You don't need to prod Vikings fans too hard about asking whether they think Troy Williamson is a bust. Taken with the seventh overall pick in the 2005 draft, many fans had hoped the Vikes would go after a defender like Shawne Merriman with the seventh pick and take a wide receiver like Mark Clayton with their second choice.
While Williamson has been a big disappointment, it might be too early to be the judge and jury deciding his fate. Most wide receivers are subject to a similar phenomenon – the third-year explosion. While some players like Randy Moss burst on the scene early, even he showed modest improvement in receptions and yardage in his third season from when he began. In many instances, the jump is startling.
What follows is a brief list of players in their first three seasons drafted since 2001. If you think it's a fluke, go a website that prints player career statistics and do the math for yourself. More times than not, a player gets much better in his third season. The list contains a draft class, player and his receiving numbers for each of his first three seasons. After reading this, you might not be so quick to give up on Williamson just yet.
Class of 2004
Bernard Berrian, Chicago – 15-225-2; 13-246-0; 51-775-6
Lee Evans, Buffalo – 48-843-9; 48-743-7; 82-1,292-8
Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona – 58-780-8; 103-1,409-10; 69-946-6 (13 games)
Reggie Williams, Jacksonville – 27-268-1; 35-445-0; 52-616-4
Roy Williams, Detroit – 54-817-8; 45-687-8; 82-1,310-7
Class of 2003
Anquan Boldin, Arizona – 101-1,377-8; 56-623-1 (10 games); 102-1,402-7
Andre Johnson, Houston – 66-976-4; 79-1,142-6; 63-688-2 (13 games)
Class of 2002
Deion Branch, Seattle – (missed half of third season) 43-489-2; 57-803-3; 78-998-4
Antonio Bryant, San Francisco – 44-733-6; 39-550-2; 58-812-4
Ashley Lelie, San Francisco – 35-525-2; 37-628-2; 54-1,084-7
Donte Stallworth, New England – 42-594-8; 25-485-3; 58-767-5
Javon Walker, Denver – 23-319-1; 41-716-9; 89-1,382-12
Class of 2001
Chris Chambers, Miami – 48-883-7; 52-734-3; 64-963-11
Chad Johnson, Cincinnati – 28-329-1; 69-1,166-5; 90-1,355-10
Santana Moss, Washington – 2-40-0; 30-433-4; 74-1,105-10
Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis – 27-345-0; 49-716-4; 68-838-7
While no two players are identical, the history is rich with receivers who don't show too much in their first two seasons only to break out in their third year. So perhaps we should reserve judgment on Williamson until after this season. The same should be said for Braylon Edwards, Mark Clayton, Matt Jones, Reggie Brown and others. If history – both recent and long-term – has taught us anything, it's that the third year is typically when teams find out how good or bad their investments were on wide receivers.
Troy Williamson, The Third
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