NFL

Chicago Bears: Anthony Miller career trajectory

Who are players that Chicago Bears wide receiver Anthony Miller compares to through two NFL seasons

One thing we have learned about wide receivers is that it is a young man’s game. If a wide receiver is going to come around, you are likely going to see signs early in his career. With that in mind, this is clearly a big season for Chicago Bears wide receiver Anthony Miller as he enters year three.

Miller has been banged up at times, he has had issues with quarterbacks at times, but he has shown ups and downs in his play on the field as well. So, unlike some players, we are seeing their career arch unfold, we enter year three with questions as to what Miller can become still.

Through two NFL seasons, Miller has 85 receptions for 1,079 yards. Below, is a look at every receiver in NFL history to post between 80 and 90 catches and 900 and 1,200 yards through two NFL seasons. This shows us 16  players who had the most similar starts to their career to Miller.

                         Rece Rece Rece  Rece Rece Rece  Rece Misc
Rk             Player     Tgt  Rec  Yds   Y/R   TD  Y/G Y/Tgt   AV
1    Terrence Wilkins     134   85 1134 13.34    7 37.8  8.46   15
2    Reidel Anthony       173   86 1156 13.44   11 37.3  6.68   14
3      Steve Breaston     127   85 1098 12.92    3 34.3  8.65   12
4         Don Bass              85 1171 13.78    7       36.6   11
5        Lonzell Hill           85 1025 12.06    9       39.4   11
6        Doug Baldwin     135   80 1154 14.43    7 38.5  8.55   10
7        Vance Johnson          82 1084 13.22    5       38.7   10
8       Jeremy Kerley     142   85 1141 13.42    3 38.0  8.04   10
9      Peerless Price     168   83 1155 13.92    6 36.1  6.88   10
10      Davante Adams     160   88  929 10.56    4 32.0  5.81    9
11     Willie Jackson     133   86 1075 12.50    8 35.8  8.08    9
12     Anthony Miller     139   85 1079 12.69    9 34.8  7.76    9
13           DJ Chark     150   87 1182 13.59    8 45.5  7.88    8
14          Zay Jones     176   83  968 11.66    9 31.2  5.50    8
15        Titus Young     142   81  990 12.22   10 38.1  6.97    8
16     Brandon Gibson     160   87  968 11.13    3 40.3  6.05    7
17     Bryant Johnson     179   84  975 11.61    2 31.5  5.45    7

Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/11/2020.

There are players on this list who showed no progress over the next few seasons, and that is no surprise. Zay Jones, Lonzel Hill, Titus Young, Don Bass, Reidel Anthony, and Terrence Wilkins never saw any growth from their first two seasons. That is about 38% of the list.

Bryant Johnson, Vance Johnson, Willie Jackson, Jeremy Kerley, Steve Breaston, and Brandon Gibson wound up having long careers and had ups and downs from being a complementary receiver to a depth receiver. That is the same number of complete misses, and 38% of the list.

D.J. Chark gets a lot of notoriety for his blow-up freshman season, but his first year was so poor that his stats through two seasons are similar to Miller, despite a difference in perception. Beyond that, there is Peerless Price, Davante Adams, and Doug Baldwin. These three started their careers with similar production to Miller and blew up to become top receivers on their respective teams. If you add in Chark, that is 25% of the list.

It probably did not take digging this deep into the history of the NFL to put odds at 38% that Miller would never ascend, 38% that he would be a middling talent with a long career, and 25% chance that he would ascend into a high-end presence. Still, it is interesting to see the history breakdown in a manner that lines up with the overall feel of how uncertain Miller has been.

Age 24 and Age 25 seasons

One of the reasons Miller fell into round two was that he came out as an older wide receiver than many. Whether he played two NFL years or not, he is less than a full year younger than Allen Robinson in the NFL. He turned 24 during his rookie year and is 25 now.

Below, we looked into age rather than experience to see if there are any differences. You can see 17 players from age 24-25 had similar production to Miller.

                       Rece Rece  Rece Rece Rece Misc
Rk              Player  Rec  Yds   Y/R   TD  Y/G   AV
1            J.D. Hill   81 1176 14.52    5 42.0   16
2     Terrence Wilkins   85 1134 13.34    7 37.8   15
3         Jerry Butler   81 1178 14.54   12 51.2   13
4        Jacquez Green   87 1175 13.51    2 42.0   13
5       Steve Breaston   85 1098 12.92    3 34.3   12
6        Tyler Lockett   86 1152 13.40    3 37.2   12
7    Antwaan Randle El   80  965 12.06    4 30.2   12
8           Matt Jones   89 1078 12.11    6 44.9   11
9          Robb Thomas   84 1040 12.38    5 33.5   11
10         Will Fuller   81 1173 14.48    7 65.2   10
11      Torrance Small   87 1180 13.56   10 36.9   10
12      Willie Jackson   86 1075 12.50    8 35.8    9
13      Bryant Johnson   80 1172 14.65    5 39.1    9
14      Anthony Miller   85 1079 12.69    9 34.8    9
15        Willie Snead   80  987 12.34    4 38.0    9
16      Brandon Gibson   87 1122 12.90    6 36.2    7
17      DeVante Parker   81  979 12.09    2 40.8    7
18       David Terrell   85 1060 12.47    2 33.1    7

Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/11/2020.

This group saw more players who peaked at age 25. Terrence Wilkins, JD Hill, Jeremy Butler, Jacquez Green, Matt Jones, Robb Thomas, and David Terrell never saw an increase in production from their age 25 seasons. This is 41% of the players that peaked at this age.

Torrance Small, Steve Breaston, Brandon Gibson, Willie Jackson, and Bryant Johnson had long careers as middling receivers. They make up 29% of the list.

Tyler Lockett, Antwaan Randle El, Will Fuller, Willie Snead, and Devante Parker may never have been elite wide receivers, but all have had success in the NFL. These would be some top outcomes when looking at players with less than 1,200 career yards at age 25. They make up 29% of the group.

So, in the first two seasons, we see a 38% chance he does not improve, and at age 25 a 41% chance. He has 38% and 29% chances that he has a long middling and a 25% and 29% chance that he becomes a hit that can be consistently trusted in the offense.

We also saw five players appear on both lists. Steve Breaston, Brandon Gibson, Willie Jackson, Bryant Johnson, and Terrence Wilkins all had similar stats to Anthony Miller at the same age and experience level.

Below, you can see a comparison of how Anthony Miller looks on a per-game basis to the third NFL season of the names mentioned. This could give you an idea of every receiver to turn 26 in their third season with similar stats looks like in comparison to Miller through two seasons.

                                Rece Rece Rece
Rk             Player From   To  Rec  Yds   TD
1      Steve Breaston 2009 2009  3.7 47.5  0.2
2      Brandon Gibson 2011 2011  2.4 28.7  0.1
3      Willie Jackson 1997 1997  1.1 12.9  0.1
4      Bryant Johnson 2005 2005  2.9 30.9  0.1
5      Anthony Miller 2018 2019  2.7 34.8  0.3
6    Terrence Wilkins 2001 2001  3.1 30.2  0.0

Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/10/2020.

Willie Jackson faded out of the offense in year three and wound up getting traded. Brandon Gibson took a step back in his third season, and after his fourth season was on a different team as well. For Wilkins, you saw an uptick in receptions, but a drop in yards per game from what Miller has done. He spent his fourth season with a new team.

Breaston and Johnson progressed and stuck around a bit longer. If anything has shown this is a make or break year for Miller, this is it. Any signs of regression and the team will likely move on.

Most optimistic outcomes

Of course, we can also look to the bright side. Some of the best names to pop up in this study were Davante Adams, Tyler Lockett, Devante Parker, and Willie Snead. Here is how they performed in their third season in comparison to the averages for Miller so far.

                              Rece Rece Rece
Rk           Player From   To  Rec  Yds   TD
1     Davante Adams 2016 2016  4.7 62.3  0.8
2     Tyler Lockett 2017 2017  2.8 34.7  0.1
3    Anthony Miller 2018 2019  2.7 34.8  0.3
4    DeVante Parker 2017 2017  4.4 51.5  0.1
5      Willie Snead 2016 2016  4.8 59.7  0.3

Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/10/2020.

We saw serious breakouts for three of the four. It did not come together for Lockett yet in year three. However, once again we see how vital the third season will be for Miller. Adams took two years to put things together, but he took off by year three, and he was 24 when he was in his third season.

Next: Projecting Jimmy Graham stats at age 34

If Miller does not breakout by year three, the odds are that he will not. The odds are already low that he will be one of those few breakouts, and some of the best-case scenarios are complementary receivers who spend long periods of time with their teams receiving corps.

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