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Is Brandon Lloyd A Genuine Late Bloomer?

Heading into Week 6, Lloyd ranks fourth (tie) in the NFL in receptions (33), first in receiving yards (589), second in yards per catch (19.6) among wideouts that have caught at least 20 passes and ninth (tie) in touchdown receptions (three). Fantasy-wise, Lloyd is the WR1 (tie) in standard scoring formats and the WR3 in point-per-reception scoring formats. He has amassed more than 115 receiving yards in four of five games played. This is the level of production that one would normally expect from household names at the position such as Randy Moss, Andre Johnson or Reggie Wayne, but not from Lloyd, a journeyman player who is suiting up for his fourth team in nine pro seasons.

THE PERSONAL SIDE

Brandon Matthew Lloyd was born July 5, 1981, in Kansas City, Mo., to James and Shirley Lloyd, who are both retired school teachers. James and Shirley instilled a sense of pride and determination in Brandon that would help him in life. However, Brandon’s willfulness would unfortunately get him in trouble or would be taken the wrong way as a “questionable attitude.” The “questionable attitude” stuff started for Lloyd at an early age.

According to a story in a recent
Denver Post article about Lloyd, he ended up in the principal’s office during his first week of kindergarten. Lloyd’s teacher had asked each student in class what he or she wanted to do with his or her life. When Lloyd said he wanted to play in the National Football League, the teacher told him that goal was “not realistic” and to pick another profession. Lloyd stubbornly stood his ground and refused to change his mind, which prompted his banishment to the principal’s office. The principal, to his credit, told Lloyd that he could become an NFL player if he worked hard.

THE HIGH SCHOOL YEARS

The athletically gifted Lloyd played his prep football at Blue Springs High School in Blue Springs, Mo., earning three varsity letters while contributing mainly as a wide receiver, but also as a cornerback, kicker and punter. He was a three-time All-Suburban Big 8 Conference selection and an All-State selection by the
St. Louis Post-Dispatch. As a senior (1998), he caught 23 passes for 442 yards and six touchdowns, and also intercepted six passes. The athleticism that helped Lloyd make acrobatic catches on the football field also propelled him to success as a high jumper on the school’s track team. Lloyd won the Missouri state high jump competition as a sophomore and as a senior, setting a school record 7-foot, 2-inch jump.

THE COLLEGE YEARS

Lloyd’s University of Illinois career started slowly, but it didn’t take long for him to earn regular playing time. As a freshman (1999), the Missouri native started seven games at flanker, emerging as a bona fide deep threat and setting an Illinois freshman season receiving yardage record with 511 yards. Lloyd finished second on the team in receiving yards and third in receptions while compiling 171 kickoff return yards on 10 returns.

BRANDON LLOYD – ILLINOIS CAREER

RECEIVING

KICKOFF RETURNS

YEAR

G

REC

YDS

AVG

YD/G

TD

LG

G

NO

YDS

AVG

TD

LP

1999

12

30

511

17.0

42.6

2

49

12

11

194

17.6

0

41

2000

2001

12

65

1062

16.3

88.5

10

59

12

1

23

23.0

0

23

2002

12

65

1012

15.5

84.2

9

49

12

1

23

23.0

0

23

Total

36

160

2583

16.1

71.8

21

59

36

13

240

18.5

0

41

Lloyd suffered a broken thigh bone in 2000 and took a medical redshirt, missing the entire season. He rebounded with an outstanding 2001 campaign, catching an impressive 65 passes for 1,062 yards and 10 touchdowns and emerging as one of the most electrifying players in the Big 10. The 10 scores tied the school’s single-season record while the catch and receiving yardage totals, respectively, ranked among the Top 5 highest single-season totals in Illinois history. Lloyd earned Second-Team All-Big Ten honors from both the coaches and the media.

He nearly duplicated his stellar 2001 numbers during what turned out to be his final season at Illinois (2002). Lloyd ended his college career with the second-highest number of receiving yards (2,583), touchdown catches (21) and 100-yard receiving games (12) in school history. He also finished with the third-most catches in Illinois history (160). In addition, Lloyd again earned Second-Team All-Big Ten honors and was a Biletnikoff Award semifinalist. He passed up his final year of eligibility and declared for the 2003 NFL Draft.

THE NFL YEARS

Despite his solid 6-foot, 194-pound frame, great hands, excellent leaping ability and fine lateral movement, Lloyd dropped in the draft because of concerns about his 4.5-4.6 40-yard dash speed and perceived cocky attitude. The San Francisco 49ers selected Lloyd in the fourth round with the 124th overall pick, and many had thought the team had envisioned him as a starter of the future. As a rookie, Lloyd led San Francisco with 15.1 yards per catch. In 2004, he led the 49ers in touchdown catches while finishing third in receiving. By the way, Lloyd missed three games with hamstring and foot injuries.

Although he was San Francisco’s leading receiver in 2005, things had become quite tumultuous for Lloyd to say the least. He openly feuded with media and some teammates, and clashed with then-head coach Mike Nolan. Lloyd was known for making many acrobatic, eye-popping catches, but he also committed some terrible drops and mistakes. San Francisco fans can recall Lloyd ducking passes that zipped past his head or alligator-arming others across the middle that he didn’t want to catch. After the season, the 49ers had signed Lloyd, a restricted free agent, to an offer sheet but opted to trade him to the Washington Redskins for a third-round pick (2006) and a fourth-rounder (2007). Apparently dazzled by Lloyd’s athleticism, the Redskins signed him to a six-year, $30 million deal with $10 million guaranteed. One team’s bust is another team’s potential diamond in the rough. 

BRANDON LLOYD

NFL RECEIVING STATISTICS

YEAR

TM

G

GS

REC

YDS

AVE

LG

TD

2003

SF

16

1

14

212

15.1

44

2

2004

SF

13

13

43

565

13.1

52

6

2005

SF

16

15

48

733

15.3

89T

5

2006

WAS

15

12

23

365

15.9

52

0

2007

WAS

8

1

2

14

7.0

9

0

2008

CHI

11

5

26

364

14.0

32

2

2009

DEN

2

1

8

117

14.6

44

0

2010

DEN*

5

4

30

589

19.6

61

3

TOTAL

86

52

194

2,959

89

18

*Through Week 5

Lloyd’s two-year stint with Washington was a disaster in large part, because he did not feel wanted, and his attitude reflected that belief. Despite starting 15 games in 2006, he caught just 23 passes. Lloyd’s alleged poor attitude and alleged poor work habits rubbed then-head coach Joe Gibbs, a disciplinarian, the wrong way, and he never made it out of Gibbs’ doghouse in 2007. Midway through the season, Gibbs deactivated Lloyd as disciplinary action for missing team meetings. Lloyd ended up on Injured Reserve for the rest of the season with a broken collar bone that he had suffered during practice. In February 2008, the Redskins unceremoniously released Lloyd.

About one month later, Lloyd signed a one-year contract with the Chicago Bears for the league minimum. The ‘Monsters of the Midway’ were desperate for wide receiver help after they had lost Bernard Berrian (Minnesota) in free agency and released Muhsin Muhammad (retired). Lloyd was reunited with then-Chicago offensive coordinator Ron Turner, who was his college coach at Illinois. Quickly establishing some nice chemistry with then-Bears quarterback Kyle Orton (Broncos), Lloyd got off to a quick start, hauling in 15 passes in his first four games. However, a knee injury slowed him for part of the season, which is why Lloyd fell out of the starting lineup and fell out of favor with the coaching staff.

The Bears made no attempt to re-sign Lloyd. However, he moved on quickly, signing a one-year contract with the Denver Broncos in June 2009, which reunited him with Orton. Chicago had shipped Orton to the Broncos as part of the blockbuster Jay Cutler trade. Lloyd was only active for two games that season. He re-signed with the Broncos in June, 2010 and competed for a job against Brandon Stokley (Seattle) and the late Kenny McKinley. Lloyd won a spot on the active roster with a surprisingly strong preseason showing.

THE LLOYD FANTASY FORECAST

Is the 29-year-old Lloyd a genuine late bloomer? He would need to continue posting consistent fantasy numbers over a full season (I wouldn’t expect 100-plus receiving yards each week) for me to answer yes. It’s not unusual for receivers to amass elite numbers late in their careers. Denver fans may recall another late bloomer by the name of Ed McCaffrey. He enjoyed his first 70-plus catch season at 31 years old and amassed his first 100-plus catch season at age 32. Troy Brown, formerly of the New England Patriots, compiled 83, 101 and 97 catches, respectively, at ages 29, 30 and 31.

Is the “temperamental” Lloyd happy in Denver? It sure looks that way. He is reunited with Orton. In a recent
Denver Post
article, Lloyd says he “feels fresh,” and doesn’t feel like he has a lot of “mileage” on his body, because the Redskins rarely played him. Lloyd also seems to get along well with head coach Josh McDaniels. The Denver head man says he respects Lloyd and thinks the wideout wants to win and perform well.

What about Lloyd’s injury history? He has been injured from time to time, but it doesn’t seem like a big deal. To recap: In 2000, he broke his thigh bone (college); in 2003, Lloyd missed time with hamstring and foot injuries; in 2007, he broke his collar bone; and in 2008, he missed time with a knee injury.

I think Lloyd is a sell-high candidate, because I doubt he can maintain his current level of fantasy production. Lloyd’s surprising deep threat ability has opened things up underneath for Jabar Gaffney, Eddie Royal and occasionally Demaryius Thomas. Yes, there are a lot of mouths to feed in the Denver passing game. Keep in mind that the Broncos are throwing the football a ton not only because of Orton’s surprising improvement, but also because they can’t run it with Knowshon Moreno (hamstring) out of the lineup. Even when Moreno returns healthy, Denver will still pass. Although Lloyd’s numbers should slide back a bit – don’t forget, deep threats can be inconsistent – he still would rate as a solid No. 2 fantasy wide receiver. If you decide to keep Lloyd – Orton’s favorite receiver – I wouldn’t fault you for that decision. If Lloyd can continuing producing at his current level, he would obviously be one of the biggest stories of the season.

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