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Spotlight: Brandon Lloyd

posted by Jason Wood on Jul 8th


Jason Wood's thoughts

Every year there are those players that no one saw coming. Sometimes it's a second year player who was discounted after the failure to live up to their high draft status as a rookie. Other times it may be a veteran who finally gets a shot at significant playing time thanks to an injury or the departure of someone else in free agency. The one thing all these players have in common is they serve as a reminder that fantasy football prognostication is a humbling task.

Enter Brandon Lloyd. This time last year, Brandon Lloyd was a complete fantasy non-factor. According to MFL's ADP data, Lloyd wasn't among the top 100 WRs drafted last year, and you would have been hard pressed to see Lloyd ranked by anyone (ourselves included) or even mentioned as a fantasy sleeper.

That skepticism was certainly warranted too given Lloyd's recent travails. After four moderately decent years in San Francisco, Lloyd signed a shockingly large free agent contract with Washington, and yet was never able to establish himself in spite of plenty of opportunity. After two seasons in D.C., he was sent packing and Lloyd landed in Chicago, lasting just the season. Lloyd, now 28 and having played for three teams in six years, ended up a bit player with the Denver Broncos in 2009 (8 receptions for 117 yards) - and was considered an end of the roster option at best entering 2010.

Yet, Lloyd was a surprising star in Week 1 versus Jacksonville (5 for 117), and fantasy owners still barely registered interest as weekly waiver claims were submitted. In Week 2 he had a more pedestrian 3 receptions for 53 yards against Seattle, but was still clearly in the offensive game plan. Smart owners took a flier on him at that point because the next three weeks were absolutely monstrous. Three straight 100-yard games, and a total of 20 receptions for 419 yards and 3 TDs. The secret was out. But even at that point, PLENTY of people warned that Lloyd was fool's gold, that his history argued he would fall back to Earth just at the point when fantasy owners were scrambling to put him in their lineups.

Pundits can be wrong, folks. When the dust settled on the season, Lloyd was not only a competent fantasy performer, he was the TOP SCORING FANTASY RECEIVER OF THE YEAR.

  • 77 receptions
  • 1,448 yards (league leading)
  • 11 TDs

This sets up one of the most important debates of this fantasy season - was Brandon Lloyd a one-year wonder or was this a breakout season where the light finally went on for the 29 year old. For many fantasy owners, they'll simply ignore Lloyd expecting him to fail to match last year's productivity. But therein lies an opportunity...people are, ONCE AGAIN, selling Brandon Lloyd short.

According to MFL ADP data, Brandon Lloyd is currently being drafted 55th overall and as the 20th wide receiver. It's one thing to expect Lloyd to regress a bit (anyone that finishes at or near the top of their position is likely to regress some), but to fall that far? All the way to a low end WR2? Simply put, I think fantasy skepticism is far too pervasive, which makes Lloyd an IDEAL candidate to target as your WR2.

Addressing the Misconceptions

Issue #1) Brandon Lloyd isn't a talented wide receiver; he caught lightning in a bottle

Hopefully you don't ascribe to this notion, because it's ridiculous. Receivers, no matter how advantageous their situation, do not lead the league in receiving without rare ability. It would be one thing if Lloyd squeaked out 1,000 yards because he was the lone target on a bad offense, but he led the league with 1,448 yards. Take a gander at the other receivers to have at least 1,400 yards receiving in the last 20 years, and tell me it's a bar easily jumped over by a "fluke" player. If you need more evidence, consider that Lloyd led the NFL in 25+ yard catches, and only had 4 drops in 153 targets.

Issue #2) Josh McDaniels is gone, and he was the key to Lloyd's emergence

This, frankly, is the most legitimate concern of the bunch. McDaniels, while a failure as a head coach, certainly maintained his reputation as an innovative offensive mind. He recognized not only Lloyd's abilities, but put him in position to capitalize on them. With John Fox taking over, there is a risk that things might not evolve in the same way. The good news is Mike McCoy remains in place as the offensive coordinator. John Fox opted to keep McCoy as OC, having worked with him previously in Carolina. McCoy will be the primary play-caller now, and will be running McDaniels' offensive system.

Issue #3) Lloyd was targeted a ton, and that won't happen this year under Fox

Even if you think the Broncos will maintain a similar system (and they will), there is no question that the Broncos WANT to run more under John Fox. The Broncos were unbalanced last year, ranking 27th in rushing attempts and 7th in pass attempts, and as a result Brandon Lloyd was the 5th most targeted player (153) in the NFL. You have to expect that will come down a bit given the run/pass balance this year. But remember, the Broncos are more than a new head coach away from contending, and that defense isn't going to be able to stop a ton of opponents. So to think they'll be able to run the ball 500+ times is a bit optimistic, Lloyd will see plenty of opportunities. Another positive is that, in spite of just 4 drops, Lloyd only caught 50.3% of those 153 targets - which was the result of a lot of errant passes. He could reasonably catch as many balls this year even if his targets drop a bit.

Issue #4) Tim Tebow replaces Kyle Orton

There are two ways to dispute this concern. One, it's hardly a foregone conclusion the Broncos will start Tim Tebow. Although that's the conventional wisdom, new Broncos head honcho John Elway has been far from glowing in his praise of Tebow, and the new coaching staff has insisted Kyle Orton will get a chance to keep (re-win?) his job. Two, even if Tebow does start for Denver, Lloyd can still produce. In 2010, Lloyd was highly productive with both Orton and Tebow under center:

  • Per Game with Orton - 4.85 receptions, 91 yards, 20.7 yards per catch, 0.69 TDs
  • Per Game with Tebow - 4.67 receptions, 88 yards, 18.9 yards per catch, 0.67 TDs

Positives

  • Lloyd led the NFL in receiving yards last year, and was the league's top fantasy WR
  • Mike McCoy was retained as OC, and will run the same system as Josh McDaniels. McCoy was also credited with Steve Smith's best seasons in Carolina
  • Lloyd, contrary to popular notion, remained an elite producer last year with Tim Tebow under center

Negatives

  • Lloyd's 2010 campaign came out of nowhere, after he washed out in three prior destinations
  • New head coach John Fox is going to demand a far more balanced run/pass ratio, all but assuring Lloyd won't be targeted as often
  • The Broncos are rebuilding and will happily give lots of reps to youngsters like Eric Decker if they earn them

Final thoughts

Brandon Lloyd was completely off the fantasy radar this time last year, and as a result he helped many owners win their league as he provided elite production for the price of a early waiver wire pick. While his lack of productivity in prior stops in Chicago, Washington and San Francisco is notable, anyone that actually watched Lloyd play last year can see that a light went on. He wasn't producing via smoke and mirrors, he was running great routes, fighting for the ball, and outdueling solid defensive backs. While there are many questions in Denver, Brandon Lloyd isn't one of them.

You can reasonably expect Lloyd to see fewer targets than last year (when he was 5th among all receivers), which is why some regression is a logical assumption. But fantasy owners are going too far and his current ADP of WR20 is ridiculous. Leverage that overreaction to your advantage and make Lloyd a priority target as your fantasy WR2 a round earlier than ADP.


Quotations from the message board thread

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

fightingillini said:

Something in my gut tells me to stay away from Brandon Lloyd this year........he had a career year and likely won't repeat it. Fox likes to run the ball, and will likely bring in another RB to share the load with Moreno. Lloyd averaged 18.8 YPC, which is unbelievable. He was on the same page with Orton on deep balls all of last year. And now Tebow is likely going to be the QB.......

But Lloyd's situation isn't that bad.....DEN is likely going to have to throw the ball to win games like last year, and opposing defenses will make Tebow try and beat them through the air.

Quite a dilemma. So my projection is a good one but much less than 2010. He's a decent #2WR, but likely someone will overpay for him looking for last year's stats.

stbugs said:

One thing that struck me was that in the games Lloyd had a TD, Denver gave up 27, 31, 24, 29, 35, 36, 39 and 33 points. Also, Denver was 1-7 when Lloyd scored and 3-5 when he didn't. Might not be much of a difference, but it was almost like he played the entire season in garbage time. Great for Lloyd owners in 2010.

Denver's D was horrible last year and while they may not be that great in 2011, does anyone think they will be the worst scoring defense in the NFL by 2+ ppg? Remember how Houston's pass defense was so bad that it was one of if not the worst passing defenses ever in NFL history? Well, they gave up 44 less points than Denver. Denver's rush offense was #26 and had the 3rd most fumbles. Also, only 2 teams (Arizona and Washington) ran the ball substantially less than Denver.

Lloyd may stay the #1 WR in Denver, but last year was a perfect storm for him. Based on his history and everything else, I think we saw his career year and while he will still be relevant to FF, I could easily see him outside the top 10.

MrTwo94 said:

As I don't anticipate Tebow to have a successful fantasy season in 2011, I don't expect Lloyd to finish in the top 10 this year. He finally made something of himself last year and he very well may be top 5 in 2012 or later on, but check out what bad QB play did to Fitz last year. And let's not get too excited about the 111 yd game with Tebow and Lloyd. That was against Houston's record breakingly bad pass defense. Additionally, I don't think anyone can realistically expect his 18.8 ypr to continue. My projections are for a 15% decrease in receptions along with an expected drop in ypr (from 18.8 to 16.0 which would be his 2nd highest in his career). Every year there are shake ups in the top 10 players. Some are harder to see coming than others, but this one shouldn't catch anyone by surprise.

rzrback77 said:

Just for ease of review I wanted to post Brandon Lloyd's career stats.

03 - 16 gms 27 target 14 catches 51.9% 212 yds 15.1 ypc and 2 TDs
04 - 13 gms 87 target 43 catches 49.4% 565 yds 13.1 ypc and 6 TDs
05 - 16 gms 109 target 48 catches 44.0% 733 yds 15.3 ypc and 5 TDs
06 - 15 gms 57 target 23 catches 40.3% 365 yds 15.9 ypc and 0 TDs
07 - 8 gms 11 target 2 catches 18.2% 14 yds 7.0 ypc and 0 TDs
08 - 11 gms 50 target 26 catches 52.0% 364 yds 14.0 ypc and 2 TDs
09 - 2 gms 18 target 8 catches 44.4% 117 yds 14.6 ypc and 0 TDs
10 - 16 gms 153 target 77 catches 50.3% 1448 yds 18.8 ypc and 11 TDs

2010 was not just a career year, it was more like a fairy tale come true season. Fast forward to 2011 and there is a new coach in town. The Broncos held onto their OC, so there is a likelihood that the offensive system will remain as it. But rumors are strong that Orton will be traded and the team will be led by Tim Tebow. I am a huge SEC fan and Tim Tebow was a fierce competitor and an able college QB. However, I just can't imagine him being effective as an everyday starter at QB. I think that his passing abilities will be tested and his success will be limited. Tebow essentially premiered in the last three games of the 2010 season and and completed 40 of 81 passes for 49.4% and 651 yards or 8.03 ypa. I think that he could improve some on the completion percentage, but no way will he come close to the 8.0 ypa.

I also think that the RBs and TEs will be more involved in 2011 and the WRs will be featured less. I really see a huge drop off for Lloyd.


Brandon Lloyd projections

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Jason Wood711060700
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