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Keenan Allen - Stud in 2014 or Victim of the Sophomore Slump?

By Jared Smola 9:13am EST 1/15/14

Keenan Allen went out with a bang.

The rookie was the key to San Diego's 2nd-half comeback push in Sunday's eventual loss to the Broncos.  After being shut out in the 1st half, Allen ripped off 142 yards and a pair of scores over the final 30 minutes.

It was a fitting end to a wildly productive rookie campaign.  Allen finished the regular season with 71 catches, 1,046 yards and 8 TDs.  All 3 marks ranked among the top 26 WRs.  Allen finished 17th in non-PPR fantasy points at the position; 18th in PPR.

Now comes the question we all want answered: Can Allen do it again in 2014, or will he fall victim to the dreaded sophomore slump?

If history is any indication, we need to approach Allen with caution in fantasy football drafts this summer.

His 2013 season was one of the best by a rookie WR in NFL history.  His 71 catches rank 7th all-time among 1st-year players.  The 1,046 yards are 11th best, and the 8 TDs are tied for 18th.  Allen's 223.6 PPR fantasy points rank 11th among rookie WRs in league history.

The chart below lists the 20 best fantasy outputs from rookie WRs.  Also shown is how they fared in their 2nd NFL seasons.

Player

Rookie Year

Rookie Year FPS

Year 2 FPs

% Change

Randy Moss

1998

302.3

287.3

-4.96%

Bill Groman

1960

291.3

269.5

-7.48%

Anquan Boldin

2003

287.7

124.3

-56.80%

Billy Howton

1952

254.1

95.3

-62.50%

Michael Clayton

2004

241.3

69.2

-71.32%

Terry Glenn

1996

239.2

82.1

-65.68%

John Jefferson

1978

234.1

230

-1.75%

Harlon Hill

1954

229.4

174.9

-23.76%

Mike Williams

2010

227.4

160.1

-29.60%

Bill Brooks

1986

226.1

141.2

-37.55%

Keenan Allen

2013

223.6

???

???

Marques Colston

2006

221.8

284.2

28.13%

Eddie Royal

2008

219

71.5

-67.35%

Cris Collinsworth

1981

215.9

125

-42.10%

Joey Galloway

1995

212.9

197.7

-7.14%

A.J. Green

2011

212.7

298

40.10%

Kevin Johnson

1999

212.6

123.9

-41.72%

Sammy White

1976

201.6

171

-15.18%

Eddie Kennison

1996

200.4

65.4

-67.37%

Dwayne Bowe

2007

199.5

230.2

15.39%

Sixteen of the 19 WRs experienced a dip in production in their 2nd seasons.  That by itself isn't entirely shocking since we're talking about the best rookie campaigns in league history.  But the magnitude of most of the drops is certainly alarming.

Eleven of the 19 players saw their fantasy points drop by at least 23%.  That's the difference between a WR1 and a WR2, or a WR2 and bench fodder.

Even scarier: 6 WRs saw their Year 2 numbers drop by more than 56%.  To put that in perspective, a 56% drop for Allen next season would leave him with 98.4 fantasy points.  That would have ranked 75th among WRs in 2013.

Add up the numbers for all 19 WRs and you get an average decrease in fantasy points of 31.2%.  If Allen falls right in line with that average, he'll score 153.8 fantasy points in 2013.  That's not even WR3-level production.

It's worth noting that a bunch of the WRs on this list dealt with injuries in their 2nd seasons.  Eight of the 19 missed at least 2 games, with 5 of those missing 4+.  That's an interesting nugget considering these guys were coming off busy seasons, but that's a trend to dig into in an entirely different article.

If there's one bright spot in this data for Allen, it's the recent relative success of sophomore WRs.  Of the 4 most recent WRs on this list (excluding Allen), 3 of them actually posted better numbers in Year 2.  The other, Mike Williams, decreased by "just" 29.6% -- not bad considering some of the massive drops on the list.

The recent success might be because these WRs are more NFL-ready coming out of college, helping them avoid a sophomore slump.  Maybe OCs are doing a better job scheming the guys open after defenses start paying them more attention in Year 2.  Or it could simply be a result of a pass-happier NFL.

Allen will attempt to become the 4th WR on this list to improve his production in his 2nd season.  Even a slight drop would be just fine for fantasy owners. 

Working in Allen's favor is his impressive combination of body control, hands and route-running.  He's also in a great situation with an offensive guru in HC Mike McCoy and a revived QB in Philip Rivers. 

Defenses have a season's worth of tape on Allen to study now, though.  And Rivers' numbers figure to take at least a slight step back in 2014 after he finished 1st in completion rate, 5th in passing yards and 4th in TDs this past year.

On top of all that, history is working against Allen.  That's worth keeping in mind as you start to put together your 2014 fantasy football rankings.


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