By BRIAN KOPERSKI, WECK intern (firstname.lastname@example.org)
(WECK 1230) — Through nine weeks of the 2010 NFL season, there have been few bright spots on the Buffalo Bills roster. Ryan Fitzpatrick’s surprising play has garnered most of the positive attention amongst fans and the media, but a big reason for his success has been the breakout of third-year wide receiver Stevie Johnson. The 2008 seventh round selection is excelling in his first full season as the No. 2 wide receiver and has caught fire in the last few games, becoming Fitzpatrick’s favorite target.
Let’s take a look at exactly how good Johnson has been through the first of this season. He has
41 catches for 554 yards. That’s twelve more catches and 181 more yards than No. 1 receiver Lee Evans, a seven-year veteran and arguably most experts’ choice as the most talented player on the offense.
Johnson currently has been targeted 65 times this season, as compared to Evans’ 55 times. He hasn’t recorded less than 3 catches or less than 31 yards in a game. Now, three catches for 31 yards as a statistical floor aren’t spectacular numbers by any means, but it’s certainly not bad for a No. 2 wide receiver on the 26th ranked offense in the league. Heck, his 11 catches this past Sunday against Chicago is one shy of his career total (12) entering this season.
Johnson’s performance isn’t only making noise in Buffalo, however, as his statistics are
comparable to some of the league’s best. His aforementioned 41 receptions and 554 yards rank him 19th and 13th, respectively, among NFL wide receivers. Several elite talents such as Calvin Johnson, Greg Jennings, Anquan Boldin, and Larry Fitzgerald all have fewer yardage totals thusfar. Johnson also ranks 13th in Yards After Catch, so it’s not like Stevie isn’t earning his yards. His 6 touchdown receptions have him tied for 7th in the NFL. Five of those touchdowns came in consecutive games, tying a Buffalo Bills record.
Now, if we may have some fun prognosticating for a moment! If Johnson had an identical
second half of the season, he would finish with 82 receptions and 1108 yards. Both of those totals would be good enough for the top ten single-season receiving totals in Bills history. Lee Evans’ single season career high in receptions is also 82. Doubling his touchdown total to twelve would eclipse Billy Brooks’ team record of eleven in 1995. Not that the Pro Bowl holds any true value these days, but Johnson’s extrapolated statistics would definitely warrant Pro Bowl consideration.
Even if statistics aren’t your cup of tea, just watching the Bills offense on a weekly basis has proven that Johnson is a versatile talent who is targeted on short routes, deep routes, and the red zone on a consistent basis.
The 224th overall selection in the 2008 draft, a pick the Bills actually acquired in a trade from
Philadelphia in exchange for Takeo Spikes and Kelly Holcomb, is quietly making a name for himself. Like any seventh rounder who becomes a diamond in the rough, Johnson is vastly exceeding any realistic expectations that were placed on him. Thirty wide receivers were selected prior to Stevie’s name being called in that draft and DeSean Jackson is arguably the only bigger name in the NFL today. Pierre Garcon and Mario Manningham might have a beef with that statement, but any words from James Hardy and Devin Thomas would be unwelcome.
Depending on your viewpoint, the fact that not one, but two, 7th round picks are the Bills top performers halfway through the season is either extremely impressive or embarrassingly pathetic. Regardless, on a winless team that is on a collision course with imperfection, Johnson has been a breath of fresh air and a player that Bills fans can be excited to watch both now, and in the future. Now, if only some of our 1st round picks could play like our 7th round picks…