Hughes: McLaurin's career is off to a special start


By now it should be obvious the Washington Football Team got a good one in wide receiver Terry McLaurin. He is already a certified steal as a third-round pick in 2019. Selected 76th overall, he has been the 17th-most valuable player from that class based on Football Reference's CarAV (career approximate value) metric.

But if past is prologue, and the stats McLaurin has produced so far are a sign of more to come, he could amount to much more than a mid-round diamond in the rough. He is on track to be one of the best wide receivers in Washington's franchise history and has a chance to separate himself even further as one of the most productive wideouts of his generation.

McLaurin, now in the early goings of his third season, has played in 31 regular-season games. His 160 receptions are tied for 15th in NFL history through this point in his career. Among the 14 who had more, his former teammate Jordan Reed (162 rec.) was one of them, which goes to show how special he could have been if it weren't for injuries.

But if you look only at wide receivers, McLaurin is 10th in receptions through 31 games. Additionally, his 2,206 receiving yards rank 19th all-time and ninth among active players.


The Washington franchise has enjoyed plenty of great wide receivers in the past including Hall of Famers like Art Monk and Charley Taylor. Monk has the franchise record for receiving yards (12,026), though McLaurin has more through 31 career games than Monk did (2,206 to 1,593) and by a good margin.

McLaurin has the second-best receiving yards per game average (71.4) for the franchise behind only Gary Clark (71.7). McLaurin also has more touchdowns (12) than Taylor (11) to this point and Taylor ended up with the franchise mark (79).

A good comparison for McLaurin may be Stefon Diggs, the former Maryland star who now plays for the Buffalo Bills, Washington's next opponent this weekend. Both were picked in the middle rounds of the draft (Diggs in the fifth round) and stand six feet tall. McLaurin's 2,206 yards and 12 touchdowns barely edge Diggs' 2,018 yards and 11 scores through 31 career games.

Terry McLaurin vs. Stefon Diggs through 31 G

McLaurin: 2,206 yds, 160 rec (245 tgt), 12 TD, 13.8 yards/reception

Diggs: 2,018 yds, 159 rec (232 tgt), 11 TD, 12.69 yards/reception

Also like Diggs, McLaurin has had to produce his numbers so far while dealing with a lot of uncertainty and change at the quarterback position. Diggs had Teddy Bridgewater as a rookie, then Sam Bradford his second year and Case Keenum his third. McLaurin, meanwhile, has already caught passes from six different quarterbacks.

The numbers show McLaurin makes each quarterback he plays with better. In 2019, when Washington signal-callers combined for an 83.0 quarterback rating, they rated 115.8 when targeting McLaurin. Last season, their overall rating was 80.1 compared to 91.6 when throwing McLaurin's way.

McLaurin has also proven his individual worth by what he does after catching the ball. Last season, he was sixth among wide receivers in yards after catch (490) and tied for fifth in broken tackles on receptions at his position. 

That should provide further context to McLaurin's 2020 numbers, which had him 17th in total receptions (87) and 13th in yards (1,118). Both were good, but not elite.

McLaurin, however, would likely rank much higher in each category if he had more consistent quarterback play. He can produce consistently, no matter who is throwing him the ball. Not everyone can do that.

McLaurin is off to a uniquely good start to his career, especially considering where he was drafted. Just imagine the possibilities if Washington can find a reliable quarterback to set him up.