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Wisdom of Crowds Review: QBs and WRs

Wisdom of Crowds Review: QBs and WRs
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

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.


Joe Flacco

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.

Tarvaris Jackson

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.

Matt Ryan

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.

Drew Brees

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.

Wide Receivers

Brandon Marshall

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.

Miles Austin

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.

Mike Wallace

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.

Randy Moss

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.

Hines Ward

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.

Braylon Edwards

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.

Calvin Johnson

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.


8 comments, Last at 02 Mar 2011, 5:31pm

1 Re: Wisdom of Crowds Review: QBs and WRs

Edwards' catch rate was 52%, up from 47% in 2009 and 40% in 2008. He actually had the fewest number of dropped passes among the Jets' regular receivers.

2 Re: Wisdom of Crowds Review: QBs and WRs

I dunno about Stafford depressing Megatron's numbers. Stafford played in 2 of Detroit's 6 games against top-10 passing defenses (in for NYJ and CHI(1), out for CHI(2), GB (1-2), and NYG). Johnson was about 33% of Stafford's completions, until he got stranded on Revis Island for the Jets game.

Johnson was 15-342 in the 4 non-Stafford games and 5-58 in the 2 Stafford games, but he was basically blanked against the Jets. The numbers aren't much different, but Stafford and Johnson seem to communicate better than CJ does w/ Stanton or Hill, and Stafford seems adept at fitting the ball into places where only CJ can get it, and is willing to and capable of making those passes.

As to Stafford's viability, that's purely a health questions. The Lions just flat out look like a better offense with him in than they do with him out.

7 Re: Wisdom of Crowds Review: QBs and WRs

You've got 3 game sample sizes for Stafford and Stanton, and you think that has any value?

The Lions used an odd game plan in the Chicago game, functionally going into a shell until trailing in the 4th quarter (after Stafford got hurt), where they went into hurry-up with Hill and started throwing the ball around. Had you flipped the QBs for that game, Stafford would get a sizeable boost and Hill would take a hit.

4 Re: Wisdom of Crowds Review: QBs and WRs

"He was pretty quiet in the playoffs until that scary Super Bowl performance"

Mike Wallace was decent in the Super Bowl but I don't think many were wowed by him.

8 Re: Wisdom of Crowds Review: QBs and WRs

I think that may be a reference specifically to the TD catch. If I recall correctly the Audibles column may have said that his ability to get separation so quickly on that play could be "scary" if it proved to be a preview of something we will see with regularity from Wallace going forward.

5 Re: Wisdom of Crowds Review: QBs and WRs

Of course, Austin's numbers are a bit low because their starting QB went down mid-season. This isn't to say that Austin would have hit his projected numbers or anything, but it certainly must be a factor in his low production.

6 Re: Wisdom of Crowds Review: QBs and WRs

Miles was on an absolute tear with Romo, too. He was #1 in DYAR (and possibly DVOA as well, but I'm not sure about it) and averaged almost 100 ypg. Then Kitna came and he dropped off to being just above-average.

What's funny is that Roy Williams was also having a pretty nice season with Romo (and then somehow was unable to connect with former teammate Jon Kitna). No one remembers that, but given the fact that I expect Roy to get one more year in Dallas, it could be a good sign for him.