ESPN analyst Mark Schlereth has some choice words for Eric Decker and the expectations Jets fans have for their new #1 wide receiver. Schlereth, a former Bronco lineman, is not impressed with Decker's abilities, and may be even less impressed with his demeanor:
Decker ... was your fourth option in Denver and that’s the talent I think he has. I think he’s a marginal No. 2 at best...
New York will go crazy watching him ... throwing his arms up, begging for flags. I’m telling you New York, get ready, begging for flags like, ‘I was interfered with. That’s the only reason I didn’t catch that ball’ every play and then tripping over his own feet... It will drive you crazy. It will absolutely drive you crazy.
When asked if new Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders is better than Decker, this is what Schlereth had to say:
They’re not even in the same stratosphere. It’s not close. It’s not that he’s [Decker's] a bad player. He’s not a bad player. He’s just a product of that offense. I think what you’ll see is … what did he have like 87, 90 catches something like that last year? You’ll see him in the 40 range, 40-50 range, tops.
This is the kind of "analysis" that sometimes gives ESPN a bad name. The first quoted segment may be to a certain extent fair criticism. Reading what Broncos fans over at MHR have to say about Decker there certainly is some basis for that analysis, even as we recognize the trademark ESPN over the top bluster. It's also a bit strange to call Decker a 4th option when he had 500 more receiving yards than both the erstwhile second and third options in the Denver offense. But it's when we come to the second quoted passage that Mr. Schlereth becomes a little unhinged.
Sanders is the better receiver, and it's not even close? Hmmm... let's take a look at what the record says, shall we?
Each player has been in the league four years. Decker in that time has 222 catches for 3070 yards, 13.8 yards per catch and 33 TDs. Sanders in the same four years has 161 catches for 2030 yards, 12.6 yards per catch and 11 TDs. Decker has two 1000 yard seasons, Sanders has zero 750 yard seasons. Decker has two double digit TD seasons, Sanders has zero 7 TD seasons. So far it looks like Decker wins in a landslide, blowing away Sanders in every relevant category.
Well, you say, Decker had Manning throwing to him. True enough, in two out of the four years. So let's look at 2011, when Decker had the immortal Kyle Orton and the chosen one Tim Tebow slinging footballs his way. In 2011, playing 5 games with Orton and 11 games with Tebow, in a passing offense that managed all of 2708 passing yards for the entire season, Decker managed somehow to amass 44 catches for 612 yards and 8 TDs. This production is better than any year Sanders ever had in TDs, and is as good in terms of catches and yards as Sanders was able to put up in 2012, with a year's more experience, playing in a passing offense that put up almost 50% more passing yards with a borderline Hall of Fame QB in Ben Roethlisberger. Yet somehow Decker is a product of the system, and he is not even close to the level of Sanders. Even the most rabid Sanders fan can't make that argument with a straight face.
Obviously Schlereth is not a Decker fan. He could have made some fair criticisms and left it at that. Instead he lost all credibility with some ludicrous hyperbole, which unfortunately is an all too often occurrence at ESPN. The Broncos may well end up being happy having the hyper quick Sanders in the fold. I suspect the Jets and their fans will be even happier having Mr. Decker playing for the Green and White.