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Player Spotlight: Reggie Wayne

A detailed look at Reggie Wayne's fantasy prospects for 2013

No one was happier about the arrival of Andrew Luck in Indianapolis than Reggie Wayne. After five seasons as Peyton Manning's primary targets (and one of the most reliable fantasy receivers in the game) Wayne saw just how important a star quarterback was in 2011. While his bounce back in 2012 was not quite a complete one, it was enough to move him back into the range of a solid WR2 and a PPR monster. Luck leaned hard on the veteran in 2012, to the tune of 195 targets. While a repeat of that seems unlikely, Wayne enters the season as Luck's clear #1 option.

The questions about Reggie Wayne start and end with his age. Wayne will turn 35 in the middle of the 2013 campaign. We know that he's in great shape, and hasn't missed a game in more than a decade, but there has to be a very small chance that he performs like he did in 2012, right? There have been five receivers in the last 50 years to record as many fantasy points (165) as Wayne did in 2012 at the age of 35 or older. While I'm a big believer in modern medicine, it's important to note that it's happened once in the last 12 years.

While Wayne performed well in 2012, it isn't like we can't find signs of aging if we look hard enough. After averaging more than 12.5 fantasy points per game in the first half of 2012, Wayne slumped below 8 in the second half. This is not uncommon for aging players and is definitely something I'd expect again in 2013. While a drop of 33% seems like a lot, the decline was actually pretty steady when you look at the season in quarters:

  REC/G YDS/G TD FP/G
Games 1-4 9 126.5 2 15.7
Games 5-8 6.25 82.3 1 9.7
Games 9-12 6.75 55.3 0 8.0
Games 13-16 4.5 49.8 2 7.9

In fairness to Wayne, his age isn't the only reason for the decline.

It took about four games for opposing defenses to figure out that they had very little to be scared of outside of Reggie Wayne. In the first four games of the season, Wayne received an outlandish 15 targets per game, and hauled in 60% of them. That number steadily dropped as opposing defenses gave him the Calvin Johnson treatment, and Wayne's catch % went in the tank. In those last 4 games he caught only 42.8% of the passes thrown his direction.

It's not that the other options in the passing game were terrible; they just weren't a threat on the same level as Wayne. Donnie Avery is now gone, replaced by Darrius Heyward-Bey, and that's not necessarily an upgrade. T.Y. Hilton, Dwayne Allen, and Coby Fleener have all had a year to develop, so their may be some improvement there. The only significant addition is Ahmad Bradshaw, but there's no telling when he'll get on the practice field.

While there may not be a lot of other targets for Andrew Luck, you can bet that Wayne's looks will go down in 2013. That's not a bold statement considering nobody gets that many targets year after year, but there's another reason in new coordinator Pep Hamilton. Hamilton's stated goal is to make the offense more balanced and that is a two-pronged plan.

For one, the Colts want to run the ball more, and more importantly, run the ball more successfully. Also, they'd like to see more production from Coby Fleener in the passing game, and hope Heyward-Bey can be a more productive WR2. While I'm not sure the team has the talent in place to execute this more balanced approach, I definitely think it will be the game plan early in the season. So how do you rank an aging wide receiver that was increasingly less efficient in 2012 and figures to see fewer targets this year?

POSITIVES

  • Wayne has not missed a game since 2001.
  • Wayne has a great young quarterback in Andrew Luck, and he is Luck's clear #1 option.
  • Wayne's finished worse than a WR2 only once in the past seven seasons.

NEGATIVES

  • Wayne will turn 35 this season.
  • Wayne saw a drastic decline in nearly every statistical category throughout 2012.
  • The Colts are looking for a more balanced approach to their offense.

PROJECTIONS

  REC REC YDS REC TD
Heath Cummings Projections 85 1020 5
David Dodds Projections 78 967 6

FINAL THOUGHTS

Wayne is clearly nearing or at the end of his run as an elite receiver. While it's possible that his efficiency improves if the Colts become more balanced, it's unlikely that it improves enough to make up for what should be a severe drop in targets. I'm not big on betting on players when they get this close to the end of their career, because sometimes that end comes rather abruptly. Wayne's currently being drafted as the 17th receiver off the board and that sounds more like his ceiling in 2013 than a realistic expectation.

OTHER VIEWPOINTS

Dave Richard at CBS Sportsline wrote:

He notched his eighth 1,000-yard campaign in nine years and will turn "only" 35 this November. Though Wayne won't be considered a No. 1 receiver, it's pretty clear he has some skills left to help the Colts and Fantasy owners as a prime No. 2 option.

Read more here.

Jason Smith at NFL.com wrote:

Wayne had a tremendous bounce-back season with Andrew Luck, but he didn't get in the end zone a lot (five touchdowns). Throw in a blossoming talent opposite him in T.Y. Hilton and that could spell trouble.

Read more here.


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