Brian Hartline Is the Soup, Salad and Breadsticks of Fantasy Football
If you go to Olive Garden and don't get the unlimited soup, salad and breadsticks, did you really go to Olive Garden?
If we're being honest, it's not like their selection of Italian cuisine is really all that great. Yet they have some of the best breadsticks and soup on the planet, plus some pretty killer salad dressing.
But every once in a while, you may find yourself getting some pasta dish you can't pronounce. And you never wind up happy with your decision, especially while you see your family and friends chowing down on salad. And soup. And breadsticks.
Brian Hartline is the soup, salad and breadsticks of fantasy football. You always think you want something different, something new. But you don't. All you really want is Brian Hartline.
The Same Every Time
The best part about soup, salad and breadsticks at Olive Garden is that they're the same every time you get them. They're consistent. You can rely on them. The same is true of Hartline.
Here are his numbers over the last two seasons.
There was a good deal of change between 2012 and 2013 in Miami. Mike Wallace was brought in to play wide receiver "over" Hartline, while Charles Clay and Rishard Matthews emerged in 2013 to provide more competition for targets and receptions.
Hartline wasn't phased. His role remained the same. His production was consistent.
So despite another set of changes to the Miami offense, including the addition of Jarvis Landry via the draft and a new offensive coordinator in Bill Lazor, there's no reason to believe that Hartline's role, production or value will be impacted in any serious way.
In fact, despite only being a regular contributor to the Miami offense for two seasons, Hartline has joined rare (if not very specific) company. Since 2000, Hartline is one of only 30 players to have multiple seasons of 70-plus receptions, 80-plus Reception Net Expected Points (NEP), 0.6-plus Reception NEP per target, and a 90%-plus Success Rate.
A Cheaper Welker
In fact, let's dive into that comparison a little more closely. Welker broke out in 2006 with the Miami Dolphins, seeing 100 targets for the first time in his career. Hartline made a name for himself in 2012, which was his first 100 target season.
Here's a chart showing their average season since their arrival as a regular contributor, using our NEP data.
|Name||Rec||Rec NEP||Targets||Rec NEP/Target||Rec Success Rate|
Hartline's targets haven't turned into receptions quite as often as Welker's (and that has more to do with quarterback play than any fault of either receiver), but when Hartline has caught the ball, he's actually been more consistent.
Success Rate measures the percentage of receptions that generate positive Net Expected Points for the player and his team. In Hartline's case, his superior Success Rate means that, when he catches the ball, he helps increase his team's chance of scoring more often than Welker does.
Hartline and Welker are paid approximately the same (per Spotrac), and for justifiable reasons, but fantasy owners don't see the two players in the same light at all.
In fact, Hartline is currently going undrafted in standard leagues and barely hanging on as a 13th-round pick in PPR ones, according to Fantasy Football Calculator. Welker, on the other hand, is going in the fourth round of PPR drafts.
And while I don't disagree with Welker being ahead of Hartline, the incredible gap in their current value simply isn't justifiable.
The Right Price to Pay
Welker's cost is just fine at the moment. Our Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet reveals that, in a 12-team PPR league with otherwise standard settings, Welker should be the 12th receiver and 28th player off the board. That's actually more optimistic than what we see from average draft position data.
The issue in the valuation of these two players is on the Hartline side, as that same cheat sheet reveals that he should be the 88th player off the board, and the 37th receiver. That means the Miami wideout shouldn't last into the ninth round, and is far too valuable to fall off the board entirely.
Our projections currently have Hartline snagging 65 passes for 893 yards and four touchdowns. Considering that this is right in line (maybe even a bit low) with his previous two years, there's no reason to not expect him to meet or exceed this expectation in 2014.
There's no ridiculous upside to Hartline. He is the fantasy football epitome of "what you see is what you get." But when "what you see" is unlimited soup, salad and breadsticks, "what you get" will never disappoint.
For Hartline, "what you see" is a poor-man's Wes Welker on a worse offense, and "what you get" is consistent receptions and yards at a bargain bin cost.