If you’ve played fantasy football for any length of time, then you almost certainly have developed a thoroughly unhealthy relationship with a few players. My all-time fantasy persona non-grata is Maurice Jones-Drew, aka FMJD. I will not bore you with the details, but rest assured, I have dealt with him appropriately. In this column, I will strive to steer you from such fantasy misfortune. The nominee for this year’s FMJD Award is…..Vincent Jackson.
Going into last year, there was a fair amount of curiosity about how V-Jax’s game was going to translate in Tampa. In San Diego, V-Jax was known for one thing – tracking down the deep ball. In his final year at San Diego, he ranked #20 in the NFL for receiving yards, but #52 for receptions, which made him #6 in the NFL for yards per reception at 18.4.
Throughout his career, V-Jax has had a high disparity between receptions and receiving yards. In fact, every year going back to 2008 (excluding 2010 when he only played in five games), V-Jax never ranked below sixth in the NFL for yards per reception. Which brings us to 2012, his first year with the Bucs, when he lead the league in yards per reception at 19.2.
You may be asking yourself, but why is that a bad thing? Leading the league in anything sounds pretty good to me, so what’s the problem? As a fantasy owner, that disparity between receptions and yards should make you nervous – there is little margin for error. In most leagues, fantasy football is a week to week conquest and while it is nice to see a high point total at the end of the year, it is in your best interest if those points are balanced out on a weekly basis.
To illustrate how this disparity translates to inconsistent weekly scoring, take a look at the charts below. I compared V-Jax’s 2012 stats to two players with similar 2013 ADPs (Colston and Cruz) and a player with a similar high disparity between receptions and receiving yards (D-Jax).
|Vincent Jackson||Victor Cruz|
|# Games||Points||Points/Game||# Games||Points||Points/Game|
|WR 1 Games||7||129.9||18.6||WR 1 Games||5||89.8||12.8|
|Other Games||9||58.5||6.5||Other Games||11||79.4||8.8|
|Marques Colston||DeSean Jackson|
|# Games||Points||Points/Game||# Games||Points||Points/Game|
|WR 1 Games||5||98.2||14.0||WR 1 Games||2||31.9||16.0|
|Other Games||11||77.2||8.6||Other Games||9||50.1||5.6|
“WR1 Games” are games in which that player’s fantasy points for the week (Yahoo! Standard Scoring) exceeded the median weekly score (11.65) of the season’s Top 12 WRs. If you draft a WR early, you want as many weeks as possible where that WR scores as a WR1. On the plus side, V-Jax had a lot of those (7); however, the point differential between WR1 weeks, and every other week was 12.1 points – more than double either Colston or Cruz and more than even D-Jax. What this tells you is that when you start V-Jax you are either going to go boom, or you are going to go bust.
V-Jax is consistent for his inconsistent weekly scoring in fantasy football. And if there is one thing that unites all fantasy owners in endless frustration it is having a player who scores big one week, but doesn’t show up the next. In 2012, that was V-Jax.
Not helping matters in the future, is the offense V-Jax plays in….
Unfortunately for V-Jax, he is not the centerpiece of his offense. That title belongs to Doug Martin. That being said, Tampa still passed the ball 150 more times than they ran it last year. They ranked in the top half of the league in terms of pass attempts, and in the bottom half of the league for rush attempts.
Sounds like a good scenario for V-Jax, right? Enter the Josh Freeman Experience. If you thought V-Jax was wildly inconsistent, meet his quarterback. Freeman had the same number of 300+ yard passing weeks as <200 yard passing weeks (3). And this year, they drafted QB Mike Glennon in the third round seemingly just to mess with Freeman’s head.
Freeman’s passing woes can be best illustrated by the fact that V-Jax caught less than 50% of Freeman’s passes. That’s a pretty low percentage even for a player with a high yard per reception average like V-Jax. In most cases, 147 targets (9th highest) nets more than just 72 receptions (20th highest). Only Larry Fitzgerald had more targets with less catches. So a rookie QB couldn’t be much worse than Freeman….right Larry?
On top of these issues is the coaching history of Mike Sullivan, OC in Tampa. Previously, Sullivan was the NY Giants WR coach from 2006-2011. Over that time and including last year, V-Jax’s 2012 receiving yardage (1,384 yards) was the highest of any wide receiver Sullivan ever coached. And, outside of “The Other” Steve Smith’s outlier in 2009, no wide receiver has ever caught 80+ balls under Sullivan.
In fact, only seven Bucs have caught that many balls in franchise history – the last time was five years ago by Antonio Bryant (83 receptions on only 137 targets! 61% catch percentage). With his current catch %, V-Jax would need 169 targets to match Bryant’s 83 receptions (a reception total that most fantasy owners would expect from their WR1). 169 targets would rank as the 5th highest total in 2012 and more than any Bucs player has in 10+ years… and more than any WR Mike Sullivan has ever coached – including “the Other” Steve Smith when he caught 109 balls on only 157 targets!
Translation: Vincent Jackson is up against a lot of history, teammates and coaches if he is going to exceed his 2012 numbers, which brings me to my final point….
According to FantasyFootballCalculator.com, V-Jax is the 12th WR being drafted in 12 team leagues, which means he is being drafted as a WR1. I never want to draft someone following a career year. The price is always too high and 2012 was V-Jax’s best season in 8 years. This season he will be the dreaded “30 years old.”
Early in the draft and particularly at the WR1 position you want to lock in low-risk players, players that you can count on week in and week out. Ideally you draft a player with a high floor, and count on them to contribute to your team each week throughout the season. As we saw above, V-Jax’s 12 point bounce from good weeks to bad weeks is entirely too high to be counted on as a reliable WR1.
No question about it, V-Jax is a positive difference maker when he is on the field, but he is just as likely to be a negative difference maker when he is on your fantasy team.
Consistency is a metric that is not discussed often enough. Players often look similar when you begin to research for your draft, and all you have are those season ending stats. V-Jax’s season ending stats fit in nicely around the other players with similar ADPs, but if you look a little closer you will see that you will be rolling the dice with him on a weekly basis.
My biggest beef with V-Jax isn’t his inconsistency, it’s his high ADP. I am not opposed to having boom-bust type players like V-Jax on my team, but I need to pair them with players that I can count on week in and week out. If you are able to lock down V-Jax as a WR2 (paired with a high floor WR1), I think you did a great job at the draft.
But, if you take V-Jax as your WR1, he is going to drive you FMJD-crazy. Consider yourself warned!