by Will Overton
When you are the first wide receiver taken in a pass happy NFL you are going to get some buzz to your name. And when you put up the numbers in college that Justin Blackmon did, you are really going to get some buzz. The question is what should we realistically expect from him?
Justin Blackmon caught 111 passes as a sophomore for 1,782 yards and 20 TD’s, he followed up as a junior with 121 catches for 1,522 yards and 18 TD’s. Those aren’t just good numbers, those are record setting, unbelievable kinds of numbers. Will those numbers translate into Blackmon being a first year fantasy superstar? Well, that’s no guarantee.
Last year both of the top two drafted WR’s excelled in A.J. Green and Julio Jones, Green was so good he’s being considered a potential top 10 WR this season. Those are tough footsteps to follow in for Blackmon and I am not convinced he can do it.
A.J. Green was fortunate enough to be paired with the Bengals second round pick Andy Dalton who proved to be NFL ready right from the jump. Meanwhile, Julio Jones landed in Atlanta, an already established contended with a QB close to pro-bowl level already. Both Green and Jones were placed in the right situation for success, can the same be said for Blackmon?
The answer to that question is a definitive no. Blaine Gabbert is only one year into his career, but I don’t think anyone can say with confidence that they trust him to get the ball into Blackmon’s hands. As a rookie Gabbert completed just over 50% of his passes. He only threw for 2 TD’s two times in 14 starts. And he only threw for 200 yards or more three times, his season high being 221 yards. Blackmon can have all the skills in the world, but if his Quarterback can’t get him the ball it doesn’t matter.
A great wide receiver can make a quarterback better, but do we know for sure that Blackmon will be great just because he was great in college? Blackmon is a bit undersized for an NFL wideout, standing just 6’1. And while he is quick off the line and in and out of cuts, he doesn’t have top flight speed in open space which makes you question how good of a YAC total he’ll be able to put up.
What Blackmon has are incredibly good hands which means he won’t drop many passes if they are close to him and so he should rack up a fair amount of receptions this season. Blackmon is going to step right into the role of number one receiver for the Jaguars. The Jags signed Laurent Robinson in the offseason, and they still have Mercedes Lewis, but I can’t see anyone but Justin Blackmon leading the Jags in receptions.
But again, the Jags are a run first team. Maurice Jones-Drew is the focal point of the offense and he should come close to the 340 carries he had last season. And in the red zone it’s Jones-Drew or Rashad Jennings. And I can see Mercedes Lewis taking over as a go-to target inside the 20 yard line based on his size.
The guy I see Justin Blackmon resembling, especially early on in his career, is Michael Crabtree. Like Blackmon Crabtree came into the league with a lot of expectations after putting massive college stats. And like Blackmon, Crabtree is a bit undersized at 6’1. Finally, like Blackmon, Crabtree had an undependable QB when he first entered the league. Crabtree’s rookie season wasn’t horrible, but it didn’t live up to the hype either, and he still hasn’t lived up to the hype fully.
Crabtree had the holdout which put a hitch into his rookie season, but a lot of his inconsistencies didn’t have to do with lack of preparation as much as the guy throwing him the ball.
There is also the issue with the off the field problems. As of right now I don’t think a suspension is forthcoming for Blackmon, so I am not factoring that into my expectations in terms of stats. But it’s still a red flag nonetheless and could be a problem eventually.
Like Crabtree I think Blackmon will put up a decent rookie season, but I don’t think he lives up to expectations. Eventually he might, but I don’t think it’ll be this season or even next. Blackmon will be a solid number three or four receiver, but I think he’ll be picked higher than that and I won’t be the one picking him. If I were taking one rookie receiver, it’d be Michael Floyd, not Justin Blackmon, but that’s something I’ll cover on another day.