by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Over the past three weeks we have seen some impressive performances from wide receivers, topped by Jeremy Maclin averaging 37.5 points per game (in two games thanks to the bye). However, would you be surprised to learn that Steelers rookie Martavis Bryant is actually 11th over that stretch, with 18.7 points per game?
Obviously the fact that Ben Roethlisberger has been on one of the best stretches we’ve ever seen, throwing 12 TD over the last two weeks, has helped his cause. However, when you score 5 TD in three games you are going to grab people’s attention regardless of what everyone else is doing.
His name has become a popular one, for obvious reasons, but should we be buying the fourth round pick for the remainder of the season? The first thing we need to look at is his opportunities. Let’s look at his snap counts, courtesy of Pro Football Focus:
- Week 7 – 24 of 67 (35.8%)
- Week 8 – 33 of 84 (39.3%)
- Week 9 – 37 of 72 (51.4%)
Obviously it’s nice that we’ve seen his role grow, but it’s also not like he’s been playing the majority of the snaps. Of course, what’s really interesting is comparing the playing time of Markus Wheaton over that same stretch:
- Week 7 – 31 of 67 (46.3%)
- Week 8 – 34 of 84 (40.5%)
- Week 9 – 39 of 72 (54.2%)
It’s not like Wheaton has been getting significantly more snaps, so let’s compare the production:
So, not only has Bryant eaten into his snaps but he’s actually been given more opportunities? Things are definitely looking up for the fourth round pick. Prior to the draft he was considered a project with Walter Football saying:
“He has great height and length to go with some straight-line speed, but he needs a lot of development. Bryant drops too many passes and must improve his hands. His route-running needs a lot of work as well. Plus, Bryant is a finesse player for a big receiver. He should add some strength and start pushing around defensive backs.”
It’s hard to imagine that he’s developed this quickly, though it’s certainly not impossible. Given the struggles of the Jets’ secondary it certainly wouldn’t be surprising to see Bryant continue his strong numbers this week.
As for the rest of the season? It’s going to be hard to consider him more than a WR4/5 (with WR3 upside in a favorable matchup), as he does have some boom or bust to his game. Keep in mind that three of his receptions (and 2 of his TD) have come on passes thrown at least 21 yards and only half of his catches have been on throws of 19 yards or fewer. In other words, if he doesn’t connect for a big play he may not put up the stats.
There is still a lot of development to do before he fully emerges as a viable option. Enjoy this while we can, but don’t consider him a lock to be a viable option the rest of the season.
Sources – ESPN, NFL.com, Pro Football Focus, Walter Football
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