Is Pierre Garcon Primed for a Bounce Back Campaign?

Can Pierre Garcon reclaim his 2013 glory for fantasy owners in 2015?

Growing up in small-town North Carolina, you tend to get used to there being only one game in town for whatever it is you want to do. Take going to the movies for example. With one cinema,and, often, only one movie being shown at a time, there’s going to be a whole lot of 12 year-old dudes going to watch Titanic circa-1996. Without a whole lot of options for fun outside of going to the movies, sometimes you have to learn to live with and love a classic Celine Dion song despite your outward misgivings.

In football, being the only game in town as a receiving threat can skew your production in a favorable direction. In other words, if you’re racking up 180 plus targets in a season, you’re putting up numbers regardless of your per-reception effectiveness.

Pierre Garcon is one of only four receivers to have met this criteria in either one of the past two seasons, with a whopping 182 targets directed his way in 2013. Because of this astronomical workload in 2013, on average, fantasy owners were drafting Garcon early in the fifth round in 2014, despite the fact that the Redskins had acquired a deep-burning wide receiver, DeSean Jackson, in the offseason.

Suddenly, no longer the only game in town, Garcon’s targets declined precipitously to 105 in 2014. Predictably, his production declined as well. But was Garcon’s 2014 decline just a simple down year with the upcoming 2015 season serving as a prime opportunity for a bounce back campaign?

Let’s find out.


numberFire is equipped to answer this question by using our primary metric for evaluating player efficiency: Net Expected Points (NEP). NEP factors in each situation in a game -- such as field position, yards to go for a first down, the given down in which the play is currently on -- and quantifies an expected point total for that given play, based on historical league averages (or expectations).

This expectation for production manifests itself in theoretical points a player will contribute to a team’s point total by improving his team’s overall chances of scoring on that drive. If a player performs above the expectation for that play (thus increasing their teams chances of scoring) he is credited with the difference in NEP that they performed above expectation.

You can learn more about NEP in our glossary.

So how do Garcon’s numbers look, and what does that tell us about what to expect for his 2015 season?

SeasonReceptionsReception NEPTargetsReception NEP/TargetCatch Rate

As is evident, not only did Garcon's target volume plummet from 2013 to 2014, but his per-target contribution declined as well. Throughout Garcon’s career, he’s tiptoed around the league average in per-target efficiency with the glaring exceptions of his 2011 and 2014 seasons.

In 2011, as you might recall, Garcon was still an Indianapolis Colt. This was Peyton Manning’s final season as a Colt, in which he spent all 16 games watching from the sidelines healing from four different neck surgeries. In 2010, Manning contributed a 0.20 Passing NEP on a per drop back basis, good for fifth in the league among quarterbacks with at least 400 drop backs.

The best quarterback on the 2011 Colts, Dan Orlovsky, performed five times worse (with a Passing NEP per drop back of 0.04). The other two passers, Curtis Painter (-0.18) and Kerry Collins (-0.22) weren’t even close to positively contributing to the Colts offensive performance at all.

Garcon’s 2014 actually involved another three-quarterback-carousel, with Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins, and Colt McCoy tossing him the rock. On a per drop back basis, Cousins (0.09), McCoy (0.08) and Griffin (-0.15) actually performed better than the arms that led to Andrew Luck, but that isn’t saying much.

All of this is to say that Garcon isn’t exactly the type of receiver capable of thriving under any circumstance. Just as crucial to his significant decline from 2013 to 2014, however, was Jackson’s performance in his first season in the nation’s capitol.

SeasonReceptionsReception NEPTargetsReception NEP per TargetCatch Rate

Among the 54 receivers who received at least 90 targets in the 2014 season, Jackson finished tied for first in Reception NEP per target. Garcon? 52nd. Garcon finished the year less productive on a per-target basis than Reggie Wayne, who I’m pretty sure is now collecting Social Security benefits.

And while Garcon has typically boasted a higher catch rate (the percentage of targets received that are converted into receptions) than Jackson throughout the course of their careers, this isn’t unexpected given that Jackson is expected to chase down deeper passes more frequently, which are typically harder to deliver on target.

In 2014, and largely throughout their careers, Jackson has simply outproduced Garcon, a trend that did not change with the 2014 season.

Wherever You Are

Garcon’s real contribution in Washington (as well as in Indianapolis) has been closer to that of a reliable possession receiver than a game-changing number one. In fact, Garcon did not step out of this mold in his much heralded 2013 campaign. On a per-target basis (0.60 Reception NEP per target) he performed as one of the worst high-volume receivers in the league despite his fantasy production.

Garcon’s huge fantasy numbers in 2013 were a direct result of his amplified target numbers, not because he was doing anything special with the pigskin once he got it. Thus, Garcon’s 2014, was more predictable that others might have been willing to acknowledge.

My Heart Will Go On

If you’re counting on Garcon having a bounce back season in preparation for your 2015 fantasy drafts, I implore you to explore other options. However, his current average draft position according to Fantasy Football Calculator sits at number 126, which seems like a fair bargain for a bench stash in case Jackson gets hurt.

With quarterback stability in place, which is certainly not a guarantee in Washington, Garcon could reach the level of production he achieved in 2010. But Garcon reaching his 2013 production is highly unlikely. So don’t expect to start Garcon in Week 1 (PPR league or not) and think you’ll come out looking like the evil genius.

Garcon’s just not the only game in town anymore, and he’s not even the best one at that. Sometimes, even small towns in North Carolina get a second movie theater, introducing new and more exciting options for your viewing pleasure.

And while we might never forget the lyrics to the Titanic soundtrack, eventually we stop humming the same tune in public.