What’s better than having a No. 2 receiver with No. 1 receiving experience? OK, now that I’ve asked the question I can think of a lot of things that would be better, but none will help win your fantasy league. For Atlanta and receiver Brian Finneran, that valuable experience will be put to use this year.
Chief administrative officer Ray Anderson told the Atlanta Journal and Constitution on the day they re-signed Finneran to a four-year extension in February, "What it does is give us the confidence that we're at least as solid as last year. Now we can look for someone to complement Brian.” That complement was playmaker Peerless Price.
Finneran will yield the top spot to Price, but we shouldn't forget about Mike Vick’s top target last year. Brian led the team with 56 catches for 838 yards and six touchdowns—all career highs. But playing second fiddle to Price doesn’t necessarily mean a drop off in production. In fact, we think Brian will continue to enjoy his upward trend of the last three seasons and become one of the best No. 2 receivers in the league.
Finneran's No. 1 experience has pitted him against the top defensive backs and, no doubt, he's had to learn a lot. However, this year he'll get to use that knowledge against smaller defensive backs who are used to covering "typical" No. 2 receivers. Comparatively, it’ll seem like a cakewalk. Finneran is entering his third year of real playing time and has become a big threat—he’s 6-5, 220—in the end zone and has developed a knack for getting open and making sure he picks up the first-down.
Finneran had consecutive 100-yard games in Weeks 12 and 13 last year, totaling nine catches for 218 yards and a 39-yard touchdown catch in victories at Carolina and Minnesota. With Vick's continuing development and Price on the other side giving defenses headaches, we think there will be a handful of these types of big games for Finneran this year.
The only knock on Fin is that he makes too many drops, but it's not a big enough problem to threaten his starting role. That said, Atlanta brought in a number of receivers this offseason in an attempt to upgrade the position. Here’s a list of the 11 at the Falcons mini camp: Peerless Price, MarTay Jenkins, Brian Finneran, Terrence Edwards, Quentin McCord, Trevor Gaylor, Jon Olinger, LaTarence Dunbar, Jamal Burke, John Lewis, and Jimmy Farris.
Rookies Olinger and Dunbar have good size but may be best suited to play on special teams. They will fight for playing time with veterans McCord and Gaylor to backup Price, Finneran, and Jenkins. The other guys will have to hope they pick up the offense quickly.
But with all the receivers tying to learn the offense, don't think Finneran is about to give away what he had to learn through experience.
"Some young guys ask questions on routes and things, and I help every way I can," Finneran told the Associated Press recently. "But there are definitely times you stop and think, 'Should I tell him what I know? He's trying to take my job.' "
For this year, at least, the only thing Brian has to worry about losing anonymity.