Wisdom of Crowds: Projecting 2009 WR, Part II

Wisdom of Crowds: Projecting 2009 WR, Part II
Wisdom of Crowds: Projecting 2009 WR, Part II
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Bill Barnwell

We brought out the big guns in this week's Wisdom of Crowds feature. Last year's top receiver? Check. 2007's top guy? He's here. The highest-rated receiver in this year's class? Present. And the player with the most to prove as a number one wideout? He's around, too.

For the uninitiated, our weekly Wisdom of Crowds feature takes a look at five selected players, each of whom have had their season line forecast by a number of our followers on Twitter. (To follow us on Twitter, head to @fb_outsiders.) We instruct our panel to predict the performance of each player if they were to play a full 16-game season without suffering any injuries.

We start with a projection that may very well inspire some controversy.

Monday: Andre Johnson
Average Prediction: 101 catches, 1487 receiving yards, 11 TD
Maximum Prediction: 120 catches, 1750 receiving yards, 15 TD
Minimum Prediction: 85 catches, 1200 receiving yards, 7 TD

Well, controversy might not be the right word. But nearly 1500 receiving yards as an average performance. That's astounding. It'd also be a huge leap forward; Johnson's averaged 13.1 yards per catch in his career, and was at 13.7 last year; that average prediction would peg him at 14.7 yards per catch.

The 120-catch prediction came from the Houston Chronicle's Stephanie Stradley, who noted that Gary Kubiak met with Andre Johnson upon the former's hiring in 2006 and asked something to the effect of, "Do you want to catch 120 passes?".

Tuesday: Mark Clayton
Average Prediction: 66 catches, 927 receiving yards, 6 TD
Maximum Prediction: 83 catches, 1350 receiving yards, 8 TD
Minimum Prediction: 50 catches, 755 receiving yards, 5 TD

We posted this WoC request the day after Derrick Mason announced his retirement, hoping to get a glimpse into what the public thinks the inconsistent Clayton is capable of as a number one receiver.

There was very little variance in predictions here; a large percentage of respondents had Clayton somewhere between 60 and 70 catches, 800 and 950 yards, and at 6 TD. Only 25 percent of respondents placed Clayton over 1000 yards.

I was a big believer in Clayton after his excellent 2006 season, but he's totally failed to launch since then. After suffering through an injury-riddled 2007, Clayton should have been healthy last year, but was strictly a downfield threat. It appears that the public feels that Clayton would have taken over from Mason already if he was capable of doing so, and I have to concur.

Wednesday: DeSean Jackson
Average Prediction: 71 catches, 1070 receiving yards, 6 TD
Maximum Prediction: 91 catches, 1369 receiving yards, 12 TD
Minimum Prediction: 50 catches, 750 receiving yards, 4 TD

Jackson was, I believe, the first time a prediction managed to end up as part of the maximum and the minimum; someone predicted a Jackson line of 50 receptions for 750 receiving yards and 12 TD. For some players, that would be a sign of trolling, but some followers actually argued that it was a reasonable projection for Jackson considering the number of receivers he'll have to compete with for passes.

That uncertainty about Jackson's usage level is reflected in his projections; his yards per catch, amazingly, are either between 15.00 and 15.07 at the average, maximum, and minimum prediction levels; the difference is strictly his level of usage. With the arrival of Jeremy Maclin and the return to health of Kevin Curtis, that average prediction seems just a tad high.

Thursday: Michael Crabtree
Average Prediction: 52 catches, 748 receiving yards, 5 TD
Maximum Prediction: 68 catches, 1328 receiving yards, 10 TD
Minimum Prediction: 35 catches, 400 receiving yards, 2 TD

I'd probably take the over on 400 receiving yards. I'd definitely take the under on 1328 receiving yards; it was the only projection to go higher than 1050 on Crabtree's yardage total.

Crabtree actually was the subject of more predictions than any other player so far, which was pretty remarkable considering that I just wrote that the 49ers were "an obscure football team" as recently as a month ago.

Friday: Randy Moss
Average Prediction: 85 catches, 1297 receiving yards, 15 TD
Maximum Prediction: 110 catches, 1680 receiving yards, 20 TD
Minimum Prediction: 70 catches, 949 receiving yards, 9 TD

Sadly, no one replied with "Who? He's just a cog."

I was wondering whether someone would actually predict that Moss would get 20 TD. One of our followers even asked us whether we thought Moss would get someone suggesting 25 TD; that seems unlikely.

My biggest concern about Moss heading into 2009 is injury; he's managed to make it through two full seasons with New England, but he struggled through Super Bowl XLII with an undisclosed injury (reportedly an ankle, but likely a recurrence of hamstring issues he had in Oakland). If he can stay healthy for all 16 games, he should be able to exceed that average prediction.

We'll be picking five more wide receivers on Twitter this week for a final week of wide receiver Wisdom of Crowds; we've already started accepting predictions for new Seahawks wideout T.J. Houshmandzadeh. If you'd like to join, simply follow us on Twitter @fb_outsiders.


18 comments, Last at 23 Jul 2009, 11:18pm

#1 by Thomas_beardown // Jul 20, 2009 - 12:47pm

If he can stay healthy for all 16 games, he should be able to exceed that average prediction.

Really, a 32 year old receiver should exceed 1300 yards and 15 TDs? Something he has only done 3 times in his career. Looking back at his career, it looks right on target to me.

Points: 0

#2 by J.D. (not verified) // Jul 20, 2009 - 1:54pm

Looking back on his career, Moss has only been the #1 WR with a semi-competent QB for 5 seasons (Culpepper 2000-2003 and Brady 2007). In those seasons, he averaged 95-1428-14. He might be slipping a little, but the prediction doesn't seem unreasonable as long as Brady is anywhere near 100%.

Points: 0

#3 by Thomas_beardown // Jul 20, 2009 - 2:04pm

You don't consider Randall Cunningham semi-competent?

Anyways, I said 1300 and 15 sounds on target, but to say that he should beat that seems unlikely.

Points: 0

#4 by Pat (filler) (not verified) // Jul 20, 2009 - 2:37pm

I also question the wisdom of excluding a QB who put up over 3700 yards, 1538 DYAR (#1 in the league) and 42.9% DVOA (#1 in the league).

I'm really, really hoping that was just a silly mistake.

Points: 0

#5 by Theo // Jul 20, 2009 - 3:44pm

Do we realise how good Andre Johnson is? He plays on a not-playoff team and is still one of the better receivers in the league.

Points: 0

#6 by Mr Shush // Jul 20, 2009 - 5:18pm

Perhaps the best, I would say. But given that he received 45 out of a possible 50 All Pro votes last season, in a year when many receivers had outstanding seasons (Fitzgerald, White, Steve Smith, Calvin Johnson) I'd say that journalists at least were giving him his due, low interest team or no.

Points: 0

#7 by Anonimouse! (not verified) // Jul 20, 2009 - 5:23pm

If Moss played with an ankle injury in the superbowl, I'd ritualistically break his ankles before every game were I his coach. 60 minutes of football and there was never a Giant within 10 yards of him.

Points: 0

#10 by Dales // Jul 20, 2009 - 8:39pm

Except for the last two plays where both times a Giant knocked the ball away. And the sad fact that it is hard for a QB, even one as good as Brady, to get off a deep pass when quality defensive linemen are in his face, in his back, on his legs 2 seconds after the snap.

Points: 0

#18 by PatsFan // Jul 23, 2009 - 11:18pm

He had McQuarters(?) beat on one of those. If the Pats OL had given Brady a fraction of a second more so that Brady could have stepped into the throw instead of underthrowing it by a few feet, Pats would have had a TD or at least first-and-goal.

Points: 0

#11 by t.d. // Jul 21, 2009 - 8:18am

I expect Moss to have slipped just a little, because of the likelihood of nagging injuries. I've been expecting this since 2007. The thing that surprises me is that the outsiders aren't calling for this to be the year the Colts fall off.

Points: 0

#13 by Jimmy // Jul 21, 2009 - 11:05am

I do get what you mean but would you honestly bet against Peyton Manning? He has put his team in the playoffs with such regularity, why won't he do it again?

Points: 0

#14 by CraigoMcL (not verified) // Jul 21, 2009 - 11:22am

I wouldn't bet against it, but I wouldn't be surprised. There are three other teams in that division, at least one of which is a definite title contender (the Titans), one of which is probably due for a rebound season (the Jags) and one of which is probably due for a breakthrough season (the Texans, though we've all been saying this for so many years).

If, like last year, oen of those teams beats the Colts for the AFCS championship, it's not hard to imagine one or two of their competitors, or the Ravens/Steelers, or Dolphins/Pats, or Chargers/Broncos (okay, maybe not the Fighting Ortons) beating them out for wild-card spots.

Again, out of division championship/wild-card/no playoffs, the last is probably the least likely. But it's not out of the question, as it would have been after the 2004-05 or 2007-08 seasons.

Points: 0

#16 by Reality Check (not verified) // Jul 21, 2009 - 4:42pm

No, it's not. Think regression to the mean. If the Colts missed the playoffs one year, the NEXT year would be the time to bet on them. But if a team consistently makes the playoffs, that is certainly NOT a reason to think they'll fail to make the playoffs.

Points: 0

#17 by t.d. // Jul 21, 2009 - 7:20pm

But if it's following the first major injury of their most important player's career, in his mid thirties, and they're breaking in a new staff, and they didn't win the division for the first time in seven years, maybe it isn't a time to bet on them.

Points: 0

#12 by CraigoMcL (not verified) // Jul 21, 2009 - 11:02am

Maybe I missed something, but these WR projections are necessarily tied QB projections, no? When it comes to Moss, I'm more worried about Brady's injury histry than his own. I can try to project a full 16-game season for Moss, but if Brady struggles even a little bit from rust or lingering injury, I don't see 15 TDs in his future.

Points: 0

Save 10%
& Support NO
Support Football Outsiders' independent media and NO NO. Use promo code WRITERS to save 10% on any FO+ membership and give half the cost of your membership to tip NO.