Now for another installment of our Fantasy Stock Watch periodical. This series takes a look at players who either exceeded their anticipated contributions this year, or failed to live up to them and what we can expect come 2014. The biggest concern: you want to draft based on value, rather than paying for stats that will be hard to repeat and/or paying an expectant price for development that may not come.
Fantasy Stock Watch 2014: Other Entries
Rueben Randle, WR, New York Giants
2013 ADP: 144 (WR51)
2013 Position Rank: WR47
2013 Expectations: Rueben Randle
Entering his second pro season after a limited run in his 2012 rookie year, there was a fair amount of intrigue surrounding Randle as a potential breakout candidate though his 12th-13th round ADP suggests he was very much of the late round lottery ticket type than he was an expected breakout candidate.
After all, the 2012 2nd round draft pick made just 19 receptions in his rookie year (three of them for touchdowns) with just 298 yards receiving so assuming a significant fantasy impact in 2013 would have been unwise. He entered the season as our 55th ranked WR by staff consensus.
2013 Results: Rueben Randle
Randle absolutely exhibited growth this season, almost exactly doubling his catch, yardage and touchdown totals finishing with 41, 611 and six respectively. It was a hit or miss season for him though, as 197 of the yards came in two games (Weeks 1 and 5) and four of the touchdowns came in a three game stretch that started with a 6-96-2 outing in that Week 5 game against the Eagles.
In the games where he didn’t score a TD, Randle scored more than four points just twice so he was impossible to trust as an every week option. Nicks was equally inconsistent beyond statistics to the unbiased eye, picking up positive grades per Pro Football Focus in seven games, with negative marks in eight (and one ’0′).
Randle left a number of big plays on the field this season, showing a disappointing penchant for drops particularly in big moments. While his five drops aren’t the end of the world statistically speaking, he put five of 46 catchable balls on the ground this year giving him the 19th highest drop percentage of any WR with more than 75 targets this season (Randle drew 76). His overall catch rate of 53.9% ranks 88th among WRs who played in more than 25% of their team’s snaps, though a low number is not uncommon for a WR in just his second season. Neither issue is insurmountable, but both are troubling.
That said, we’d be foolish to ignore the fact that Randle played 2013 with the worst version of Eli Manning we’ve ever seen – overall he completed just 57.5% of his passes so it isn’t as if Randle’s catch rate was far worse than that of his teammates. The six interceptions that Manning threw in Randle’s direction were more than all but four other receivers… but again, Manning simply threw a lot of picks.
Meanwhile, Jerrel Jernigan (picked in the third round a year ahead of Randle) flashed talent as well. He finished with less impressive cumulative numbers than Randle but closed the season strong while Victor Cruz was sitting out in what most assumed would be Randle’s audition for 2014. Over the final three games of the season Jernigan, caught 19 balls for 237 yards and he scored twice. During that same time frame, Randle went 4-40-0.
2014 Outlook: Rueben Randle
With free agency set to open on March 11 it seems that the Giants are already bidding adieu to Hakeem Nicks. After his own struggles this season it is hard to envision Nicks being a day one target when the market opens but he’ll have his suitors and the Giants are intending to let him test the market at the very least (and if you read between the lines here, he’s a goner).
As indicated above, that opens up a starting job opposite Victor Cruz and while a glance at the raw production numbers cited above suggest that Jernigan may have a better shot at success we have to note that he did his damage largely out of the slot during that three game stretch (taking 85% of his snaps there) and the team likely views him as a better fit in that role. Victor Cruz gets a lot of work in the slot, as we know, so Jernigan seems destined to see the field only in three wide receiver sets – as long as Randle can show in camp and through the early part of the season that he’s up to the task.
Of course, there is the reality that the team could look to address the position in free agency or through the draft but with more glaring needs on both sides of the ball (including offensive line and running back) the team is likely to stick with the guys they currently have in place. Speaking at the combine this week, Giants GM Jerry Reese (per Pro Football Talk) says he expects development from Randle though he stopped short of committing to him as the team’s number two.
Eli Manning has never been a perfect quarterback, posting his third season wire more than 20 interceptions this past year, but we’ll have to assume that if the team can offer him better protection next year the QB and the offense in general will be more productive. If he cuts down on his own mistakes, there will be better stat lines for all his pass catchers and Randle stands to benefit from this fact alone. Sprinkle in some increased playing time, and the magical third year wide receiver label and we could easily be looking at a top 36 WR next season by sheer volume and overall offensive progression alone.
Don’t sleep on the fact that the Gmen have changed offensive coordinators as well – new OC Ben McAdoo comes by way of Green Bay where they know a thing or two about developing fantasy relevant wide receivers. He is unproven as a play caller mind you, but the switch to a West Coast scheme seems to fit well with a player of Randle’s stature. He’s going to see a lot of slants and back shoulder throws (again the catch/drop rate will have to improve significantly to take advantage of the latter, also to gain the trust of his QB to throw them) which should lead to heightened reception numbers and better overall production.
There are no guarantees when it comes to calling for numbers that a player hasn’t come anywhere near producing, but the situation for Randle is set to improve drastically in 2014 which generally means that the potential value is worth the risk. Keep am eye on him come August to get a gauge on a) his development b) his projected position in the offense and c) if the hype machine is at risk of pricing him out of a reasonable man’s market but if the signs are pointing to Randle taking a jump, don’t be afraid to take the plunge after him yourself.