3rd Year Wide Receiver Breakout: The Myth, The Legend, The History

A.J.Green, 2013 PPR Mock Draft

The legend of the 3rd year wide receiver breakout has entrenched itself into the fantasy football mindset, like “Bo Knows” entered our vocabulary after Jackson’s lead-off bomb in the All-Star Game was immediately followed by Nike’s influential ad campaign featuring him and the token phrase.

This 3rd year receiver series will touch on 2013’s top 3rd year wide receiver fantasy options, 3rd year wide receiver breakouts and 3rd year wide receiver busts and we’ll also take a peek back at the 2011 NFL Draft and see if the order those receivers were selected in should be shuffled up a bit in hindsight.

But firstly, lets go back and look at a few of the best 3rd year wide receiver seasons of recent history, which transformed this myth into legend. Chris Chambers anyone?

2013 Top 3rd Year WRs | 2013 3rd Year WR Breakouts

2013 3rd Year WR Bust | 2011 Draft Revisited

3rd Year Wide Receiver

Breakout Seasons

Cris Carter – 1989 – PHI

Going deep in the archives, the Hall of Famer got it done in his 3rd season, after doing little in his 1st 2 seasons. He didn’t grab as many balls as many who will follow, but almost a fourth of them went for TDs, which lead to Chris Berman’s famous line, “All he does is catch touchdown passes.”

Season Totals: 45 Rec, 605 Yds, 11 TDs

Terrell Owens – 1998 – SFO

Everyone’s favorite wideout, Owens began his ascend in year 2, but fully jumped on the scene as a force in his 3rd season. Well before the controversies, touchdown celebrations, fines and all the T.O. drama we’ve come to know, he was first and foremost a matchup nightmare and elite talent.

Season Totals: 67 Rec, 1097 Yds, 14 TDs

Keyshawn Johnson – 1998 – NYJ

Key was the last receiver to be taken 1st overall in the NFL Draft, back in 1996. The USC product was good from the get, but had his first great season in ’98. He kicked off the season with 5 scores in the first 4 weeks of the year and never looked back. He even rushed one in and another in the playoffs!

Season Totals: 83 Rec, 1131 Yds, 10 TDs

Santana Moss – 2003 – NYJ

Moss only started 12 games in his 3rd NFL season, but he made the most of it. His crazy stretch mid-season saw him score TDs in 7 straight from weeks 5 to 11, which included his breakout game against the Giants on November 2nd. Moss hauled in 10 passes, 3 for TDs and went for 121 yards.

Season Totals: 74 Rec, 1105 Yds, 10 TDs

Steve Smith – 2003 – CAR

Smith actually started more games in his 2nd season, but really emerged for the Black Cats in 2003, helping the club to the Super Bowl. It was a solid season, which included some big games, but Smith’s 3 Playoff TDs, 18 grabs and 404 receiving yards have to be considered his coming out party.

Season Totals: 88 Rec, 1110 Yds, 7 TDs

Reggie Wayne – 2003 – IND

It wasn’t easy for a Colts wideout opposite Marvin Harrison, but Wayne’s 3rd season finally saw him get his and start all 16 games. Although, Wayne truly emerged as a superstar in 2004, it should have been no surprise after his strong 3rd year season and 2 TDs in the Playoffs.

Season Totals: 69 Rec, 838 Yds, 7 TDs

Chad Johnson – 2003 – CIN

Ochocinco was good in his 2nd season, but was a star in year 3. With five 100 yard receiving games, a monster week 11 performance over the Chargers, to the tune of 10 snatches, 107 yards and 3 TDs, it was the beginning of his half decade of dominance in Cincy.

Season Totals: 90 Rec, 1355 Yds, 10 TDs

Chris Chambers – 2003 – MIA

Chambers got dialed in week 1 against Houston and never looked back after his 7 receptions, 118 yard and two score game. Other highlights include a 3 TD performance in week 12 against the Cowboys and a monster 9 catch, 153 yard game to conclude the season where he also scored.

Season Totals: 64 Rec, 963 Yds, 11 TDs

Braylon Edwards – 2007 – CLE

After a solid 2nd season the writing was on the wall for a banner 2007 and the Wolverine alum delivered. Edwards failed to find pay-dirt just 4 times all season and had 4 multi TD games. All in all, it has to be one of the best 3rd year campaigns ever and unfortunately, it has been all downhill since for Braylon.

Season Totals: 80 Rec, 1289 Yds, 16 TDs

Roddy White – 2007 – ATL

It wasn’t the smoothest transition from the college ranks for the 2005 first rounder and I remember bust being associated with Roddy. He finally turned the corner in week 3 against the Panthers going good for 7 catches, a TD and 127 yards. His 3rd year breakout was the beginning of the Roddy White we’ve come to know.

Season Totals: 83 Rec, 1202 Yds, 6 TDs

Greg Jennings – 2008 – GB

No doubt, Jennings 12 TD sophomore season was beastly, but he fully put it all together in ’08. Jennings became the total package on the outside that the Packers had hoped for when they drafted the Western Michigan alum in the 2nd round of the 2006 Draft.

Season Totals: 80 Rec, 1292 Yds, 9 TDs

Sidney Rice – 2009 – MIN

The Vikings addressed their QB issues in ’09 bringing in Brett Favre and Sidney Rice took flight and became an elite wideout. Similarly to Braylon Edwards, Rice has yet to regain his 3rd year dominance, but rebounding from injury issues in 2012 has the Seahawk back in fantasy relevance.

Season Totals: 83 Rec, 1312 Yds, 8 TDs

Steve Johnson – 2010 – BUF

A 7th rounder in 2008, Johnson had only started a single game heading into the 2010 season. But his stretch from week 3 through 7, where he scored in each game and 6 times total, put him on the fantasy map and he has been relevant ever since. 2010 still stands as his best season to date.

Season Totals: 82 Rec, 1073 Yds, 10 TDs

Dez Bryant – 2012 – DAL

The Cowboys 2010 1st rounder needed a big season as his character was in serious question after multiple off-field issues. Bryant had teased with his potential during his first 2 seasons, but was arguably the best wideout in football from week 9 on last season and lead a number of teams to Fantasy Title-Town.

Season Totals: 92 Rec, 1382 Yds, 12 TDs

Demaryius Thomas – 2012 – DEN

In his first game Thomas went good for a score, 97 yards and 8 catches, but never topped 3 again in 2010. 2011 saw a few big games, but Thomas was inconsistent, enter Peyton Manning in 2012 and the setting was perfect for a big 3rd year season and Thomas delivered big time.

Season Totals: 94 Rec, 1434 Yds, 10 TDs
It has been a nice trip down memory lane, but did I leave anyone off the list? Was there a 3rd year wide receiver breakout that helped you win a fantasy title? What are your thoughts on the myth and legend of the 3rd year wide receiver breakout? Please share any comments below!
I’m a Loyal Leafs, Cubs, and Cowboys fan for decades. I wear the C for The Fake Hockey, in addition to contributing to The Fake Baseball and The Fake Football in more of a Timmy Try Hard role. You can also find my weekly fantasy baseball preview here at davidgonos.com and can reach me on Twitter @naparker77.


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