Eric Decker, WR, Minnesota
Weight: 217 pounds
40 time: 4.54
As consistent and reliable as any receiver in the country, Eric Decker is one of the most underrated prospects in this year’s draft. The leading receiver in Minnesota history, Decker is a three-year starter with great experience who leaves Minnesota having caught 226 passes (first in school history) for 3,122 yards (first) and 24 touchdowns during his career with the Gophers; his best statistical season came as a junior in 2008 when he made 83 receptions for 1,077 yards and seven touchdowns.
Eric has the prototypical size and frame that I look for in a No. 1 or No. 2 receiver in the NFL. A polished receiver whose physical play and toughness are among his greatest strengths, Decker has fantastic hands with the ability to catch nearly any ball thrown in his direction. You could argue that Decker has the best hands of any player in the draft, having dropped just three of the 354 passes thrown in his direction during his career with the Gophers. When you consider that more than 70% of his catches were made for first downs and over 22% of those were made on third down, there also may not be a more reliable player in this year’s draft than Eric.
What I like best about Eric is his phenomenal ball skills and body control; he does an outstanding job of adjusting to the ball while it’s in the air and he’s capable of making a catch no matter how many defenders are around him. He is capable of climbing the ladder and snatching the ball out of the air with ease. Decker is a great route runner with crisp, precise cuts in and out of his breaks as well as the acceleration needed to burst into the open field. He has the ability to be a nice target down the field in the passing game for his quarterback.
Another thing that I love about Decker’s game is that he’s a physical player who isn’t afraid to throw his body around in order to make a play. He’s more than willing to work across the middle of the field to make a play in traffic. He also showed great toughness over the course of his career, having played through a number of small injuries during his time at Minnesota. He’s also shown that he’s more than willing to be a blocker in the run game; he possesses the size and strength needed to consistently drive the defensive back out of the play in the run game.
The question mark that some scouts have is Decker’s speed, where he may lack the top-end speed needed to be a consistent threat down the field; however, I feel that Eric’s terrific route running and quickness help him make up for the lack of elite speed. The biggest question mark in Eric’s game is the injuries that he’s suffered. He’s such a physical player that he tends to open himself up to big hits, which result in injury; in 2008, he played the season with a high ankle sprain and he had knee surgery at the end of the regular season, but he was able to return to play in the team’s bowl game; in 2009 he missed the Gophers’ last five games with a Lisfranc injury in his left foot, which required a surgery where a plate and screws were inserted to stabilize the injury. This foot injury also didn’t allow for him to workout at all during the offseason leading up to the draft. This is the main reason why Eric won’t be drafted as high as his talent and production would suggest. I feel that he has the talent of a first round pick, however because of the injury, I project that Decker will be drafted in the third-to-fourth round.
In my opinion, Eric Decker has the tools needed to develop into a very good No. 1 or No. 2 wide receiver for a team in the NFL. He’s a polished and complete prospect who I feel has the chance to be a steal for the team that drafts him. Decker also is a very smart, intelligent player with great instincts both on and off the field, having been named to a number of All-Academic teams in both high school and college. He also has experience as a punt returner, which is another area where he could help contribute at the next level. Eric has the potential and upside needed to develop into a very good player in the NFL.
Notes: Eric was named first-team All-Big Ten as both a junior and senior. As a sophomore in 2007, Decker earned the team’s Bruce Smith Award as the team’s outstanding offensive player. In addition to being a standout football player, Eric was also a successful baseball player at Minnesota; in 2008 he was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers and in 2009 he was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the MLB Draft. Eric has stated that baseball is in the rearview mirror and he has concentrated all of his time on his football career. In high school, in addition to being a two-time All-State performer in football, he was also named all-conference, all-section and all-area in both baseball and basketball.
Prior to his injury, Decker was being mentioned as a late first-round pick. Unable to work out for teams due to his foot surgery, he’ll slide down the draft board in both NFL and dynasty war rooms—and someone is going to get a steal, assuming the foot issue is behind him. Decker was the lone bright spot in a moribund Minnesota offense and as such drew constant double-teaming, yet somehow he still managed to get open and produce the numbers he did.
So with Decker devalued, what will dynasty leaguers be getting for their low-risk investment? A big, physical receiver who worst-case has all the requisite skills to be a solid possession receiver for years to come: big frame, toughness, precision routes and reliable hands. And if that foot is healthy, there’s no reason Decker can’t develop into a legit No. 1 receiver at the NFL level. Oh that all your late-round dynasty picks had this much upside.