Hester as a Wide Receiver: The Final Discussion?

We have had here at Windy City Gridiron (aka the best website. Ever. Well, next to this one) the discussion about Devin Hester: Returner or Receiver many times. I hope we can settle this soon, and move along.  Let's look at some definitive info after the jump.

Career Stats Receiving Kickoff Returns Punt Returns Fumbles
Season Team G Rec Yds Y/G Avg Lng YAC 1stD TD KR Yds Avg Long TD PR Yds Avg Long TD Fum Lost
2006 CHI 16 0 0 0.0 0.0 0 0.0 0 0 20 528 26.4 96 2 47 600 12.8 84 3 8 2
2007 CHI 16 20 299 18.7 15.0 81 7.0 11 2 43 934 21.7 97 2 42 651 15.5 89 4 7 1
2008 CHI 15 51 665 44.3 13.0 65 4.2 29 3 31 679 ight: 0.2em; padding-bottom: 0.2em; padding-left: 0.2em;">21.9 51 0 32 198 6.2 25 0 5 2
2009 CHI 13 57 757 58.2 13.3 48 YAC 34 3 7 156 22.3 44 0 24 187 7.8 33 0 3 1
2010 CHI 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Career 60 128 1721 28.7 13.4 81 YAC 74 8 101 2297 22.7 97 4 145 1636 11.3 89 7 23 6

Source: Wikipedia

Let's go ahead and admit right now--Yes, he has not had a return touchdown since 2007. But he's also had significantly less carries. There is no doubt that he was an electric return man, and possibly could be again in the right situations. Perhaps, indeed, he would've continued that dominance if he'd remained only a kick returner, but there's nothing that guarantees that. (I'm looking at you, Dante Hall)

But let's take a look at Hester: The Receiver

Hester as a receiver is something that really first started in 2007, while he was still retaining full time kick duties. In that season, he had 20 receptions, 2 TD, and 299 yards, averaging 15 yards per catch.

In 2008, 51 rec for 665 yards, 3 TD, and a 13 average in yards per catch.

In 2009, the first season they really started to feature him as a prominent receiver, he only played 13 games, but managed to keep up his 13 yards per catch average, with 57 receptions for 757 yards and 3 touchdowns.

This is, of course, in an offense known to not take the big shots often, or prominently feature the passing game.

So it is, in fact, potential that he has been converted on. But how is that any different than how a player is drafted out of school? No one is ever certain how a college player will play upon entrance to the NFL, but those with potential are granted millions and millions of guaranteed dollars before they've even played a down.

So why not take one of the most naturally gifted players you have and try to get him into the game more? I don't think any of us would be mad if Hester had over 1000 yards receiving and 8-10 TDs. Hell, his potential even works in factors when he ISN'T EVEN ON THE FIELD. Teams are required to dedicate the safety help to the person on the field who could run past their cornerback and not even notice.

The other thing--the Bears aren't the only team who would have tried to convert him, and you have to consider the fact that Hester himself wanted to do more. If he hadn't gotten the chance to convert positions with the Bears, he could be on another team doing it. That is something we probably don't want.

Point being: Hester should be on the field as often as possible. You have to use your best talent as often as possible, and he's just as effective lining up in different receiver positions (and in the end around plays we saw on Saturday night) that you need to use him.

So how about this--with a new system, let's give him a year to adjust to something that might fit his abilities even better. Until then, let's not have the "He should've stayed a returner" conversation.

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