During the season, I will be spotlighting a player who is either on the cusp of your starting line-up for the week, or someone I see that needs some light shed on him due to match-up, man-scaping ability, or because I see something someone doesn’t. This week we shed the spotlight on Markus Wheaton. Basically being drafted as a WR3/4 in the vast majority of places, he is a maybe-start for most people. Well, I am here to learn you some stuff about the second fiddle now in the city with ‘tree rivers. Let’s start with the obvious… Antonio Brown is as legit a number one receiver as there is in the league. That’s a good thing, because they play the Browns, and have a top shutdown corner who they like to shadow all across the field on number one receivers. So Haden covers Brown, but it should be noted that I’ve heard rumors to the contrary, and that Haden might be all over the field. To tell ya the truth, I am not buying it at all. He is a shut-down corner, is paid like one, and will try to take Brown away from the under-rated Steeler passing attack.
So now that we completely didn’t even talk about Wheaton in the first paragraph, you’re probably confused as all get out. I will tell you why the second WR that plays against Cleveland is a smart play. Last season, the second receiver that opposed the Browns, obviously that wasn’t covered by Haden, enjoyed great success. Now I can dig that the Browns brought in a stud first round draft pick in Justin Gilbert, but he isn’t Joe Haden yet. So take a look at the chart; here it’s last year’s 16 games and the 2nd receiver on each squad.
80 catches, 890 Yds, 9 Tds. That’s what they yielded to the second receiver on each team throughout their last 16 games. It’s fairly obvious that teams like to take advantage of the opposite guy from Haden. Now I understand the skepticism with Markus, only 6 receptions for 64 yds last season, but look at the bevy of veterans he was playing behind (Brown, Sanders, Cotchery). He is the second fiddle now for a team that featured a top-10 offense in passing, passing attempts, passing TD, completion %… you’re getting the point here– the Steelers are under-rated at throwing it.
So lastly, why I really love Wheaton, for not only this game, but as a great value for the entire year– there is no savvy veteran that is coming in here to spell the youngster. It’s his car now. If he messes it up, it’s his own fault. He is basically a clone of (but 4 years younger than) Emmanuel Sanders. Height, weight, speed. Sanders got targeted in the NFL 112 times (which is in the top-30 for those looking). That’s more than Keenan Allen and myself combined. The options behind Markus are all types of banged up for this game. Martavius Bryant and Lance Moore are most likely to miss the game on Sunday, leaving Darius Heyward-Bey and Justin Brown. Yeah, I like the chances that Mr. Wheaton gets fed the ball a lot during the game.
Prognosticator Me Says: 9 targets, 6 catches, 74 yards and 1 touchdown.