Will Rueben Randle Break Through in 2014?

With Hakeem Nicks gone and the starting wide receiver gig open, will Rueben Randle seize the opportunity and put his mark on the Giants' offense?

Every year, fantasy football managers strive to find the next big thing. We spend countless hours doing our research, watching videos, listening to podcasts and analyzing projections. We do this to not only put ourselves in position to win our league, but also for that, “I told you so!” moment we get to share with our league mates.

But it often times gets to a point where we become so finicky, we start analyzing the most obscure and ridiculous things.

“Every time player X wears the make-up version of eye black, he scores much lower than when he wears the stickered variety. I heard from my brother’s wife’s father’s second cousin once removed, that the coach said the team is going to a strict sticker-only policy this season.”

Why can’t we just stick to our eyes, and more importantly, the numbers?

So let’s look at the numbers, and examine why Rueben Randle is a prime candidate for a breakout season.

Rueben Randle By the Numbers

25: That’s Rueben Randle’s 2013 ranking in Reception Net Expected Points (NEP) per target among wide receivers with at least 75 targets. That's not exactly bad for a second-year receiver in an offense that struggled mightily.

Just how horrific was Eli Manning and the Giants' 2013 season? Very. Eli finished the season with a Passing NEP of -43.56. Among all quarterbacks with at least 300 passes in a single season since 2000, Manning’s season ranked 355th out of 400 within the metric. This, too, coming in a pass-friendly NFL era. Manning wasn’t even close to starter quality last year, and I’m talking general NFL starter, not just fantasy football starter.

Given all these variables, I’d say Randle had himself as productive of a season as he could have, especially when you consider the fact he finished higher in this category than players like Dez Bryant, Antonio Brown, Vincent Jackson and Roddy White. All of these receivers are going multiple rounds before Randle, but given his tentative increase in volume, he could very easily finish ahead of the latter two.

209: This is the adjusted 2013 PPR point total for games Randle had five or more targets. Randle had six games where this was the case. In those six games, he averaged four receptions, 65 yards and half of a touchdown. This stat line would have roughly translated to about 13 points in standard PPR leagues, or 209 total points. This would have placed him 20th among wide receivers in 2013 - a low-end WR2, extremely high-end flex play. With Hakeem Nicks testing his luck in Indianapolis, (yes, pun intended), I would be shocked if Randle doesn’t see five or more targets in every game he suits up this year.

800/102: Speaking of Hakeem Nicks, the above numbers show his split between offensive snaps and targets, good for 81 percent of the Giants’ total offensive snaps. As I said before, and as I’m sure you’re well aware, Nicks is no longer on the New York Giants. Randle, barring something catastrophic, is the one to take over that starting wide receiver spot. Nicks had about 250 more snaps than Randle, and 23 more targets than Randle’s 79.

With the way things are going, you can expect to see Randle replace Nicks, and to a lesser extent, Odell Beckham Jr. to replace Randle, statistically. Because the Giants have no reliable passing threat at tight end, and even with Victor Cruz, who had 122 targets last year, it's safe to assume a majority of Nicks’ targets will belong to Randle in the 2014 season. The Giants could very easily have two receivers with at least 120 targets this year.

That would be a solid 52 percent increase from 2013 for Randle. With that increase in volume, you can extrapolate Randle’s 2013 statistics to 62 receptions, 929 yards and 9 touchdowns. This comes out to roughly 209 total points in standard PPR leagues, which, as we discussed a second ago, would have put him 20th among all wide receivers in fantasy points in 2013.

To me, as long as Randle plays, this is his floor on the 2014 season. I say this because he’s not only a very talented receiver, but also just based on the pure volume we can expect Randle to see. Randle is the only receiving threat above six feet on the Giants roster, meaning he will be Eli’s go-to guy in red zone and goal line passing situations. Manning threw eight red zone touchdowns last year, four of which were to players who are no longer on the team, or will not see significant playing time. Randle is in a perfect situation to end up with double-digit touchdowns in 2014.

9: This is the round where Randle’s Average Draft Position (ADP) currently sits. Ninth! He’s currently being drafted as a WR4. Although I fully expect his cost to rise as we get close to the season, Randle is still one of the biggest values in the draft. As we've discussed, just based on the amount of volume he’s going to get, Randle’s floor is in the range of a low-end WR2.

Just think back to the 2011 season: Manning finished eighth in Passing NEP that year with a 95.65 mark, culminating in two top 13 seasons for his two starting wide outs. Hakeem Nicks finished with a Reception NEP of 100.88 (13th), and Victor Cruz had his best year, accomplishing a Reception NEP of 132.91 (3rd). He's also got Ben McAdoo calling shots offensively now, making this possible once again.