Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

27 Jul 2009

Wisdom of Crowds: Projecting 2009 WR, Part III

by Bill Barnwell

For our final Wisdom of Crowds feature on wide receivers, five players set at the extremes of performance and expectation were paraded in front of our merry band of Twitter followers. (Space still available.)

We start out West with the offseason's biggest catch…

Monday: T.J. Houshmandzadeh
Average Prediction: 86 catches, 1072 receiving yards, 8 TD
Maximum Prediction: 110 catches, 1456 receiving yards, 14 TD
Minimum Prediction: 67 catches, 780 receiving yards, 5 TD

It might only be me, but Housmandzadeh just seems younger than he actually is. Thanks to a career that didn't fully launch until the former Oregon State star turned 27, Houshmandzadeh will already be turning 32 in September, a point at which most wide receivers are already well into their decline phase.

His yards per catch have also been in freefall, dropping in each of his five seasons as the Bengals starting wide receiver. There's only been a few instances of a receiver catching 50 or more passes in five consecutive seasons while seeing his yards per catch drop with each season:

  • Tim Brown (99-03) -- Out of football a year later
  • Drew Hill (88-92) -- Out of football a year later
  • Keyshawn Johnson (97-01) -- Played for five more years
  • Eric Moulds (98-06) -- Managed to stretch his streak for four more seasons before a slight uptick that, coincidentally, was his last season
  • Jimmy Smith (97-01) -- Had several more effective seasons

This isn't the worst company in the world, although Houshmandzadeh will find it hard to average fewer than 9.8 yards per catch this year (you can't just blame it on Ryan Fitzpatrick, either, as Housh averaged only 10.2 yards per catch with Carson Palmer around in '07).

Which career path do you think Houshmandzadeh is likeliest to follow?

Tuesday: Larry Fitzgerald
Average Prediction: 97 catches, 1391 receiving yards, 12 TD
Maximum Prediction: 115 catches, 1570 receiving yards, 18 TD
Minimum Prediction: 87 catches, 1270 receiving yards, 8 TD

Interesting that Fitzgerald's minimum prediction was right around Houshamanzadeh's average. Keep in mind that Fitzgerald's playoff performance, extrapolated to a 16-game schedule, calls for a line of 140 catches, 2508 receiving yards, and 36 touchdowns.

You'll also note the lack of any real variance here -- Fitzgerald could put up either that maximum prediction or the minimum one, and no one would bat an eye.

Wednesday: Jerricho Cotchery
Average Prediction: 76 catches, 918 receiving yards, 6 TD
Maximum Prediction: 90 catches, 1107 receiving yards, 8 TD
Minimum Prediction: 59 catches, 670 receiving yards, 3 TD

Respondents can't see their fellow predictors' guesses, so it was really awesome to see that the first three predictions for Cotchery were 73-950-5, 70-910-5, and 70-940-6. That is the same sentence, let alone the same page.

It all depends on how you view the Jets' situation around Cotchery. If you view it as "someone has to catch passes", you predicted something closer to the max. If you view it as "he's going to get triple-teamed and hate life", you were closer to the minimum. I think the average is actually just about right, with 75-100 more receiving yards tacked on.

Thursday: Wes Welker
Average Prediction: 104 catches, 1052 receiving yards, 8 TD
Maximum Prediction: 124 catches, 1200 receiving yards, 12 TD
Minimum Prediction: 85 catches, 900 receiving yards, 4 TD

Welker has 11 touchdowns combined in his two seasons with New England; not sure where our predictors think those 12 touchdowns are coming from (or, to be more exact, coming out of), but everyone agrees that Welker's reception total will be high.

Of course, I always wonder how Danny Amendola would do in the same role that Welker has. We're going to be presenting some new research over the next few weeks on catch rate and assigning responsibility for completed passes that I think is going to be very eye-opening, although it doesn't totally redefine Welker's value or anything.

Friday: Darrius Heyward-Bey
Average Prediction: 37 catches, 536 receiving yards, 3 TD
Maximum Prediction: 56 catches, 775 receiving yards, 6 TD
Minimum Prediction: 18 catches, 320 receiving yards, 1 TD

Normally, we'd ignore a minimum prediction that low, but it wasn't the only one -- we had two people at 20, one at 24, another at 25 … let's just say that people aren't expecting good things.

Although there's not very many high hopes for DHB's cumulative totals, people still think he's going to burn. Over half the respondents projected Heyward-Bey to average more than 15 yards per catch. The last Raider rookie to catch 30 passes and average more than 15 per reception? James Jett (33-771-3), whose career Heyward-Bey may very well end up emulating.

We'll be doing a week of tight ends before moving onto broader pastures, so come follow us on Twitter @fb_outsiders and give your say on Antonio Gates, Brent Celek, and others this week!

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 27 Jul 2009

11 comments, Last at 28 Jul 2009, 3:09pm by Anonimouse!

Comments

1
by Harris :: Mon, 07/27/2009 - 9:00am

James Jett? Jett never had more than 46 catches in a season, though he did score 12 TDs in 1997. Of course, he was a RFA. For DHB to follow a similar career path would be really just awful.

Hail Hydra!

5
by DrewTS (not verified) :: Mon, 07/27/2009 - 11:40am

Uhh... yeah. I think that was kind of the point.

2
by mrh :: Mon, 07/27/2009 - 9:23am

Would it be possible to post the number of predictors after each name? For example: Wes Welker (52). Just to give us an idea of how large the crowd is.

6
by DrewTS (not verified) :: Mon, 07/27/2009 - 11:41am

The size of the crowd isn't important. It's how you use it.

3
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 07/27/2009 - 10:42am

"Welker has 11 touchdowns combined in his two seasons with New England; not sure where our predictors think those 12 touchdowns are coming from (or, to be more exact, coming out of), but everyone agrees that Welker's reception total will be high."

Well, he caught 8 in the one year with Brady, so 12 isn't really all that far off. I don't think he catches 12, but its certainly possible, although galloway may pirating some of them. Cassell didn't seem to like throwing to him in the redzone....well, they ran a lot more in the redzone than the year before.

4
by are-tee :: Mon, 07/27/2009 - 11:18am

Don't know how many respondents there were, but I'm blown away by the fact that one of the maximum and one of the minimum predictions were mine (and these were the only two players I voted on.)

7
by BroncosGuy (not verified) :: Mon, 07/27/2009 - 2:12pm

Thanks to a career that didn't fully launch until the former Oregon State star turned 27, Houshmandzadeh will already be turning 32 in September

If T.J. had become established earlier, how old would he instead be in September?

8
by Key19 :: Mon, 07/27/2009 - 6:25pm

I can't believe Danny Amendola just came up in this piece.

9
by Theep (not verified) :: Mon, 07/27/2009 - 6:48pm

I don't think 140-2508-36 is right for Larry Fitzgerald's postseason stats extrapolated a full season. He had 30 receptions, 546 yards, and 7 touchdowns in four postseason games. Wouldn't that be 120-2184-28?

11
by Anonimouse! (not verified) :: Tue, 07/28/2009 - 3:09pm

you need to account for the fact that Fitz didn't show up until the 4th quarter in the SB.

10
by t.d. :: Mon, 07/27/2009 - 8:44pm

how about revisiting qbs? Vick would be interesting to speculate about.