In deeper leagues, panning for gold is something that separates teams that are perennial contenders and can avoid the dreaded “rebuilding” from teams that can bottom out due to age, injury and/or busted prospects. This does not only apply to finding the Arian Fosters or Victor Cruzes of the world, but also to the non-stud players who turn into solid contributors to your team, maybe just as bye-week and injury fillers, but sometimes sliding into your WR3 or flex spots.
Now, lets compare two wide receivers from 2009 through 2011 who are approximately one year apart in age. In those three years, “WR A” caught 54% of his targets for an average of 13.6 yards per reception and had an elite quarterback for two of those three seasons. In contrast, “WR B” caught 57% of his targets for an average of 15.3 yards per reception, and had a below average or average quarterback for all three of those seasons. Who would you rather have on your dynasty team based on those stats? “WR A” is Pierre Garcon and “WR B” is none other than Brian Hartline. Of course those two statistics don’t tell the whole story, and Garcon’s situation in the immediate future is likely the better one. Yet, using the ADP data of Brian Fontaine of ProFootballFocus, Garcon has an ADP of 91st overall as the WR39, while Hartline has an ADP of 234th overall as the WR91.
Here are more detailed statistics as to Hartline’s and Garcon’s statistics over that three year period:
*Only played 15 games in 2009 and 14 games in 2010.
Now, if you use Hartline’s career Target Percentage and Yards Per Catch, and extrapolate Hartline’s targets to Garcon’s level in that same period, you get the following numbers:
Now, divided by three, that would provide an average year of 113 targets, 65 receptions and 989 receiving yards – good enough for 163.9 fantasy points, or 10.24 fantasy points per game, without even factoring in touchdowns. That would have been good to be the PPR WR36 last year, or on the fringe of WR3 production. Add five touchdowns to the mix, and you end up with 193.9 fantasy points, which would have been good enough for ppr WR26 last year (just four spots below Garcon).
If you consider that Brandon Marshall had 146 targets in 2010 and 142 targets in 2011 that now need to be replaced, it is not a stretch that with only Davone Bess, Chad Ochocinco and a bunch of rookies at wide receiver for Miami, that Hartline could see somewhere between 95 and 115 targets this year. He has a good work ethic, runs precise routes and has a decent mix of size and speed.
Granted, that 57% target percentage isn’t going to set the league on fire (58% tends to be the average). However, that can be partly explained by the number of go routes that Hartline has run in the past. That role should be a prominent part of the new offense and Joe Philbin has already confirmed that Hartline is going to play on the outside. Hartline’s concentration and ability to make plays down the field and take advantage of Matt Moore’s arm strength was on display during this 39 yard catch in Week 15 at Buffalo:
I do caution you not to take this too far and think you are getting the next Jordy Nelson. Although Nelson only averaged 12.7 yards per catch in his first three years, he did have a 67% Target Percentage on 149 targets. In fact, Nelson’s Target Percentage in 2011 was almost identical with his three-year average from 2008-2010 (102 targets, 68 receptions). This ability to go and get balls in his catching radius separates Nelson from the pack and, in addition to the likely-to-regress touchdown numbers, explains his breakout top five season.
Hartline’s Target Percentage is likely to hover around the 57% mark, preventing him from ascending to WR2 status. [One final caution, Target Percentage is not the be all end all, especially if you are getting an ungodly amount of targets; see Johnson, Calvin (52% career Target Percentage – 695 targets,366 receptions].
Finally, I’m not very concerned about the signing of Chad Ochocinco. That may turn out to be more about adding another sideshow for Hard Knocks than for actual football games. If Ochocinco does end up playing, he’ll likely play on the outside along with Hartline, and with Bess manning the slot. His presence on the field could potentially free up Hartline down the field (although I don’t really expect much from him). Ultimately, at Brian Hartline’s relatively minimal cost (indeed, he may even be available on your league’s waiver wire), he might not take you for a trip across the moon, but he could turn out to be a low cost WR3 for your dynasty team and give it the WR depth necessary to make a championship run for the next couple of years.