A widely held belief exists that wide receivers do not come into their own until their third year in the NFL. This theory held true for Terrell Owens, who had 14 touchdowns and 1,097 yards receiving in 1998. Chad (Johnson) Ochocinco likewise made a leap in 2003 with 1,355 yards and 10 touchdowns.
However, guys like Randy Moss, Larry Fitzgerald, Torry Holt and Anquan Boldin developed sooner. Reggie Wayne and Donald Driver took until year four to break out. So I’m not sure I buy this myth.
However, a lot of football brains much bigger than mine swear by this third-year philosophy, so I won’t argue. Using the "third year’s a charm" theory of wide receiver relativity, let’s take a look at the guys who might hit their stride this season.
Calvin Johnson, DET — Megatron already broke out in his second season with 1,331 yards and a dozen touchdowns. He is the best wide receiver in the NFL and would be the first receiver off the board if he played for a better team. He’s not sneaking up on anyone in 2009. Johnson is currently the fourth wide receiver taken and his ADP is 16.5.
Dwayne Bowe, KCC — Bowe has averaged 1,000 yards and 6 touchdowns per season through his first two years. That’s not spectacular, but he should certainly do as well if not progress even further in year three.
After showing up for camp overweight and having new coach Todd Haley relegate him to the second team, Bowe has worked his way back to the front lines. Bowe is currently the 12th wide receiver drafted and his ADP is 35.45.
Anthony Gonzalez, IND — Gonzalez has 620 yards and a few touchdowns each season so far. In his third season, there are high expectations as former Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison moved on leaving a massive fantasy void for Gonzalez to fill.
He is currently being drafted earlier than he should be, based in anticipated returns on Harrison’s absence. A-Gonz is currently the 21st wide receiver off the board at ADP 56.47.
Ted Ginn, Jr., MIA — While Ginn has improved his yardage in each of his two seasons in Miami, he has only got two touchdowns each season to show for his efforts. If his pre-season performance this year is any indication, season three will be no better than season two’s 790 yards and two scores. Ginn may soon be wearing a BUST label. He is currently the 37th wide receiver taken at ADP 111.31.
Steve Breaston, ARI — Breaston took a giant leap forward in 2008, but it was a mixed bag. He had 77 receptions for 1,006 yards, but only found the end zone three times. His improvement bodes well for the Cardinals, but leaves fantasy owners torn between fluke and promise. 2009 should tell us more about Breaston, who is currently the 38th wide receiver off the board at an ADP of 112.76.
Steve Smith, NYG — Smith hasn’t been that impressive so far for the Giants. In 2008, Smith played his first full 16-game season and had 574 yards, but only one paltry score. Even the absence of Plaxico Burress did not get Smith jump-started. I don’t expect Smith to suddenly come alive this season. In fact, I believe rookie receiver Hakeem Nicks surpasses Smith, who is currently the 45th wide receiver taken with an ADP of 132.97.
Sidney Rice, MIN — Rice was stagnant in his second season in the NFL. The arrival of Brett Favre to the Vikings may just be the catalyst Rice needs to make a name for himself. I wouldn’t put too much faith in that hope though with Bernard Berrian and Percy Harvin on the field as well. Rice is currently the 63rd wide receiver chosen with an ADP of 179.82.
Robert Meachem, NOS — The Saints and fantasy owners have been buzzing this pre-season about Meachem. The “sleeper” word has been thrown around quite a bit that this could well be his breakout campaign. If there is any place for a receiver to shine, it’s with Drew Brees hucking the pigskin to you. I like his odds better than Smith’s or Rice’s above. He’s currently the 68th wide receiver taken with an ADP of 186.82.
Mike Sims-Walker, JAC — Sims-Walker, like Meachem was another sleeper candidate this summer as odds-on-favorite to line up opposite Torry Holt as the Jaguars second wide receiver. After missing the majority of 2008, Sims-Walker is already hurt this pre-season and has seen his coveted position swaying towards Troy Williamson, who has been on fire so far.
Sims-Walker is currently going as the 71st wide receiver off the board at ADP 188.20. By the way, how does a man suddenly grow a hyphenated last name?
Other 3rd Year Notables
Laurent Robinson, STL — Robinson was originally thought to be starting the season as the Rams number one wide receiver with Donnie Avery's injury. However, Avery has healed quickly and will return in time for game one of the regular season. Robinson was officially handed the second wide receiver role yesterday (August 31st). His current ADP is 202.55.
James Jones, GBP — Jones had been making great inroads this summer towards sewing up the third wide receiver position. However, lately, Jordy Nelson has been raining on his parade and the two are now neck-and-neck in the battle for the slot. My guess is both will be used regularly, with Jones as the deep threat/big play receiver. His current ADP is 213.03.
David Clowney, NYJ — Clowney had resoundingly beaten out Stuckey for the second wide receiver job, and the Newark Star Ledger reported last week he had in fact won the spot, for which he is better suited. How quickly things change (see Stuckey below). Clowney is a real threat to breakout in the 2009 campaign, but he’s stuck on a run-first team. His current ADP is 228.50.
Johnny Lee Higgins, OAK — Higgins came on strong late last season for the befuddled Raiders. He showed flashes of his long-term potential, but the Raiders are an absolute mess and right now no one seems to know who will be catching the ball in Oakland. His current ADP is 230.15.
Chansi Stuckey, NYJ — Stuckey is best served as a number three wide receiver. However, new coach Rex Ryan has oddly enough handed him the second wide receiver position, based on Monday’s news (August 31st). Even fantasy owners are leaning towards David Clowney. Stuckey's current ADP is 237.15.