The Second-Year Boom?

Sobo crunches the numbers on WRs in their second year. Is the adage that receivers come into their own in Year 2 accurate? Here's the hard, cold football facts...

With concerns swirling around the Cleveland Browns' wide receiver position, it is only logical to ask a simple question; "What can the team expect as both Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie develop from year one into year two of their professional careers?"

An old NFL wise tale read something along the lines....a young receiver makes his biggest jump from that first year to the second year in the league.  

While this may be true for the mental aspects of the game, surprisingly the statistical research in recent years do not necessarily support the claim.

In today's game, where the passing game has seemingly overtaken the run game as focal point of NFL offenses; young wide receivers have generally struggled to put up numbers or show vast definitive improvement in the discussed time period.

Setting the same parameters as the Browns' young receivers were selected, other second round  targets chosen in the past five years and their differentials from the first to their second seasons:

2008 Wide Receiver Second Year Differential Chart

Players Team Starts Catches Yards
Donnie Avery St. Louis +4 (6) (85) +2
Devin Thomas Washington +9 +10 +205 +3
Jordy Nelson Green Bay (2) (11) (46) -
James Hardy Buffalo (3) (8) (78) (2)
Eddie Royal Denver (3) (54) (635) (5)
Jerome Simpson Cincinnati (1) (1) (2) -
Desean Jackson Philadelphia - - +244 +7
Malcolm Kelly Washington +10 +22 +329 -
Limas Sweed Pittsburgh - (5) (59) -
Dexter Jackson Tampa Bay - - - -
Average +1.40 (5.30) (12.70) +5

2007 Wide Receiver Second Year Differential Chart

Players Team Games
Catches Yards
Sidney Rice Minnesota (1) (16) (255) -
Dwayne Jarrett Carolina +1 +4 (46) -
Steve Smith NY Giants +4 +49 +511 +1
Average +1.33 +12.33 +70.0 +0.33

2006 Wide Receiver Second Year Differential Chart

Players Team Starts Catches Yards TDs
Chad Jackson New England (1) (13) (152) (3)
Sinorice Moss NY Giants +2 +16 +200 -
Devin Hester Chicago - +20 +299 +2
Greg Jennings Green Bay +2 +8 +288 +9
Average +0.75 +7.75 +158.75 +2.00

2005 Wide Receiver Second Year Differential Chart

Players Team Starts Catches Yards TDs
Reggie Brown Philadelphia +4 +3 +245 +4
Mark Bradley Chicago (4) (4) +52 +3
Roscoe Parrish Buffalo - +8 +172 +1
Terrence Murphy Green Bay - (5) (36) -
Vincent Jackson San Diego +7 +24 +394 +6
Average +1.40 +5.60 +165.40 +2.8

2004 Wide Receiver Second Year Differential Chart

Players Team Starts Catches Yards TDs
Devery Henderson New Orleans +3 +22 +343 +3
Darius Watts Denver (2) (29) (363) (1)
Keary Colbert Carolina +1 (22) (472) (3)
Average +0.66 (9.66) (164.00) (0.33)

Overall Averages

Starts Catches Yards TDs
+1.20 +2.80 +42.12 +1.08

Although meager, in the end, all the numbers came out positively.   Certainly, they are not as high as some would indicate.

But if we dig slightly deeper, there are a few problems which arise...

- Only one of those receivers put up a 1000 yard campaign by the end of their second season (Desean Jackson)
- 13 of the 25 have yet to make a significant impact at all for their respective teams.
- 2 of the listed players found their way out of the league before their second year even began.
- Some of the bigger names on the list did not explode until their 3rd or 4th season in the league including:  Vincent Jackson, Steve Smith, and Sidney Rice.

Obviously, extenuating circumstances can effect one's play such as injury or coaching changes, and those aren't take account in this study.

In the end, what should the Browns expect from their pair of second year receivers?  Although those expectations should certainly be tempered based on what has just been read, the possibility to  buck the trend and see significant improvement can also be found in the above numbers.  Looking at the individual situation in regards to Cleveland's current conundrum, there would would seem simply no other way to go but up based on the lack of talent within the rest of the receiver corps and a veteran presence now behind center.   Fans can only hope Massaquoi and Robiskie fall in the category of Greg Jennings or Steve Smith and not Eddie Royal or Keary Colbert.

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