Steelers' Holmes On-Field/Fantasy Value Rising

Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial

Monday, July 16, 2007
By Paul Eide
Steelers Fever Columnist


After the first month of the 2006 season, many Steelers fans felt as though the team had essentially wasted a draft pick by selecting rookie wide receiver Santonio Holmes in the first round. In the first four games, Holmes caught only seven passes for a meager 73 yards with no touchdowns. Holmes looked completely out of sync as a second or third receiver and was consistently outplayed by second year wide out Nate Washington and veteran Cedrick Wilson.

Santonio HolmesSomewhere along the line in the season's fifth game, things began to click for Holmes, both on offense and on special teams, and the versatility that made him a first round pick began to emerge.

Against the Chiefs, Holmes had two catches for 58 yards, one carry for 13 yards, five punt returns for 55 yards and two kickoff returns for 56 yards. While it wasn't an earth shattering performance it was proof that he was finally being integrated into the team's overall game plan.

Over the course of the next 12 games, Holmes the receiver averaged just under four receptions and 66 yards a game while scoring two touchdowns and showed flashes of his game breaking ability on a far more frequent basis.

Holmes the return man also got on track and averaged 10.2 yards per punt return (including a 65 yard punt return in Week 15 at Carolina) and finished the season with the ninth best average in the NFL.

If we ignore his abysmal performance over the first month of the season and extrapolate his performance over the next 12 games over an entire season, Holmes finishes with a very solid 56 catch, 1,001 yard season. Solid, albeit not impressive, those numbers gain much more significance when we consider that since 1996, only four rookie receivers have gained at least 1,000 yards receiving; Anquan Boldin, 1,377 yards in 2003; Randy Moss, 1,313 yards in 1998; Mark Clayton, 1,193 yards in 2004; and Terry Glenn, 1,132 yards in 1996.

Hypothetical projections aside, Holmes had more receiving yards (824) in his rookie season than Roy Williams (817), Torry Holt (788), Larry Fitzgerald (780), Darrell Jackson (713), Terrell Owens (520) and Reggie Wayne (345).

Especially encouraging to fantasy football players and Steelers fans alike was his performance over the season's last two games. During that span, he accumulated 9 receptions for 214 yards and one touchdown that will not soon be forgotten by the Cincinnati Bengals. Holmes turned a short pass into a 67 yard game winning TD that not only defeated the much hated Bengals, but also knocked them out of playoff contention.

On the strength of those final two games, Holmes staked his claim for the starting wide receiver job opposite Hines Ward heading into '07 and at the very least solidified himself as the team's primary deep threat.

The Steelers are reportedly toying with four receiver sets under new offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, as well as operating out of the no huddle, which if correct would undoubtedly cause Holmes fantasy stock rise even higher.

Even more encouraging is the past offensive success Arians has had using multiple receiver sets. In Indianapolis, Arians the quarterbacks coach was instrumental in the development of Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, coaching him for his first three years in the league and helping lay the foundation for the most potent offense in the NFL.

"I love (to use) four wide outs," said Arians. "I like a better running game out of four wide outs where we can utilize them on first and second down, rather than just being in a shotgun and (predictably) throwing it all the time. It gives us more balance and keeps opposing defenses on their toes."

No matter what type of formations the Steelers offense intends to run in 2007, it is apparent that Santonio Holmes will see a lot more balls thrown his way and could turn into late round fantasy steal.

Currently viewed as almost an afterthought, Holmes is being selected anywhere from round eight to round eleven, with the potential to produce like a wide receiver drafted three to four rounds earlier.

So why not take a shot and select him late? Worse case scenario, it gives you another reason to root for the Steelers come Sunday.