Why Mike Wallace is undervalued and DeSean Jackson is overvalued in fantasy football


(Photo by Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

All this week the Washington Post will be rolling out its fantasy football rankings by position, including the top 30 wide receivers. Here are the best and worst WR values for the upcoming season.

UNDERVALUED

Mike Wallace

Wallace was Mr. Predictability last season. The 27-year-old wideout was targeted 137 times last season, but just three of them were on the left side of the field.

Mike Wallace 2013 regular season (Source: Pro Football Focus)
Mike Wallace 2013 regular season (Source: Pro Football Focus)

Expect that to change this season, as Dolphins Coach Joe Philbin wants “to expand [Wallace's] route tree a little bit and we want to expand where he lines up a little bit.” That will help improve on last year’s 930-yard, five-touchdown campaign.

Projections have Wallace accumulating the 26th highest points at the wide receiver position but that ranking could go even higher when Miami faces the most favorable wide receiver schedule during the fantasy season.

Cordarrelle Patterson

Patterson’s value will come in many forms. The Pro Bowl kick returner finished his 2013 rookie season with 344 rushing and receiving yards and five touchdowns over the final four games. He was second in the league in all-purpose yards (2,020) overall.


Cordarrelle Patterson Pro Football Focus rating by week, 2013

There is increasing optimism out of camp that the trend could continue, with Coach Mike Zimmer commenting on how Patterson “has improved his route running,” where he averaged 1.61 yards each time he went into a pattern after a snap.

Patterson is projected to score the 17th most points as a wideout (930 yards, 6.6 touchdowns) facing the seventh softest schedule for wide receivers.

Michael Floyd

Floyd followed up a mediocre rookie season (562 yards and two touchdowns) with a breakout year in 2013: 65 receptions, 1,041 yards and five touchdowns. Larry Fitzgerald gets more targets (129 vs. 107 in 2013) but Floyd is more efficient in his routes (1.83 yards per rout run vs. Fitz’s 1.59).

However, the departure of Andre Roberts to Washington could put another 76 targets up for grabs. If Floyd gets a majority of those, he could easily outpace his 1,100-yard, six-touchdown projection.

Overvalued

DeSean Jackson

D-Jax posted career-highs in receptions (82) and yards (1,332) plus tied his career-high in touchdowns (nine), but a change of scenery puts his production in doubt, especially under new Coach Jay Gruden.

Signs point to Jackson receiving a lion’s share of the targets. But that’s based on the offense Gruden ran in Cincinnati, where he didn’t have near the receiving tandem he will in Washington with Jackson and Pierre Garcon, who led the league in receptions last season (113). Plus, who knows how long it will take Jackson and Robert Griffin III to develop chemistry.

Jackson is projected for 958 yards and seven touchdowns, good for 24th best in the league. It’s likely he bests that, but could still fall out of the top 10.

T.Y. Hilton

Hilton has 132 catches for 1,944 yards and 12 touchdowns in his first two seasons. He led all Colts receivers last season in targets (134), where quarterback Andrew Luck had a 93.0 passer rating when the two hooked up on passing plays.

However, even though slight, Hilton has seen his fantasy points (based on the NFL default fantasy scoring system) increase in his first two years, and just three wideouts in the last decade have seen three straight years of increased production in their first three years in the league: A.J. Green, Percy Harvin and Torrey Smith. Facing the 25th most difficult schedule for wide receivers only makes it more difficult for Hilton.

Marques Colston

Colston is one of those receivers who has a great résumé for fantasy football: Multiple 1,000-yard seasons, a bone-fide top-three quarterback behind center and a uber-talented tight end to keep defenses honest. But those things work against him as well, especially in the red zone.

Drew Brees’s favorite target inside the 20-yard line is tight end Jimmy Graham, whose number has been called 70 times in the past three seasons for 289 yards and 27 touchdowns. Colston has 52 targets for 346 yards and 17 touchdowns. Last season, Graham had 11 red-zone touchdowns to Colston’s three.

The yardage will be there, but don’t expect much from Colston in terms of touchdowns, which is why he projects to be the 29th most valuable receiver in 2014.

Neil Greenberg analyzes advanced sports statistics for the Fancy Stats blog and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd.
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