Spotlight: Santonio Holmes

posted by Jason Wood on Jul 30th


Jason Wood's thoughts

Last year the Jets improbable run to the AFC Championship game set the table for lofty expectations this year. The Jets have become the popular pick to come out of the AFC and contend for the Super Bowl, and on paper that seems quite possible. After all, this was a young team that was playing very well last year, yet there was plenty of room for improvement. Meanwhile the Jets front office didn't sit idly by. They acquired key contributors on both sides of the ball, including RB LaDainian Tomlinson, CB Antonio Cromartie, and LB Jason Taylor. Oh yeah, and Santonio Holmes.

The Jets now field three wide receivers that would reasonably expect to start this year. Yet, unless the Jets plan on making 3-WR sets the base formation, that's not going to happen. So how is a fantasy owner supposed to handicap the prospects for Santonio Holmes, Jerricho Cotchery and Braylon Edwards?

First Last G Tgt/G Rec/G Yd/G YPR TD/G FPT/G Catch% TD%
Jerricho Cotchery 89 5.6 3.6 45.9 12.9 0.18 5.8 63.3% 3.2%
Santonio Holmes 60 7.1 3.9 63.9 16.3 0.33 8.4 55.6% 4.7%
Braylon Edwards 78 8.5 3.6 56.2 15.5 0.41 8.1 42.8% 4.8%

Cotchery is the most experienced, and has spent the entirety of his career with the Jets. What you'll notice is that he's got the best hands of the trio, by far, but has also not been a big play guy. Cotchery had the good fortune to play with Chad Pennington -- a healthy Chad Pennington -- and yet he's consistently been below trend in TD productivity and yards downfield. On the plus side, he's a sharp route runner and a disciplined film student. He's also probably the most ego neutral of this bunch and has regularly shared the spotlight with his counterparts, including Laveranues Coles when he was in his prime.

Edwards, who was acquired partway into last season, is really characterized by his one monster (16 TD!) season. That one season really skews his career marks and makes them look better than they are. To Edwards' credit, at 6'3" he's got a level of physicality that neither Cotchery (6'0") nor Holmes (5'11") brings to the table, but that might be the only way he stands out. Edwards has been targeted more often in his career, but caught fewer passes per game. His 43% career catch rate is nothing short of abysmal, and that TD rate (4.8%) is once again overstated by that one anomalous 16 TD season.

Holmes is the youngest and least experience of the trio, but he's also clearly the most accomplished. Holmes has averaged more yards per catch, more catches per game and more fantasy points per game than his counterparts. He's the smallest, but is also the most explosive and, while his hands aren't as good as Cotchery's, he's turned himself into a very reliable threat anywhere on the field.

If it were simply as easy as lining up their career averages and forecasting, you would put all your chips on Holmes and call it a day. But nothing is ever that simple, right?

The only reason the Pittsburgh Steelers parted ways with Santonio Holmes is because his skills are somewhat offset by his immaturity. Holmes faces a 4-game suspension to start the season because he can't lay off the marijuana. Holmes had already been enrolled in the league's substance abuse party and yet he still couldn't keep away from the pot. The four games lost is bad enough, but why should anyone have confidence he can avoid making yet another mistake? And if he gets caught this time, it's a full year's suspension.

So to recap...we have an even keeled receiver who doesn't make many big plays, an explosive and well rounded receiver who doesn't stay off the rolling papers, and a physically imposing mercurial receiver who doesn't know how to hold onto the ball. Good times!

The other issue to consider is Mark Sanchez and the Jets' offensive system.
The Jets were a powerhouse last year in spite of the passing game. For all of Mark Sanchez' accolades, he had a rough rookie season, throwing 20 interceptions and fumbling 10 times while completing 54% of his throws. Sanchez could certainly improve in his second season, and the Jets are counting on it, history has not been kind to rookies with his performance profile. Even if you expect Sanchez to improve (and that's a reasonable assumption), let's remember that the Jets shouldn't need to throw the ball a lot to win games.

The Jets fielded the top ranked defense last year and return all their key pieces plus a few new wrinkles. It would be a mild surprise if the Jets weren't among the league's elite defensive units again in 2010, and they should have the luxury of playing a ball control offense. Last season, on the back of Thomas Jones and to a lesser extent rookie Shonn Greene, the Jets led the league in rushing attempts, rushing yards and were 3rd in rushing TDs. This team is built to run the ball, and handed the starter job over to Greene, but also added future Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson and rookie Joe McKnight to bolster the ground game. The Jets might not run the ball 607 times again, but they should be near the top of the league standings and well north of 500 rushing attempts. While that's going to help them win NFL games, it's not going to help fantasy owners who are relying on any of these wide receivers.

Last year the top targets were:

  • Jerricho Cotchery -- 96 targets
  • Dustin Keller -- 82
  • Braylon Edwards -- 72
  • Chansi Stuckey -- 26
  • Leon Washington -- 26
  • David Clowney -- 22
  • Thomas Jones -- 18
  • Danny Woodhead -- 14
  • Others -- 29

Even if you assume the Jets will increase their passing attempts by 50 to 75, it's hard to see how there will be enough targets to go around. Dustin Keller is young, in his prime, and an important weapon working the middle of the field. And LaDainian Tomlinson is a capable receiver and will be a reliable outlet for Sanchez. So how many looks are left? Let's say somehow each receiver got 100 targets (even though NO ONE got 100 targets last year), and the trio approximated their career numbers, that would imply:

First Last Recs Yards TDs
Jerricho Cotchery 63 816 3
Santonio Holmes 56 906 5
Braylon Edwards 43 664 5

It should be evident that for any of these guys to have real fantasy value, one of them is going to have to be relegated to backup duties. To my mind, the most logical scenario is for Braylon Edwards to play behind Santonio Holmes once his suspension is up. Cotchery and Holmes compliment each other really well, and I don't see the Jets using a ton of 3-WR sets. But will that happen? Who knows. And even if it did, I still think 300 targets toward the WR corps is aggressive. There's downside to those numbers.

Positives

  • Holmes is immensely talented, and has already proven he can be a viable fantasy commodity in a run-first offense
  • Brian Schottenheimer is a well respect offensive coordinator and has made it clear Holmes will be a big part of the game plan right from the start
  • The Jets running game should dominate, freeing up the WRs on the outside in single coverage quite frequently

Negatives

  • Holmes has two strikes in the league's substance abuse policy for marijuana use, and is one violation away from a year long suspension
  • Mark Sanchez has a lot to improve, and even if he does, this team isn't going to throw the ball a lot

Final thoughts

The Jets are a popular choice as the AFC's top dogs, and that reputation may be well deserved. But this isn't a team built to throw a lot; they don't need to and probably would be in trouble if they had to. So you take a young QB, with lots still to prove, add to that a stifling defense and powerful running attack, mix in a deep bevy of viable receiving targets, and what do you get? A situation best avoided except as fantasy backups. Right now, all three are being drafted in the top 50; and yet it's hard to imagine all three can justify those picks. Holmes is the most talented of the bunch and SHOULD be the top target, but he'll miss four games and has no embedded chemistry with Sanchez. Net-net, I'm avoiding all these guys and will let things sort themselves out.


Quotations from the message board thread

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

Iwannabeacowboybaby! said:

The former SB MVP is now a Jet. He'll help keep defenses honest but I suspect it'll take Holmes some time to get acclimated to the Jet offense. His talent will win out though and I think Holmes may be a WR that starts to peak down the stretch of the fantasy football season.

Raiderfan32904 said:

Jets are a running team and that won't change this year. The passing stats will hover around 180 yards/game and 1.5 TD's/game. Divvy that total up between Cotchery, Holmes, Edwards, Jets TE's and checkdowns to RB's and I don't like the hit and miss stats from any of these guys. Any of them are weak WR3 or strong WR4's. Depending on ADP, they likely won't be on any of my teams.

travdogg said:

I'm of the belief that once Holmes has finished his suspension, its only a matter of time before he is the go-to WR on this team. He's basically got a combo of Cotchery's hands and Braylon's big play ability. If the running game doesn't drop off too much and the o-line holds up, I think Holmes could be deadly in the deep passing game.

I'll give Holmes 60 catches for 900 yards and 8 TD's.

Cotchery will be strictly a possesion WR and could even be a slot guy once Santonio returns. I don't see very much upside with him other than maybe the first 4 weeks.

I'll give Cotchery 45 catches for 650 yards and 4 TD's


Santonio Holmes projections

RECRECYDRECTDRSHYDRSHTD
Jason Wood50725500
Message board consensus55775700