The Third-Year Rule

Denver Broncos v Philadelphia Eagles
Anyone who pays attention to pro football and fantasy football is aware of the third-year rule as is applies to wide receivers. For a lot of guys, the light switch clicks on in the third season and their numbers spike. Last season Sidney Rice from the Vikings and the Giants‘ Steve Smith both blew up after doing next to nothing in their first two years.

In the case of DeSean Jackson, he took flight in his second season with 62 receptions for 1156 yards and nine receiving scores. So, what does this mean for his third season? After taking a look at some recent wideouts who broke out in year two, the results for year three have been mixed. First, the bad:

Name Year Catches Yards TDs Games
Calvin Johnson 2008 78 1331 12 16
2009 67 984 5 14
Andre Johnson 2004 79 1124 6 16
2005 63 688 2 13
Larry Fitzgerald 2005 103 1409 10 16
2006 69 946 6 13

Fitzy and the Johnsons all struggled in their third years and none played a full 16 games. Quarterback changes and injuries played a part in the decline, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Now, the good:

Name Year Catches Yards TDs Games
Brandon Marshall 2007 102 1325 7 16
2008 104 1265 6 15
Chad Ochocinco 2002 69 1166 5 16
2003 90 1355 10 16

Marshall remained consistent while Ocho improved greatly on his numbers. Both players had the same quarterback for both seasons and stayed relatively healthy.

Can we use these stats to project DeSean’s 2010 numbers? Not really, but the transition from McNabb to Kolb could have an impact. KK probably won’t toss as many deep balls as Don. However, we all know DeSean doesn’t need a 50-yard bomb to wreak havoc. Watch the last Pro Bowl for evidence.

The best hope for #10 having another dominant campaign is staying injury free. His presence will likely open up things for Maclin, Celek and others, so a drop-off could occur. Then again, the desire for a new contract should motivate him to reach even greater heights. Money, as they say, talks.

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Tags: Andre Johnson Brandon Marshall Calvin Johnson Chad Ochocinco DeSean Jackson Larry Fitzgerald Third Year Wide Receivers

  • http://www.BirdsFan.com Mike

    Very interesting breakdown there Scott. I’d be pretty surprised to see Jackson’s numbers jump up a lot this year. He is going to see a lot of attention. However, if anyone’s numbers are going to bloom, keep an eye on Jeremy Maclin.

  • Scott Tunstall

    I agree, Mike. I think Maclin will have a big year. Probably not a lot of TDs, but I could see him leading the team in catches.