Player Points - Santana Moss
By Chase Stuart
June 11th, 2010

In a lot of ways, Santana Moss and Donovan McNabb feel like a match made in heaven. Moss is been a terrific deep threat receiver and McNabb is a great deep pass thrower. Since 2004, Santana Moss ranks third in the league in touchdown receptions of 40 yards or more (15), behind only Terrell Owens (22) and Randy Moss (18). He's also third in receiving touchdowns of 50 yards or more (12) and tied for second in 30+ yard touchdowns (20). Over that same time span, McNabb leads the league in passing touchdowns of 40 yards or greater, and ranks second in 30+ and 50+ yard passing touchdowns. In short, Moss and McNabb have been two of the biggest threats in the passing game to score from anywhere on the field over the past six seasons.

Moss, a former first round pick out of Miami, has played the vast majority of his career with average or worse quarterbacks. The table below shows who was the passer for each of Moss' 500 career receptions:

Quarterback
Rec
Yards
TDs
FPs
Perc
Jason Campbell
214
2683
12
447.3
35.2%
Mark Brunell
109
1768
11
297.3
23.4%
Chad Pennington
111
1626
13
296.1
23.3%
Vinny Testaverde
28
515
4
89.5
7.0%
Todd Collins
19
361
2
57.6
4.5%
Quincy Carter
10
258
2
42.8
3.4%
Patrick Ramsey
6
167
1
25.7
2.0%
Antwaan Randle El
1
48
1
11.3
0.9%
Brooks Bollinger
2
17
0
2.7
0.2%
Total
500
7443
46
1270.3
100%

Remember that Mark Brunell was 35 and 36 years old when he played with Moss, while Vinny Testaverde was 39 and 40 years old. And when Brunell was 35, Moss had his best season with 1,483 receiving yards. His third year in the league, he caught 1,105 yards with half of a season from Chad Pennington and half from Testaverde. His production the past four seasons with Jason Campbell has been good, but not great -- can he experience a rebirth at age 31 now that he'll be playing with McNabb?

I took a look at all wide receivers who, while in their thirties, scored over 200 fantasy points for the first time in five years and scored more fantasy points per game in a season than they had in any of their prior four years. Essentially, I was looking to see which older wide receivers had huge seasons from seemingly out of nowhere. It's happened five times since 2000:

  • 2000 - Ed McCaffrey: McCaffrey started out slowly, becoming an 8th year breakout when he set a career high with with 1,053 yards in 1998. In '99, his numbers stayed flat despite the team's transition from John Elway to Brian Griese. When Griese exploded in '00, McCaffrey was one of the biggest beneficiaries, catching 101 passes for 1,317 yards and 9 scores. It didn't hurt that TE Shannon Sharpe had moved Baltimore and RB Terrell Davis' best days were behind them, enabling WR Rod Smith and McCaffrey to become the stars of the offense.
  • 2001 - Troy Brown: Like McCaffrey, Brown was an 8th year breakout, smashing previous career highs with 83 receptions and 944 yards in 2000. When Tom Brady replaced Drew Bledsoe in '01, Brown's career reached a new peak, as he caught 101 passes for 1,199 yards and five scores. Brady and Brown were a perfect fit for one another, as the possession receiver became the first-year-starting quarterback's security blanket.
  • 2002 - Curtis Conway: Conway hit the 1,000 yard mark during his third and fourth seasons in the league, but battled with injuries and bad quarterback play over the next four years. After seven seasons in Chicago, he moved west to San Diego, where he struggled catching passes from Ryan Leaf. When Doug Flutie became the new starter during Conway's ninth season, he exploded with 1,125 yards and 6 touchdowns.
  • 2003 - Keenan McCardell: Not a great example; McCardell had 190+ fantasy point seasons in Jacksonville in '00 and '01, and then scored 207 fantasy points in '03, just barely meeting the cutoffs for this study. McCardell moved to Tampa Bay in '02, and then had a resurgence in 2003 when Brad Johnson had a huge season and Keyshawn Johnson played in only ten games due to suspension.
  • 2005 - Joey Galloway: Moss owners can find strong precedent for predicting a breakout season for Moss by observing Joey Galloway's career. Galloway, like Moss, was one of the fastest wide receivers as soon as he entered the league. Unfortunately, his career's production looks underwhelming as he was rarely paired with good quarterbacks. Galloway gained over 4,000 receiving yards his first four years in the league with the Seahawks, before missing nearly all of the '99 and '00 seasons due to a contractual holdout and a torn ACL. Then, from '01 to '03, Galloway's numbers were depressed thanks to Quincy Carter and Chad Hutchinson. In 2004, Galloway may have been primed for a breakout but a groin tear limited him to just seven starts. Fully healthy, playing with Chris Simms and Brian Griese, Galloway broke out with 83 catches, 1,287 yards and 10 touchdowns.
  • There are other examples that don't quite fit the measures outlined above. When Drew Bledsoe came to Dallas, Terry Glenn exploded with a huge season and led the league in yards per reception: after five straight years of sub-1000 yard production, he gained 1,136 yards during Bledsoe's first year in Dallas. And the other Moss had huge seasons with strong armed quarterbacks like Randall Cunningham and Daunte Culpepper, but before he exploded with Tom Brady in 2007, he had a miserable year with Andrew Walter and Aaron Brooks while playing for the Raiders in 2006.

    None of those examples prove anything, of course. There are countless other wide receivers who never quite lived up to their fantasy potential even after constant changes at quarterback. And, despite all of the examples above, this is more my gut feeling than anything else. But I think Santana Moss in 2010 will have his biggest season since his monster '05 campaign. He's currently got an ADP of WR29, and he looks like a steal to me at that spot.

    Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to stuart@footballguys.com.