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Stomping the Jags leaves Washington No. 2 behind only Denver. But what can we really learn from one big win early in the season, before we are applying opponent adjustments?

04 Sep 2012

Wisdom of Crowds 2012: WRs II

by Danny Tuccitto

It's time for our last Wisdom of Crowds of 2012. Most people have already drafted their fantasy teams, but plenty remain who are either -- depending on one's outlook -- the victims of a procrastinating league or the beneficiaries of a commissioner who prefers to wait until as much information about the upcoming season is available. Personally, outside of unavoidable scheduling difficulties, I don't see why so many leagues draft two, three, and sometimes four weeks prior to opening night. With so much of fantasy production being dependent on a player's opportunity, it just seems irrational to draft before NFL teams finalize their depth charts and all relevant injuries are known.

Getting back to the task at hand, our Twitter followers apparently checked out early for the Labor Day weekend, so we've only got four crowdsourced wide receiver projections today, which brings the total number of WoC players to 24. I've included a handy table at the bottom of this article, which we'll revisit after the season ends. Here's the link to previous installments from 2012:

For each wide receiver below, I've listed the average projection (with margin of error), their best-case scenario, and the worst-case scenario. The scenario projections just combine into one stat line the player's best (or worst) projections for each specific stat.

Tuesday: Robert Meachem
Average: 58 ± 4 catches, 825 ± 44 yards, 6 ± 1 TDs
Best-case scenario: 70 catches, 950 yards, 9 TDs
Worst-case scenario: 43 catches, 675 yards, 3 TDs

After five seasons as nothing more than a highly specialized cog in the Saints' offensive machine, Meachem signed a four-year, $25.9 million deal to replace Vincent Jackson as the Chargers' No. 1 receiver. San Diego beat writers seem to think Meachem's in for a breakout season, but the crowd isn't buying it.

Neither am I. Meachem is another example of the Peerless Price problem we talked about last week in relation to Pierre Garcon: No. 2 wideouts tend not to fulfill their newly minted No. 1 status when they leave one team for another. Of course, it's arguable that Meachem was ever truly the No. 2 behind Marques Colston in New Orleans. Last year, Lance Moore (73) had more targets despite playing two fewer games, while non-wideouts Jimmy Graham (149) and Darren Sproles (111) easily finished ahead of Meachem (60). Even Pierre Thomas (59) had only one fewer. And remember, 2011 wasn't anything new for Meachem. Since 2009, he hasn't missed a game (starting 22 of them), but has basically put up the same stat line each year (averaging 43/660/7) while serving as the designated play-action deep threat.

So what we're really talking about here is a 28-year-old getting paid big money to make the leap from fifth (or sixth) option to first (or second) option. Since 2002, the only time a transition like that has ended up resembling "success" was when slot receiver Kevin Curtis left St. Louis for Philadelphia and broke out for 77 catches, 1,110 yards, and six touchdowns in his first season with the Eagles (fifth season overall).

Wednesday: Randy Moss
Average: 46 ± 6 catches, 695 ± 120 yards, 6 ± 1 TDs
Best-case scenario: 73 catches, 1,142 yards, 8 TDs
Worst-case scenario: 30 catches, 420 yards, 3 TDs

The crowd's projection for Moss is exactly as I suspected it would be: the scattershot outcome of a blindfolded dart game. His best- and worst-case scenarios are by far the most disparate of this week, and also beat out Justin Blackmon's 13-catch, 688-yard, five-touchdown spread last week. That tidbit says a lot about Moss at this stage. Despite a Hall of Fame career and success as recent as two (Moss) seasons ago, he's as difficult to project at age 35 as a 22-year-old rookie catching passes from Blaine Gabbert.

Thursday: Vincent Jackson
Average: 65 ± 6 catches, 990 ± 54 yards, 7 ± 1 TD
Best-case scenario: 85 catches, 1,125 yards, 8 TDs
Worst-case scenario: 40 catches, 768 yards, 4 TDs

For the ballad of Vincent Jackson, the crowd sang in almost perfect harmony with KUBIAK. I'm singing a different tune, though: one that sounds more like his best-case scenario. Except for the A.J.-Smith-inspired debacle of 2010, Jackson has consistently given elite production to fantasy owners since his breakout year in 2008. Granted, that was with Philip Rivers at quarterback and in an offense tailor-made for his Z-receiver skill set. But Josh Freeman is a better passer than he showed last year, especially on deep passes, and Greg Schiano's preferred offense at Rutgers regardless of coordinator tended to funnel the vast majority of targets towards a featured wide receiver (or two).

Friday: Brandon Marshall
Average: 100 ± 4 catches, 1,313 ± 72 yards, 10 ± 2 TD
Best-case scenario: 111 catches, 1,600 yards, 14 TDs
Worst-case scenario: 87 catches, 1,150 yards, 6 TDs

So either we had a disproportionate number of Bears fans respond to Marshall's name on Twitter or it just warms people's hearts to see him rekindle his special relationship with Jay Cutler. I'm guessing the latter. If we simply average Marshall's receiving stats from his two years with Cutler in Denver we get 103 catches for 1,295 yards, and six touchdowns, or about 171 fantasy points in a non-points-per-reception (non-PPR) league. The crowd's average projection is a smidgeon better than that, while the 191 points it translates to would represent the best fantasy season of his career.

To put his best-case scenario into perspective, Marshall's 355 projected points in a PPR league would fall just shy of Calvin Johnson's 360 in 2011, and would only be 30 points less than the total posted by Randy Moss in his record-breaking 2007 season.

So that's it for Wisdom of Crowds until we reconvene after the season. As a final note in parting, our Twitter response this year wasn't what we hoped it would be, and fell far short of last year's turnout. We've discussed it internally, but can't really figure out why. Therefore, we'd like to get your feedback with suggestions for getting more participation next August. If you've got an opinion, feel free to offer it in the comments section.

QB PaYd PaTD INT
Andrew Luck 3,523 21 18
Robert Griffin 3,329 20 20
Philip Rivers 4,097 27 16
Jay Cutler 3,728 25 17
Peyton Manning 3,706 27 12
RB Runs RuYd RuTD
Peyton Hillis 160 679 6
BenJarvus Green-Ellis 225 1,041 9
DeMarco Murray 252 1,150 9
Fred Jackson 233 1,091 9
James Starks 202 876 5
David Wilson 163 704 5
Doug Martin 194 891 6
Matt Forte 274 1,184 6
Darren McFadden 282 1,349 11
Jamaal Charles 228 1,138 8
WR Rec RecYd RecTD
Justin Blackmon 53 791 5
Demaryius Thomas 69 988 8
Pierre Garcon 65 875 6
Reggie Wayne 84 1,069 8
Danny Amendola 80 876 5
Robert Meachem 58 825 6
Randy Moss 46 695 6
Vincent Jackson 65 990 7
Brandon Marshall 100 1,313 10

Posted by: Danny Tuccitto on 04 Sep 2012

12 comments, Last at 06 Sep 2012, 11:05am by Steve in WI

Comments

1
by Eddo :: Tue, 09/04/2012 - 8:07pm

Marshall's best-case projection is ridiculous, and I'm really high on him this year.

His mean projection looks reasonable, though I doubt he has quite that many touchdowns. I didn't participate in WOTC, but I'd put him at 96-100 catches, 1150-1300 yards, and 7-9 TDs.

2
by Anonymous06 (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2012 - 8:33pm

Wow. This is pretty bad. Some of these prognostications are ridiculous. Especially Brandon Marshall's, McFadden's, James Starks', and Doug Martin's.

3
by Danny Tuccitto :: Tue, 09/04/2012 - 10:49pm

Keep in mind that the Martin and Starks projections came about before their roles/health statuses were solidified.

4
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 09/05/2012 - 12:31am

Who else on the Bears will Cutler throw to? The only other professional receiver is a rookie.

His rate stats might be bad, but I suspect Marshall will be the volume option.

6
by Eddo :: Wed, 09/05/2012 - 9:32am

You're right about Marshall and volume, but Earl Bennett is a perfectly cromulent WR out of the slot.

EDIT: And, actually, I'd classify Hester as being adequate at the role it looks like he'll be playing - a secondary or tertiary option that specializes in stretching the field and getting the ball in space. The Bears' biggest problem at WR the past several years has been having multiple #2/#3 WRs and asking one to act like a #1. Now, Marshall is a true #1, Jeffery is a sideline/end zone guy, Bennett can settle into the slot, and Hester can be the deep/space guy. If Jefferey is as effective as he's been in the preseason and camp, WR is arguably a strength of the team.

It's still the offensive line that poor.

EDIT II: Before anyone gets all hot and bothered by the "strength" comment, let me clarify. It could be a strength in that it's not something that needs immediate improvement, which it has for at least ten years. The Bears' WR corps is certainly not a top-five or even top-ten unit in the league, but it can certainly be an asset.

12
by Steve in WI :: Thu, 09/06/2012 - 11:05am

Yup, I see it the same way. It's not that the Bears' receivers besides Marshall are awful, it's just that they're not great. With a true #1 in Marshall, I think the rest of them are going to look a lot better. The problem over the past few years has been pretending that Hester is a #1.

That said, I think it may be hard to predict Marshall's output simply because he's clearly the best receiver and should be drawing a lot of extra coverage.

5
by CBPodge :: Wed, 09/05/2012 - 8:51am

For the response thing, I've never really thought Twitter was the best place to get responses - people either see the tweet and respond straight away, or they miss them and don't scroll through their feed to see it.

I think if you want to carry on using Twitter, you need to make sure you post requests many times in a day to get people to see it and respond to it. It might be worth setting up a specific Wisdom of Crowds account (FO_WOC). That will allow that account to spam the feed of people who are interested in responding without clogging up the main account (which people won't like too much).

Another option might be to get people to register interest by email (can just be a simple mailing list sign up on the site, links from Twitter etc) and then send out the list daily or weekly to respond to. You could still put requests out via Twitter, but this may get you more regular responders?

8
by Joseph :: Wed, 09/05/2012 - 11:52am

Another way to respond might be the best thing. I don't do Twitter, so I can't respond to the WoC's. I might if there were another way. It wouldn't surprise me if there were others who can't participate via Twitter.

7
by Lebo :: Wed, 09/05/2012 - 11:47am

I would like to take part in WoC but I dislike Twitter and refuse to sign up. So you'd get my votes in the future if you provided alternative methods of voting. For example, you could post the polls on this website.

I'm not sure if many other people share my simultaneous dislike of Twitter / like of WoC, and it doesn't really address why WoC's participation has declined. But at the very least it might increase your page traffic.

9
by nmc123456789 (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2012 - 12:23pm

I've culled any Twitter accounts that aren't manned by an identifiable human being or simply post links (or a majority of posts are links). I do, however, follow most, if not all, of the FO writers among others. I recommend having the FO individual writers gain followers and asking for solicitations.

10
by big_jgke :: Wed, 09/05/2012 - 2:27pm

As fun as the 'crowd-sourced' nature of this project is, perhaps people would be more interested in it, if the crowd in question was not the twittering public but the writers of FO, maybe including the game charters, or even an industry (media or NFL) consensus.

I know this series would be less of a quirky distraction if i had more faith in the people making the predictions.

11
by Aaron (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2012 - 2:36pm

For running backs, you should ask for total yards, or rushing + receiving yards, or ask for rushing and receiving yards separately. While Matt Forte may only get 1100 yards rushing, he could easily add another 500 yards receiving.