Wide receiver or running back? That was the big question for most owners in the first couple rounds of their draft this past season. Running backs were still the more popular pick, with 13 of the first 24 being running backs, to only eight being receivers. The rest were mainly quarterbacks, with the other player being Jimmy Graham.
There is a perception that the top receivers were more reliable than the top running backs. Does this hold true? Well, let’s take a look.
To figure this out I took the first 24 RB/WR drafted according to the ADP on FantasyPros. I then compared it to the top 24 RB/WR after the season in standard scoring leagues. Here are the results:
- Six of the 14 running backs did not finish in the top 24.
- Compared to just two of the 10 receivers finishing outside the top 24.
So according to this, that perception would be correct. What this means is I had to dig a bit deeper to find the receivers that the “experts” were wrong about — but don’t worry there were plenty. It also means that the RB/RB strategy to me is no longer a strategy I will be using going forward.
Wide Receivers Worse Than We Thought
Cordarrelle Patterson was hyped up more than any unproven player that I can remember in recent history. His speed, versatility and — probably most of all — Norv Turner being his new offensive coordinator had a lot to do with his preseason WR ranking being 18th.
A pretty good preseason, made his stock rise, as well. One week into the season and Patterson looked like he was to be worth way more than that, catching three passes for 26 yards, but best of all rushing for 102 yards and a touchdown.
It never got better than that, though. In fact, the rest of the season is quite forgettable, as his route running was not good and he just couldn’t get separation from the defense. Rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater probably didn’t help much either, since he did not light the world on fire himself. However, he was able to turn sophomore receiver Charles Johnson into a start-able wide receiver down the stretch, so it can’t all be on Bridgewater. Patterson was dropped in most leagues, rightly so, and will at best be a late-round flier in leagues next season.
“What were you thinking with Cordarelle Patterson?” I don’t have an explanation for that.
— Matthew Berry (@MatthewBerryTMR) January 22, 2015
The quarterback situation in Arizona was not good this season, with Carson Palmer being injured for all but six games. The backups were exactly that — backups, and it really hurt the value of any Cardinals receiver. I could mention Michael Floyd, but I’m afraid it might bring up too many bad memories. Instead, I’m going to discuss Larry Fitzgerald.
After a promising 2013, where we saw Fitzgerald rebound from a poor 2012, scoring 10 touchdowns, Fitzgerald was 13th in the preseason rankings. He had a good stretch of games, which coincided with Palmer playing, between Weeks 6 and 10. It was not enough, though, and the bad quarterback play the rest of the season landed him as the 55th receiver in standard leagues (51st in PPR).
Keenan Allen came alive in Week 12 and 13 to score a total of 38 points in standard leagues (55 in PPR), but he went back into his shell scoring a total of one point in Weeks 14 and 15. A shoulder injury knocked him out the last two weeks of the season, but by that point, owners were more than ready to bench him, if they had not already. It was such a letdown season, after a very good rookie campaign that got him ranked 10th by the experts to start the season.
There really is not much explanation as to why he struggled. Perhaps defenses focused on him more in an offense that lacked other major receiver threats? He was targeted 16 more times in one less game in 2014 compared to 2013, yet only caught six more passes. The biggest reasons for the drop in Fantasy points is he scored just four times and his yards per catch dropped to 10.2 (eight TDs and 14.7 ypc in 2013). Because of the drop in touchdowns and yards, he was borderline unusable in standard leagues, finishing as the 48th-ranked receiver. However, in PPR, the 77 catches bumped him all the way up to 37th, making him a reasonable flex play.
The Redskins’ passing game was not a complete mess, as DeSean Jackson did very well despite inconsistent play. Pierre Garcon, on the other hand, was a disaster. After a 2013 campaign when he led the league in targets and receptions, he was a popular receiver being ranked 14th in standard leagues and 11th in PPR. His ranking probably would have been a bit higher if not for the signing of Jackson, but it didn’t affect him too much.
There was no way to know how inept the Redskins offense was going to be this season, scoring the seventh-least amount of points in the NFL. In fact, the more popular opinion was that with Robert Griffin III a full year removed from knee surgery, the Redskins were going to be a very high-powered offense, especially with the signing of Jackson. Well, struggles and more injuries to RGIII all season long clearly affected Garcon. So much so, that his final season ranking was 54th in standard leagues and 47th in PPR.
Wide Receivers Better Than We Thought
I mentioned Odell Beckham Jr. saving Eli Manning’s season in the quarterbacks article, so it is only fitting that I bring up OBJ here. Beckham was ranked as the 78th receiver and unlikely drafted in your league. Even though, he only played 12 games, he still finished as the fifth-best receiver in standard leagues and actually finished with the highest average points per games played in both standard and PPR leagues.
This was hard to predict, because obviously the injury to Victor Cruz played a big part of it. However, OBJ proved that he is more than capable of playing in the NFL, with his amazing plays over and over again, but nobody could predict a rookie playing like he did. I’m not sure where I will rank him next year, but he will probably be a popular first-round pick. I would be careful with that because Cruz will be back and it will affect OBJ’s output.
OBJ might have been the cream of this rookie crop, but we can’t forget about the other rookies. To list a few, Mike Evans, Kelvin Benjamin, Jordan Matthews and Sammy Watkins all out-performed their preseason ranking. Even though this happened, their preseason ranking, in my opinion, was justified.
The fact of the matter is rookie wide receivers typically do not perform well. To have as many Fantasy relevant rookie wide receivers as we did this season was just crazy. Honestly, I can’t explain why there was so much rookie success, but one thought is that the more strict rules for defensive secondaries have made the transition to the NFL much easier. I’m not sold on that idea completely, but this year’s success and that idea will definitely be in my head when I make my rankings next season.
Steve Smith Sr. was thought to be on the downswing of his career, having one of the worst seasons of his career in Carolina in 2013. This season, he moved to Baltimore, which was not known for its high-powered passing game, so the preseason ranking of 51 was actually high to me. Well, he proved me and just about all the other experts wrong catching 79 passes for 1,065 yards and six touchdowns and he finished the season in standard league scoring as the 20th WR. He looked like a man possessed at times, especially when he faced his old team, putting up a 25-spot on them. Joe Flacco relied on him more in the short passing game, especially with Dennis Pitta out for the season early on.
I’m not really sure why we all missed on Brandon LaFell as bad as we did, ranking him the 79th wide receiver. After a fairly slow start, it appeared all the experts were right, as he had zero catches through two games and just four through three games. That changed quickly, though. In the fourth game, he caught six passes for 119 yards and a touchdown. This propelled him to a good season, finishing as the 21st-best receiver. The crowded receiving corps probably had a lot to do with his preseason ranking, I know it did for me. We all knew Julian Edelman was going to be the Patriots leading receiver, but with Danny Amendola, Kembrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson and don’t forget Rob Gronkowski, it was very easy to forget about LaFell. He more than proved us wrong this season, and will be a great WR2/WR3 to target in 2015.
Cordarrelle Patterson Photo Credit: Rick Burtzel
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