Fantasy: Evaluating WR and TE Breakout Predictions

| January 8, 2012

Before the season began, we took a look at some potential WR/TE breakouts using some PFF statistics and caveats such as playing time, injuries, etc. Now that the fantasy season is over, we’ll investigate how those players ended up doing and what we learned from each of them, if anything.

Kenny Britt – The early results looked promising with a Week 1 line of 5/136/2 and a Week 2 line of 9/135/1. Then Britt went down with an ACL injury, and the rest, as they say, was history. Although it was a small sample size, it’s clear Britt has the talent to be a #1 fantasy WR as I mentioned in the preseason article. Assuming he looks good in training camp next year, I fully expect him to be targeted as a WR2 across the board given his gamechanging nature. Again, not much else to say since his season was sadly cut short.

Lance Moore – Moore ended the season with a 52/627/8 line. Not great, but not bad. This put him as a top 35 WR in PPR scoring formats, right around the ADP he was being drafted. One of the more encouraging signs was that 6 of his TDs came in the last half of the season, and it’s clear Drew Brees enjoyed targeting him around the redzone. However, it’s clear Moore is an iffy play in PPR leagues next year given his nagging injuries and several games with less than 5 receptions. Moore is a WR3 with the right matchup, and likely a WR3 or WR4 come your draft time next year, dependent on situation of course.

Dez Bryant – Bryant should have had a thousand-yard season, but early injuries held him from that and he ended up with a 63/928/3 stat line. Two things stood out about him, though. First, some of the Cowboys play-calling was atrocious when it came to passing the ball. I saw countless situations where Bryant was lined up in easy 1 on 1 situations, yet the ball ended up going somewhere else. Second, those touchdowns will likely go up next year despite the presence of other receiving talent in Dallas. Why? Mainly because Bryant is the single most talented player on the Cowboys offense, and that should lead to scores. Remember the year Jason Witten had 2 touchdowns then followed it up with 9 in 2010? Could be the same situation here. I’m still high on Dez in 2012.

Earl Bennett – A flop mainly due to his injuries. Bennett only played in 11 games, and several of those were still limited by injuries. Regardless, with the Matt Forte show in town, Jay Cutler didn’t have to chuck the ball much, and when he did, he spread it around quite a bit. In fact, the most targeted Chicago WR on the season was Johnny Knox, and he was the 65th-most targeted WR in the NFL with 64 targets. Bennett is likely waiver wire fodder next year unless the WR corps is shaken up somehow, but he’s still a name to keep in mind in deep PPR leagues.

Demaryius Thomas – Here’s what you need to know: Thomas was injured for the first chunk of the season. However, in the last 5 games of the year, Thomas registered a very solid 25/448/3 line and quickly became Tim Tebow’s favorite target. Over the course of 16 games, that line becomes 80/1433/10. He obviously won’t come near that next year, but the fact remains that when healthy, he’s a sneaky good play regardless of QB situation. Depending on ADP, I wouldn’t mind him in a WR3 tandem with a more reliable/safer WR next year.

Ben Obomanu – Obomanu had a similar year in 2011 to his 2010, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. He did have opportunity, but that opportunity was seized by Doug Baldwin more than anyone. Obomanu was purely a flier, so this likely didn’t damage anyone’s fantasy team luckily. Obomanu’s pass rating in 2011 plummeted to -6.8, which put him as a bottom 10 WR in the NFL.  A large part of this was simply not beating coverage he should have. At this point, Obomanu isn’t a fantasy consideration in 2012.

Jimmy Graham – I told you all to draft him as a TE1 and said he could become an elite TE within a couple of years. However, I didn’t expect this type of production. Graham was the second-best TE in the league this year in both fantasy and real life, and as we see a shift towards pass catching TEs in the NFL, he could be a stud for years to come. A big win with this pick.

Arrelious Benn – Benn had a couple things working against him. One, he didn’t play a full host of snaps during the season (510 total) due to inconsistency and injuries and Dezmon Briscoe/Preston Parker getting more playtime. Two, Josh Freeman turned into an absolute dude, as did the rest of the Buccaneers, and every Tampa Bay players’ fantasy stats dropped off as a result. Benn is always going to be someone to keep in mind over the next couple of years because of what he MAY be able to do. Just don’t be surprised if he never actually does anything impactful in fantasy circles. His -4.7 pass rating this year justifies that.

Austin Collie – I think we all know what happened here: talent absolutely wasted when Peyton Manning wasn’t able to play. Surprisingly, Collie actually had a so-so second half of the season with a 34/331/1 line. I may actually look at him at the back end of drafts if the Colts get Manning healthy or draft Andrew Luck, as Pierre Garcon may be gone and it’s not like Collie’s talent suddenly vanished into thin air.

Jerome Simpson – Simpson performed right around ADP this year, with a 50/725/4 line. Andy Dalton performed better than expected, but so did A.J. Green, leaving Simpson’s upside fairly capped in most situations when Green was on the field. Despite that, he provided low-end PPR WR3 or flex value in about half of his games, and had a few big ones. For 2012, he seems like a bench pick at best, as A.J. Green is clearly the focal point of the passing game, and he needs to be more consistent on a weekly basis before being recommended as a true WR3.

Emmanuel Sanders – Injuries really did him in, as did the emergence of Antonio Brown. At this point, Mike Wallace and Brown are the clear-cut top receiving options on the Steelers, leaving Sanders as an ‘only if injuries strike’ option for 2012. He may not even be a late round flier at this point depending what else the Steelers do to their team, because it’s clear it’s going to be a struggle for him to make it healthy through a 16 game season. Luckily I called out his injury issues in the preseason article, so hopefully none of you jumped the gun too much!

Danario Alexander – Boy, was the Rams offense derailed this season. Between Sam Bradford regressing, offensive line suckitude, WR injuries, etc, the Rams were historically bad, and their fantasy players felt the brunt of it. Alexander actually registered a respectable +3.3 overall rating, and had a 26/431/2 line in only 10 injury riddled games… and thus the huge caveat in the preseason article. It seems Alexander won’t be able to stay healthy for a full season, which is a shame, because he really does have the talent to stretch the field, and he averaged over 5 targets per game in partial snaps. Again, nothing more than an upside flier in 2012.

David Nelson – A pretty nice hit considering he wasn’t drafted in the majority of leagues. Nelson started the year off with a bang then cooled off when he was moved out of the slot and Buffalo’s offense slowed down. Regardless, he ended the season with a 61/658/5 line, which made him a top-35 PPR WR. I suspect he’ll retain about the same value for next season depending on personnel changes, although interesting his YAC/rec increased handily while his yds/rec decreased, likely a product of being in the slot a bit more.

All in all, guys from this list I’m targeting next year given solid value are: Britt, Moore, Bryant, Thomas, Graham, Alexander, and possibly Nelson. We’ll have another edition of potential breakouts sometime during the offseason!

  • nkorzun

    Dez had 9 TD’s this year not 3

  • nkorzun

    Also E.Sanders was held out a little extra toward the end of the year due to losing his mother. As u saw yesterday he will be a big part of the offense next year as his is the best route runner in Young $.