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13 Jul 2009

Wisdom of Crowds: Projecting 2009 WR, Part I

by Bill Barnwell

With this Wisdom of Crowds, our merry band of Tweeps move onto predicting the 2009 performance of the league's wide receivers. Since we also released KUBIAK last week, I made sure to include some players about whom KUBIAK is very opinionated.

We start with a player who himself is very opinionated.

Remember that we instruct our predictors to assume that each player stays healthy and plays 16 games.

Monday: Terrell Owens
Average Prediction: 70 receptions, 986 receiving yards, 8 TD
Maximum Prediction: 96 receptions, 1344 receiving yards, 14 TD
Minimum Prediction: 37 receptions, 490 receiving yards, 6 TD

Right -- so T.O. will either be a Pro Bowl receiver or a Loser League hero. That average prediction is interesting -- it figures Owens for just over 14 yards per catch. Owens has a career average of 14.8 yards per catch, and had 15.2 yards per catch last year even after losing a step, but that's a reflection of how he'll be used in the Buffalo offense. With Lee Evans and Roscoe Parrish best served way downfield, Owens has to be the underneath receiver; with that comes a lot of eight- and nine-yard catches. Perhaps Owens will be able to accrue YAC due to his strength, but he'll see more linebackers around him than most wideouts

I also need to note that a prediction of 158 receptions for 1310 receiving yards and 11 scores was ruled out as the efforts of a troll by our committee (read: me). If Terrell Owens actually does catch 158 passes this season, I'll probably quit.

Tuesday: Devin Hester
Average Prediction: 64 receptions, 922 receiving yards, 7 TD
Maximum Prediction: 81 receptions, 1250 receiving yards, 12 TD
Minimum Prediction: 30 receptions, 500 receiving yards, 3 TD

We tend to be contrarians in this line of work, but 30 receptions for Devin Hester next year seems awful low.

There's a lot of volatility in Hester's line. He's certainly gotten better as an intermediate target, but there's still questions regarding his ability to serve as an effective receiver at all levels. If he's not good underneath, he'll find it difficult to put up consistent numbers and become a viable fantasy starter. We believe that he will.

Wednesday: Torry Holt
Average Prediction: 68 receptions, 869 receiving yards, 5 TD
Maximum Prediction: 80 receptions, 1100 receiving yards, 9 TD
Minimum Prediction: 46 receptions, 649 receiving yards, 4 TD

Only one member of our esteemed panel agreed with KUBIAK's assessment that Holt would top 1000 yards, which has sort of assumed the mantle of the most controversial KUBIAK prediction for this upcoming season (with Julius Jones in the rear view).

The issue, as we've stated before, is this. David Garrard will throw somewhere in the range of 450 passes this year over a 16-game stretch. We find it impossible to construct a scenario where Torry Holt doesn't get 140 of those passes. Please construct such a scenario in the comments of this article, showing work, if you can.

Thursday: Antonio Bryant
Average Prediction: 62 receptions, 943 receiving yards, 6 TD
Maximum Prediction: 88 receptions, 1300 receiving yards, 10 TD
Minimum Prediction: 55 receptions, 800 receiving yards, 4 TD

This is what happens when you nearly get blackballed from the league for a year. Bryant was the free agent pickup of the season after winning many fantasy teams their leagues with a heroic 435 yards and four touchdowns during Weeks 14-16, but his flakiness on and off the field is scaring off many a fantasy owner.

In the case of players like Bryant, all the fantasy "expertise" in the world isn't worth a damn. Bryant should regress some thanks to the unsettled quarterback situation in Tampa Bay, but the bigger concern is whether Bryant will be in a position to consistently show off his undeniable talent because of his behavior. He is such a risky proposition that at his current ADP -- WR20, 6-62 -- he's still poor value relative to guys like DeSean Jackson, Bernard Berrian, and Lee Evans.

Friday: Santonio Holmes
Average Prediction: 70 receptions, 1129 receiving yards, 7 TD
Maximum Prediction: 94 receptions, 1450 receiving yards, 16 TD
Minimum Prediction: 52 receptions, 688 receiving yards, 5 TD

Last year's Super Bowl MVP was one of our predicted breakout stars last year, but it fell through thanks to off-the-field shenanigans (KUBIAK does not -- well, knowingly -- adjust for weed consumption). Holmes wasn't particularly great when he was on the field, either, with his DVOA and DYAR falling off the charts from its impressive levels of his first two seasons.

We're inclined to think that Holmes' junior campaign was a fluke, and that his 131-yard performance on Super Sunday was an indication of things to come. That's reflected in KUBIAK. I'd be shocked, honestly, if Holmes managed to play 16 games and only had 688 receiving yards. So would most readers -- after that prediction of 688 yards, the next-lowest figure was 980 yards. If we throw out the 688-yard prediction, Holmes' average line goes up to 77/1200/8.

One particularly inspired fan had Holmes' line at 70/1450/12, putting Holmes at 20.7 yards per catch. Wouldn't that be nice, Steelers fans?

If you want to join us this week, follow us on Twitter @fb_outsiders. We're currently predicting Andre Johnson's 2009. It apparently will involve 100 receptions.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 13 Jul 2009

16 comments, Last at 17 Jul 2009, 10:45am by mrh

Comments

1
by Temo :: Mon, 07/13/2009 - 5:28pm

Please construct such a scenario in the comments of this article, showing work, if you can.

His 33 year old body breaks down and he doesn't finish the season. Here's my work:

http://tinyurl.com/nco985

Edit: Oops, I'm an idiot:

Remember that we instruct our predictors to assume that each player stays healthy and plays 16 games.

/egg in my face

5
by buzzorhowl (not verified) :: Mon, 07/13/2009 - 7:03pm

My own hypothetical scenario involves Holt getting Braylon Edwards disease and dropping 45% of what comes to him.

2
by Montlake Cutter (not verified) :: Mon, 07/13/2009 - 5:57pm

Jones in the rear view? Does that mean he has an inflated DVOA this year, or he was the balloon last year?

I havent purchased FOA yet, but based on the "wisdome of crowds" and your lack of mention of a single Seahawks players, you arent very high on them this year. I'm not either.

However I would like to see the projections from the crowd of T.J. ... T.J. ... Whosyourmama!?!

Either he's a good player (probably), Palmer is one of the greatest QB's this decade(possibly)or its the system he played in (probably not). So which is it
Bangles and Seahawks fans?

7
by tally :: Mon, 07/13/2009 - 11:04pm

Don't know how much I'm allowed to reveal, but I think I can at least say that FOA thinks the Seahawks aren't going to have as many injuries as they had last year. Go get FOA--lots of surprises in the team projections.

3
by Anonymous (not verified) (not verified) :: Mon, 07/13/2009 - 5:58pm

Hester's capabilities as a WR has definitely been one of the hottest issues now going on a second season. Is he a #1? It seems FO, with its game charting, would be in a great position to put an excellent article together about him to answer this. Last year with poor support (Orton, a weak o-line, mediocre running game, few other weapons, conservative play-calling) Hester still caught 51 balls for 665 yards and 3 TDs. Start there then go play-by-play and see if you can qualify and quantify his play outside of the effects of others. For instance, was his underneath route running improving? Did it look like he was making smart decisions and reading defenses well? Is he beating press coverage? Getting in and out of breaks well? Creating separation? How about all the long balls Orton couldn't get to him (bad reads, weak/inaccurate arm, running in fear, whatever)? With reasonable play around him would he have had another 50 yards and a TD or another 300 yards and 4 TDs? Don't forget to add the penalty yards he earned. Seems to me FO is the perfect candidate to put such an article together and either prove or dispel a lot of the notions about Hester as WR.

As for the coming year, add a year of experience. Add Cutler. Add a better line. Add a year of development from Olsen. Leave out what could be some other positives (an RB tandem, other WRs improving) and just go with those top improvements. What is Hester capable of? IMHO, he's clearly a #1 (or has every tool to be). He's not Fitz or Moss, but that's not the definition of being a #1 now is it?

I'd love to see FO tackle this.

12
by justanothersteve :: Tue, 07/14/2009 - 12:36pm

Good comments. I do find it surprising that Hester averaged barely 13 yds/catch and a surprisingly low 3 TDs. While 13 YPC is good, it should be higher given his speed. It could be that (as you speculate) Orton just doesn't have the arm needed. I'd guess they used him on a lot of WR screens and hoped for the best.

4
by chappy (not verified) :: Mon, 07/13/2009 - 6:52pm

"If we throw out the 688-yard prediction, Holmes' average line goes up to 77/1200/8"

Um, so 'Wisdom of the Crowds' defineds a crowd as about 8 people? I hope these are 8 very wise people!

6
by BigDerf :: Mon, 07/13/2009 - 7:30pm

We are damn wise. Heh. You can join in on twitter whenever you'd like.

8
by mrh :: Mon, 07/13/2009 - 11:15pm

Alright, here's my scenario. I haven't bought FOA yet.

JAX throws for 500 passes, down from 537 last year, and up from 469 in 2007. Those are Koetter's only years as OC, so I didn't go back further. Since teams tend to throw more when losing, and I expect JAX to fall somewhere between 2007 and 2008 in wins, somewhere between 2007 and 2008's pass attempts seems reasonable.

Last year JAX threw 58% of its targets* to WRs. It did the same in 2007. RBs had 19%/22% and TEs 23%/20% in 07/08. I allocated 295 targets to WR, consistent with 58% they saw in Koetter's offense two years in a row.

*only counting targets to RB/WR/TE

Assume Holt is the primary WR (WR1) in this offense. The last two years the offense has allocated 27% (2007) and 35% (2008) of the WR targets to its WR1. These ranked 32nd and 24th in the league in WR1 target share. These numbers were depressed by injury and lack of talent. If Holt got 35% of 295 targets he'd only get 102 targets. It's logical to me that he'd get more than that if 100% healthy. After trying to discern how the Jags might allocate to Mike Walker, Mike Thomas, and "others" I estimated 130-95-50-20. That gives Holt 44% of the WR targets, which would have ranked 8th among WR1s last year. That seems in the ballpark to me.

Could the Jags allocate a greater share of targets to WRs? Sure, especially if Holt and Walker turn out to be pretty good. That would up Holt's targets. But it's reasonable to assume this number stays constant - I think MJD is going to see a lot of targets again, the TEs are still going to get a chunk, and while I think Holt is going to be reliable and an upgrade for the Jags, I just don't see him as a threat who'll dominate the offense. It's also possible that Holt gets more than 44% of the targets thrown to WRs. This is probably a weaker guess on my part. I really don't see 130 as being significantly different from 140, just that I think it's a reasonable estimate and you asked for one.

13
by Bobman :: Tue, 07/14/2009 - 4:31pm

I thought that was pretty nicely done.

It is possible that an upgrade in both personnel and health on the OL this year will enable Garrard to hold the ball a second longer and get it to the WRs more frequently than RBs/TEs last year. That sort of ignores 2007 data and 07/08 data were pretty consistent, so maybe the OL collapse did not affect their passing game as much as it did the run game. But something to consider.

14
by Bill Barnwell :: Fri, 07/17/2009 - 12:36am

I would be very surprised if Holt received less than 44 percent of the targets to WRs. Very, very surprised.

15
by mrh :: Fri, 07/17/2009 - 10:45am

Here's Holt's % going back to 2002, as far back as I have target data
2008 36%
2007 41%
2006 47%
2005 37%
2004 32% (Bruce was the WR1 in terms of targets)
2003 42%
2002 40%

Granted these were different offenses and much more talented WR corps as a whole than JAC 2009 looks to have, but only once did Holt top 44% while he was one of the best WRs in the league, which he no longer is. How much better is he than the other JAC WRs?

Here's the list of WRs who recevied more than 44% of their team's WR targets last year (apparently I mis-counted above, 44% would have ranked 11th last year, not 8th):

Steve Smith 45%
Andre Johnson 52%
Roddy White 47%
Antonio Bryant 46%
Terrell Owens 60%
Vincent Jackson 45%
Dwayne Bowe 71%
Santana Moss 48%
Derrick Mason 52%
Braylon Edwards 58%

So the question is, is Holt's relationship to JAC WR greater than or equal to that of Smith et al to their teams' WR? Possibly. But 44% is a surprisingly high bar.

On the other hand, Holt saw 36% of the STL WR targets last year. Are the other JAC WRs that much worse than the STL WRs? Except possibly for Avery, that was an undistinguished bunch. If Walker is close to as good as Avery (and stays healthy), then I'm not sure Holt is any more dominant a target with JAC than he was with STL. If Walker is nothing more than off-season hype or continues to get hurt, then it's very possible that Holt is the only reliable wideout target on the team and gets a lot of passes.

9
by mrh :: Mon, 07/13/2009 - 11:16pm

oops, double post.

10
by pazz (not verified) :: Tue, 07/14/2009 - 10:35am

"My own hypothetical scenario involves Holt getting Braylon Edwards disease and dropping 45% of what comes to him."

- A guy with great hands, who runs great routes will not get a case of the yips. His legs are the problem not his hands.

11
by bengt (not verified) :: Tue, 07/14/2009 - 11:40am

Incidentally, 20.7 yards per catch was pretty exactly what Holmes achieved when he topped the league in that metric two years ago, AFAIR.