The exciting and frustrating thing about fantasy football is that every year we have players that come out of nowhere to contribute and players that come out of nowhere to fail. Whether it be by injury, new offensive schemes, or just plain lack of production, we can never plan for the unexpected. Or at least, we can never be 100% sure on which players will fail and which will succeed.
All we can do is make a best guess.
For every minute we spend researching and analyzing (and I spent thousands of them) we know that many of them will be wasted, or at least all for not. We can't expect that Kenny Britt will get hurt, we can only go with our gut. My gut told me that Britt would finish the year as a top 10 wide receiver. My gut might have been right, but we'll never know for sure.
What is really frustrating is planning for the players to do well, and then they don't get hurt, they just fail to live up to expectations. What went wrong? How could this happen? Are you going to get better?
Now is the time of year to buy and sell on certain players in an effort to have the best team possible when the stretch run and playoffs hit in November and December. Which wide receiver disappointments should you hang onto, stay away from, or go get while you can? Let's spend even more minutes of our lives (some of which will be wasted) trying to figure it out.
Coming into the season, I would have argued that the only wide receivers that had a real argument for being above White were Andre Johnson and Calvin Johnson. There may have been players I could see outperforming him this season, but going into the year he had the combination of experience and production that you just don't see very often: 93 catches for 1,282 yards and 8 touchdowns per season over the last four years.
The only major difference for White from year to year this season was the addition of rookie Julio Jones. White would probably see less targets, but that shouldn't have kept him from getting 80 catches, 1,200 yards and perhaps 8-10 touchdowns. If anything, it should open him up with Jones getting more attention than Michael Jenkins had before.
Instead, he's posting his worst numbers since 2006. White has 34 catches for 373 yards and 2 touchdowns in six games. His 62.2 yards per game is the lowest he's had since becoming a starter, and his 11 yards per catch is the lowest of his career.
What went wrong?
It's not for lack of opportunity. White's 57 targets is 2nd in the NFL behind Wes Welker, drawing 27.6% of Matt Ryan's passes. The first question you have to ask yourself is: Is the problem drops? Well, yes and no.
Yes in the fact that he's catching 57.6% of his targets compared to 64% last year when he had an NFL-leading 115 catches. But no in the fact that he sat between 51% and 57% in the three years prior. This is classic Roddy White in terms of catch%. The bigger issue is the 11 yards per catch, which comes from a career low 15.3% of his targets going for 15 yards or greater.
What to do: Sell or Hold
This is really tough for me because I have always been a huge Roddy White fan, but I must admit that the Falcons don't look good this year. Whether they are trying to figure it all out this year or whether it's a step back for Ryan, they aren't the high-powered offense that I thought they would be.
The WORST passing defense that they face for the rest of the season is Minnesota, and even they aren't terrible. Most of the remaining pass defenses they face range from good to middle-of-the-pack. There aren't any huge opportunities lying in the remaining schedule for Atlanta. If an owner was willing to obtain White from you at a preseason price, I would take it. Especially when you consider that he has a bye after Detrioit this week, if you take a receiver of equal value that already had his bye (Dwayne Bowe? Brandon Marshall?) then you win. Otherwise, I'd hold and hope for the best. I'd only buy White at the right price.
As a player who turns 33 this season, and one that we would soon find out would be without Peyton Manning, many weren't expecting big things from Wayne. Still, it's not like we can just cut him. Or maybe you can, but you're ballsier than I am. Which I am not really jealous of, because I think two is plenty and I wouldn't want to be ballsier.
Wayne put a lot of fears to rest in week one when he caught 7 passes for 106 yards and a touchdown. Since then however he has averaged 4 catches for 56.8 yards and hasn't scored.
Surprisingly, Wayne is still the fifth most target wide receiver in the league with 53 targets on the year, more than teammate Pierre Garcon. The biggest difference statistically between the two is that Garcon has done more with the exact same amount of receptions (27) by scoring three more touchdowns and 82 more yards. The biggest issue for Wayne this year has been the fact that he's caught only 50% of his targets on the year.
What to do: Buy
While it may seem that this is the end for Reggie, look again. This may be the perfect time to buy on a player that many of his owners are ready to cut bait on anyway.
Beyond the fact that Wayne is still targeted as often as he is, check out the competition he has had to face. The Colts have played three of the top four passing defenses in the league: Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh. As the rest of the season continues, Indianapolis gets to play some of the worst pass defenses in New England, Atlanta, and a rematch against Houston, the team he put up 106 yards on in week one.
Add into the fact that Curtis Painter has so far outplayed Kerry Collins, and Wayne could be in line as an excellent buy-low candidate. You may not even have to trade one of your starters for a guy who in most years is a top-10 WR.
Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress
Before the season began, I was not very high on either one of these players to begin with. I would have stayed away from Holmes until he had absolutely fallen way below his draft status, and I wouldn't have touched Burress with a six-foot soap-on-a-roap.
Beyond the fact that I just think both players are overrated, the New York Jets offense isn't exactly tantalizing.
I would have rated Holmes as a WR3/Flex at best, and I wouldn't have touched Burress. Holmes has really only had two seasons where he was a top 15 wide receiver, and he was only even on the cusp of that. He's good for about a 55% catch rate at best, and now he would be sharing more of the targets.
For Plaxico, he hasn't been productive since 2007. I don't care how much time he spent in prison, if you are that far removed from being a good NFL wide receiver, I don't want anything to do with you.
What to do: Go back in time and not draft them? Sell Holmes, Cut Burress
Burress shouldn't be on your roster to begin with. He has 14 catches for 218 yards and two touchowns, which isn't good for anything. He has 10 catches in the last five games and he has an absolutely abysmal 37.8 catch rate on his targets. Even for Burress, who has put up 46% catches-on-targets in his career, that's bad.
For Holmes, now is as good a time as any to see what you can get for him. Though he has two touchdowns in the last two games, that came against New England and Miami, two of the worst pass defenses in the NFL. The Jets do face some more pretty bad defenses like Buffalo and Denver, but it won't change the fact that Mark Sanchez is the quarterback. I'll keep saying this until he proves me wrong: Sanchez is a bad quarterback. If I have to simplify that, he's terrible for fantasy. In two and a half years he has only one more 300-yard game than Cam Newton, and Newton has more 400-yard games (2) than Sanchez (Not a single one.)
In Denver last season, Lloyd nearly doubled his career totals with a breakout 77 catch, 1,448 yard, 11 touchdown campaign. It was unlike anything we had ever seen from Lloyd, and people weren't quick to buy on a repeat performance.
Still, it upped him from being "undraftable" to being a top 15-20 wide receiver.
There were issues with Lloyd following up the season: He had never done it before and Josh McDaniels was gone from Denver. Lloyd was the fourth most targeted receiver in the NFL last season, but he caught only 50.3% of those targets. How would he do in a different style of offense?
His target% has dropped from 26.5% to 20.2% and now he's been sent from Denver to St. Louis, making the great unknown all that harder to figure out. The interesting thing is that Lloyd is actually catching a higher rate of targets this season, but he's seeing less passes, his yards per target is down, and he hasn't scored yet.
What to do: Sell if possible
Owners expecting Lloyd to get an uptick in value in going from Kyle Orton to Sam Bradford and the St. Louis offense might find themselves to be terribly, horribly incorrect.
Lloyd's production will never be what it was in 2010, but I at least expected him to be a good WR2, if not a great WR3/Flex. The acrobatic ability is there, even if he doesn't have outstanding hands. The biggest issue for Lloyd now is that he's going to the absolute worst offense in the NFL.
St. Louis has a season-high scoring total of 16, and they've scored 10 or less in three of their five games. Adding Lloyd helps them, but he's not going to turn it around all by himself. Bradford has been downright bad in his second year, and it's not like the Rams are completely without receiving talent. Sure, they lack a true #1, and they might be in the lower-third in the WR department. The loss of Danny Amendola hurts too, and players they expected to step up, haven't. But blame also has to fall on the shoulders of Bradford.
The Rams remaining schedule is difficult and in the playoff weeks they face the Bengals and Steelers. They've also got matchups against Joe Haden and the Browns, as well as San Francisco. Lloyd will be very limited this year.
Mike Williams, Tampa Bay
I cautioned against Williams and felt that his rookie season might have been a flash-in-the-pan. He had 964 yards and 11 TD's in 2010, but my best guess would have been something like 800 yards and 4 or 5 scores this year. I am always weary of Tampa skill-players and Williams seemed too good to be true.
Last year, Williams only caught 50% of his targets but proved to be a good deep-threat with 37.5% of his targets going for over 15 yards.
As "the man" for Tampa in 2011, he'd draw more attention from the defense and he'd have to improve on the amount of targets he actually caught. Instead, he hasn't scored since week one, he had a season high of 66 yards against the Colts in week four, and he's caught only 48.1% of his targets.
Currently, Williams is on pace for 644 yards, which would make him un-ownable.
What to do: Sell, or buy if the cost is extremely low
If an owner is just going to give him away and you've got room for Williams on your bench, it would be worth a flier. But you have to treat Williams for what he is: 6 catches, 65 yards, and a TD if you're lucky, on his BEST day.
He doesn't catch enough of his targets to be considered an every week wide receiver. If you find yourself desperate, he may outplay waiver wire material, but that's also where he should be: on the waiver wire. The improvement of Josh Freeman in week six was a step in the right direction for the offense as a whole... but they're still taking steps.
Finally I want to take a quick look at Harvin, a player that I grew extremely fond of last night as I was looking to make a trade for a wideout.
Harvin is a fan favorite for anyone who just loves to watch exciting football. Since his days at Florida, people pay attention when he's on the field and has his hands on the ball. The problem is that because he's more of an "athlete" than a wide receiver, the production from a fantasy standpoint has been disappointing, depending on your league's scoring rules.
Harvin caught 71 passes for 868 yards and 5 TDs in 14 games last year, which would make him a decent WR3/Flex, maybe a WR2 in PPR league. In kick return leagues, he's a high-end WR2.
This season, having to catch passes from one of the worst quarterbacks in the league, Harvin regressed from 62 receiving yards per game to 43.5 this year. His only score of the season coming on a kick return, it's been hard for Harvin owners and many of them aren't sure what to do.
What to do: Buy
Ponder quickly connected with Harvin for 2 catches and 35 yards on his first drive. Finally it seemed the Minnesota offense could move and Percy had a season high 78 yards on 7 catches for the game.
In addition to that, Percy has had at least one carry in every game this season and is putting more work together on the ground than he ever has before. In leagues that count return yards, Harvin has put up 667 total yards of offense.
If you can get Harvin, I would do it. My own personal offer was Owen Daniels to an owner that needed a tight end. I think it's a fair deal. You may want to get it done soon: The Vikings play the Packers twice in the next four weeks, and Green Bay is 31st in the NFL in passing defense.
What wide receivers are you unsure about that you want to discuss perhaps? Bring it to the comments and follow me on twitter @casetines