Expectations Of Stokes To High
April 16 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
Without a doubt, our expectations of JJ Stokes, as a first round draft pick that the 49ers traded half their draft away for, have never been reached. Touted as 'the next Jerry Rice' - a dangerous title, we as 49ers fans, and the 49ers organization had been looking for a future star, a Pro Bowler, someone who would win games for the team. Truth of that matter, Stokes never materialized as that type of player. I've come to accept this. I realize that he is not as talented as Rice of even Terrell Owens for that matter. I've come to realize that JJ Stokes is indeed a talented secondary receiver. Now before begin, I stress that I believe there is room for improvement at the wide receiver position. That ideally we should have two thousand yard receivers in the offense. But that's not what this article is about. This article is about a realization that Stokes isn't that type of receiver. It's about recognizing that Stokes is good at he does - not great, but certainly better than he is given credit for.
A preposterous claim? JJ Stokes successful? JJ Stokes a solid player? JJ Stokes as being labeled as anything other than a bust? Most definitely. There are very few that would dispute that John Taylor was the 49ers best receiver in a complimentary role (sounds like an Oscar title). Taylor's accomplishments with the team were extensive, but was he statistically that much better than JJ? Here's a look:
Player Average Average Average Average Rec/Season yrds/season TD's Season yards/catch JT 38 622 4 16.3 JJ 42 544 4 13.3
I also recognize that comparing Stokes to Taylor has other anomalies, such as who else is getting passes thrown their way on the team, who the other receiver is, the quarterback and amount of total passes in the season. It doesn't recognize the time Stokes spent injured or as the teams third receiver. Truth is statistics aren't everything, and even though, Stokes ranks right in there with other number two receivers from last season (who were in the top 10 offenses of the NFL - and possibly others) it still isn't everything.
I can't argue that Stokes is the best number two receiver for the team. I can't argue that the team wouldn't be better served with an Ed McAfree, a Jerry Rice (what were we thinking) or a Willie Jackson. What I do know, and what I do proclaim is that Stokes is a successful compliment to Terrell Owens and our expectations of him are too high. On average he is statistically comparable to most other receivers in his position throughout the league. I believe that the expectations of Stokes as a thousand yard receiver who catches 8 touchdown passes, is simply not realistic. Our expectations for him should be around the 55-65 reception mark, he should have about 14-16 yard / catch average and he should touch the ball about 3 times a game.
In the complex offense the 49ers run, it's not realistic to look at the number two receiver to put up huge numbers. There are running backs, tight ends and full backs that see the ball quite often. It's time we as fans lowered our expectations for Stokes and recognize him not as a bust - but as a successful compliment.
I think the 49ers should continue looking to improve this area. I believe that the team would be dynamite with an explosive player opposite Owens. Someone who can dominate in a way that the team thought Stokes would when they drafted him. I believe that Stokes is a good compliment to Owens, I believe that our expectations of Stokes are too high, but I also believe the 49ers should look to improve at wide receiver if at all possible.