Fantasy Equity Deep Dive: Rueben Randle
July 8, 2015 | Chet
I think the good — nay, great — Fantasy Douche said it best when he noted that in heaven, everyone is in their second year in a new offense.
It’s part of fantasy football Twitter groupthink. It’s a line we use because, well, it sounds right. Maybe Player X was awful last year, but he’s now entering his second season in a “new” offensive system. It makes us sound like pundits — the kind with immaculate facial hair and inch-thick makeup covering their greasy mugs.
The “second year in a new offense” line applies to New York Giants disappointment Rueben Randle in 2015. But I think there’s much more to Randle’s appeal than experience in Ben McAdoo’s offensive scheme, which, put simply, was the utter and complete opposite of Kevin Gilbride’s antiquated offensive approach before he was ushered out of the back door.
McAdoo’s offense was supposed to be a boon for Randle in 2014, and for good reason. Randle struggled mightily in Gilbride’s system — one that hinged on option routes and quarterbacks reading the body language of their various pass catchers. McAdoo’s system is wholly different. There’s little or no guesswork in a receiver’s route running, and that should have been a decidedly good thing for Randle.
You may have noticed that Randle’s top equity score would put him inside the top-20 receivers this season. That’s what you might call optimistic, but I stand by it.
“This offense is less geared on body language, which is what Gilbride’s offense was really geared toward,” Cruz said last summer in an interview with NJ.com. “I think it’s going to be easier for [us] to connect, to be on the same page. … As far as this offense is concerned, it’s a lot more of your route is your route. It’s a lot less dependent on what my body language is and Eli reading that. It’s more so him reading the coverage and finding me in those open holes.”
Manning’s connection with Randle — reportedly because Randle continually made the wrong route running choices — was disastrous for much of 2013 season. The 6’2″ 209-pound receiver looked a little something like this in Gilbride’s offense. Randle’s lack of route running chops led to missed throws and interceptions. Head coach Tom Coughlin had none of it, as per usual, and Randle found himself in Coughlin’s 9,000-square foot dog house.
Maybe this is the time to remind you that Randle, who said Manning’s struggles have been almost entirely related to miscommunication, snagged 41 of his 75 targets in 2013 and scored six times. His average depth per aimed throw, per Pro Football Focus, was a hefty 16.3, just behind Mike Wallace and just ahead of Torrey Smith.
2014 was a debacle for Randle. There are no two ways about it. New York coaches expressed concern that the young wideout had lost interest and had become disconnected from the team. There were anonymous rumors that Big Blue would cut Randle outright. Randle, interestingly, finished as fantasy’s No. 37 receiver after being drafted as the 33rd wideout off the draft board. Despite everything, he almost met his re-draft price.
In the waning weeks of the 2014 season, media reports said Randle had a renewed interest in not being terrible — in applying himself. These are things we can’t measure with an algorithm, but they’re no less important than a statistical nugget that offers a glimpse into what a guy could (or should) be. Randle was subsequently given more playing time. He turned six Week 16 targets into six receptions for 132 yards and a touchdown. He was targeted 13 times the following week, grabbing six balls for 159 yards.
It was, in large part, the OBJ Effect. Defenses tilted coverage to manage the explosive rookie and Randle reaped the benefits.
This was without Victor Cruz in the lineup, of course, but I think you’d have to be pretty bullish on the veteran coming back to full strength after a horrendous leg injury last year. Even if Cruz returns for Week 1 — and it seems he’s on pace to do so — Randle will be in the Giants’ starting lineup.
I was startled to see Randle was targeted 122 times in 2014. Only 19 wide receivers saw more opportunity.
Back to Randle’s 2015 Rotoviz sim score comps. Thirteen of his closest 25 comps scored more fantasy points the following season, with some comps catching the eye of Randle apologists everywhere. Justin Blackmon’s 2013 campaign, among the more positive comps, is intriguing. Blackmon, in four games that season, averaged 19.3 fantasy points per game while scoring just a single touchdown. He was dominant, though he saw 10.1 targets per contest. Randle won’t see anything close to that.
Strip away 2014 games in which Randle simply was not part of the Giants’ game plan and we get a rosier picture of what he could be like in 2015. That’s not surprising. But check this out.
There’s A.J. Green’s 2012 season (18.8 fantasy points per game), Michael Crabtree’s 2012 (15.9 points per game) and Hines Ward’s 16-touchdown 2002 campaign (19.8 points per game). These are pretty hopeful comps for a receiver being drafted in the 12th and 13th rounds of fantasy drafts.
As nightmarish as Torrey Smith’s 2014 was, he managed to finish as a rock-solid WR2. Smith, as you can see, is listed among Randle’s less eye-popping sim score comps. That might be more important than the Green and Ward comps: Randle is being drafted as a WR4 and doesn’t have to hit the top of his comps to prove a draft day value. He’ll have equity if he falls out of bed on Sunday mornings.
It’s paramount to strive for upside with selections so late in a draft. That’s why I’ve pinpointed Randle as a re-draft target who has none of his upside built into his current average draft position, much like Eric Decker. That remains true even if Randle’s ADP jumps into the WR40-45 range.
I was wrong on Randle last year. Thankfully, at his current re-draft price, it doesn’t really matter if I’m wrong in 2015.