Should Fantasy Football Owners Be Concerned About Pierre Garcon?
The 2014 NFL season hasn't gone the way Pierre Garcon owners were hoping.
After leading the league in both receptions and targets last season, Garcon was viewed as a relatively safe fourth-round selection by many fantasy players. After all, he had at least five receptions in every game last season, and was about as consistent as they come in PPR leagues. This season, however, he’s already had four games with fewer than five receptions, and he ranks 22nd in receptions and 21st in targets overall.
It’s been an up-and-down campaign thus far for Garcon, with the lows seemingly outweighing the highs. He followed up an abysmal Week 2 performance where he only recorded one catch with a big Week 3 showing. After his 138 yard, 1-touchdown performance, it appeared that Garcon was back on track for a nice season. However, he didn't top 31 receiving yards in the three contests following, and if not for a flukey 70-yard touchdown in Week 7, he may have had another poor performance.
The question that begs asking is, where does Garcon go from here? He's currently sitting at 23rd overall amongst receivers in standard-scoring leagues. That’s a solid mark, no doubt, but one that he's reached through inconsistent play that his owners were not expecting. Is the Garcon of old coming back, or will this path of mediocrity plague him all season? Let’s take a look.
Prior to the season, numberFire’s very own Tony DelSignore looked at whether Garcon was being properly-valued in fantasy drafts. It wasn't an overly optimistic preview of Garcon’s season, as volume-dependency and more talented teammates were cited as two reasons he could fail to live up to his draft day cost (read the full article here).
Thus far, the concerns seem warranted. Ignoring the teammate aspect for now, there should be some genuine concern about his efficiency. As was highlighted in the article, Garcon doesn't boast impressive efficiency metrics. For those newer to numberFire, Net Expected Points (NEP) is our signature metric that looks to quantify how many expected points a player is adding to his team’s total through his on-field performance (find more on NEP in our glossary). Looking at Garcon’s NEP on a per target basis gives us a look at how efficient he is as a pass catcher.
Last season, Garcon’s Reception NEP per target was 0.60. Among the top-25 receivers in Reception NEP last year, only Andre Johnson’s figure was lower. In 2014, that number has dropped to 0.49 for Garcon. To put in perspective just how weak that is, of the 33 receivers with 45-plus targets this season, Garcon ranks 28th in that category. Mediocre efficiency didn't kill Garcon last season thanks to his major volume. However, when you couple that fact that he is playing with significantly less efficiency than last season, and that he is no longer a target-monster, it’s certainly a glaring red-flag for Garcon.
This offseason, the Redskins brought in DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts to help shore up their passing game. Jordan Reed also figured to play an increased role in the Redskins’ offense, but injuries have continued to plague him in 2014.
Many fantasy players, myself included, figured that what Garcon would lose in volume, he would gain in getting open looks. Unfortunately, this logic has yet to manifest itself this season.
Last season, the Redskins attempted 611 passes, 30.11% of which went Garcon’s way. This season, Garcon is seeing on 20.70% of his team’s targets go his way. That is a drastic decrease, not helped by the fact that the Redskins are not throwing the ball any more than they did last season.
Garcon still stands as the leader in targets for his team, but not by as much as last season. Here’s the target distribution and percentage of total targets between Garcon and Jackson:
|Targets||% Total Targets|
Last year, Santana Moss was second on the team in targets with 80, representing just 13.09% of the total pie for the Redskins last year. Clearly, Jay Gruden’s new offense is less focused on forcing the ball upon one receiver, and the combined production of Jackson, Roberts, and the duo of tight ends in Washington has badly hurt Garcon’s ability to rack up big numbers. Considering that Reed is just now getting healthy and saw a whopping 11 targets in his first game back and 6 in his second, it's easy to see why Garcon-owners cannot bank on the volume he once had.
Fantasy owners are in a bind with Garcon. His production hasn’t been terrible to the point of him being outright droppable in most leagues, but there's not a whole lot of reason for optimism that he’ll play better as the season goes on. None of this lack of Garcon production should be blamed on quarterback Kirk Cousins. Even though he’s being benched for his propensity for turnovers, prior to his Week 7 benching his Passing NEP number of 22.57 put him 16th overall among quarterbacks. Also, Colt McCoy is highly unlikely to be setting the league ablaze in his starts prior to the return of Robert Griffin III. He will struggle with deep ball accuracy, and even though they connected for a long touchdown, it was more poor tackling on the part of the Titans than it was due to any fantastic throw or catch.
At this point, it would likely take an injury to Jackson or Roberts for Garcon to see a significant boost in targets. For now, the Redskins seem content to spread the ball around, hurting Garcon’s ability to be a valuable fantasy asset.