Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Rueben Randle’s Fantasy Football Potential in 2015
Earlier this offseason, I took a look at Victor Cruz and what his knee injury might mean for the Giants’ offense heading into 2015. We still don’t have any definitive information regarding Cruz’s availability come Week 1, but it appears that he is making strides in the right direction.
"Things are going well. I’m running more routes and patterns, feeling more confident all the time in that regard. Same schedule. Just going to take it slow for now."
Even though Cruz is hopeful, there's still no guarantee he’ll return to his previous level of play, or even be ready for the start of the season.
We know all about Odell Beckham by this point, but looking at early average draft position for wide receivers, another Giants’ pass-catcher stands out a possible value for fantasy owners in 2015.
Career Highs, But Inefficient
Last season under the guidance of new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, Rueben Randle set career-highs in receptions (71) and receiving yardage (938). He finished second on the team in targets (127) but finished last among all Giants’ receivers in catch rate (55.91%).
Using our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, which is a measure of how many points a player’s performance adds or subtracts from his team’s overall total, we can see that, despite Randle’s raw statistical output, he was merely average (or in some cases, below-average) with regards to efficiency of play.
Below are the Giants’ top-three wide receivers (Beckham, Randle and Preston Parker) along with their respective Reception NEP -- the expected points gained or lost based on a player’s receptions -- and related metrics from the 2014 season.
|Player||Catches||Reception NEP||Targets||Reception NEP/Target||Catch Rate|
Our metrics serve as further confirmation of how incredible Beckham’s season was, and how Randle’s season predictably fell short in comparison.
For some context, Randle's 0.62 Reception NEP per target ranked 28th among the 40 wide receivers who accumulated at least 100 targets. Randle’s metrics suffered from the fact that he caught just three touchdowns: a frustrating number for a player of his size.
Despite his lack of efficiency, Randle has improved his statistics every year for the last three seasons, and now with Victor Cruz’s future uncertain, he could be poised to make further improvements.
Overlooked and Underpriced?
While Randle’s 2014 efficiency metrics might not send fantasy owners into a stampede to draft the 24-year-old receiver, his potential opportunity and current draft cost should make them take a second look.
Below are current average draft positions for Beckham, Randle and Cruz in the past month, according to 12-team PPR mock drafts from FantasyFootballCalculator.com.
Beckham’s position near the middle of the first round should come as no surprise after his monstrous 12-game showing last season. Although prorating his torrid pace out to 16 games for 2015 prediction purposes may not be the most logical practice, even with some regression assumed, he will still be an elite producer.
But the disparity in ADP between Cruz and Randle is a bit confusing. Granted, this is information gathered from mock drafts held in May, which is most likely not what we will see when real drafts start in August. But for a player coming off of a major knee injury who is still not 100% recovered to be drafted six full rounds ahead of a player coming off a career season looks a lot like a market inefficiency to me.
Delving even deeper, below is a table showing both Randle and Cruz’s NEP metrics for the three seasons that both players have shared the field.
|Year||Player||Reception NEP||Targets||Reception NEP/Target||Catch Rate|
Even though Randle has never been a true efficiency superstar, he has equaled or topped Cruz in all three of his professional seasons on a Reception NEP per target basis.
There are still reasons why Rueben Randle may never ascend to a high-level of fantasy production. A relative lack of career efficiency, a sub-60% career catch rate, a 50% touchdown regression from his second to third season, and Beckham emerging as a legitimate star (and possible target-hog) are all legitimate concerns.
But given the current cost of acquiring him in fantasy drafts coupled with the potential opportunistic upside -- if the Giants’ offense does indeed take a step forward in year-two of McAdoo’s tenure -- there could be a massive return on investment for those willing to take a swing on Randle.