Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Solving our Problems: Donte Stallworth

[Solving Our Problems is an ongoing series here at the Ragnarok where I evaluate the Vikings' options going into the offseason. I started by looking at the quarterback options, examining Derek Anderson, Donovan McNabb and possible backups for Tarvaris Jackson. Now it's time to figure out who the QB is going to throw to, starting with free agent Bernard Berrian and now Donte Stallworth.]

One of the best things that Donte Stallworth has going for him is that he is available on the free agent market. The Patriots have already declined his option. The actual best thing? The fact that he has an alter ego , named Nicco that punishes him when he messes up on the field and lives on Mars when he's not playing.

Now, even if he didn't have an alter ego from Mars, (which, honestly, is more than enough to convince me that the Vikings should sign him), the Vikings should still pursue Stallworth this offseason. Stallworth would be a perfect complement for the Vikings current wide receivers, adding a deep threat that the Vikings are currently lacking (since Sidney Rice is not quite ready yet). Over the last three years, he's averaged 15 catches over 20 yards, and almost three catches over 40 yards a game. To put that in context, Robert Ferguson lead the Vikings in catches over 20 yards, with 5, and no receiver on the Vikings roster has ever had a season with more than 8 receptions for over 20 yards. His yards and touchdowns last year were their lowest in four years, but I think it's safe to say that was mostly due to the fact that he was Tom Brady's third option, behind Randy Moss and Wes Welker. The fact that he's only 27, and that his 46 receptions and 15.2 yards per catch were both the third highest of his career also support that assertion. And not only did he not experience any drop off in DPAR or DVOA, he posted his highest total since his rookie year, with a 15.9 DPAR and a 16.2% DVOA.

One has to wonder how much of that value actually should be attributed to the offense he was playing in and the fact that he was able to play in all 16 games, something he has only able to do two other times in his six year career. His catch percentage in 2007 seems to support the theory that Tom Brady had a lot to do with his high value, as he caught 62% of the passes thrown his way, a career high. The only other time his catch percentage broke 60% was in his rookie year, and he's had two seasons where he caught less than 50% of the passes thrown his way.

It's his catch percentages, combined with his history of injury problems that have prevented him from taking the step from "deep threat" to "#1 receiver". Stallworth's career high in receptions is 70, in 2004, and it's the only time he's had more than 58 in a season. He's never averaged more than 60 yards receiving per game, or had 1000 yards receiving in a season. His career high is 945 yards, in 2004, and it's the only season he's had more than 800 yards receiving. Also, the closest he's come to double digit touchdowns was in his rookie year, when he had 8 TDs.

It's for those reasons that Stallworth would not be the best receiver the Vikings could sign. Bernard Berrian is. However, if the Purple can't sign Berrian, Stallworth would still be a good acquisition, adding a deep threat and a veteran presence that the Purple would be lacking. And finally, he'd be a 2-1 deal, which is the kind of bargain you can't get just anywhere.

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