Why Teams Shouldn't Bother Signing Reggie Wayne
Reggie Wayne almost assuredly is not on your fantasy draft radar this season. That's a reasonable assumption considering Wayne isn't actually on an NFL team right now.
Thinking of Wayne on any team besides the Indianapolis Colts is certainly strange -- he's been a member of the Colts since they drafted him in the first round back in 2001. But, if Wayne suits up in 2015 as he seems intent on doing, then he will be donning his first non-Colts uniform.
Recently, there've been rumors of several teams being interested in the veteran 36-year-old. The Packers, Broncos, Ravens, Patriots, and Texans have all been linked to him in some capacity, although it remains to be seen if any of those teams will actually sign Wayne.
The question remains, though, whether any team should actually bother. Signing Wayne in his prime would have been a major haul for any team. However, he's been a shell of his former self since a 2013 ACL tear, and at his age, it would seem unlikely that a return to the glory days is on Wayne’s horizon. Let’s take a look at whether any organization should take a chance on Wayne.
A 2014 to Forget
Just take a look at Wayne’s counting stats in 2014, and it's clear that he was playing at a level far below his past greatness. His 779 receiving yards were his fewest over the course of a full season since his sophomore year in 2002, and he managed a paltry two touchdowns.
As those who are fans of us at numberFire know, however, the basic counting stats can only paint so much of a picture. To fully capture how rough Wayne’s 2014 campaign was, we will use a numberFire metric called Net Expected Points (NEP). NEP shows how many points above expectation he is providing to his team through his on field performance (see more on NEP in our glossary).
Wayne’s peak is reasonably taken to be from 2003-2010, which were the eight consecutive seasons in which he finished among the top 20 wide receivers in standard scoring leagues. In the table below, you will see how Wayne’s 2014 season, and his injury-shortened 2013 year, compared to his averages from 2003-2010 across various categories:
|Reception NEP||Reception NEP/Target||Target NEP||Success Rate|
The drop-off in performance is pretty staggering. To give the Reception NEP figures some context, Jeremy Maclin had a 111.21 Reception NEP last season, while Michael Crabtree posted a 62.53 mark. So, the difference between peak Wayne and his production last season looks something like the gap between a Maclin Pro Bowl season and the subpar year Crabtree put together last year.
Further, of the 40 players who saw 100 or more targets last year (he had 116), Wayne finished 34th in Reception NEP. Of the guys who finished behind him, only one player (Keenan Allen) actually had respectable quarterback play.
The drop in Reception NEP per target is especially concerning for Wayne. This metric is essentially a measure of efficiency looking at how many expected points a player is adding to his teams total every time he is targeted. Wayne was once a hyper-efficient wideout, perennially finishing near the top of the leaderboard in this metric relative to other heavily targeted receivers. Now he finds himself rubbing elbows with Allen Hurns, Robert Woods, and Brandon Lafell, who all actually finished with a higher Reception NEP per target figure than Wayne after seeing a similar number of targets in 2014. He finished 35th in this category relative to the 40 players who saw 100-plus targets last year.
The Target NEP and Success Rate, when looked at together, just further illustrate the idea that Wayne may very well be done as a useful receiver in the NFL. Success Rate, for receivers, shows what percentage of their receptions yielded a positive NEP for a team. Normally, catching a pass yields significant yardage, so Success Rates are generally high for receivers.
For Wayne, his figure plummeted in 2014, meaning that many of the passes he did catch were not overly beneficial to the Colts’ offense. When you combine that with the fact that his catch rate (percentage of targets caught) was 55.17% in 2014, far lower than his career 62.47% rate, it's easy to see how he had a negative Target NEP. Of players who saw 100-plus targets, only Allen and Cecil Shorts were worse. Target NEP is a measure of how many points above expectation a receiver is adding to his team on all targets. So, when Wayne was not catching a good number of his targets, and when the catches he makes are not overly impactful (as evidenced by his low Success Rate), you see a receiver who was not helping his team much at all in 2014.
In Conclusion...to a Career
When you take into account that all these numbers were posted with the studly Andrew Luck at quarterback, it becomes easy to comprehend that Wayne may very well be done as an effective player in this league.
He had a strong 2012 campaign, and showed pretty well in 2013 before a torn ACL ended his season. Wayne was able to fight back and play in 15 games in 2014, but it was obvious he wasn't the same player.
Some team may very well take a chance on Wayne and sign him to play a limited role on their offense in 2015. I wouldn't fault any team for doing that, per se, as his veteran presence and knowledge could help any group of wide receivers. But those expecting meaningful production will almost surely find themselves disappointed.