Dynasty Fantasy Football: Falling Wide Receivers After 2013
February 10, 2014 | Rich Hribar
In the first part of our positional review for receivers, we looked at which players added to their value by having a good 2013 season. Now it’s time to see the other side of the coin and look at which players dropped their value going into 2014 and if that drop is warranted or not. Again, players that will be 30 years or older headed into 2014 but had poor seasons last year aren’t included. We want players that are still in the prime age range for receiver fantasy production. If you were looking for 250 words on the demise of Dwayne Bowe, I apologize, but I will offer you a Marques Colston rebate sometime in the future perhaps.
Using ADP taken from April through August of last season from Dynasty Football Warehouse and early ADP collected from January from Dynasty League Football let’s go over some of the falling wide receivers from 2013.
Victor Cruz NYG 2014 Age: 28 Season: 5
2013 Startup ADP: WR10 Early 2014 ADP: WR15
After catching 19 touchdowns over the previous two seasons, Cruz scored three times on opening night while adding 118 yards. For the rest of the season, however, his owners stayed off of the dance floor more than I did at prom because Cruz scored only one more touchdown the rest of the season. For the third consecutive season, his fantasy production dropped. In 2012 he lost 14.4 percent of his 2011 total and then lost another 25.5 percent of off that 2012 total this past season. The biggest culprit is that his deep targets have also diminished for three consecutive seasons.
|Year||Targets||>20 yd TGTS||Rec.||%||TD|
*Table From Pro Football Focus
Age has also crept into the factor as Cruz will be 28 next season and he began to miss time last year, playing in 14 games. The Giants have a budding stars in Rueben Randle (23 years old in ’14) and Jerrel Jernigan (25) expected to fill the void left by losing free agent Hakeem Nicks. Jernigan can actually help Cruz’s cause in returning short term value because his presence should create the opportunity for Cruz to play a lot more outside in 2014. I’m anticipating the growth of Randle and improvement from having Jernigan in the lineup helping his case, but I view Cruz as lower WR2, so his current drop in cost isn’t enough to make me bite.
Hakeem Nicks NYG 2014 Age: 26 Season: 6
2013 Startup ADP: WR11 Early 2014 ADP: WR32
From the start of this, you’d think that the Giants had a bad season last year. This is about to get real ugly, like a 187 on his career outlook type of ugly. Nicks has one of the most bizarre career arcs you’re ever to likely see. He was a rookie at age 21, broke out with top 12 seasons in his second and third years before dropping consecutive seasons below WR48 over the past two years. Injuries have played a major part of bringing his career to a crawl as he’s yet to play a full 16 games season yet in any season.
He also has had a hard time reaching the paint. He went all of 2013 without a touchdown and hasn’t scored since week 14 of 2012. It doesn’t get a whole lot better after that as he’s only scored three times over his past 28 games. To compound that misery, he totaled the third fewest amount of total fantasy points out of the 37 receivers to have at least 100 targets last season, the only players below him were Stevie Johnson and Jerome Simpson.
Nicks played the most snaps out of all of the Giants receivers last season and 624 more snaps than Jernigan. All of those extra snaps and Nicks only accounted for 2.7 more fantasy points towards Eli Manning’s passing total than Jernigan did when they were both targeted.
His age and the fact that Nicks is a free agent is keeping the market lukewarm on him to start the offseason. I have a hard time envisioning any team giving him more than incentive laden short term deal, so that could be a motivating factor for him to return value for your fantasy team. I see those odds a lot lower and there’s far too much risk even as a WR3 for me to invest.
Mike Wallace MIA 2013 Age: 28 Season: 6
2013 Startup ADP: WR16 Early 2014 ADP: WR34
In his first season with the Dolphins, Wallace was the epitome of inefficiency. Miami was hoping to provide second year quarterback Ryan Tannehill with a receiver he could lean on, but instead he was on average 25 percent worse when targeting Wallace over any other Dolphin. He also forced the ball to him regularly, with nine of his 17 interceptions coming while targeting Wallace.
Although his receptions per game (4.6) stayed steady with his prior two seasons, his yards per reception (12.7) dropped for the third consecutive season and after posting three straight seasons of eight or more touchdowns, he scored only five times.
The steady drop in yardage per reception is a major red flag, because his value to fantasy footballers is completely built on his big play ability. Only 10 of his 37 career touchdown receptions have come inside the red zone and only four of those have come inside the 10-yard line.
It’s nearly impossible to sell Wallace right now in a solo deal for anything useful, forcing his current owners to hope that he and Tannehill find some sort of chemistry. In startups, this is probably a touch a lower than his immediate return because he’s a better buy than Nicks is at this point, but it’s tough to buy on an aging speed receiver playing in a pedestrian offense. Don’t be like Jeff Ireland and stay away.
Cecil Shorts JAC 2014 Age: 27 Season: 4
2013 Startup ADP: WR29 Early 2014 ADP: WR41
If you’ve been following along so far in my early posts here, you can see that my approach is shying away from receivers that cannot provide consistent touchdown production. Shorts is another prime example of buying into unsustainable touchdown output and having the market try to correct itself a year too late.
In 2012, Shorts posted seven touchdowns in a season where he didn’t begin playing starter snaps until week seven. That kind of production had owners giddy of what could happen with a full season under his belt. What was missed is that five of those seven scores were from 39 yards or more, with only two coming inside the 10-yard line. Despite running more routes and seeing more targets, those seven scores inevitably turned into three in 2013.
He was on a dreadful offense, but owners knew that was the case going in, so no free passes here. Shorts is also rapidly approaching the threshold where age is relevant and he still has yet to post a real difference making breakout from a fantasy perspective. He’s still going higher than I would take him in Dynasty and there are far better buys going later.
Torrey Smith BAL 2013 Age: 25 Season: 4
2013 Startup ADP: WR22 Early 2014 ADP: WR22
I’m taking liberties on this one, because Smith’s ADP has remained neutral from last season. That is pretty shocking to me for me considering he’s improved his fantasy output three consecutive seasons, jumping 3.1 percent in 2012 than another 7.2 percent last season. Many were anticipating a much larger breakout than the 65 catch, 1,128 yards and four touchdown campaign a season ago, but steady growth for a player that was considered a project coming out of college to begin with is fine by me if it’s going to be ignored.
I recently explained that Smith was still a strong performer given his quarterback play and surrounding talent from a season ago, so to see him improve at all was still impressive. I do have reservations that Smith will ever become a fantasy WR1, however.
Smith has yet to post a season with a catch rate over 55 percent in any of his first three seasons. Part of that is due a large amount of his looks are low percentage targets to begin with, as 121 of his 354 career targets (34.2 percent) have come on attempts over 20 plus yards. The back half of that equation is that it’s also a little disappointing that he hasn’t developed running a full route tree. Whether that is his own doing or the offensive system is the question, but for now, that’s holding him back.
The good news is that his touchdown totals should climb back to the area they were at in his first two seasons. If he had maintained that level this past season, you wouldn’t be able to buy in this low, so take note. Smith is regarded as strictly a home run threat, but he’s actually only had one touchdown over 30 yards in the past two seasons.
Contrary to that perception, he’s actually a strong red zone performer and was so in college as well. Over his first two seasons, Smith had over half of his scores (eight of 15) come inside the red zone with an impressive 40 percent touchdown success rate on red zone targets. In his final season at Maryland, he converted 44 percent of those targets into touchdowns.
Those numbers took a dip this season in the Baltimore offense. He still had three scores come form inside the 10-yard line, but converted just three of 17 red zone targets (three of six inside the 10). This is why you build around touchdowns with your receivers. When those types of guys have a let down season, like Smith did for most, they still post strong enough fantasy seasons (Smith was WR21 overall in .5 PPR) than when missing on a player in the ilk of Shorts (WR40) who was dependent on that touchdown inflation or a possession guy with limited touchdown upside that hits near his ceiling like Kendall Wright (WR22).
The ceiling is still much higher than this early price tag and I have a ton of faith in Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens organization improving the offense drastically this offseason. Smith just hasn’t put together that full season yet, but has still improved his yearly fantasy numbers. He will still be the focal point of their improved passing attack and already appears to be one the best early bargains of 2014.
We’ll be moving on to running backs next in our review, but you can still tell right off the bat in our wide receiver review and the ADP change, that even one season makes a giant difference in perception of a player, even in Dynasty leagues.
*Stats were provided from ProFootballReference.com and ProFootballFocus.com