2010 Fantasy Football: Assessing the Three-Year Rule For Wide Receivers

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2010 Fantasy Football: Assessing the Three-Year Rule For Wide Receivers
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For fantasy football players, there are some "myths" that always seems to have us reach for a player a round or two too early. The myth that always seems to get me is that of the third year wide receiver (3YWR).

You all know what I'm talking about. It's the one that says that wide receivers take about two seasons before they are truly acclimated to the NFL, and in their third season will bust out.

To be considered having a "good" third year, guys had to score six touchdowns, grab 70 receptions, or 1,000 yards receiving (and hopefully they had at least two of the three).

Ultimately, the past few years have been pretty bad for 3YWRs in Fantasy Football. A quality 3YWR has been scarce and almost unpredictable. And until last season, you would've had to go back to the 2006 season to find more than a handful of guys who actually helped your fantasy team.

So, let's first look back at the last few seasons, starting with 2006, and see if there were any trends to help us going forward (i.e., did they have a solid 2nd season that would help us predict solid performance or was it just completely unpredictable?).

In 2006, we had Jerricho Cotchery (6 TDs, 82 rec, 961), Lee Evans (8,82,1,292), Roy E. Williams (7,82,1,310), Larry Fitzgerald (6,69,946), Bernard Berrian (six TDs), and Michael Jenkins (seven TDs) meeting my criteria.

Wes Welker almost made it with 67 rec, but he had only one TD and 687 rec yards. Though to be fair, the next year he played for the Patriots and was a completely unpredicted No. #1 Fantasy WR (not to brag, but I did draft him in round 14 of a few leagues).

Evans, Williams, and Fitzgerald all built off solid 2005 seasons, but the rest came out of nowhere. Ernest Wilford (7,41,681 in 2005) was a trendy pick who did nothing in 2006.

So, 50 percent of this class we could've reasonably assumed would have solid production, the rest were either late round "sleepers" or waiver wire pickups. Oh, and Wilford was just a terrible, wasted pick who hasn't been heard from since.

Now in 2007 we only had Braylon Edwards (16 TDs, 80 rec, 1,289) and Roddy White (6, 83, 1,202) meet my standards. Edwards was coming off a solid second year but White came out of nowhere.

Also coming off a solid sophomore year, Reggie Brown was the closest to joining this list with four TDs, 61 Rec and 780 yds (Brown has barely been a factor for the Eagles since then and was traded last week). This was a terrible year for three YWRs.

Edwards and Brown were coming off solid second seasons, but only Edwards did anything with it. Roddy White went from being 1st Round bust to No. #1 wide receiver in 2007. You either got lucky enough to draft Edwards or had a nice waiver position to grab White.  But nothing in their second seasons would've made us assume these results.

[On a side note, Vincent Jackson is a member of this class, but didn't come into his own until this past year and should be a clear No. #1 or #2 WR going into 2010. But I digress —again, nothing really supporting any sort of a trend].

After the abomination that was 2007, and the fact we now KNOW that there is no trend when picking a productive 3YWR, you'd think we'd have learned our lesson.

But no, most fantasy owners would draft Marques Colston in rounds two or three after coming off a stellar first two years. But he was plagued by injuries yet still had five TDs, 47 Rec, and 760 with the majority of his production coming when it mattered most during weeks 10-17. 

2008 also had Brandon Marshall (6, 104, 1,265), Greg Jennings (9, 80, 1,292), and Lance Moore (10,79,928). Marshall (7, 102, 1,325 in 2007) lived up to the hype and Jennings showed flashes of breaking out with 12 TDs, 900+ yds and 50+ rec in 2007. 

So again, 2008 proved that you had no better than a 50-50 chance of picking a breakout 3YWR.

So what about 2009?

Did we continue to have a declining trend for the quantity of 3rd Year WRs or was it the year where we all get sucked back into believing the myth and drafting a few guys entirely too early in our 2010 drafts?

For my standards, 2009 was basically what we've seen the past two seasons with a couple guys who were greatly ahead of everyone and a few guys who barely made the list. Even more, it PROVED the fact that a solid first or second season was not a precursor to a breakout year.

Calvin Johnson (5,67,984), Steve Breaston (3,55,712), Dwayne Bowe (4,47,489), Anthony Gonzalez (no stats), Ted Ginn Jr (1,38,454) all were coming off solid sophomore campaigns but DIDN'T make the cut due to injuries, suspension or overall poor performance.

Worst of all, CJ cost you a 1st or 2nd round pick, Bowe a 3rd or 4th rounder, and Gonzalez & Ginn a 4th or 5th round pick!  Only one owner in any of my leagues who had any of these guys made the playoffs, and understandably so.

But maybe you got lucky and saved your season by drafting Steve Smith (NYG) and /or Sidney Rice later on.

Smith had seven TDs, 107 rec, and 1,220 rec yards while Rice had eight TDs, 83 rec, and 1,312 rec yards. But to go along with them we also had: Robert Meachem (9,45,722), Mike Sims-Walker (7,63,869), and Jacoby Jones (six TDs, but wildly inconsistent).

And the most amazing part of this group? Besides Smith, none of the other guys had more than 16 passes for 300 rec yards in 2008 and were probably available on your waiver wire to begin the season. Talk about breaking out.

So what is my final conclusion about breakout 3YWRs? 

Clearly they do exist, but there are only a few each season (no more than six since 2006). Previous season performance is not an indicator of guaranteed success and that you have no better than a 50 percent chance of being right in any given year. 

So should you still draft a 3YWR in 2010?

That depends on your squad and how the draft is unfolding.  If you feel like it is too soon to draft a guy who is a  3YWR, then it probably is.

You should probably pick someone who has shown solid production and will definitely help your team. 

If your team needs a WR and you're choosing from scrubs, why not take a flier on a 3YWR. It's safer than picking a rookie WR or injury prone RB. 

So who are the 3YWRs to look at in 2010?

I'll be writing about that later this week.

So what do you think?

Are 3YWRs worth it, or is it smarter to play it safe with the more established WRs early and maybe take a flier on one of these guys late?

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