120 Players To Know - Minnesota's Eric Decker
Minnesota WR Eric Decker
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
Minnesota WR Eric Decker
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.
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.
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
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.
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.