Heading into the 2015 NFL Draft, two highly-touted wide receivers were considered by Football Outsiders to be overrated in terms of "playmaker" ability: Kevin White and DeVante Parker. They were projected to gain about the same number of yards (just over 400), but the metrics were a little higher on Parker than White. Neither was considered a top prospect by their methods.
Parker, it turns out, had a slightly better season than Football Outsiders projected, but he did not clear 500 yards from scrimmage. On the other hand, Parker might not be the best comparison for White, however, so I used Pro Football Reference to look at White's draft peers.
From 2006 to 2015, ten wide receivers have been drafted between slot 3 and slot 11 in the first round (in other words, within 4 slots of Kevin White). This pool includes Amari Cooper, Sammy Watkins, AJ Green, Mike Evans, Tavon Austin, Justin Blackmon, Julio Jones, Darius Heyward Bey, Michael Crabtree, and Ted Ginn. It leaves out Calvin Johnson (#2) and Odell Beckham (#12). If we were to look at the performances in the first year of play for these ten players, we'd see some great play and some disappointment, but we should also be able to bracket "reasonable expectations" for a wide receiver who was worthy of the seventh pick in the draft.
In his rookie year, this composite receiver would be expected to play in 14 games and to start 9 of them. He'd have 99 targets and 52 receptions for a 52% catch rate and 757 yards. Add in 3 rushing attempts for almost 30 yards, 5 touchdowns, and a fumble.* Obviously, none of that applies to Kevin White's first year. However, it seems like this should be a reasonable set of expectations for his first playing year. Around 750 yards from scrimmage, 5 touchdowns, and enough targets (with a decent enough catch rate) to take the pressure off of the true #1 receiver on the team. This would be equal to about 3 to 4 catches and around 53 yards per game (or really close to how he did in the final preseason game against Cleveland).
That sort of play would have made White the fourth receiving threat on the 2013 or 2014 Bears, but it would have made him the second receiving threat on the 2015 Bears (last year was rough in terms of who actually suited up for a large number of games). It would also place him outside of the Top 100 in terms of all-purpose yards last year in the NFL.
Perhaps I'm just being greedy, but I want a bit more than that from the #7 draft pick. The offensive line seems to be in a better place than it has been in a long time [Link], so the weapons on the team should have a chance to shine. More importantly, the Bears need White to be a playmaker [Link].
Setting the bar a little higher, if White were to break 1000 yards from scrimmage, he would be in the top half of receivers I mentioned earlier (his draft peers). Admittedly, this might be too much to ask for. It takes time for a receiver to adjust to the NFL, and even if White has all the tools, the transition will not happen overnight. I want to believe that White will be worth the wait. What does the community think?
*Interestingly, besides total yardage, this composite stat line is also remarkably close to another performance turned in by a second-year Bears receiver who was drafted much lower. This player had 100 targets with 51 receptions with 960 yards, a single rushing attempt, 5 touchdowns, and a fumble (anyone care to guess who that was below in the comments?)