Free agency 2013 is a little more than a week old and the staff at Pro Football Focus: Fantasy has been all over it. The extensive list of rapid reactions from PFF can be seen here, but I wanted to dig a little deeper and rank the five big moves among wide receivers this year. Sure, everyone has new hope once they get to a new team, but whose fantasy stock rose more, Percy Harvin or Danny Amendola? Greg Jennings or Mike Wallace?
This article is going to talk about the five big moves among wide receivers: Wes Welker to Denver, Danny Amendola to New England, Greg Jennings to Minnesota, Mike Wallace to Miami, and Percy Harvin to Seattle.
Jennings, Wallace, and Welker have all been big names in fantasy for the past few seasons, and Harvin and Amendola caught some serious attention last season. So which one of these five players gets the biggest upgrade with their new team and new quarterback? Whose stock falls the most? Is there room for any of them in the top 12, or did all of these moves just shake up the middle of the pack?
This will be a two-part series, with the first part ranking the five receivers in order of positive fantasy impact. The second part will rank the eight quarterbacks affected by the moves. Let’s get to it.
Risers And Fallers
The chart below shows each receiver’s 2012 quarterback’s PFF passer rating in comparison to the quarterback they will be playing with next season.
|2012 QB||2013 QB||Difference|
High Riser – Danny Amendola
Based solely on the chart above, Harvin receives the biggest boost in quarterback play, with a PFF passing grade difference of 48.3 (based on 2012 numbers). However, health permitting, Amendola is clearly the biggest beneficiary from this group of five.
Amendola moves from Sam Bradford to Tom Brady, which is a 33.5 jump in quarterback passing grades, according to PFF. Despite trailing Harvin in the quarterback upgrade department on paper, let’s be real: It’s Tom Brady. Also, Amendola is joining a system in New England that has heavily relied on a player with Amendola’s skill set for the last six seasons — Wes Welker.
Welker was one of the five most-targeted wide receivers in three of the past four years in New England. If Amendola’s targets were extrapolated over 16 full games, he would have reached top-5 territory in terms of targets. It’s fair to assume that Amendola will be one of the most-targeted receivers in the league next season. Obviously, Amendola has a history of injuries, and it almost seems foolish to think Amendola will play 16 games, which makes him the epitome of high risk, high reward. I think his ceiling is low-end WR1 range (bold, I know). His floor is a preseason injury. Realistically, he ends up as a strong WR2.
Among all starting quarterbacks, Brady had the shortest average time between the snap and the throw at 2.47 seconds. The Patriots have a solid offensive line (31.6 pass block rating in 2012), so Brady’s low snap-to-throw time is a result of his quick release.
Amendola and Welker both had low aDOTs last season, 7.9 and 7.6, respectively. That means that Brady’s quick release won’t be an issue for Amendola; he’s used to getting the ball shortly after the snap. Where Amendola needs to prove he was worth letting Welker walk is in his yards after the catch. Amendola’s YAC/rec. was just 4.1, a full 1.6 yards behind Welker.
His YAC average figures to increase with the upgrade at quarterback, but it is still an area of concern. NFL researcher Scott Kacsmar recently pointed out that Amendola has the lowest Yards Per Catch (min. 100 receptions) in NFL history, which is one reason why Kacsmar called Amendola a poor man’s Welker.
He may appear to be a poor man’s Welker, but I think Amendola will absolutely thrive in New England. A superstar quarterback and an offense designed specifically for his skill set leads me to conclude that Amendola was the highest riser among these five receivers this offseason.
Riser – Percy Harvin
Harvin joined the Seahawks and they instantly become one of the most loaded offenses in fantasy football, which is weird to write considering Seattle’s recent history.
Harvin excelled in the nine games he played last season, especially when compared to the other four receivers in this group:
Harvin’s 0.41 PPS were highest among all receivers by season’s end. Through Week 9, Harvin had the fourth-most points in PPR leagues, behind only Brandon Marshall, A.J. Green, and Victor Cruz.
What makes Harvin a riser, though? It’s the upgrade at quarterback. I’m not entirely sold on Russell Wilson being the next great short quarterback, but I don’t doubt it either. Regardless, Wilson versus Christian Ponder is a no-brainer.
Wilson was 77.1 percent accurate last season, fourth highest among all quarterbacks. Ponder, on the other hand, was at 72.1 percent accuracy, squeezed in between Brandon Weeden and Ryan Tannehill. It could be worse (Mark Sanchez, 65.6 percent accuracy), but there’s no denying that Wilson is a big upgrade over Ponder.
Additionally, Wilson had a lot of time in the pocket. His average snap-to-throw was 3.35 seconds, 0.28 seconds faster than the next best average. Only three other quarterbacks had more than 2.9 seconds to throw. More time in the pocket for the quarterback means more time for a player like Harvin (or anyone, for that matter) to get open.
I almost picked Harvin for the position of Highest Riser, but the Seattle offense is not designed to benefit Harvin quite as much as New England’s is designed to benefit Amendola. Either way, Harvin should end the season as a WR1 in PPR leagues.
Flatliner – Wes Welker
This one is relatively obvious. Welker goes from one living legend to another. Brady’s snap-to-throw time was 2.47 seconds, lowest in the league – and Welker thrived. Manning’s snap-to-throw time? Two and a half seconds on the nose, second lowest in the league. No real difference there, Welker is familiar with the way a player of Manning’s caliber plays the game.
The biggest changes Welker will experience is the loss of the one mind he seemed to share with Brady at times, but it’s entirely possible he picks that up with Manning.
Some might argue that Manning has too many weapons at his disposal now, but that won’t mean anything. Welker will still get his. Manning was able to make Eric Decker a top-10 option among wide receivers last season. Eric Decker! The Broncos figure to work exclusively out of three-wide sets next season, so Welker won’t be at a loss for snaps, either. In fact, that might be the one area Welker gets an upgrade – snap count. Welker gets a wait-and-see downgrade simply because he was always on the same page with Brady, and it simply remains to be seen if that connection is made with Manning.
Welker ends next season as a WR1 option in PPR leagues. Then again, he would have ended next season as a WR1 option in PPR leagues if he had stayed in New England. I don’t see any significant changes to Welker’s numbers here; he was an easy choice for Flatliner.
Fallin’ – Mike Wallace
To be fair – though Mike Wallace wouldn’t like hearing this – he would have qualified for the “Fallin’” category last season. His status as Fallin’ is more because of him and less because of the team he went to. If the Flatliner section had two opening slots, Wallace would occupy one of them.
He was still an electric deep threat last season, but his status as an enigma hasn’t changed. Wallace had six games in which he had three or fewer receptions, and nine games in which he had four or fewer. That’s not what you want out of a guy that’s supposed to be a borderline WR1, high-end WR2 for your team.
Going back to the chart showing PPS and PPO (above), Wallace was well behind Amendola, Welker, and Harvin in those two categories. At times, it seemed like he was a forgotten piece of Pittsburgh’s offense despite his undeniable talent.
It’s possible that with the change of teams, Wallace will become more of a focal point of the offense and won’t disappear for the majority of the game. However, Wallace is not all go, all the time, and is overly reliant on his ability to score the 80-yard touchdown. Granted, that 80-yard touchdown is probably the highlight of a fantasy owner’s week, but when it happens it puts a rose tint on owners’ glasses that covers all of Wallace’s flaws.
Wallace goes from Ben Roethlisberger to Ryan Tannehill at quarterback. On the surface, that seems like a big drop. However, as noted above, Wallace was sometimes forgotten in Pittsburgh. The Dolphins will want to play with their shiny new toy, so I think Wallace’s skill (and mind) set will be put to the test next season. That’s the biggest thing holding him back in my books.
Let’s compare Roethlisberger and Tannehill in the category Wallace owners care most about: deep passing. Tannehill was 43.1 percent accurate on his deep passes last season, seventh best in the league. Roethlisberger was only 31.9 percent accurate. Both quarterbacks only attempted a deep ball 10.5 percent of the time, among the lowest averages in the league.
So, Wallace ends up in the Fallin’ category because I think that as a player he is falling and that maybe he just isn’t as good as we all thought he was. He still makes some spectacular plays here and there, but his head isn’t in the game often enough for me to consider him anything more than a low-end WR2, whereas last year I considered him a low-end WR1.
Free Fallin’ – Greg Jennings
Similar to Wallace, Jennings wasn’t as efficient as Welker, Harvin, or Amendola with his time on the field last season. He only played in eight games due to injury, and while his absence was noticeable, it made him expendable in Green Bay. He’s getting older, and it’s starting to show.
The above chart does not encompass everything that can be said, but it does highlight the fact that Jennings scored the fewest PPG among these five wideouts last season. And that was with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. Next season? Christian Ponder (or Matt Cassel).
Here is the first chart again, showing the difference between each one of these wide receiver’s quarterback’s 2012 PFF grade compared to their new quarterback’s grade:
|2012 QB||2013 QB||Difference|
Jennings is getting a drop of 58.5 PFF rating points at the quarterback position. That’s a huge difference, and one that he simply isn’t talented enough to overcome on his own.
I don’t think Jennings is a bad player; I just think it’s foolish for people to expect Jennings to put up Jennings circa 2011 numbers next season with the Vikings. Jennings had one big game last season – and it came in Week 17 when nobody was playing fantasy football anyways.
So, there you have it. Amendola’s stock went up the most while Jennings fell the furthest. Only Welker and Harvin should finish next season as WR1 options among this group of five, but don’t be shocked if Amendola scratches the surface. Coming up next will be Part 2: How Each Quarterback Fared.
Five receivers moved teams and eight quarterbacks will feel the impact next season: Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Sam Bradford, Christian Ponder, Ryan Tannehill, Russell Wilson, and Aaron Rodgers. Any early guesses as to which quarterback will be crowned bigger winner and bigger loser?
Have any questions or comments? Let Tyler know @PFF_Loechner.