2012 ADP vs. Reality: WRs

Chet Gresham
April 30, 2013
Matchups: SNF & MNF
Evan Silva analyzes the matchups for each fantasy-relevant player in the Week 10 SNF and MNF games

So far in this series I’ve looked over the ADP/Reality ratio of quarterbacks and running backs. As you might have guessed, quarterbacks are the more stable, i.e. overly protected, of the two and live up to their Average Draft Positions more readily. This week I’m going to look at wide receivers and how well their ADP holds up.

Calvin Johnson – ADP 1 (Finish 1) – Megatron lived up to his number one ADP quite well in 2012. He now holds the record for the most receiving yards in a season and was able to lead all receivers in fantasy points with a measly five touchdowns! Yes, I think that deserves an exclamation point.

Megatron caught a touchdown every 12 receptions in '07, 6.5 in '08, 13.4 in '09, 6.4 in '10, 6.0 in '11, and a whopping 24.4 in '12. For his career, including last season’s numbers, Johnson has caught one touchdown per nine receptions.  If you give him that ratio for last season, he ends up with 13.5 touchdowns instead of five. That kind of season puts his fantasy numbers into Carl Sagan territory.

So, the touchdowns should go back up, but of course the career highs in yardage and receptions should fall back to human-like numbers. For us fantasy players, those touchdowns are important. As you’ll see further down, another receiver almost knocked Megatron out of the top spot, but had 400+ fewer receiving yards.

Larry Fitzgerald – ADP 2 (Finish 41) – Oh, so was Fitzgerald hurt in 2012? He must have played half a season to finish as the 41st best fantasy wide receiver, right? No and no. Fitzgerald had career lows in about every possible way last season and played in all 16 games. Of course we can look at the horrid quarterback play to shed some light on last year, but even with awful quarterbacks in 2011, Fitzgerald caught 80 passes for 1,411 yards and eight touchdowns on 153 targets. In 2012, on exactly the same amount of targets, he had 71 receptions for 798 yards and 4 TDs.

Amazingly the quarterback play declined from 2011 to 2012. I know it’s hard to believe, but looking at Pro Football Focus’ catchable target numbers would make any Cardinals’ fan run in horror. According to Pro Football Focus’ data, since '08 Larry Fitzgerald has caught 40 of 42 catchable passes of 20 yards or more. That is awesome. He is awesome. It would be hard not to put him as 1-2 with Calvin Johnson in ability. But here is the opposite of those awesome numbers; in 2012 he only had two catchable targets over 20 yards. He went ahead and caught those two, but had 24 non-catchable targets over 20 yards, that yes, he did not catch. Twenty-four!

If you get the ball where he can catch it, he will go ahead and catch it. Carson Palmer isn’t going to make the Cardinals great, but it’s hard not to believe he can’t help Fitzgerald at least return to top 10 status, which isn’t saying that much, since Fitzgerald is a top 3 receiver.

Andre Johnson – ADP 3 (Finish 7) – Last season A.J. had his second highest reception total and highest yardage total for his career. But of course that didn’t coincide with a high in touchdown receptions when he finished with a paltry four. Much like Calvin Johnson, Andre had a career low in touchdowns per receptions with one for every 28 receptions.  And for Johnson to have a career low in a stat that he’s always lagged in, you know it was bad.

The Texans were a run first and run in the red zone team and it hurt Johnson’s touchdown numbers. His career high is only nine touchdowns in 2009, but that would have been a huge boost to his fantasy numbers, elevating him to the third best fantasy receiver in the league, right at his ADP.

Johnson will be 32 before the start of next season and he has had injury issues in the past, so there are some warning flags to heed, but after a close to career year at 31 and a Texans team that will still be without a viable option in the passing game outside of Johnson, he’ll be on my radar once again.

Julio Jones – ADP 4 (Finish 9) – Jones was one of the most explosive and inconsistent wide receivers of 2012.  For some reason he did the bulk of his damage on the road, with 119 of his 173 fantasy points away from Atlanta.  More than anything, that just shows his inconsistency from game to game rather than a fear of domes.

The demise of Roddy White and ascension of Jones is what many thought would allow him to be a top 5 receiver, but it was a battle all season as to which of the two would be the top dog. Jones found the end zone more, but White was the yardage and reception leader once again. But just because that switch didn’t completely take place in ’12 doesn’t mean it isn’t inevitable and happening. Jones will be in my top-5 this year.

Greg Jennings – ADP 4 (Finish 74) – When Jennings isn’t hurt, he still has some juice, as seen in the last two weeks of the season when he caught 15 passes and three touchdowns, but one thing he hasn’t been lately is healthy.

His 2013 outlook will be contingent on Christian Ponder taking a step up, but as long as he’s healthy, he will be the main target in Minnesota.

Roddy White – ADP 5 (Finish 10) – Reports of his death were greatly exaggerated, but the uptick in production from the Falcons passing game was the main reason White was able to stay a top-10 fantasy receiver. With the increase in production for Matt Ryan, Jones and White were able to both finish top-10, but if there was a bigger disparity between the two we would have seen more of a top 5 and top 15 split.  It seems inevitable that Jones will widen that gap next season, but White is still a top receiver, especially in PPR leagues.

A.J. Green – ADP 7 (Finish 4) – 2012 was a great year for Green, but a comparatively slow end to the season colored some fantasy players’ perception of his season.  He went on a touchdown binge from weeks 2 to 10 grabbing 10 in those nine games which made it nearly impossible for him to live up to those numbers in the second half, much like Calvin Johnson in 2011.  But all those who bought into him being a top 5 receiver were exactly correct and there’s no reason to think he won’t be top 5 once again coming into 2013.

Unlike Calvin Johnson, he doesn’t accumulate fantasy points based on a pass first offense, but he’s just that good and is a red zone machine. That shouldn’t change.

Wes Welker – ADP 8 (Finish 11) – Welker was coming off his best season ever in 2011, so comparing his 2012 isn’t quite fair, but his 2012 was still his second highest receiving yardage total for his career with 1,354 and his third best receptions total with 118. His touchdown totals are always what hurts him in non-PPR leagues and that didn’t change last season with 6 total touchdowns. But there’s nothing to show he had slowed down, and he came very close to his ADP.

His move to Denver is positive in the sense that he still has a top quarterback throwing to him, but it’s most likely a negative in targets. Last season he was fourth in the league in total targets with 175. The Broncos receivers, Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker had 141 and 122 respectively. Welker will most likely cut into Decker’s targets the most, but if the Broncos go to a more up-tempo offense and Welker gets Brandon Stokley’s targets and some of Dreesen’s and Tamme’s as well, we could see all three Bronco wide receivers having high fantasy ceilings.  In 2004 Manning put together one of the best wide receiver trios of all time with Reggie Wayne 77/1210/12, Marvin Harrison 86/1113/15, and Brandon Stokley 68/1077/10.

Brandon Marshall – ADP 9 (Finish 2) – Marshall finished the season even higher than most of his owners could have imagined. Reuniting with Jay Cutler was just what he needed to rise back to fantasy stardom, that, and getting 40% of all the Bears targets with a total of 192 on the year. The second most targeted receiver on the team was Earl Bennett with 49, just 143 less.

The good news for Marshall is that he’ll still be the main guy in a more up-tempo offense. If Bennett and Alshon Jeffery can stay healthy they’ll get a bigger percentage of the targets than last season, but Marshall should still see a high number.

Victor Cruz – ADP 10 (Finish 13) – Cruz didn’t quite live up to expectations last season, but also wasn’t a bust by any stretch of the imagination. His yards per reception took a big hit, going from 18.7 in 2011 to 12.7 in 2012, while his receptions and touchdowns were bumped up slightly.  18.7 yards per reception was an outlier and we can expect that number to stay closer to 12.7 for his career, with room for some growth.  As long as he’s playing Week one, there’s no reason not to expect another good season for Cruz.

The Usurpers

Those were the top 10 wide receivers in ADP, and now I’ll take a look at who went from outside the top 10 ADP to finish in the Reality Top 10.

Dez Bryant – ADP 14 (Finish 3) – Well, it seemed like it took Bryant forever to get his head on straight and play like the stud he should be, but in reality, his numbers are quite comparable to other stud-like receivers over their first three years.  His 27 touchdowns in his first three seasons ranks sixth in the Super Bowl era for wide receivers. In the second half of last season he caught a whopping 10 touchdowns. If you don’t think the light has turned on for him, you need to open your eyes. His upside in 2013 is sky high.

Demaryius Thomas – ADP 18 (Finish 5) – There was no doubt that Thomas would have an easier path with Peyton Manning throwing him the ball, but his top 5 finish was a nice surprise. He had an extremely consistent season for a wide receiver with only two games where he had under 77 yards without a touchdown. Manning was able to feed both him and Eric Decker and now has a new dependent named Wes Welker. Thomas looks to be the least affected by the addition of Welker and could benefit from a more up-tempo and diversified offense.

Vincent Jackson – ADP 21 (Finish 6) – The move from Philip Rivers to Josh Freeman wasn’t as much of a step down as many predicted. And according to his fantasy finish it was a step up. Jackson was always a deep threat in San Diego averaging 17.5 yards per reception in his seven years there and that didn’t change in Tampa Bay where he averaged 19.2 yards per reception. It really is a testament to his ability to be able to make a big move and have a career year in his first season with a new team.

The Buccaneers’ offense should be even better in the second year of Doug Martin and Jackson and really the only thing that could slow down the offensive numbers for Jackson is a better defense allowing the offense to play with a lead.

Eric Decker – ADP 25 (Finish 7) – This article has more Denver receivers than an Orange Crush commercial. Well, if they let receivers in those. Decker benefitted greatly from Manning as well as the city of Denver and Papa Johns.  His 13 touchdowns were the second most for a wide receiver last season and were the key to his high fantasy finish. But those touchdowns weren’t a fluke. Decker’s 6’3” 220 pound frame makes for a good red zone target and even with the addition of Wes Welker, another double digit touchdown season is likely.

As you can see, six wide receivers that were predicted to be top 10 fantasy players finished as such, while four fell out of the top 10.  They are more consistent than running backs and slightly less consistent than quarterbacks. This follows with what we’ve known for a while now, but what you do with that information depends on your philosophy of drafting.