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May 27, 2017

Nelson Agholor suddenly being good is wholly unrealistic

Eagles NFL

Over his first two seasons in the NFL, Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Nelson Agholor has not been good. Yes, I know, this is breaking news, and a take hotter than the surface of the sun.

To date, Agholor has a paltry career 59 catches, 648 yards, and 3 TDs, despite starting 26 games. He has also taken two touchdowns off the board by not lining up correctly, and has had his share of egregious drops.

But this year, man... this year... this year is going to be different. Why? On the first day of OTAs, Agholor had decent day of practice, which was preceded by words of encouragement from Doug Pederson.

"Nelson's attitude has been great," Pederson said. "He's worked extremely hard this offseason. The addition of [wide receivers coach] Mike Groh has really sort of lit a fire with Nelson a little bit, and then the addition with Alshon and Torrey and bringing these guys in. As I've said all along, competition, man, sharpens you. And that's what I've seen from Nelson. He's done a great job already this spring."

Hey, you know what? Now that I think of it, a number of optimistic fans recently have pointed out that the Packers' Jordy Nelson and the Broncos' Demaryius Thomas had poor stats their first two years in the league, and they turned out to be great players, right? Why can't Agholor do the same?

After all, if you look at Agholor's numbers his first two years in the league, they're close to those of Nelson's and Thomas'.

Player, Team (starts) Rec Yards YPC TD 
 Demaryius Thomas, Broncos (7)54 834 15.4 
 Jordy Nelson, Packers (2)55 686 12.5 
 Nelson Agholor, Eagles (26)59 648 11.0 

OK, can I break character yet? Yes? Good.

Stop. Please. Just stop. 

To begin, when Jordy Nelson entered the league in 2008, he was a second-round pick playing behind Greg Jennings and Donald Driver. Jennings had 1292 receiving yards in 2008, and 1113 in 2009. Driver had 1012 receiving yards in 2008 and 1061 in 2009. Nelson had just two starts over his first two seasons, compared with Agholor's 26, and he still out-produced him.

As for Demaryius Thomas, he had Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow throwing to him, and still significantly out-produced Agholor. Not to mention, in two playoff games in Thomas' second year, he went off for 10 catches, 297 yards, and this game-winning touchdown in OT:

Let's just go ahead and say that any optimism for Thomas heading into his third year was far more warranted than any optimism for Agholor in his.

Beyond the highly flawed comparisons of Agholor to Nelson or Thomas, you know what happens way more with wide receivers who don't produce their first two years? That's right, they continue to not produce.

The following is a list of wide receivers selected in the first round of the draft since 2000 who had less than 850 receiving yards their first two years (we'll call 850 yards the "Demaryius Demarcation"). 

Player, Team (Starts) Year draftedRec Yards TD 
 Travis Taylor, Ravens (21)2000 70 836 
Sylvester Morris, Chiefs (14) 2000 48 678 
R. Jay Soward, Jaguars (2) 2000 14 154 
David Terrell, Bears (7) 2001 43 542 
Santana Moss, Jets (3) 2001 32 473 
Freddie Mitchell, Eagles (2)2001 33 388 
Charles Rogers, Lions (6) 2002 22 243 
Reggie Williams, Jaguars (22) 2004 62 713 
Michael Jenkins, Falcons (12) 2004 43 627 
Rashaun Woods, 49ers (0)2004 160 
 Troy Williamson, Vikings (14)2005 61 827 
 Mike Williams, Lions (6)2005 37 449 
Craig Davis, Chargers (1) 2007 24 247 
Darrius Heyward-Bey, Raiders (25) 2009 35 490 
Demaryius Thomas, Broncos (7) 2010 54 834 
Jonathan Baldwin, Chiefs (10) 2011 41 579 
A.J. Jenkins, 49ers (1) 2012 130 
Tavon Austin, Rams (11) 2013 71 660 

In case a simple eye-balling of the above list isn't sufficient enough for the point I'm making, here's what the above players did the rest of their careers after their slow first two year starts.

Travis Taylor, Ravens: Played five more seasons in the NFL, averaging 41 catches for 530 yards and 3 TDs per season.

Sylvester Morris, Chiefs: Nothing. Morris never played in the NFL again.

R. Jay Soward, Jaguars: Nothing. Soward never played in the NFL again.

David Terrell, Bears: Terrell played three more years in the league, catching 85 passes for 1060 yards, and 2 TDs.

Santana Moss, Jets: Moss had a long, productive career, mostly with the Redskins, catching 700 passes for 9810 yards and 62 TDs over the rest of his career.

Freddie Mitchell, Eagles: Mitchell played two more years, catching 57 passes for 875 yards and 4 TDs.

Charles Rogers, Lions: Rogers played one more season, catching 14 passes for 197 yards and 1 TD.

Reggie Williams, Jaguars: Williams played three more seasons, catching 127 passes for 1609 yards and 17 TDs.

Michael Jenkins, Falcons: Jenkins caught 311 passes for 3800 yards and 22 TDs over the rest of his seven seasons, mostly as a forgettable No. 2 receiver.

• Rashaun Woods, 49ers: Nothing. Woods never played in the NFL again.

Troy Williamson, Vikings: Williamson played three more seasons, catching 26 passes for 304 yards and 2 TDs.

Mike Williams, Lions: Williams played three more seasons, catching 90 passes for 1077 yards and 3 TDs.

Craig Davis, Chargers: Davis played two more seasons, catching 27 passes for 311 yards and 1 TD.

• Darrius Heyward-Bey, Raiders: DHB had a good third season, catching 64 passes for 975 yards and 4 TDs. Over the rest of his career since, he has averaged 20 catches for 275 yards and 2 TDs per season. He is somehow still in the league.

Demaryius Thomas, Broncos: In each of his next five seasons, Thomas surpassed 1000 yards, averaging 98 catches, 1374 yards and 9 TDs per season.

• Jonathan Baldwin, Chiefs: Baldwin played one more season, catching three passes for 28 yards and no TDs.

• A.J. Jenkins, 49ers: Jenkins played one more season, catching nine passes for 93 yards and no TDs.

• Tavon Austin, Rams: In his next two seasons, Austin caught 110 passes for 982 yards and 8 TDs.

Can Agholor still go on to be a player like Jordy Nelson or Demaryius Thomas? Sure, it's possible, I suppose. But it's similarly realistic that Scarlett Johansson will show up at my door today and beg me to be her boyfriend. In that sense, I'm certainly rooting for him.

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