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Spotlight: Santonio Holmes

posted by Mark Wimer on Aug 15th


Mark Wimer's thoughts

The Jets have tinkered with their starting lineup entering 2011, and Santonio Holmes emerged as the big winner both in terms of his personal fortune (five years, $50 million with $24 million guaranteed money) and in terms of his fantasy prospects. With his hefty contract, Holmes is now the top dog on the Jets' depth chart. We care about fantasy prospects here, so let's look at what is different with the Jets this year.

First of all, the team swapped Braylon Edwards (he of the lead hands) for Derrick Mason - this is an upgrade for the team as Mason is a sure-handed possession-type receiver at this stage of his distinguished career. He'll provide a reliable short-to-medium range outlet for Mark Sanchez, and is a credible enough threat that teams won't be able to concentrate solely on Holmes.

Second, the Jets signed Plaxico Burress, giving the team a tall, aggressive red-zone presence to help spark TD scoring during 2011. Though Burress has been slowed by a sprained left ankle to start off training camp, he is expected to be fine by the start of the regular season. When Burress is available to threaten the opposition in three-wide formations, Holmes will benefit from more room to roam in opposing secondaries.

The talent pool across from/surrounding Holmes has been upgraded, and he was handed the lead position in the stable when Edwards was sent packing. But there is one question that remains - a question that will weigh mightily on Holmes' production this year.

Can Mark Sanchez improve during 2011, and become an average-to-above-average NFL quarterback? That's the $50 million dollar question for Holmes and his fantasy owners. Footballguys.com's Andrew Garda explored this question in depth earlier this summer, and he wrote the following:

"It's important to remember that Sanchez has only three seasons under his belt as a starter - one at USC and a pair as a Jet... This is not to excuse some boneheaded decisions on the part of the former Trojan QB, but to put it in perspective. We are looking at a player who is still very much in the formative years of a career. There is plenty of criticism to be had, but also plenty to praise given his few years as a starter."

"Sanchez has shown a great deal of leadership in his tenure as starting Jets QB, from organizing offseason workouts for two years (the well publicized 'Jets West'), to the hours spent in the film room and at the Jets facility, to the last minute wins he has led the team to over the past year. There's also the four road playoff wins he has compiled in just two years as a starter."

Garda concludes later in the article:

"Sanchez needs to improve his completion percentage radically and in order to do so, he needs to see the field better and make better decisions. Until he does that, he will always struggle to reach the potential the Jets' front office saw when they jumped up to draft him in 2009."

Part of the puzzle for Sanchez may be swapping out the pass-dropping Edwards for the sure-handed Mason. The additions and subtractions at wide receiver this year have remade the Jets' corps into a more QB-friendly group, and he kept his most-talented receivers from 2010. Holmes should be a constant in this offense for years to come. As Sanchez is most familiar with Holmes among all the new targets, it is to be expected that he will lean on Holmes heavily (especially to begin the year). There appears to be a lot of opportunities ahead for Holmes during 2011.

Positives

  • Holmes is now the clear-cut #1 wide receiver on this squad and should see a marked increase in his targets during 2011
  • The surrounding talent that the Jets brought in (Mason, Burress) along with their existing talent (Dustin Keller, LaDainian Tomlinson) should provide enough threats to keep defenses from focusing on Holmes inordinately
  • Mark Sanchez's numbers have improved during his first two NFL seasons, and there is hope that he'll continue to progress during 2011 - a rising tide should mean a more productive offense overall and more production from Holmes in particular

Negatives

  • Sanchez has a long way to go before he joins the ranks of average NFL starters
  • Burress was a beast in the red-zone earlier in his career - if his skills survived his two-year absence from the NFL, Burress could siphon off some scores from Holmes
  • Holmes has just one 1,000+ receiving campaign to his credit over a five-year career - could that season have been a fluke?

Final thoughts

Holmes should shoot well past last year's totals of 95 targets for 52/746/6 receiving despite the Jets' coaching staff's run-first mentality. The Jets attempted 525 passes last year, 18th in the NFL, and had 3,242 net passing yards with 20 pass TDs (22nd and 23rd in the NFL, respectively). He's the top dog on this unit now, and he has a year in the team's system entering 2011, which should help things along as well. The supporting talent around him should help to keep opposing secondaries honest and help open up room for Holmes to find soft spots in those opposing defenses. Given the expected increase in targets coming his way, I have Holmes ranked 11th on my redraft board, which is slightly more optimistic than the consensus 14th rank. He's a solid fantasy WR1 and an off-the-charts WR2, if you're lucky enough to grab him in that capacity.


Quotations from the message board thread

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

Blackjacks said:

Advantages this year:

-by far #1 recieving option
-great skills
-improving qb with alot of potential
-very good running game to avoid to much attention
-VERY GOOD red zone wr
-heavilty targetted wr

Concerns

-improving qb like I said but still young
-run first team
-just got paid big bucks

I definitely like the positives over the negatives. I think Santonio could have a nice 3-4 year stretch in the top ten

pghrob said:

Holmes is still relatively young, but savvy veteran receiver in his 2nd season (with Jets)an also young and still improving franchise qb in Sanchez. Last year Holmes was the clutch receiver for Sanchez and he will remain his #1 option while Plax and Mason work to draw their own coverage. Holmes has very good hands, is a crisp route runner and can get open finding soft spots in the defense. With a good running game and complement of receivers, it will be nice to see him get a full 16 game season and establish himself as one of the premiere wide outs in the game. I see a pretty decent increase in production for Holmes this year.

Iwannabeacowboybaby! said:

After watching Holmes last season, I really felt that he was by far the best wide receiver on the Jets football team. Even though the Jets picked up some more Wr's to attract attention and possibily uncertainty to just how many balls each WR gets, the guy to get is Holmes. I think he has a very solid season and is someone I will be targeting in drafts this season.


Santonio Holmes projections

RECRECYDRECTDRSHYDRSHTD
Mark Wimer751100800
Message board consensus831087900