I started looking at this guy half way though the Ben Tate scouting report, after he was mentioned by a buddy of mine, a die hard Minnesota fan. So went away, first had a look at what other people were saying about him, his NFL comparisons. I always think that is a good start, some of the players that were mentioned, Larry Fitzgerald and Don Maynard stuck in my mind more than most. I'm not saying he will be as good as those people, predicting the future should be left to fortune tellers, but you can estimate who you think will perform at the next level, and Decker is another receiver I feel confident in.
The first thing that you really have to get out of the way when talking about Decker is the injury he suffered in 2009 against Ohio State. He suffered what is called a Lisfranc sprain which is when there is a fracture and a dislocation between the forefoot and mid-foot joints. After doing some reading up on the injury, it seems like it is extremely painful and takes between 6-8 months to recover from. Decker who suffered the injury in late October so should be ready to go when push comes to shove. I believe it is the same injury that Tedd Ginn suffered during his final season (final title game), and he was able to play all 16 games in 2007 with the Dolphins. Brandon Stokley also had the same injury and offered Decker some words of advice on rehabilitating.
Now onto his actual play, and boy is it impressive. I'm almost as impressed with him as I was for Jordan Shipley, and everyone knows how much I think of Shipley, so that should give you some indication. While I was doing research for this, I came across some stats that really just highlight some of the best attributes Decker has.
He was targeted 354 times while at Minnesota, and he dropped 3. He produced first down's on 70.48% of passes thrown his way, with 22.03% of those on third down. 55.51% of his catches were good for at least 10 yards. 25.99% going for at least 20 yards.
In 2009 playing against California, Decker made an excellent reception for the touchdown, then took a shot from a Cal player leading with his helmet, He needed to get stitches in his chin, he came back (going against advice) and finished the game with 119 yards and 2 scores. This epitomizes the kind of player that he is, he has a reputation as a player who can take physical punishment, take the shot, bounce back up and get on with his job. Has been known to play with injuries if possible to help his team.
He has played running back at points, been used on coverage teams because of his competitiveness and his tackling ability, has also thrown a couple TD passes, outside of asking him to play on either line, there is not much this guy has not done. Is a stand out both academically and as a baseball player. He was drafted in 2008 by the Milwaukee Brewers, but persists he is a football player.
2006- 13 games, 26 receptions, 378 yards, 14.5 avg, 3 TD's
2007- 12 games, 67 receptions, 909 yards, 13.6 avg, 9 TD's
2008- 12 games, 83 receptions, 1,077 yards, 13.0 avg, 7 TD's
2009- 9 games, 50 receptions, 758 yards, 15.2 avg, 5 TD's
Although he was unable to work out at the combine, he did attend and when asked what kind of receiver he was, a possession man or a deep threat, he answered with this:
I'd say a combination. I feel like I can get down the field and stretch the field and also my strength is route running. Being able to find open holes, set defensive backs up and get open underneath, too.
What does Eric Decker do well?
Like Shipley, where do you start with this. He has excellent hands, his route running is top notch, can find soft spots in zone, and has the size to meet players in man coverage. A possession receiver who can work out of the slot, but also a split receiver who can line up on the outside and use his physicality. Has good instincts to know when to go up and get the ball, and would be a reliable fade option in the end zone. Has excellent quickness off the snap, uses his hands to shed blockers. Works his routes in traffic, and catches pretty much everything thrown his way, tracks the ball over both shoulders, and will fight to come down with it. Has an ability to adjust to badly thrown balls, extending his size to bring balls in and tracks back to the QB when he is scrambling. Has good ability with the ball in his hands, has an excellent side step that he uses to avoid aggressive defenders. Has the size to break arm tackles and bowl over some smaller defensive backs if needed. Works with a tough physical style, but there is an aspect of finesse about his game. Made a big improvement in his blocking game to the point where I would now consider him to be a good blocker, tough, physical, seeks contact and holds a defensive back down, makes it very difficult to disengage at times. Has an excellent work ethic, plays through pain when needed, became a team leader, and understands that he will need to work hard to be successful at the next level.Versatility, and can be used on special teams because of his ability to track returners down and wrap them up. Excellent competitive nature. Natural multi sport athlete.
What does Eric Decker Need To Work On?
Obviously the injury is a worry, but with his work habit and other receivers having come through it, I'm not too worried about that at all. Like when I wrote this part about some of the other players, it really is nitpicking. Some have suggested that he needs to work on his outside routes, and planting on these routes is a little slow, got to be honest and say I don't really see that, seen him run a couple, and they looked crisp and clean to me. It's hard to find too many faults with him because he had success, even though teams knew that they were going there.
He's tough, he blocks, he runs, he catches anything thrown his way, he works hard, and he is a Rex Ryan type of guy. There is little not to like about Decker outside his injury, like I highlighted, several other wide receivers have had this done. Never the less, it's hurt his stock, he will likely be there in the 3rd round, and I know we don't have one, but if we don't decide to go with Shipley in the 2nd and we do take either defence or Gerhart, then we need to get one. The more I watch the more I like, he is a competitor, a team player and he has the talent to back it up. He has excellent elusiveness at his size, and I know you don't find too many receiver who can work out the slot at 6-3 and nearly 220lb's, but he would give us a lot of versatility on the field. He would also be an excellent target for Sanchez, especially in the redzone. I think you can all see that I'm a big fan, a few buddies of mine are big fans, and one is a Michigan fan, so you know the player has talent when a Michigan guy is speaking up for a fellow Big 10 player like Decker. I'd like to see us target him. Shipley is still my #1 guy, but Decker is by #1a guy. Would love to see him in Gang Green when all is said and done.
I tried to find a video that showed all the qualities that I was trying to highlight, his possession skills, vertical threat, route running, finding the soft spots in coverage and his competitiveness, and I think this one did that to an extent.