I liked the pick of Markus Wheaton in the third round of last year’s NFL Draft. I would have loved Keenan Allen in the second but Le’Veon Bell has proven himself more than worthy of his second round selection.
At the time, Wheaton was one of the better receivers on the board and seemed to fit the Todd Haley-type offense the Pittsburgh Steelers are now running.
With Emmanuel Sanders all but gone from the Steelers, we all are asking what can we expect from Markus Wheaton in 2014.
Before we anoint him the next Lynn Swann let’s remember he caught six balls last year. Six. Did you catch that? He caught six balls last year.
There is no way in my opinion that we can make any fact-filled assertions about what lay ahead for Wheaton in the upcoming season. There just isn’t enough to build off of or is there?
Maybe and maybe not….
I selected four Steelers’ receivers to compare Wheaton to in terms of rookie season production to second year production. I’ve done this to just give you an idea of what expectations might be fair for the former Oregon State Beaver.
Hines Ward – Rookie season: 16 games played, 15 receptions, 0 touchdowns
Hines Ward – 2nd season: 16 games played, 61 receptions, 7 touchdowns
Santonio Holmes – Rookie season: 16 games played, 49 receptions, 2 touchdowns
Santonio Holmes – 2nd season: 13 games played, 52 receptions, 8 touchdowns
Antonio Brown – Rookie season: 9 games played, 16 receptions, 0 touchdowns
Antonio Brown – 2nd season: 16 games played, 69 receptions, 2 touchdowns
Mike Wallace – Rookie season: 16 games played, 39 receptions, 6 touchdowns
Mike Wallace – 2nd season: 16 games played, 60 receptions, 10 touchdowns
Markus Wheaton – Rookie season: 12 games played, 6 receptions, 0 touchdowns
If we average the second seasons of the four receivers I’ve selected, then we can expect Markus Wheaton to play in 15 games, have 60 receptions and score six touchdowns.
Obviously there are numerous factors that can’t be ignored in this comparison such as teammates, coaches, levels of competition and so on but this could give us a very crude estimate of what we can expect from Wheaton.
One of the excuses given for his slow development last year was because his school term went so long. Because of that, he missed nearly everything in terms of OTA’s and that’s a big part of where a new player learns the offense.
That said, other players were in similar situations and still had good seasons so it’s clearly a case-by-case basis.
Wheaton will be given every opportunity to earn the number two spot. I also expect the Steelers to re-sign Jerricho Cotchery as well who will probably be better in the slot but time will tell.
Ultimately, Wheaton’s rookie season gave us very little to go on for 2014 but hopefully past receivers’ numbers can shed some light.
Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns www.steelcityblitz.com. Follow him on Twitter @steeldad and follow the website at @SCBlitz. He can be heard Mondays on Trib-Live Radio at 730pm ET talking Steelers and is a blogger for ESPN 970 in Pittsburgh.