Whether it is buying low in trade, snatching up a waiver wire gem, or drafting a rookie, hitting on a wide receiver in a dynasty league can set your team up for years of success. Nailing down a stud WR1 is everyone’s goal, but usually it’s the strong WR3’s and WR4’s that really separate the juggernauts from the middle of the pack. We all talked about the coming storm that was Randall Cobb here at DLF this past off-season and recommended adding him as your teams WR3 then. If you did, you are giddy as a school girl knowing that you have a player with very legit WR1 potential starting as soon as next season. Always trying to stay ahead of the game, I want to compare two players who could be the next players to go from “building block” to “foundation” pieces of your dynasty teams.
I’m talking about T.Y. Hilton of the Indianapolis Colts and Cecil Shorts of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Both players had better than anticipated success in 2012 playing for teams that were not expected to do much. Both players are out of small FBS schools and finished the season with very similar stats. Both players are ranked very closely in my dynasty wide receiver rankings, Hilton (34) and Shorts (40). They are both deep threat / big play receivers, so they lose a little value in PPR leagues, but remain valuable regardless.
Let’s take a look at their situations.
The Colts, with fellow rookies Andrew Luck, Coby Fleener, Vick Ballard, Dwayne Allen, and LaVon Brazill, and veterans Reggie Wayne, Donald Brown and Donnie Avery, looked like a young team needing a lot of time to gel and find their rhythm. The preseason hype around the college connection of “Luck to Fleener” was the main storyline in Indy and everyone felt Luck would eventually be great, but not during his rookie campaign, and definitely not good enough to carry multiple fantasy relevant pass catchers – that obviously wasn’t the case. Wayne had a resurgence and was back to his Peyton Manning era numbers and Hilton’s second half of the season put him firmly on the fantasy radar.
Hilton, the rookie out of Florida International, finished the season with 50 catches, 861 yards and seven touchdowns on offense while also chipping in 418 combined return yards and one more score. On the down side, Hilton tied Colts teammate Donnie Avery with the highest drop rate of catchable balls amongst all NFL wide receivers with 16.67%.* That number actually means he was responsible for dropping 10 of 60 passes considered “catchable.”
Jacksonville, on the other hand, was not so lucky. Starting the season with the still overwhelmed Blaine Gabbert, fresh off of a hold out Maurice Jones-Drew, the newly acquired Laurent Robinson, a highly touted rookie in Justin Blackmon and the continuously disappointing Marcedes Lewis, nobody was expecting much fantasy relevance out of the Jaguars, let alone a second year player out of Mount Union.
Cecil Shorts, co-winner of the 2012 DLF Award for “Waiver Wire Pickup of the Year,” didn’t really catch fire until after Jacksonville’s bye week in week six. Even a week ten switch at quarterback, going from Gabbert to Chad Henne, didn’t derail Shorts’ season. He went on to post 55 catches for 979 yards and seven touchdowns. Like Hilton, Shorts had a case of the dropsies, dropping nine of 64 catchable passes for a 14.06% drop rate.* He also finished the year on injured reserve after suffering a concussion against the Patriots in week 16, although that has no bearing moving forward.
Looking back, you see a lot of similarities between the two youngsters, but what does it mean moving forward? They both appear to have bright futures in both real life and the (more importantly to us) the dynsaty fantasy football world, but the clear advantage in one very important area goes to Hilton, and that is Andrew Luck. The one thing that may hold Shorts back is the fact the silver lining to this franchise’s dark cloud is currently Chad Henne. Think about that… their best case scenario is Chad Henne. That’s not to say they won’t upgrade at the quarterback position this off-season or even that Henne won’t get the job done effectively, but Hilton has Luck and that’s a clear advantage, even with the departure of pass happy offensive coordinator Bruce Arians.
In terms of dynasty value, these two are very close and realistically it probably comes down to personal preference. If I currently own either of these guys, I’m holding on to them barring someone grossly overpaying. If I’m in need of young talent at the wide receiver position, I’m kicking the tires of their owners. It’s not unrealistic to expect both of these guys to take steps forward next year into the low WR2 / high WR3 range. If I only have room for one of them on my roster, I pick T.Y. Hilton. I trust his situation a lot more, but that is not a knock on Cecil Shorts’ ability. It’s simply because of the outlook of the Jaguars’ quarterback position.
What are your thoughts on these two young wide receivers? Are they a “flash in the pan” or fantasy stars in the making?
Follow me on Twitter @OlingerIDPGuru and let me know your thoughts.
*Stat courtesy of Pro Football Focus