Eric 450x281 Eric Decker: Much more than a 4th Wheel

Written by Jamie Will

In scouring the many 2014 free agent rankings lists that are out there, the top is most likely a variation of Eric Decker, Hakeem Nicks, Jeremy Maclin, and Golden Tate. The consensus among people I’ve discussed wide receivers with is that all of these guys have their warts and that the draft is the way to go to improve at receiver this year.  While I agree on Nicks (injury/inconsistency), Maclin (injury), and Tate (unsure of his true ceiling), I think Decker is not only worth a big contract in reality, but also well worth acquiring in fantasy.

There seems to be a reluctance out there to embrace Decker as anything more than a solid receiver and I don’t understand it.  After an injury-shortened rookie year, Decker has done nothing but produce on a high level.  The nay-sayers will point to the “Peyton factor” contributing to the success. While having Peyton as quarterback certainly helped Decker and the other Denver receivers immensely, everyone must remember that Decker’s first full season came with Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow at the helm (TEBOW!).

In that strange but memorable season, Decker routinely made plays and caught touchdowns inspite of the offense’s remarkable inefficiency throughout games.  His final stat line that year of 44/612/8 with 1 punt return td may seem underwhelming, but when you consider that Tebow completed between 9-15 passed per game, Decker’s performance and ability should be lauded.

Ever since Peyton arrived, Decker put up back to back 1000 yard seasons with 24 combined receiving touchdowns.  Those are numbers that any fantasy owner would love to have in the lineup.  I can understand how Decker’s production may have been overshadowed by Demaryius Thomas’ beastliness, Welker being Welker, and then the addition of Julius Thomas this year, but those writing Decker off are making a major mistake. Here is why:

Red Zone Threat:

Decker has proven over the years to be reliable in the red zone, contributing to his 33 touchdowns in four years.  Perhaps the most telling example of his red zone prowess is that Peyton Manning continually looked his way inside the 20.  Peyton is well-known as a master of recognizing receivers’ strengths and maximizing them and it didn’t take long for him to start targeting Decker near the end zone.  Decker has good size at 6’3 and 213 pounds so it is likely that his red zone abilities will continue to be a strength wherever he ends up after Free Agency.

Not Just a Possession WR:

Over the last two years, many out there have continually insisted on assigning specific roles to wide receivers on teams.  In the Broncos’ case, Demaryius Thomas was considered the “explosive threat,” Wes Welker was the “slot guy”, and Decker was often just considered a “possession guy” or “other.”  I have a feeling that many people out there would be surprised to know that Decker had eight games this season with catches over 30 yards.  Decker is more than capable of doing big damage at the intermediate range but also over the top.  On many of his longer touchdowns, Decker appears to be wide open on the run before making the catch and finishing the play.  While some of that could come from great play calling and design, Decker is also responsible for getting himself into the open areas and finishing the plays.  He can also bring that to a new team and could very well expand on it if his future coach can creatively come up with ways to get Decker the ball.

A Comparison with Another #87

Perhaps some of the reluctance to buy-in to Eric Decker comes from the old “white receiver” argument that came up previously in reference to Jordy Nelson.  I assure you this is not straying into a racial discussion, but I think it is worth mentioning because it has been documented in the media previously and among players.  For example, Nelson’s former teammate Greg Jennings said, “A lot of it has to do with the fact that guys look at him say, ‘Okay, yeah, he’s the white guy, he can’t be that good.’ Well, he is that good. He uses that to his advantage.” Even Nelson himself stated that he believed defenders underestimating him based on racial bias contributed to his on-field success.

Back to Decker, it is possible that the same kind of underestimation is occurring among defenders as well as fantasy owners.  While Nelson has broken through the white receiver stereotype to be considered one of the elite wide receivers in the NFL and a game breaker, his career numbers and path are not all that different from Eric Decker’s.  Here are their career lines stacked up against one another.

Jordy Nelson

 

89 games

302 rec

4,590 yds

15.2 avg

93 long

36 td

 

Eric Decker

 

62 games  222 rec   3,070 yds 13.8 avg 61 long 33 td

 

With almost two full seasons less than Nelson, I believe Decker’s numbers compare very favorably to Nelson’s.  Decker also comes with a much lower fantasy price tag than Nelson based on reputation.  Even with adjusting Decker down a bit for not likely having Peyton Manning as a QB going forward, his career arc is on a pace to shatter Nelson’s numbers at the 89 game mark in all of the cumulative categories.  That is something I would want to invest in at this point and I believe dynasty owners should share that sentiment.  If all of this hasn’t convinced you to buy on Decker while others may underestimate his future prospects, I have saved the big gun for last to convince you…

 

 

 Eric Decker: Much more than a 4th Wheel

Who wouldn’t want to have him on their team after that?