You don't have to look far in the NFL to find rosters littered with former first-round wide receivers that haven't panned out in the pros. Anthony Gonzalez. Troy Williamson. Any Lions pick not named Calvin Johnson. That Michael Jenkins dude.
But Roddy White and Julio Jones, both former first-round picks, can happily say that the word "bust" does not apply in the slightest. Last year, the two combined for 2,540 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns in a suddenly pass-happy Falcons offense.
And while those weren't quite 1,900-plus yard Calvin Johnson performances, it's amazing the type of play Atlanta got from its wideouts when you consider the salaries: a $3.7 million cap hit for Jones and an $8 million cap hit for White in 2012. From a performance-based value perspective, both wideouts outperformed those contracts by $3.2 million and $2.4 million, respectively.
Considering the caliber of stock Atlanta traded to get Jones, the type of numbers he put up last season were encouraging, especially his 108-yard, two touchdown day against a Kansas City Chiefs that featured Pro Bow safety Eric Berry and standout cornerback Brandon Flowers. His catch rate increased from 57% (2011) to 63% (2012), and his effective yardage, which essentially converts the oft-cited DVOA statistic into a yard-per-play number, increased from 836 to 1,291 last year, according to Football Outsiders.
Speaking of DVOA, White and Jones ranked among the top 20 wideouts in the league last year. Among those with at least 50 catches, Julio ranked 18th at 16.4% above average and Roddy was 20th at 15.6% in the positive.
That isn't to say that Atlanta's receiving corps was perfect. In fact in that same category of players with at least 50 catches, the often-maligned Harry Douglas ranked 76th out of 86 with a DVOA of -15.1% in 2012. With his modest 355-yard campaign, he also underperformed his $1.8 million cap hit by $1.1 million.
Neither of the other Falcons receivers (Drew Davis and Kevin Cone) recorded enough receptions to earn a spot on the Football Outsiders list, though Davis' four catches for 40 yards (on six targets) at the very least looks promising.
As long as the Falcons have White and Jones (along with one last hurrah for Tony Gonzalez, the need for a standout slot receiver is more of a luxury than necessity at this point. Still, it should at least be interesting to see if Davis can expand his role on offense, or if a young guy like Martel Moore can make his case for some catches in 2013.
Bottom line: White and Jones were top-10 wideouts according to DYAR and top-20 wide receivers according to DVOA. Both are outperforming their contracts, as well. And Harry Douglas is doing none of those things.