While running backs are measured by how many “touches” (rushing attempts + receptions) they earn, wide receivers are similarly judged by the amount of targets they garner. Here’s a look back at the point totals and targets from the Top 10 wide outs from 2011 …
- The Astonishing Efficiency of Jordy Nelson – Packers quarterbacks threw a combined 552 passes in 2011. After averaging 12.8 yards per reception and 2 touchdowns over his previous three seasons, Jordy Nelson blew up last season to average 18.5 yards per catch for 15 touchdowns on the year. Nelson averaged a touchdown on every 4.5 reception he made. ESPN’s Brian Grambling weighed in on whether Nelson could maintain that sort of touchdown production year-to-year:
Fantasy owners look to Nelson’s touchdowns and say he can’t possibly score 15 more times. I agree with that logic, since only 10 players caught at least 15 TDs in a season from 2000 to 2010. However, seven of those guys caught at least 10 TDs the following season as well, with just Muhsin Muhammad (sixteen in 2004, four in 2005), Braylon Edwards (sixteen in 2007, three in 2008) and Dwayne Bowe (fifteen in 2010, five in 2011) suffering huge drop-offs. Much of this had to do with their multiple subpar quarterbacks chucking the pigskin. Muhammad had Kyle Orton and Rex Grossman in his 2005 huddle, Edwards went through a revolving door of Derek Anderson, Ken Dorsey, Brady Quinn and Bruce Gradkowski in 2008, while Bowe caught passes from Matt Cassel, Tyler Palko and Orton last year. Aaron Rodgers is certainly head and shoulders above any of these signal-callers, and has as much job security as anybody in football.
While Greg Jennings turned his 101 targets into 67 receptions, 949 yards and 6 touchdowns, Nelson proved to be the true homerun hitter in the Packers receiving corps. Jennings may be a tad overrated as the sixth ranked wide receiver headed into the 2012 fantasy season. Nelson would be a good value pick pick to target in rounds two or three of your fantasy draft. The rapport he developed with Aaron Rodgers as last season wore on should not be ignored.
- Roddy vs. Julio – Fantasy analysts have spent the offseason debating whether Julio Jones has supplanted Roddy White as the Falcons number one receiver. Jones played a majority of the first half of the season with an injured hamstring, so we’ll focus on the last four games of the 2011 season. These numbers tell an interesting story:
The chart clearly illustrate the given roles of both receivers – White is the possession receiver while Jones is the deep threat. Over that four week time frame, White averaged 13 yards per reception while Jones averaged 19.6. I listed White as a potential bust in 2012 mainly due to his average draft position and current ranking. White has averaged out as the number four wide receiver heading into the 2012 season across the leading fantasy rankings. I viewed that as a bit too high white Julio lurking in the wings to snatch up some targets of his own. However, the Falcons have stated that they will be passing more this upcoming season, so there will be plenty of passes to go around for both Julio and Roddy to remain prime WR1 candidates this year.
- Mike Wallace vs. Antonio Brown – There were whispers that members the Pittsburgh Steelers front office believed that Antonio Brown projected as the more complete receiver over Mike Wallace. The contract extension reached with Brown and their refusal to further negotiations with Wallace would seem to lend some credence to that argument. Here’s a look at the target splits both receivers saw last season:
*Wallace’s touchdown total gets an asterisk due to straight up intercepting a touchdown pass intended for Brown in a Week 9 matchup vs. the Ravens. This play can be seen @ the 2:29 mark of the video below:
While Mike Wallace maintained his average of about seven targets per game through out the season, his output dipped as the season wore on. Wallace went from averaging 104 yards over his first seven games to about 51 over his last 9. At the same time, Antonio Brown saw his average targets jump from 6.8 per game to 8.4. His production jumped as well, going from 3.5 receptions and 52 receiving yards per game over the first seven weeks, to 5 receptions and 83 yards over the final nine. Although Wallace has been a Pro Bowl wideout during his time has the Steelers number receiver, they obviously thought Brown did enough over the course of last season to justify the contract extension he was just signed to.
- Will Brandon Marshall Crack the Top 10 in 2012? – Here’s a look at the totals for new Bears wide out, Brandon Marshall over his six year career:
While it could be argued that Marshall has pedestrian production in the touchdown column, his 494 receptions places him second to only Wes Welker over that time span. According to the Chicago Tribune’s Dan Pompei, Marshall is one of only 10 receivers to ever string together five consecutive seasons of 80 receptions and 1,000 yards. In his two full seasons in Denver, with Jay Cutler as his QB, Marshall totaled 206 receptions for 2,590 yards and 13 touchdowns. Their reunion this upcoming season should produce fireworks for fantasy owners. Marshall is a safe bet to finish 2012 near the top of wide receiver fantasy rankings.
- A New Top Fantasy Option Has Emerged In Minnesota – With Adrian Peterson on the mend after suffering a torn ACL, MCL AND meniscus, it would seem as though the Vikings have nothing to offer fantasy players this season. Adhering to that line of thought would be over looking one of fantasy’s most underrated contributors – Percy Harvin. With a catch rate over 70% and the added dimension of seeing touches out of the backfield, Harvin should be the lead Viking on your radar in 2012. What should truly give Harvin a boost is his coaching staff realizing he deserves to be more than a part-time player. Harvin has long been viewed as injury prone due to his constant battles with migraines, however, he didn’t miss a game this past season. Harvin finished 2011 as the 8th ranked wideout while only participating in 58% of his team’s offensive plays. Let’s hope the Vikings realize the potential their lone receiving threat possesses in time for the 2012 season.