The Player Profile series breaks down the 2012 performances of key players at each position in order to project where they should be drafted in 2013. Dig in, read up, and look ahead.
Brandon Marshall, WR, Chicago Bears
Caveat: Marshall has been a guy I have not ever owned on any fantasy team. Exactly none of that has to do with his numbers, and it 100% has to do with what he has between the ears. At times, I felt like a genius for passing him up. And at others (like last year), I felt like a moron. I will do my best to do this without bias, but to me a diva wide receiver is someone I generally avoid trying to build around in fantasy.
Marshall’s targets were absolutely unreal last year. Marshall had over ten targets in twelve games last year, and had only two games with five or below. His eleven touchdowns were spread over nine games, which is a pretty good sign for having significant touchdown consistency. But fantasy owners care about points, and Marshall delivered them in bunches last year. He had only six games in standard scoring with fewer than ten points, and only two where he scored below five points.
Marshall delivered the big numbers, scoring fifteen or more points six times, and twenty or more points three times last year. These monster numbers made him the number two scoring wide receiver last year, behind only Megatron. In PPR he was even more of a beast, putting up the second most receptions in 2012 (again, next to Megatron).
But be wary, guys. Last year’s numbers were an abberation from his numbers on his career so far. He had the most yards, the most receptions, and the most touchdowns he has ever had on his career. While it is hard to doubt these numbers, especially in light of the targets (again, a career high), I have concern about paying for 2012 in 2013. Fantasy football would be an easy game if we drafted last year’s numbers. Fact is, we don’t. I urge you, not just with Marshall but with any player, to not be too in love with last year’s numbers. It is quite possible that last year was a career year for him.
Marshall is about to turn 29, he just had his best year, and I think his ADP is accounting for last season’s production. I think a top-five wideout is the right spot, but if I am building around wide receivers, I think I would look towards Green, Thomas, and Megatron first.
Reggie Wayne, WR, Indianapolis Colts
Reggie Wayne was a guy that plummeted in drafts last year, going near the end of the ninth round in ESPN drafts. After a pretty good season, particularly in PPR leagues, Wayne has shot right back up to be the 13th wide receiver off the board. Wayne’s bounce back, if you want to call it that, was nothing short of remarkable. He had five touchdowns all year to, as an example, James Jones’ 14, and they had the exact same number of points over the course of the season.
What really jumps out to me is Wayne’s targets. He was targeted ten or more times in twelve of sixteen games this season. He received eighteen or more targets three times last season, and received seventeen targets in the playoffs. Wayne never had fewer than seven targets in a game, and he only received seven targets once. In fact, in 2012, only Calvin Johnson received more targets than Wayne.
Now, I can sit here and yap on and on about targets, but the fact of the matter is Wayne had plenty of opportunity to score points last year. My only concern is that his opportunity didn’t always translate into what fantasy owners wanted: points. Wayne scored more than 15 points in standard leagues only once: Week 5 against Green Bay where he put up a monstrous 27 points. He went over 100 yards only three times, and (again) scored only five touchdowns. The result was nine single-digit performances.
While none of these are games that really kill you, I think a lot of the Wayne Train hype comes from the fact that he dropped so significantly last year. A team that had Wayne probably had him slated as a bench receiver. Wayne’s consistency was a huge advantage to teams that had already probably drafted most of their skill position players. That huge advantage does not necessarily exist when (as he is now) you draft Wayne as the top WR2 off the board.
In PPR leagues, I like Wayne quite a bit, as he was top-five in receptions in 2012. In standard leagues, however, I probably am passing on Wayne at his current draft slot, waiting a round to grab someone like Hakeem Nicks instead. Where Wayne is now is just a little bit too high for my tastes, but if he falls even half of a round come August, he provides tremendous value. That said, he’s undervalued in PPR formats.
Danario Alexander, WR, San Diego Chargers
Once the DX Train got rolling, it seemed like there was no stopping it. Alexander received targets in only eight games last season and scored an unbelievable seven touchdowns. In those eight games, Alexander had three 19-plus point performances. Part of me feared that this pace would push Alexander to where I felt he was undraftable, but as of right now he is the 23rd wide receiver off the board in most drafts, which equates to a low-end number two wideout.
The problem with DX going into this year will be sample size. In fairness to the numbers, DX did have two games played where he had a grand total of zero targets, and one game where he had just one catch (that happened to be for a touchdown.) My guess is that DX will be a fantasy darling to some big-name writers, which will cause the hype to get a little bit out of control.
Where Alexander is now, however, I think is absolutely ideal. You’re looking at Torrey Smith in his range (who I previously wrote about), Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings, and Stevie Johnson (who I also previously wrote about). Facts are facts: none of these guys is an absolute sure thing, and in this range I think a lot of it comes down to who you feel more confident rolling the dice on (with the exception of maybe Smith, who I think will get a ton of hype and love as well).
What I like about Alexander is that he has gotten a fair number of targets, but has also proven to be explosive. His monstrous 17.8 yards per reception (second only to Vincent Jackson in 2012) might not be repeatable long term, but there is a fairly good chance that the ability is there. I often posit whether it’s luck or skill (probably some combination of both) that leads to these huge yards per receptions numbers, and at 6’5”, Alexander does not seem to be your prototypical “speed receiver”. But at only 25 years-old when the season starts next year (Jordy Nelson will be 28, Stevie Johnson will be 27, and Greg Jennings will turn 30 in September), I think I’d like to bet on youth. Just be wary: the hype train may push him a bit too far up for my liking. Keep an eye on it as your draft approaches.