As I sit here and ponder the upcoming season’s rankings for wide receivers, I start to look at the off-season moves of these guys and wonder what type of effect will be had on them by the quarterback they’re going to play catch with. You see, just because you have a talented wide receiver like Vincent Jackson moving to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers doesn’t mean his stat line will follow him. A dude has gotta get him the ball for him to be successful y’all. If you don’t believe me, just ask Steve Smith of the Carolina Panthers back in 2009 and 2010. With that thought in mind, I thought I’d dig up some numbers on quarterbacks and their amount of down field pass attempts (which is a pass that is thrown for over 15 yards for this evaluation) as a percentage of their overall attempts. Friends, what you find here is shocking and appalling and may forever scar your mind…Tim Tebow led the league last year with a whopping 33.5% of his attempts
sailing out of bounds going for over 15 yards. Of course, he completed just 46.3% of his passes so we know they didn’t find their target all that often. I think we can safely say he was throwing (takes off sunglasses) a lot of hail marys (YEAAAAAAHHHH!). Now one stat doesn’t mean much since there can be so many variables as to why it is low or high. However, it’s a good starting point to use for evaluating the fantasy relevance or irrelevance of the wide receivers they have as well as the quarterbacks themselves. With that said, let the fantasy football sleuthing begin!
Josh Freeman (14% deep) – Freeman tied two other quarterbacks for lowest percentage of deep balls thrown in 2011. The other two limp limbs were Colt McCoy and Dan Orlovsky. Even if you were in a coma for a year and woke only to watch one full weekend of football, you’d know that’s not good company to be in. What’s odd is that Freeman was middle of the pack back in 2010 with the likes of Peyton Manning and Matt Hasselbeck with a 21.7% clip. It’s even more baffling when you consider that the three teams of those quarterbacks combined to go 10-38, so you’d think there would have to be plenty of opportunities to sling the ball further than 15 yards at a decent rate; Cam Newton had a great season playing from behind with just over a 1/4th of his passes (25.7%) going deep. Since 2011 was an odd year – both numerically and because of the hold out – there might be more hope in here for both Freeman and his #1 long ball target Vincent Jackson (career 17.5 YPR) than I would’ve previously had. Take this info and tuck it under your cap for when the draft comes. If you don’t have a cap, buy one; they’re really not that expensive.
Philip Rivers (23.7% deep) – Rivers has only had one season in which less than 20 percent of his passes didn’t go for over 15 yards and that was his first full season in 2006 when he had an 18.3% rate. The rest of the time he’s finished in or near the top 10 with well over 20% most seasons. Wanna know his career rate on this stat? Too bad, this article’s getting long and I don’t have time to evaluate it down to the nitty gritty details. Stop busting my balls deep analysis! Anyways, I bring this info to you so that you can relish in the splendor that is Robert Meachem or ‘he of the 16.1 career YPR’ as I like to call him. I’m seeing Meachem being ranked as the 29th best WR while Vincent Jackson is getting listed the 16th best by some guy at ESPN while I see mockdraftcentral putting Jackson 11th and Meachem 46th. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say though it may take only one to Macarena, it takes two to tango and Meachem has the better set up at this point. If that ranking holds, you can bet I will have Meachem on my team this year.
Alex Smith (17% deep) – Wait, I thought 2011 was Smith’s breakout year? How could he have finished as low as 6th on this stat for the year? Of course there were multiple factors for this. Conservative coaching style with limited reps in pre-season with a new coach and offensive coordinator are surely a part of it. Couple that with the team simply not needing much deep passing plays with the stout defense they had and you have set the course for a middling stat line at quarterback. I only bring Alex up as he has a fairly decent corps of wide receivers for this year in Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham and – well this is a big maybe – Randy Moss. The last two guys on that list are the ones I really want to highlight as their career YPRs – 14.5 and 15.6 respectively – are dangerously close to where Alex Smith doesn’t throw it. That’s not to say they won’t get passes thrown their way, but that their fantasy relevance depends on catching the deep ball. If I had any inkling of investing in San Fransisco WRs, this has pretty much broken me of it.