilton out for what could be a significant amount of time, Strachan is still firmly behind Michael Pittman Jr, Zach Pascal, and Parris Campbell on the depth chart. Even after that, he is still likely to be behind both Dezmon Patmon and Ashton Dulin when it comes to playing time on offense.
Strachan will certainly get on the field at some point as a rookie, but I simply don't see the opportunity being there for him in year one.
I Promise I Still Believe
While this article is seemingly ripping all of the hype away from the MegaStrachan fan club that has developed, I promise that I still believe in his potential. He is a rare athlete who had an exceedingly impressive camp considering where he was playing football last year.
Think of his rookie year as being similar to Patmon's in 2020. Patmon is clearly a talented receiver, yet the Colts gave offensive snaps to eight receivers a year ago (none of which being Patmon).
I firmly believe that Strachan will get on the field at some point this season, but he is a project player that will take some time to see real action on Sundays. It would be wise to temper expectations for his rookie year, while still being excited for the future for this talented prospect.
Follow Zach on Twitter @ZachHicks2.