Spotlight - WR Donte Stallworth, New Orleans Saints
Posted 8/26 by Jason Wood and Colin Dowling,
Exclusive to Footballguys.com
Jason Wood's Thoughts
How many years did we sit around and say that IF Donte Stallworth could just stay healthy he would break out and become a fantasy force? Well, guess what folks, last year he played all 16 games...and finished as the 35th best fantasy receiver.
35th is decent, but let's be honest, that's not what people had in mind when they drafted him hoping upon hope he would give them a full season.
So entering his 4th year, where does Stallworth sit in the pantheon of NFL pass catchers? The good news is he's only 24 years old, having come out of Tennessee barely old enough to buy a beer. And, he DID manage to play the full season after struggling with hamstring woes in the two prior seasons. He's also on a team with a productive QB (Aaron Brooks isn't a great NFL QB per se but he's a productive fantasy option for sure) and what looks to be another bottom-of-the-barrel defense. That should mean plenty of targets.
So can he continue to evolve? After all, it's usually the "3rd year breakout" everyone talks up, is it that difficult to think Stallworth isn't capable of a "4th year breakout?"
Two things point to a productive year for him:
1) Moving to the slot -- New offensive coordinator Mike Sheppard (who coached the receivers last year) has decided to use Stallworth in the slot, by Stallworth's own request. "I told him that's what I had in mind," said Stallworth. "I wanted to get in the slot since I've been playing here, but I didn't feel as comfortable talking to Mike McCarthy as I did with Mike Sheppard. I like Shep a lot because of his broadmindedness."
2) The lack of a viable 3rd receiving option -- We all know Joe Horn is the team's go-to guy, and he's showing no signs of slowing down coming off a career year. But Stallworth should benefit from the absence of any real competition for his targets. The team brought in Az Hakim this year, but Hakim lacks the overall skill set to compete as a starter. He was among the league leaders in drops last year in a lead role and that's part of the reason he found himself on the free agent market. Devery Henderson, thought to be a long-term option has been disappointing in camp and now sits 4th on the depth chart. Even the team's tight ends, while OK as a unit, are not dynamic pass catchers such that they would eat into Stallworth's opportunities.
- The Saints new offensive coordinator Mike Sheppard was Stallworth's position coach the last few years and has implemented measures to better utilize Donte's skill set
- Aaron Brooks remains a productive fantasy QB, and Joe Horn can't catch every TD pass
- The Saints defense looks questionable at best, meaning the team should be forced into throwing a lot to play catch up
- Stallworth has been inconsistent, looking like a monster in some games (e.g. 10 recs for 122 and a TD vs. Denver) while disappearing in others (nine of 16 games with 3 or less catches last year)
- His hamstring issues appeared chronic, and one healthy season does not guarantee he won't succumb to them again
To be honest, I was less optimistic about Stallworth's chances before I started writing this Spotlight than I am now. Upon looking at his numbers last year, reading camp reports and what the coaches were planning, I can certainly see more upside to my projections than I otherwise would have thought. Of course, that seems to be the story with Stallworth every year. We see him as someone that SHOULD breakout and yet it never seems to happen. I wouldn't specifically target him this year, but if he's available in the later rounds as one of my backup receivers and has the best projected VBD value, I won't pass him over because of his sins of the past.
Colin Dowling's Thoughts
If Donté Stallworth could stay healthy, he’d offer major value in Fantasy Football. He plays on turf, he has a decent quarterback throwing him the ball (fantasy wise), he has a respectable receiver opposite him to draw coverage, and he has solid touchdown ability. It’s a real shame he can’t healthy. I mean can you imagine the value he could pose?
What? He was healthy last season? Huh? We’re talking about Donté Stallworth. Healthy for an entire season? Surely you’re crazy…
Fact is that Donté Stallworth WAS healthy last season and in three years as a pro football player, he’s been a viable WR3 twice. As a rookie, he ranked 38th in thirteen games. Last year, he finished 35th among receivers. Stallworth is being drafted 37th among receivers right now, which means his value is just about right. However, if you feel like Stallworth can improve this season, then he may be worth a gamble.
The upside in all of this is simple: Stallworth is the clear number two receiver on a team that has a potent, if inconsistent, passing attack. Despite “super-sleeper” prognosticators, Stallworth is going to be on the field if his health allows as no one on the roster is threatening to take his job. As such, he’s well worth a look.
Stallworth’s problems have centered around injuries and inconsistency. In 2003, he dropped enough passes to scare away many owners. However, last year he made a turn for the better posting career highs in receptions and yards. As he matures and learns more and more of the way the game is played at the pro level, it’s not unreasonable to think that Donté Stallworth could offer at least a little – dare we say – reliability as a third receiver on your squad.
- Showed more and more signs of maturity last year.
- Played in all 16 games.
- Plays indoors on a team with a solid passing game and a bad defense, meaning more passing opportunities.
- Still not the number one receiver on his team, making his upside limited.
- Has battled chronic injuries in the past.
- Faces tough intra-division defenses 6 times a year.
The fact is that Donté Stallworth is a solid performer who still has room to improve. There are certainly some hurdles involved, but with good health he could offer nice value as a third receiver and with any luck, he could take the next step towards being a fantasy football keystone.
Quotations from the Message Board Thread
To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there),
Joe Horn is a certifiable tier-2 fantasy WR. Deuce McAllister is a certifiable tier-1 fantasy RB who just got some serious coin. The Saints want to rededicate themselves to the run, and most of the passing attempts they do make will be in the direction of Joe Horn, at least until his performance starts to dictate otherwise. Stallworth remains inconsistent and becomes an afterthought on the team once again.
He had a pretty good season last year with the 58/760/5. I think a lot of that is because the saints played catch-up in a number of games. With that said, he only had 5 games with more than 5 catches, 3 games with more than 100+ yards. So despite being pass happy, he didn't seem to benefit from that too much.
Donte Stallworth, the ultimate tease. Everyone loved him the last couple of years, but he's done nothing but disappoint. This year people won't be as easily fooled, but I think he's set up for a solid overall season.
Donte Stallworth Projections
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