Dec. 23, 2012; Glendale, AZ, USA: Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Andre Roberts (12) against the Chicago Bears at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Bears defeated the Cardinals 28-13. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona Cardinals: Andre Roberts and the Best Slot Receivers

Arizona Cardinals receiver Andre Roberts has a chance to become one of the better slot receivers in the NFL, in my opinion. But what is a slot receiver and what does it take to be a successful one?

Now that the NFL has become a passing league, the slot receiver is becoming extremely prevalent and perhaps the most important weapon on the offense for the quarterback.  On some levels, the slot has become the quarterback’s best friend on the football field. The QB often relies on the slot receiver to find ways to get open in key third down situations, and the slot receiver is a key outlet receiver when all else fails.

Historically, the top paid receivers on the field are the so-called (number one receiver) wideouts and not the slot receiver; however, in today’s NFL, the slot receiver is now becoming an extremely valuable part of the offense.

So what exactly is a slot receiver and why aren’t they paid like the number one receiver?  Here is a very good definition for the slot receiver:

“a slot receiver is technically listed as the third string on an NFL roster which means the receiver will see limited action. Someone you would know who plays the slot receiver is Wes Welker. You will see that he is not in on every play like the outside two receivers commonly are. The slot is used a lot on third downs and typically manages the inside of the field.”

That quote in a nut shell pretty much explains to you why they are not paid like a number one receiver. However, the slot is becoming more and more prevalent in the NFL and will soon be rewarded for it.

In my opinion, it is just not that easy to find the likes of a top-notch slot receiver such as a Wes Welker or a Percy Harvin. Such players not only have tremendous quickness and shiftiness but they also have incredible instincts and have a knack for knowing how to get open in space. It is a unique position that has become more defined in recent years.

Great slot receivers just do not grow on trees. They’re truly becoming a valuable commodity in the NFL. For that reason, the slot receiver will soon be financially rewarded for it.

In fact, we have already started seeing signs of the demands for one. For instance, Harvin was recently traded from the Minnesota Vikings to the Seattle Seahawks for a first round pick.

Furthermore, we all witnessed what happened in New England with Wes Welker this offseason. Welker was paid well by the Denver Broncos, and he signed for two years and $12 million.

With that in mind, who are the top slot receivers and how does Roberts compare to this group?

For now I will have to give the nod to Wes Welker because of his consistence, longevity and brilliance on the football field. However, coming in a close second has to be Percy Harvin. If Harvin can stay on the football field for the entire year he could end up being one of the best slot receivers we have ever seen, in my opinion.

Other solid slot receivers that must be mentioned in the conversation are Victor Cruz, Davone Bess, Randall Cobb and Danny Amendola.

Additionally, both Anquan Boldin and Reggie Wayne were often used in the slot (last year) because of their craftiness and intellect in knowing how to get open in space. We are now starting to see the so-called number one receivers used in the slot to help the offense, like a Boldin and Wayne listed above.

Finally, Andre Roberts has the skill set and the craftiness to perhaps be mentioned in the conversation as the names mentioned above; although time will only be able to give us those answers. He has shown that he has the craftiness in space as well as the quickness to be successful. His numbers have continued to increase his first three years with the Redbirds. So we shall see very soon.

As mentioned in a previous article; Roberts is a management favorite.  Upper management believes that he has the skill set to be a great receiver and just needs an adequate quarterback to prove that he has what it takes to be a very productive receiver.

We shall also see how much Roberts will even be used in the slot. There has been a lot of news from OTAs that Arians has Larry Fitzgerald learning three different wide receiver positions. This tells me Fitzgerald will perhaps be used in the slot at times. This is similar to how Arians used Reggie Wayne in Indianapolis last year and how Boldin was used in Baltimore with the Ravens.

Reading the tea leaves from the OTA’s this off-season; there is a very strong chance that Arians will be using multiple receivers in the slot this year, such as Roberts and Fitzgerald. This should aid the offense by causing confusion for defenses. Moving the receivers around (with different formations) should benefit Carson Palmer and the offense with the hopes that defenses will lose track of where Fitzgerald and or Roberts will line up.

We will soon see how all this actually plays out for the Redbirds in the slot this season. However, I do see the Cardinals using the slot by committee if you will, with primarily Fitzgerald and Roberts. I also see Ryan Swope entering this conversation if he can get past his concussion issues.

Having said that, I truly believe Andre Roberts has the ability (talent) to becoming a tremendous slot receiver.  Perhaps he could be in the conversation (listed above) in the very near future.

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Tags: Arizona Cardinals Slot Receivers WR Andre Roberts

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