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31 Aug 2011

Wisdom of Crowds 2011: WRs Part II

by Danny Tuccitto

In last week's Wisdom of Crowds feature, we embarked on the wide receiver leg of our fantasy football journey, and found that several No. 1/1A targets won't be surpassing 1,000 yards if our readers have anything to say about it. Today, let's hop back on the train, and see where this week's group takes us.

As a refresher, what you'll be reading below -- if you stick around -- are the results of average, best-case, and worst-case-scenario projections from people who follow Football Outsiders' Twitter account. We launch a name into the Twitterverse each day of the week, our readers give their predictions, I apply some simple math to those predictions, and -- voila! -- the feature article shows up the following week. The last group of players is being tweeted this week, so, if you want to participate, just follow us on Twitter.

If you've missed any of the tour stops thus far, you can read about them here:

Monday: Sidney Rice
Average: 64 ± 4 receptions, 908 ± 58 yards, 7 ± 1 TD
Best-case scenario: 78 receptions, 1,137 yards, 11 TDs
Worst-case scenario: 47 receptions, 570 yards, 3 TDs

Let's start with the stat of the day. In 18 games with Brett Favre as his starting quarterback in Minnesota, Rice caught 95 passes for 1,532 yards, and 10 touchdowns. During the same period, he played 14 games with Tarvaris Jackson as the starter. In those games, he totaled 28 catches for 400 yards and 5 touchdowns. I probably don't need to break this down into a per-game average to hone in on the point: Rice, like many wide receivers, seems exceedingly reliant on competent quarterback play, and Jackson has not proven that he can deliver that.

Even ignoring that minor detail, the crowd's average projection still feels a bit generous to us. Last season, Mike Williams was Seattle's clear-cut No. 1 wide receiver, catching nearly 30 more passes than the next-highest teammate. His stat line ended up being 65 receptions for 751 yards and 2 touchdowns. So basically, what the crowd is saying here is that, with Williams still around, and Zach Miller taking over at tight end, Rice will have just as many receptions for more yards and more touchdowns. And that's assuming that there is just as much pass production to go around in this year's Seahawks offense. Sorry, I'll pass (no pun intended).

Tuesday: Julio Jones
Average: 56 ± 4 receptions, 746 ± 60 yards, 5 ± 1 TDs
Best-case scenario: 76 receptions, 1,050 yards, 8 TDs
Worst-case scenario: 40 receptions, 500 yards, 3 TDs

Here's another stat of the day for you. Last season, Roddy White led the NFL in receptions. Since the passing game expanded in 1978, only three teams who had the reigning receptions champion on their roster at the time of that offseason's draft used a first-round selection on a wide receiver:

I can't make much of that given the small sample size, but at least consider this. Let's say for the sake of argument that Lelie and Soward were talentless stiffs who had no business being taken that early, and that Jones is more like Wayne. Well, even the super-talented Wayne only had 27 catches for 345 yards and 0 touchdowns in 13 games opposite Harrison during his rookie season. And that was with Peyton Manning throwing for over 4,000 yards.

Wednesday: A.J. Green
Average: 49 ± 4 receptions, 651 ± 92 yards, 4 ± 1 TDs
Best-case scenario: 70 receptions, 980 yards, 7 TDs
Worst-case scenario: 34 receptions, 315 yards, 2 TDs

With no reigning receptions champ on the Bengals' roster, Green isn't in the same historical boat as Jones. Unfortunately for Green, however, the boarding pass for his maiden voyage says, "RMS Titanic." (Actually, I just noticed "Cincinnati" is oh-so close to being an anagram of "Titanic." But I digress.) The combination of a rookie quarterback, a rookie No. 1 wide receiver, and a slew of defensive imports from San Francisco is an iceberg collision in the making if there ever was one. For this reason, the Bengals' offense will likely focus on ball control, perhaps even while down 30 in the fourth quarter. If I thought Jones' average projection was generous, Green's makes the crowd look like a University of Miami boosters club.

Thursday: Steve Johnson
Average: 73 ± 6 receptions, 969 ± 76 yards, 7 ± 1 TDs
Best-case scenario: 100 receptions, 1,235 yards, 10 TDs
Worst-case scenario: 45 receptions, 650 yards, 4 TDs

Last season, Johnson put up an 82-1073-10 stat line, and nearly everything is the same this season in Buffalo's offense. Therefore, the crowd basically thinks he'll duplicate his 2010 stats in 2011. The worst-case scenario projection seems absurd on its face. If Johnson has those totals over 16 games, the Bills will probably be starting Andrew Luck in Week 1 of 2012. On the other hand, his best-case scenario doesn't seem that far-fetched at all. The Bills already throw the ball a ton, Lee Evans is out of the picture, and they might have to throw even more by virtue of having the fifth-toughest projected schedule in the NFL.

Friday: Andre Roberts
Average: 63 ± 6 receptions, 793 ± 104 yards, 6 ± 2 TDs
Best-case scenario: 75 receptions, 1,025 yards, 9 TDs
Worst-case scenario: 42 receptions, 542 yards, 3 TDs

Roberts is another wide receiver who has a decent chance of achieving the crowd's best-case-scenario stat line. All the indicators are positive. With the departure of Steve Breaston, he's now a starter. With the arrival of Kevin Kolb, he now has a quarterback with a starting-caliber skill set. With Larry Fitzgerald on the field, he's likely to see a lot of single coverage. With the fifth-easiest overall schedule, the offense should be able to find some success.

On the other hand, you could make a contradictory case for why he might end up in the worst-case scenario. He's now the starter, but he's never been one before, so he might not be up to the task. Kolb is starting at quarterback, but this is an entirely different offense than the one he ran -- with mixed results -- in Philadelphia. Fitzgerald was on the field last season, but that didn't turn Breaston into a productive wideout. Rather, Breaston had pro-rated receptions and yards that fall within Roberts' margin of error, and a touchdown total worse than Roberts' worst-case scenario. Finally, Arizona had the second-easiest schedule last year, but that didn't do Breaston much good either.

If I had to guess, I'd say Roberts finishes 2011 at the upper end of his average crowd projection; something like 70 catches for 900 yards and 8 touchdowns. Given the discrepancy between his KUBIAK and ADP, I've been targeting him as a WR6. If he puts up those numbers, I'll look like a genius. If he doesn't, it's no harm no foul. Don't worry, though, you can still laugh at me when I do the Wisdom of Crowds reviews after the season's over.

As I said in the intro, we're tweeting the final group of players this week. If you want to have your predictions included in next week's piece, follow us, and be on the lookout around 2 p.m. EST for the next few days.

Posted by: Danny Tuccitto on 31 Aug 2011

4 comments, Last at 01 Sep 2011, 10:37am by Mr Shush

Comments

1
by BucNasty :: Wed, 08/31/2011 - 4:13pm

I actually like Green more than Jones. Even with their offenses being what they are, I'd rather take the guy who's gonna be the focal point over a #2.

2
by Mr Shush :: Wed, 08/31/2011 - 7:18pm

"even the super-talented Wayne only had 27 catches for 345 yards and 0 touchdowns in 13 games opposite Harrison during his rookie season"

That may be so, but I'm not sure there's really an important difference in this respect between 2011 Roddy White and 1999 Isaac Bruce, and Torry Holt's rookie season was if anything slightly better than what the crowd predicts for Jones.

Anecdotally, it also feels to me like receivers whose greatest strengths are their physical gifts (Randy Moss, Andre Johnson, Anquan Boldin) are more likely to be productive as rookies than guys like Wayne whose best attribute is technique and route-running. Jones' size and body control should get him red zone targets, at any rate.

3
by rageon :: Thu, 09/01/2011 - 9:58am

But then there's Eddie Royal, who had a very nice rookie season himself. (Although I will concede that Royal is crazy strong for someone his size.)

4
by Mr Shush :: Thu, 09/01/2011 - 10:37am

And fast - his 4.39 at the combine was pretty much the same as (Panthers) Steve Smith. Wayne didn't run at the combine, but I doubt he'd have been that quick.

This hypothesis of mine may well be the most unutterable bunk, of course. It's an idea that makes intuitive sense, but that's about it.