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Editor’s note: This is the first part of a series of recommendations for your Fantasy Football 2010 draft.    The series will run until the NFL kicks off on September 9th.

Now you know not to gamble on a defense (click here to read Rule #3). But I still haven’t answered your question. Should you go for the deep bomb threat of DeSean Jackson? Or do you choose the consistent Wes Welker?

Rule #4: Avoid the Home Run Hitter! Consistency is Critical. The season is short – only 16 games (compare that to 82 in basketball and hockey, and 162 in baseball). It’s nice to have a guy who you can depend on, plug into your lineup and not have to worry about the matchups, whether it’s home or away, on grass or turf. Players who perform season in and season out, game in and game out, can anchor a team.

When I look for consistency, I ignore everything but yards. TDs depend too much on circumstance and vary from season to season. It’s very difficult to predict the difference between 13 TDs and 10, the difference between three deep passes caught, or three long runs broken off, and also the difference between the league leaders in TD receptions, Vernon Davis and Randy Moss, and #s 7-9, Brandon Marshall, Dallas Clark, and Reggie Wayne.

Then Cleveland Browns WR Braylon Edwards, now of the New York Jets, is just one WR who has fallen prey to the inconsistencies of the deep pass

In earning my doctorate of fantasy football, I researched to confirm what I have for so long followed as just a hunch. I looked, for each year, at the top-ten touchdown (TD) receiving players over the past five years (from the 2005-2006 season to the 2009-2010 season). I ended up with 44 players, a combination of receivers and tight ends, over the 5 individual years, of which 5 retired before the ‘09-‘10 season, and 1, Greg Jennings, was a rookie before the ‘05-‘06 season. I threw these six out of the set and used the data for the 38 others. Just over a third (13 of the 38) of the receivers was in the top-ten for two of the five years. Of those 13, 11 of these players had their two year-stints in back-to-back years. 6 of these 13 (or 6 of 38) reached the top-ten in TDs for three of the five years (Randy Moss, T.O., Reggie Wayne, Larry Fitzgerald, Antonio Gates, and Marques Colston). Fitzgerald and Gates, 2 out of the 38, found their way into the top ten 4 out of 5 of the years. Each seasons’ bottom player caught either eight or nine TDs (it alternated each of the five seasons) and except for Randy Moss’ record-breaking ‘07-‘08 23 TD season, the top receiver caught either 12 (‘05-’06 and ’08-’09) or 13 (‘06-’07 and ’09-’10) TDs. The numbers were very consistent, but, as we can see from the data, most of the receivers were not.

This past season, a combined total of 15 receivers and tight ends who caught the top-ten cut-off, 9, TDs or more. In the past five years less than 30% or 4 players would repeat their past year’s feat. But before we get ourselves any further into what could be a statistical nightmare, there must be an easier and better way to predict the future. Right?

Luckily for us, focusing on the receiving yards, like I originally thought, seems to be a relatively strong indicator of future performance based on previous year’s success at the receiver and end positions. However, it’s not the number of total yards, but rather, how the receiver gets these yards. Thomas Sharkey over at profootballfocus.com discovered deep threat receivers, those whose yards per catch (YPC) exceeded 16.0, saw a drop-off in production in the very next season in the large majority of players. My data of the top-ten receivers also supported this claim. 6 of the 38 receivers exceeded 16.0 YPC. While one of the six, Reggie Williams, retired, only one, Greg Jennings of the Green Bay Packers was able to maintain production. But Sharkey, who recognizes Jennings’ exceptional year, attributes this to a massive increase in passes targeted at the young receiver. So it should come to no surprise that Jennings, who last year averaged 16.4 YPC, played in all 16 games yet saw his production drop by 179 yards and 5 TDs compared to the year before. A total decrease in roughly 47 FP! Luckily for Jennings owners, his QB is one of the best in the league at getting the ball to his top two receivers, and Jennings also happens to be a very good wide receiver. Most receivers would see their fantasy value plummet much more, as Sharkey points out.

Remember Braylon Edwards ‘06-‘07 season? 1289 yards 16 TDs, 16.1 YPC, and an estimated 224 FP. Ashley Lelie’s ‘04-‘05 season? 1084 yards, 7 TDs, 20.1 YPC, and an estimated 150 FP? And Bernard Berrian’s, pre-Brett Favre, ‘08-’09 sesaon? 964 yards, 7 TDs, 20.1 YPC, and an estimated 138 FP. Edwards dropped 119 FP, Lelie 67, and Berrian 53 (with Favre as the QB instead of Gus Frerotte and Tarvaris Jackson) FP. All saw their production drop dramatically.

So if there is one thing you want to avoid almost as much as D/ST units, it’s taking the deep threat WR that turns into a big bust. Maybe you should think twice about drafting DeSean Jackson (18.5 YPC), Vincent Jackson (17.2 YPC), and Miles Austin (16.3 YPC). I recommend staying away, unless you believe that they will see more targets (the number of times the ball is thrown in their direction) in the coming season. Instead, go after receivers whose targets (tgts) are already high, and their YPC is below 16.0, like Wes Welker (11.0 YPC and 162 Tgts), Anquan Boldin (12.2 YPC and 127 Tgts), and Santana Moss (12.9 YPC and 120 Tgts).

Now you’re equipped to deal with the middle rounds. We’ve only got the late rounds to cover and then a general draft strategy. But if you think that the drafts over before you’ve made your last pick, well, you clearly haven’t had your fill of college and professional football.

Contact: If you have a fantasy football question, comment, insult, or compliment for Dr. Z, send it to [email protected] or call in to The Nightcap on KSPC Mondays 8-10 PM at (909) 626-KSPC. No inquiry is too big or small. It might even be featured in Dr. Z’s next column! Please include your first name and from which city you are writing.

Editor’s Note: This sports column is a regular feature from “The Nightcap” crew, a group of 5Cers who air a weekly radio sports talk show on KSPC. You can listen in online at KSPCstream.com or KSPC.org (click “Hear us Online via Live365”) every Monday from 8-10 PM. Want to join the radio show this year? We are looking for new people! Email us at [email protected]!

2 COMMENTS

  1. Great article. The YPC information is especially interesting – however I wonder if avg. yards past line of scrimmage would be a better predictor than YPC (it seems that a Wes Welker 5 yard slant for a total of twenty yards would be more consistent from year to year than a Miles Austin 20 yard downfield catch – even though both have the same YPC).

    Also, is 16.0 YPC a magic number or should I also be weary of receivers with a YPC of 15.0 (or Andre’s 15.5)?

    Latsly, it seems that disregarding TDs all together may be a bit too simplistic – an Andre Johnson type will almost always score more TDs than a Wes Welker. Maybe there’s a way to predict it by looking at a team’s red zone run/pass breakdown and red zone targets from previous years?

  2. Great article. The YPC information is especially interesting – however I wonder if avg. yards past line of scrimmage would be a better predictor than YPC (it seems that a Wes Welker 5 yard slant for a total of twenty yards would be more consistent from year to year than a Miles Austin 20 yard downfield catch – even though both have the same YPC).

    Also, is 16.0 YPC a magic number or should I also be weary of receivers with a YPC of 15.0 (or Andre’s 15.5)?

    Latsly, it seems that disregarding TDs all together may be a bit too simplistic – an Andre Johnson type will almost always score more TDs than a Wes Welker. Maybe there’s a way to predict it by looking at a team’s red zone run/pass breakdown and red zone targets from previous years?

Comments are closed.