After three NFL seasons of kicking off from the 35-yard line, what has been the impact on touchbacks, returns, field position, scoring and injuries? Also, is this rule responsible for a record number of big comebacks?
04 Sep 2012
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.
12 comments, Last at 06 Sep 2012, 11:05am by Steve in WI