by Inside the Redzone staff – Bill Seng
If I were to talk about Tom Brady and his brilliant night where he throw more than half of one thousand yards, this article would be twice as long, so I’m going to have to hit this piece with a specific angle. This blog post will talk about the four best receivers involved in last night’s unbelievable aerial battle.
I am a huge proponent of tall receivers. My friends know that and I’m made fun of quite often around draft time when my turn is up and I am in need of a receiver. Last night three guys validate my reasoning that “bigger is better”, especially in today’s passing league.
Let’s start with the winning team, the New England Patriots. Essentially their two best tall targets are their stud young tight ends. Rob Gronkowski (6’6) looks less and less like Leonard Pope with more motivation. He seems limber out their on a few run after catches. He collected 6-catches (out of 7 targets), 86-yards, and a touchdown. Usually outdone by Gronkowski in 2010, Aaron Hernandez (just a smidge under 6’2) put on a show last night. He was snagging every Tom Brady laser thrown in his direction, showing a huge catch radius. He reminds me a bit of Anquan Boldin, a great intermediate target that has great YAC potential. Hernandez stat line 7 catches (out of 10 targets), 103-yards, and a touchdown. Both tight ends should be treated as TE1s as the season goes on based on the slow learning curve of Chad Ocho Cinco and the volume of passes Brady looks poised to throw in 2011. If you are a team that loaded up on all other positions and grabbed Gronk’ or Hernandez in later rounds, you’re sitting pretty.
The third tall receiver we’ll mention is the Dolphins’ Brandon Marshall, who looked devastating after the catch and more vigorous when the ball was in the air than he did compared to last season. Marshall put up 7-catches (on a whopping 13-targets) and 139-yards. He was targeted several times in the red zone. If there was something missing that night for the Chad Henne and Brandon Marshall connection, they seemed out of sort around the end-zone. Marshall has said he does not like to run fade patterns, which is too bad, he’s got the frame and body control to become good at it. We think it would not hinder Marshall’s value as a solid WR2, but it is worth watching to see if Marshall can at least double his 3-touchdown season in 2010. I think he can, but as everyone knows, no guarantees in fantasy football.
Exception to the Rule
OK, before I get comments about Wes Welker, I’m going to write about him. No, he’s not 6’2. What he is though is the beginning of a new breed of receiver that, if used correctly, is basically ‘like’ a running back, probably more accurate to describe as ‘an extension of the running game’. Wes Welker is 5’9, 190 pounds, built for middle of the field collisions and high volume of touches, again like a running back. We’re seeing more of this type of receiver, such as Percy Harvin, Danny Amendola, etc. But right now, none is better at it, none has owned it, as well as Wes Welker. He proved it again Monday night on two healthy knees, with 8 catches (on 12 targets), 160-yards, and 2 touchdowns. I wanted to say what will stop me from taking Welker is he doesn’t catch a lot of touchdowns. He’ll never be confused as Larry Fitzgerald in the red zone, but again the way the Pats use him in scoring situations, really reminds me of a running back. He catches it short in tight traffic and immediately runs hard up-field. He caught one short touchdown and took the other one to the house later, invoking memories of Tony Dorsett’s 99-yard run. All hail to the little man as well!