Eric Decker Nation’s Top WR

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By Mike Gallagher

Note: for an exclusive interview/in depth profile of Eric Decker produced by The Sports Bank, click here.

When you think of the top wide outs in the nation, Eric Decker probably isn’t the first name coming to mind.  Many would say Marshwan Gilyard of Cincinnati, currently leading the nation in receiving touchdowns.  Mike Williams of Syracuse has been a key part of a Syracuse offense that is much improved and he should get attention for the strides the program has taken.  Jordan Shipley of Texas is 7th in the nation in receiving yards and 2nd in receptions.

Those names definitely garnish the media attention because of the stages and storylines they are a part of.  There in lies the problem with media- tunnel vision. It’s easy and fun to look at big name programs and give them attention, people will eat that up.  It’s much harder to look at perennially average programs that have standout players putting them in the spotlight.  eric_decker2_200baseball

That’s the mold Eric Decker fits into, a guy working hard day in and day out trying to put this program on the national landscape.  He could’ve gone to the diamond, where he was drafted in the 39th round by the Brewers, then the 27th round by the Twins the next year.  He could’ve gone to the NFL draft, where he likely would’ve been a late round pick last year.   He should remind football diehards of Jeff Samardzija, former Notre Dame standout receiver/baseball star.  He made similar catches and his game was comparable to Decker.  Samardzija chose baseball after his senior year and he’s still considered one of the Cubs top pitching prospects.  Decker also came back for his senior year for another run at making memories Minnesota wouldn’t soon forget.

So far he’s succeeded on the football side: third in the nation in both receiving yards and receptions.  He has come up big every game Minnesota has played so far, including two TD catches last week vs. Northwestern.  Memorable catches have been easy to come by.  A bone-jarring hit he took along the sidelines left his chin gashed open against California.  He still hung on for the touchdown.  He’s accounted for nearly 60% of the Gophers air attack this year and has more receiving yards than the entire team has running the football.

Still not convinced?  Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated named him the third best receiver in the nation at the beginning of the year behind Oklahoma State’s Dez Bryant and Georgia’s A.J. Green.  Bryant has just 17 catches for 323 yards, while Green has 25 catches for 428 yards.  Decker has 35 catches for 499 yards, both numbers far and away from the one and two on Mandel’s list.
Not only does Decker have the numbers, but as mentioned earlier, he’s doing it on his own.  Unlike Marshwan Gilyard, he doesn’t have Tony Pike, who’s now getting national attention and is 4th in the nation in QB efficiency as well as pass yards.

Jordan Shipley has Heisman hopeful Colt McCoy and is on the second ranked team in the nation.  The aforementioned Mike Williams gets publicity because he’s so close to the biggest story of this year- former Dukie basketball player Greg Paulus, now QB and the man behind the offensive turnaround at Syracuse.

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Eric Decker has no receiver opposite him, no run game, and a quarterback in Adam Weber who’s solid, but far from superlative. His team is just hoping to garnish a few AP poll votes each week.  If it weren’t for Decker, the Gophers may be cellar dwellers in the Big Ten and a bottom ten offense in the nation.

Decker should get serious consideration for the Fred Biletnikoff award when December comes and if there actually were a most valuable to your team award (let’s not get into what the actually Heisman Trophy stands for these days), Decker would have to be right up there as a national finalist as well.

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