The word "if" is a concept utilized often in sports dissertation. If Bob Sanders could stay healthy, he'd be one of the best safeties in NFL history. If Tony Romo could improve his pocket administration, the Cowboys would be a perennial Super Bowl contender. If Kenny Britt could just stay out of trouble...
Unfortunately, most "if" abstractions are rarely pragmatic. We tend to think certain faults are derived from misfortune or can be modified with slighter alterations, when, sometimes, these imperfections have more perpetual roots. Yes, some of Sanders' injuries are the consequence of bad luck, but this same skillset and style that made him a Pro Bowler also left him susceptible to injury. A similar outlook can be taken with Romo, as the gunslinger approach that facilitates fireworks on the scoreboard also lends itself to the occasional ill-timed turnover.
Maturation, or lack thereof, falls into this discussion. Britt is not the first athlete to suffer from arrested development, and players have intermittently evolved from this adolescent state. Yet how often are we left shaking our heads at the end of a competitor's career, speculating on what could have been if the performer in question had assuaged their antics. Though he's entering just his fourth season in the professional ranks, it appears the former Rutgers wideout is heading down this route.
The talent is undoubtedly there for Britt, who posted 42 receptions, 775 yards and nine touchdowns in just 12 games in 2010, and was one pace for a breakout year in 2011 with 17 catches for 289 yards and three scores in the season's first three games before a MCL and ACL tear ended his campaign. Alas, since January of 2010, the Tennessee receiver has eight run-ins with the law, with the latest off-the-field incident coming at a military base in Kentucky, where Britt was charged with driving under the influence last Friday. As Britt escaped a league-sanctioned sabbatical in 2011 thanks to the lockout, expect the heavy hammer of Roger Goodell to come down with extra temerity and ferocity against the 23-year-old.
Before this breach of player conduct, I had Britt pegged in the No. 23 slot at the wide receiver ranks, as his past injuries and behavioral issues correlated to a high-risk, high-reward classification at a position with an abundance of depth. Assuming at least a four-game suspension, Britt free falls to No. 58, surrounded by unproven entities like Brian Quick, Jon Baldwin and Reuben Randle. In truth, unless participating in an ultra-deep format, I'd dissociate myself with Britt at all costs.
Two corresponding moves transpire from this descent, as Nate Washington creeps up to No. 35 on our WR list. Washington, who had a career-best 74 receptions, 1,023 yards and seven touchdowns in Britt's absence last year, returns as the primary target for Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Locker. The other ascension comes from rookie receiver Kendall Wright, an All-American at Baylor who garnered rave reviews at Titans OTAs. Expected to work from the split end, Wright vaults into the Top 40.