120 Players To Know - Minnesota's Eric Decker
Minnesota WR Eric Decker
Minnesota WR Eric Decker
Posted Mar 9, 2009

Who are the players you need to know about? Maybe they've been under the radar, or maybe they're the future NFL stars who'll be a really big deal next April. Get to know the stars of 2009 as CFN profiles 120 Players You Need To Know over 120 days (one for each team) continuing with Minnesota WR Eric Decker.

120 Players You Need To Know

Minnesota WR Eric Decker

By Pete Fiutak 

Who is Eric Decker? ... Minnesota has had several good running backs over the last few years, and it was a factory at tight end for a while, but the program rarely cranks out top-flight receivers. Decker changed all of that in a breakout junior campaign as the Big Ten leader in catches and yards.

The 6-2, 215-pound senior got on the Big Ten map as a sophomore catching 67 passes for 909 yards and nine touchdowns for a miserable team. While 19 of the catches came in back-to-back games against Miami University and Florida Atlantic, he scared the cheese out of Wisconsin in the regular season finale with six catches for 125 yards and two touchdowns in the close loss. That was just a hint of what was coming.

He started off last year with ten catches against Northern Illinois and didn’t slow down much from there with a touchdown grab in each of the first four games and led the nation in receiving yards at the halfway point in the year. However, his epic season might be remembered for the catch he didn’t make, missing a late pass against Northwestern that got tipped for a pick-six and a stunning last second Gopher loss. Minnesota lost its final four games after that with Decker suffering through an ankle injury until the Insight Bowl loss to Kansas. Back and healthy, he caught eight passes for 149 yards and a score against the Jayhawks.

No longer an unknown, he comes into 2009 ready to shine as one of the nation’s most complete receivers.

"I don’t think there’s a better wide receiver in the country,” said Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster. “When I look at Eric Decker as a player, I look at the whole body of work; how he blocks, catches, how he runs routes, his leadership. I just can’t image another receiver out there that does all the things that he does for this football team."

Decker's best game so far was ... in last season’s 16-7 win over Indiana. The Gophers only ran for 59 yards as they struggled to put away a bad IU team. Decker didn’t get into the end zone, but he kept the chains moving time and again with 13 catches for 190 yards highlighted by a 53-yard play to help set up a field goal.  
Why you should care about Decker ...
He worked with QB Adam Weber to overcome a mediocre running game to get the offense moving. Now, he’s on the short list of All-America receiver candidates coming into the season, and an almost certain lock to be a Biletnikoff semifinalist, he’s expected to be an even bigger part of the new Gopher offense under Jedd Fisch. There will be less spread and more pro-style passing meaning Decker’s numbers and profile could go from great to truly special. When he’s healthy and when he’s playing well, he’s a seven-plus catch a game target and the one player every defense is going to focus on shutting down.

Pro Potential ... he’s a big-time pro prospect, but for which sport? While he’s projected to be around a third-round NFL draft pick in 2010, he might end up playing baseball. During the 2008 baseball season, he was one of the top hitters in the Big Ten conference, starting 42 games in left field and hitting .329 with 28 RBIs. In the June Major League Baseball draft, the Milwaukee Brewers selected Decker in the 39th round. He was hitting .519 through seven games this year.

Negatives about Decker ... The biggest question football-wise will be his potential baseball career. Other than that, he does a little of everything well. The one concern will be his pure speed. While he’s a big, tough, physical target who does a decent job of getting separation, he’s not a pure blazer.

A cool thing about Decker that you probably didn't know ... 1) he’s an Academic All-American. 2) He’s a small-town guy made good hailing from Cold Spring, MN, population 2,975. 

Career statistics
2007: 67 catches for 909 yards and nine touchdowns, 1-of-1 passing for a 20-yard touchdown
2008: 87 catches for 1,074 yards (both school records) and seven touchdowns

Statistics, information and photo provided by the Minnesota sports information department.