Lloyd won’t replicate 2010 success

BY foxsports • September 1, 2011

Rank. Re-rank. Shuffle up. Rinse, lather and repeat.

The final two weeks of the NFL Preseason represent an exciting, albeit maddening, time in the calendar. Reviewing depth chart updates, myriad injuries and adjusting filters to decipher “coachspeak” is a tiring endeavor.

Ranking lists are scrawled on white boards and erased and reordered mere moments later. I know the running back and quarterback boards will be shuffled up at the top. What do you do with Chris Johnson and Peyton Manning?

Lou Reed once sang: “You need a busload of faith to get by.”

That sums up the wide receiver position perfectly. There are few rock-solid options that you can go Ron Popeil and “set and forget.” The waters get murky quickly. And, because I like to play the part of agitator, I’m throwing some negativity at some of the top options at the position.

I am obliged to start the ranting in Denver.

Brandon Lloyd, DEN
Analysis: Lloyd was one of the top stories of the 2010 season, a hero that emerged from the waiver wire to lead the NFL in receiving yards (1,448) and score 11 touchdowns. Lloyd produced a remarkable season as the primary downfield target in the Broncos’ weekly shootouts. He caught a total of 77 passes and finished seven games with at least 90 receiving yards. Interestingly, Lloyd caught only 50.3% of the passes thrown to him.

New head coach John Fox won’t be able to turn things around immediately, but I do anticipate that the Broncos post a more consistent defensive effort with Von Miller added through the draft and Elvis Dumervil returning from injury (torn pectoral muscle). Additionally, Fox is more apt to employ a more balanced offensive scheme and rely on the two-pronged running game as he did in Carolina.

I need to take a long view on Lloyd’s career. He’d accrued a total of 2,370 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns in his first seven NFL seasons (860 from 2006-2009) while playing for the 49ers, Redskins and Bears. Despite the obvious needs at wide receiver in each of those stops, Lloyd was unable to elevate his game. Lloyd’s gaudy stats from 2010 will push him up draft boards this summer as owners envision a repeat of the wide-open contests of a year ago. I’ll take him as a WR2 and hope that rebuilding the defense takes a little longer.

Stevie Johnson, BUF
Analysis:: Johnson emerged as one of the more unlikely breakthrough third-year receivers in 2010. He’d amassed just 112 receiving yards and 12 receptions in his first two NFL seasons.

Johnson opened the season with back-to-back three-reception games and started to amass fantasy-worthy numbers as of Week 3. Johnson scored his first touchdown in that game to begin a five-game scoring streak. His three-touchdown effort against Cincinnati in Week 11 produced the “Why so serious?” highlight moment. That performance marked the end of Johnson’s huge run in 2010. He scored just one touchdown in the final six games of the season and failed to top 72 receiving yards in any of those contests. It should be noted that Johnson finished with 46 or fewer receiving yards in eight games. Forty-one percent of his yardage total was attained in three games.

He’s the No. 1 receiver for Ryan Fitzpatrick and will draw the appropriate coverage ahead of a number of promising, albeit raw, secondary receivers. I don’t doubt that there will be a few brilliant performances on tap, particularly with question still swirling on the defense, but I’m fearful of inconsistent yardage output.

Mike Williams, SEA
Analysis: If I’m going to put Brandon Lloyd atop the list as the poster boy of “Buyer Beware,” I couldn’t very well leave Williams out of the mix. He emerged from the ashes to catch 65 passes for 751 yards in his reunion for Pete Carroll in Seattle. Williams had amassed just 44 receptions and 539 receiving yards in his first five NFL seasons out of USC. Remember, he also didn’t appear in an NFL game in either the 2008 or 2009 seasons and had last appeared as a tight end for the Titans in 2007.

Williams demonstrated flashes of his USC self in three games last season (32 of his 65 receptions came in those games) and dominated the red zone in the playoffs (three of his nine receptions were caught for touchdowns).

I love the feel-good story, and my thoughts on how Williams’ entry to the NFL was handled are well-documented. The fact that the Seahawks immediately responded by rewarding Williams with a three-year contract at the end of his redemption year cannot be discounted entirely.

I’m moderately intrigued by Williams this season. He’ll get the second cornerback in coverage following the arrival of Sidney Rice, but the QB duo of Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst leaves me less than thrilled. Draft Williams as a WR4 or WR5 and hope for things to break correctly.

Dwayne Bowe, KC
Analysis: Bowe posted one of the most dominant seven-game stretches in recent NFL memory. He scored 13 of his 15 touchdowns during the period from Week 6 to Week 12, a period during which he amassed 63% of his yardage total. Bowe finished eight games with 68 receiving yards or fewer. That’s particularly frustrating given the fact that Bowe averaged 8.3 targets per game (he and Cassel connected only 54% of the time).

Therein lays the potential downside in the selection of Bowe this season. You may get to see him post up defenders in the red zone to keep the touchdown counter rolling (he’d scored 16 touchdowns in his first three NFL seasons, including the suspension-shortened 2009 season), but Bowe’s weekly yardage output may frustrate you.

Additionally, the departure of Charlie Weis has had ripple effects in Kansas City. The Chiefs have looked terrible in the preseason, and Cassel has seemingly regressed (reports about his relationship with Todd Haley are an entirely different matter). The arrival of Jonathan Baldwin and Steve Breaston had me encouraged coming into camp. I’m less so now.

Kenny Britt, TEN
Analysis: Speed kills. Fantasy owners saw Britt’s speed on display early and often before sustaining a hamstring injury at midseason. He’d scored in five consecutive games, including his 225-yard, three-touchdown performance against the Eagles in Week 7, prior to missing five games. Britt caught 19 passes in his final four games and recorded 85 or more receiving yards in his final three performances (he scored in the final two games). I would be remiss if I failed to note that Britt finished with 41 receiving yards or fewer in five of his first eight appearances.

Britt’s explosiveness cannot be denied. Fears of a recurrence of the hamstring woes and a general uneasiness about the Tennessee passing game under Matt Hasselbeck warrant his inclusion herein.

Austin Collie, IND
Analysis: Collie was a PPR machine through the first six weeks of the season for Peyton Manning. He amassed 44 catches through six weeks, including 11 and 12-reception performances in Weeks 1 and 3. Unfortunately, concussions limited Collie to three appearances in the Colts’ final 10 games.

Depending on your league’s membership, there’s a chance that Collie slides into the “value” territory as owners consider his 2010 concussion issues. I drafted him as a late-WR3 or WR4 in several leagues heading into training camp. I suspect that owners will fixate on his efficiency and dominance as Manning’s safety valve and bump him up their rankings.

Chad Ochocinco, NE
Analysis: I know everybody likes to point to Tom Brady’s connection with Randy Moss from 2007 and predict grandiose success for Ochocinco this season. I agree. He’ll be better than he was for the past several seasons in Cincinnati. Hell, I led the bandwagon for Ochocinco in 2010 while working under the illusion that Carson Palmer would look more like his pre-injury self. I’ll say that I was left disappointed and leave it at that.

Ochocinco has a different style. He’s not the fly and burn option that torments opposing defenders. He’s not the imposing deep ball threat. Ochocinco will need to find his spot in the system and work into the Brady flow among several targets and will have to fight Rob Gronkowski and BenJarvus Green-Ellis for red zone opportunities. Ochocinco will get his looks and catches, but I couldn’t work him higher than a late-WR2 option.

DeSean Jackson, PHI
Analysis: Finally, I welcome the derision sure to come my way by including Jackson on this list. I respect his talent and game-changing ability. Jackson’s highlight reel is chock-full of long receptions and circus catches. He recorded five receptions of at least 53 yards in 2010. Those receptions accounted for one-third of Jackson’s yardage total. Jackson finished eight games with 52 receiving yards or fewer.

Jackson gets your blood pumping when Michael Vick winds up for the deep ball, but you can’t bank on those connections.


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