What Went Wrong: Michael Floyd
Preseason prognostications annually miss their mark, both above and below their target—and often by a wide margin. Perhaps no fantasy asset was more over-hyped in 2014, and ultimately delivered less, than Michael Floyd. He was almost universally touted as the breakout wideout, and few swung and missed harder than I did.
The above-linked article, in which I projected a No. 10 wide receiver finish, now reads like the kind of fantasy literature that has its own booth at Comic Con. Although it did make sense, at the time. The RotoViz Similarity Score App’s low projection was dismissed, “short of an injury—or five—to key members of Arizona’s offense or to Floyd himself.” While both occurred, his disappointing season can’t be explained away solely by injury luck.
Floyd dealt with groin and knee woes, particularly while posting a Week 8 goose egg against the Eagles, and Carson Palmer played four full games in which the wideout was healthy (Weeks 1, 6, 7, and 9). While he didn’t exactly light it up, Floyd averaged four catches, 63 yards, and 0.5 touchdowns in those games. That’s 9.1 fantasy points per game, which would have ranked 26th among wideouts for the full season. In all other games, he produced 6.9 points per game, good for a 43rd-place full-season ranking.
In those four highlighted games, Floyd averaged 8.3 targets from Palmer, which extrapolates to 133 over a full season. In his other 12 contests, Floyd saw six looks per game. That’s 96 targets over a 16 game season, and 37 fewer than the “healthy Palmer games” extrapolation. Also, and we’ll see why this matters below, Floyd’s average depth of target (aDOT) in the four-game sample was 15.2 yards, whereas the other 12 games produced a 20.2-yard aDOT.
Yet, even if he were the No. 26 receiver, that’s still a long way from top 10 territory. It also falls short of his MyFantasyLeague average draft position (ADP) as the 23rd wideout selected in standard scoring leagues. In 2013, his receiver ADP was 48, and he finished as the No. 23 receiver, but, in 2014, he returned negative equity as the No. 33 receiver.
That wasn’t even the worst thing about rostering Floyd, whose weekly scoring fluctuations essentially rendered him an unusable fantasy commodity. Getting out in front of trends like this would have required Miss Cleo level clairvoyance:
In a perversely comical twist, Floyd’s best weekly finish occurred in his 16th game (WR2)—and helped no one but the most daring of DFS dart-throwers. It was Week 17, most seasonal leagues had wrapped up, and Ryan Lindley was shot-putting balls around the field for Arizona.
The red zone was a crucial area in which Floyd was expected to outperform his 2013 totals. The assumption that “Floyd will undoubtedly be more efficient with his looks” came true, as he scored on 42.9 percent of his red zone targets, compared to a paltry 14.3 percent rate in 2013. Of course, the fact that he saw half as many targets, and zero from inside the 10-yard line, was crushing:
|Floyd||RZ Targets||RZ Catch %||TDs||< 10 Yd Tgts||< 10 Yd Ct%||< 10 Yd TD|
The Cardinals ran 21 fewer plays in the red zone compared to 2013 (106 vs. 127) and attempted seven fewer passes (64 vs. 71). Floyd’s share of those high-leverage opportunities fell from 19.7 percent in 2013 to just 10.9 percent this past season. Even Larry Fitzgerald, who was thought to be Floyd’s biggest competition for red zone looks, saw his red zone target share fall from 33.8 percent in 2013 to 18.8 percent in 2014.
The Cardinals had 50 percent more players (9 vs. 6) receive more than two red zone targets in 2014 than they did during the prior season. Having those money targets spread out more evenly contributed to Floyd getting a smaller slice of a shrinking pie, when the opposite was projected. It also didn’t apply solely to red zone situations:
|ARZ Target %||Floyd||Fitzgerald||WR3||Other WR||TE||RB|
Some of Fitzgerald’s percentage drop, and the rise for the “Other WR” group, can be attributed to the veteran wideout missing two games. You’d think that this would affect Floyd’s rate positively. The real culprit here is the emergence of rookie John Brown, and not just because he had a 3.8 percent greater share of targets than Andre Roberts did the year before, while Floyd’s fell by a similar 2.9 percent.
Floyd’s targets came on lower-percentage passes than they did in 2013. Brown’s 15.8-yard aDOT was more than three yards shorter than Floyd’s this season. It also looks familiar when studying Floyd’s 2013 production:
|Floyd||Targets||aDOT||Catchable Tgts||Catch %||Yards/Tgt||Yards/Route||Deep %|
It’s obvious that Brown ran many of the routes, or at least commanded a lot of the same targets as Floyd did in 2013. It’s also clear that Floyd’s success rate plummeted in part due to seeing a higher percentage of his passes on increasingly deep routes. Throw in the fact that a good chunk of these bombs were hefted by scattershot passers, and it’d have been a surprise if Floyd had not left a gaping crater in fantasy rosters.
Another issue was the offensive line. While better than in 2013 (Arizona ranked 32nd in pass blocking; -82.1), it was still a bottom-third unit (-39.3; 23rd). Palmer’s pressure percentage (36.7 percent) would’ve been the eighth-highest had he taken at least 50 percent of Arizona’s dropbacks. As discussed in the preseason Floyd piece, Palmer completed 71.1 percent of his passes in 2013 with 21 touchdowns and seven interceptions when not under pressure.
In 2014, Palmer completed 71.3 percent of his passes from a clean pocket with nine touchdowns and one interception. He’s inarguably capable of unlocking Floyd if given time to throw, but he will be coming back from his second ACL repair in 2015 at age 35.
There’s the rub as we attempt to project how much of a bounce back is in store for Floyd. While quarterback play wasn’t the sole reason for Floyd’s disappointing 2014 season, it was the largest. Early reports have Palmer ahead of schedule in his recovery but should be taken with a large grain of salt given his age and how injury timelines are often overly optimistic.
Fitzgerald may not be back pending a potential contract restructuring, and his departure would boost Floyd’s target numbers. The offensive line still needs upgrades. The defense played over its head by all accounts and needs retooling. Absent that, perhaps there will be a call for the passing game to become more aggressive. Cardinals games featured 76 fewer snaps in 2014 than in 2013, a season in which they ranked just 17th in pass attempts.
The future remains cloudy, but the many reasons Michael Floyd failed in 2014 are clear. What we know for sure is Floyd remains a special talent who won’t turn 26 years old until November. Head coach Bruce Arians is a sharp offensive mind who was coaching with one arm tied behind his back for much of 2014, and he will have answers to what ailed his passing attack. The AFC and NFC North divisions, plus the Eagles and Saints, are not likely to be a daunting slate of opponents in 2015—although NFC West defenses remain formidable.
The tragic wreckage of Floyd’s fantasy season had many environmental catalysts, but it’s also created a buying opportunity for dynasty leaguers—if they have the intestinal fortitude to sift through the rubble.
Pat Thorman is a Lead Writer for PFF Fantasy and was named 2013 Newcomer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. You can follow him on Twitter at @Pat_Thorman