Player Points - Greg Jennings
By Chase Stuart
July 21st, 2010

Greg Jennings' performance in his first three seasons matches the sort of career arc most people envision for young, star wide receivers. He ranked as the 55th wide receiver as a rookie, but jumped up to WR16 in his second year and then shot up to WR5 in his third season. He went from having no VBD to 54 points of VBD to 94 points -- he made big leaps after each of his first two seasons.

But last year Jennings fell back to WR21, although that was largely because of a lack of touchdowns (ironically, he shot up to WR16 in 2007 because of his dozen scores). How unusual is that sort of career path?

Over the thirty-year period beginning in 1978, there were 44 wide receivers who ranked in the top ten during their third season in the league. As you can see, on average, the group followed a very similar career path to the trail Jennings has left behind, including the fourth year fall-off:

Year
Average WR
Greg Jennings
Rank
VBD
Rank
VBD
Yr 1
57
21
55
0
Yr 2
24
55
16
54
Yr 3
6
93
5
94
Yr 4
24
53
21
44
Yr 5
23
64
??
??

In year five, sixteen of those forty-four receivers had a top-ten performance. If you're a Jennings fan, you can point to fellow Packer Sterling Sharpe as your guide. After posting great numbers in his second and third seasons, Sharpe's play fell off in his fourth season (69/961/4). But in year five Sharpe led the league in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, thanks to his first-year starting quarterback, Brett Favre. Washington's Gary Clark's career progressed with the following ranks: 16-6-3-18-7. Jennings isn't the first receiver to have a fourth-year setback, and he won't be the last.

Of course, Jennings has an ADP of WR10, so the fantasy world is expecting some sort of rebound from him. How often do these sorts of rebounds happen? By definition, there were 380 top-ten fantasy wide receivers from 1970 to 2008. We can then split those into four, roughly equal sized groups based on how they performed during the *next season* (Year N+1). The table below shows those results, along with how the group performed, on average, during the following season (Year N+2 -- essentially what Jennings' 2010 would fall):

Rank
# of WRs
N+1 Rk
N+2 Rk
% in Top 10
Top 5
92
3
15
54%
6 to 14
104
10
17
44%
15 to 30
98
21
31
20%
31+
86
50
46
13%

The last column shows what percentage of those receivers rebounded to post a top ten season in Year N+2. But let me be clear -- this is just an academic exercise. My takeaway wouldn't be that Jennings has only a 20% chance of rebounding into the top 10 in 2010. There are lots of reasons to like Jennings that other receivers who generally fit his profile didn't have going for them: he's entering his prime (remember this group of wide receivers was not limited to younger players), he's got a terrific young quarterback, his biggest threat for targets is nearing the end of his career, and his team looks likely to pass frequently in 2010. I think the fantasy market has pegged Jennings correctly.

Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to stuart@footballguys.com.

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