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The Great Big Third Year WR Post - NFC

One of the more common fantasy football theories is the Third Year Wide Receiver. This theory says that it usually takes a few years for college wide receivers to adjust to the speed and complexity of the NFL. After two years in the league, wide receivers should be ready to establish themselves in their team's offense - and provide you fantasy riches.

This is a good theory, and one that I include in my preparation for every season. But most fantasy football articles only mention it in passing, usually to bolster their case that the player they're discussing as a sleeper is actually a sleeper. I don't recall ever seeing an article that said "Player X is in his third year - but ignore that because he's going to stink."

It pays to be thorough, but it's not enough to just take every third year WR and consider them breakout candidates. Each year there are about 30 third year wide receivers and you need to have a way to separate the Jericho Cotcherys from the Keary Colberts.

There are the three criteria that I use to grade third year WRs:

Playing time - No player will improve unless they get time on the field. I look for receivers that play in at least 75% of their team's games the first two years - that means 24 games played to date. The higher the number of games started the better.

Year-to-year improvement - Even though I refer to third year players as "breaking out", there are always signs of improvement if you look closely. A noticeable improvement in receptions and receiving yards from a player's rookie year to their second year is a telltale sign they are becoming more involved in the offense. Conversely, I also look for players with a noticeable drop in yards from the player's rookie year to their second year. That usually means the player actually broke out in his rookie season only to slump as a sophomore - which may mean a big third year rebound. For example, Anquan Boldin's receiving yard totals for his first three seasons were 1,377 - 623 - 1,402. Roy Williams's first three seasons were 817-687-1310.

Quarterback Stability - This is the hardest factor to use, because it can change at any time during the season. A receiver and a quarterback need time together to establish timing and rhythm. If the receiver has had to deal with a different quarterback the past few years, or they will be dealing with a new quarterback this year, they won't have that familiarity. The quarterback doesn't even have to be a good fantasy quarterback, as long as the receiver has experience with them.

So let's take a look at the NFC third year wide receivers. I based this review off the 31 wide receivers taken in the 2005 draft. I realize that there may be undrafted guys who are currently in their third year, but that information isn't readily available. If anybody knows of guys in that category, let me know. Conditions that meet my criteria are shaded in green. Guys no longer in the league are shaded in grey

Draft Order

Player

Team

Games Played 2005-06

2007 QB(s), 2006 QB(s), 2005 QB(s)

Rcv Yd Diff 2006-2005

2

Troy Williamson

MIN

28

Jackson, Johnson, Johnson/Culpepper

83

6

Roddy White

ATL

32

Vick, Vick, Vick

60

7

Reggie Brown

PHI

32

McNabb, McNabb/Garcia, McNabb/McMahon

245

8

Mark Bradley

CHI

17

Grossman, Grossman, Orton

52

10

Terrence Murphy

GB

N/A

N/A

N/A

17

Chase Lyman

NO

N/A

N/A

N/A

18

Fred Gibson

ATL

0

Vick, Harrington/Culpepper, N/A

0

20

Airese Currie

CHI

N/A

N/A

N/A

21

Larry Brackins

TB

N/A

N/A

N/A

23

Chad Owens

TB

5

Garcia, Leftwich/Garrard, Leftwich/Garrard

0

25

Dante' Ridgeway

NO

8

Brees, Brees, Pennington

-26

26

Craig Bragg

GB

N/A

N/A

N/A

27

Marcus Maxwell

SF

4

Smith, Smith, Smith/Rattay

0

28

Paris Warren

TB

8

Garcia, Gradkowski, Griese/Simms

63

29

LeRon McCoy

ARZ

10

Leinart, Leinart/Warner, McCown

-191

31

J.R. Russell

TB

N/A

N/A

N/A

 

First off, if you want to understand the state of the passing game in the NFC Central, look no further than the 2005 Draft. Chicago, Tampa and Green Bay drafted a total of seven WRs (Chad Owens was drafted by the Jaguars) and five of them aren't even in the league anymore, including second round pick Terence Murphy. Yikes.

There is only one NFC player that meets all three of my criteria and that's Reggie Brown. No surprise there, Brown is the #1WR in Philly and has a Pro Bowl QB throwing to him. Brown is an easy choice and he should have a great season.

Then it gets a bit harder. The Falcons' Roddy White meets two of the criteria, but hasn't seen his role in the offense grow the past two years. If Vick plays and the Petrino offense really clicks, White could be the receiving star Atlanta needs so badly. If Vick is suspended, and/or Petrino's passing offense doesn't click, then it's probably more misery for White.

My one-category players are even riskier. Troy Williamson could be the breakout star of the Minnesota passing offense. Unfortunately, the "Minnesota passing offense" could consist of 160 yards per game. You almost have to take a flyer on him as a #3 WR just on potential though.

Mark Bradley of the Bears has been playing with Grossman for a while, but he hasn't had the game experience. Stuck behind Muhammad and Berrian, and with Greg Olsen taking catches, he won't have any fantasy value unless somebody gets injured.

The last one-category player I find very interesting. Marcus Maxwell has only appeared in four games and has never caught an NFL pass. So why is he so interesting? Because Marcus Maxwell made the All-NFL Europa team this season and led the league in touchdown receptions with seven. He has a young quarterback with Pro Bowl potential, a great running game and a veteran #1 WR in Darrell Jackson to lead the team. The only guys he needs to beat for a starting spot are Ashley Lelie (a WR so bad even the Falcons didn't want him), Arnaz Battle and Brian Gilmore. Are you kidding me? This situation has breakout sleeper all over it. If you're looking for the next Devery Henderson-type of #3-maybe-#2 sleeper WR, then keep an eye on what Marcus Maxwell is doing in camp.