Which receivers were truly most effective with the ball in their hands last season? We look at the leaders in YAC+ for 2014 and the last nine years.
28 Feb 2011
by Bill Barnwell
This week, our Wisdom of Crowds review finishes on quarterbacks and examines the seven wide receivers we ran projections for before the 2010 season. Spoiler alert: The Randy Moss one looks bad for everyone involved.
For reference, you can read the original prediction articles covered in this piece here, here, and here. With each player, I'll provide his average projected performance, his actual performance, and for those players who missed time, his pro-rated performance for a 16-game season.
Projected: 3,718 passing yards, 24 touchdowns, 13 interceptions
Actual: 3,622 passing yards, 25 touchdowns, 10 interceptions
Well, it's very difficult for a projection to be much closer than that. Although not every player follows a conventional growth curve, Flacco has done that in his three seasons as a pro. His interception rate has declined each year, falling from 2.8 percent as a rookie to 2.0 percent last year. Meanwhile, his yards per attempt are up, his touchdown rate is up, and his completion percentage only dipped very slightly from 2009. I figured that the gaudy Ravens win projection in FOA 2010 might cause Flacco to throw fewer passes than his 499 attempts in 2009, but he only cut 10 passes off his total.
Projected: 2,952 passing yards, 18 touchdowns, 16 interceptions
Actual: 341 passing yards, 3 touchdowns, 4 interceptions
Pro-rated: 1,819 passing yards, 16 touchdowns, 21 interceptions
This was a couple of days after Brett Favre had reportedly retired. Now, it only seems to have significant potential in UFL fantasy leagues.
Projected: 3,597 passing yards, 25 touchdowns, 13 interceptions
Actual: 3,705 passing yards, 28 touchdowns, 9 interceptions
One of the things both KUBIAK and I were harping on before the season was the idea that Ryan should be ahead of Flacco in fantasy circles. Because Ryan finished the 2009 season with a turf toe and Flacco had the 2006 all stars at wide receiver, Flacco's ADP was about 10 spots higher than Ryan's before the season. Ryan ended up with the better numbers in 2010, though. He won't sustain an interception rate at 1.6 percent in 2011, but he doesn't need to be that careful to retain significant value. Now, let's never draft Flacco before Ryan again.
Projected: 4,518 passing yards, 33 touchdowns, 13 interceptions
Actual: 4,620 passing yards, 33 touchdowns, 22 interceptions
The worst projection for Brees that came in had him at 19 interceptions. His interception spike was out of nowhere and not in line with the rest of his career. He hasn't been above 2.8 percent since that messy 2003 season, and he threw picks 3.3 percent of the time in 2010. On the other hand, I noted that there was no way he could sustain that 6.6 percent touchdown rate from 2009, and even injuries to every running back on the roster couldn't keep that figure from falling to five percent. He'll be undervalued next year in fantasy drafts.
Projected: 90 receptions, 1,159 receiving yards, 8 touchdowns
Actual: 86 receptions, 1,014 receiving yards, 3 touchdowns
Pro-rated: 98 receptions, 1,159 receiving yards, 3 touchdowns
Another thing that we were trying to shout before the season was that Brandon Marshall wouldn't hit 100 catches in Miami. (Don't worry, we'll get to the ugly predictions in a minute.) Marshall picks up an injury every season, and the run/pass splits of the Dolphins offense wouldn't allow him the target totals to get to 100. He came pretty close anyway, with the hamstring injury he suffered in the Bears-Dolphins NFL Network game serving as the biggest reason why he didn't make it. His target rate stayed above 10 per game, with 146 in 14 contests, but it's down from the absurd 12.1 targets/game figure he had in 2009. He was in an ADP group with Roddy White and Larry Fitzgerald before the season. I noted that plus-minus research suggested that White would have the best season of the three, and that ended up being the case.
Projected: 85 receptions, 1233 receiving yards, 9 touchdowns
Actual: 69 receptions, 1041 receiving yards, 7 touchdowns
Pro-rated: 69 receptions, 1041 receiving yards, 7 touchdowns
KUBIAK was lower than just about anyone on Austin before the season, thanks to its annual struggle to project the Cowboys offense, but it was right this year. His projection in the book was 63 catches, 970 yards, and seven touchdowns. (Alas, it wouldn't be a Cowboys projection if it wasn't a little low.) One thing I'm surprised about: There hasn't been a recurrence of the hamstring injuries that caused Austin to be so undervalued heading into his breakout year.
Projected: 68 receptions, 1054 receiving yards, 7 touchdowns
Actual: 60 receptions, 1257 receiving yards, 10 touchdowns
Pro-rated: 60 receptions, 1257 receiving yards, 10 touchdowns
The man who succeeded Austin as our top guy on the FO Top 25 Prospects list got better as the season went along. His line with Ben Roethlisberger as quarterback, pro-rated to a 16-game season, is 68 catches for 1,395 yards and 11 touchdowns. He had three games with just two catches amidst those first four contests; afterwards, he didn't have another one until the Conference Championship game. He was pretty quiet in the playoffs until that scary Super Bowl performance, and he's already one of the 10 best receivers in football.
Projected: 84 receptions, 1,272 receiving yards, 13 touchdowns
Actual: 28 receptions, 393 receiving yards, 5 touchdowns
And, in my infinite wisdom, I added that his average projection "... might be understating his upside. I believe he has the potential to be the best wideout in football -- even at age 33." It turns out that he was arguably the best wide receiver named Randy in football, although Randy Hymes had 18 touchdowns for the Bossier-Shreveport Battle Wings.
Projected: 80 receptions, 997 receiving yards, 7 touchdowns
Actual: 59 receptions, 755 receiving yards, 5 touchdowns
On the other hand, Ward was a KUBIAK darling that didn't retain his previous level of performance. He had been consistently clinging on to about 9.4 fantasy points per game, but then totally fell off last year and hit 6.6 fpg. Elderly Hall of Fame-caliber receivers tend to continue playing really well before just falling off a cliff and retiring due to injury (Rod Smith) or inability to perform (Jerry Rice). Ward's aging pattern appears to be different.
Projected: 58 receptions, 819 receiving yards, 6 touchdowns
Actual: 53 receptions, 904 receiving yards, 7 touchdowns
That's pretty close. I thought that Edwards wouldn't get the targets needed to hit those figures with his awful catch rate and Santonio Holmes coming to town, but the Jets threw the ball more frequently than I expected.
Projected: 85 receptions, 1,239 receiving yards, 10 touchdowns
Actual: 77 receptions, 1,120 receiving yards, 12 touchdowns
Pro-rated: 82 receptions, 1,195 receiving yards, 13 touchdowns
Johnson had an ADP of 13 before the season, which seemed a little high. He gets hurt too frequently to expect a full season, and he was about to spend the year with Matthew Stafford at quarterback. Johnson only missed one game, but it was enough to see his value drop to sixth amongst wideouts and 20th amongst all players. He might have actually benefited from a full year of Shaun Hill and Drew Stanton, but that depends on what you think about Stafford's pro viability.
Next Monday, we'll finish by looking at the running back projections.
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