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Spotlight: Reggie Wayne

posted by Mark Wimer on Jul 19th


Mark Wimer's thoughts

Reggie Wayne continued his fine career last year with the largest number of targets he has ever enjoyed from Peyton Manning, with 175 targets for 111/1,355/6 receiving. It was the third time over the last four years that Wayne went over 100 receptions in a season - he is still Manning's "go-to guy" despite the development of younger receivers like Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie. However, there are some reasons to expect Wayne's numbers to roll back a bit this year.

First of all, tight end Dallas Clark only appeared in six games last year before going down to injury. He is expected back in the lineup this year, and some of the 175 passes that flowed to Wayne last year are likely to go in Clark's direction this season. Secondly, Austin Collie was only able to play in nine games with six starts due to the series of three concussions that Collie suffered last year - which was another factor in play that led to Wayne seeing a career high in targets last year. During the three prior seasons, Wayne saw 156, 131, and 149 targets per year, and it would seem reasonable to expect his chances to recede back towards more normal numbers this year.

However, we can't forget that the Colts are a pass-first offense - they led the league last year with Manning's league-record 450 pass completions for 4,700 passing yards, and the team was second in the NFL with 33 passing TDs. Back in 2007, Wayne turned 156 targets into 104/1,510/10 (a 14.5 yards per catch average), so even though he is likely to recede from the 175 targets we saw last year, Wayne still has an excellent shot at over 100 receptions, well over 1,000 yards receiving and double-digit TDs (in fact, he's scored either ten or six TDs in each of his last four seasons). Being a trusted target of Peyton Manning does good things for any given player's fantasy numbers.

Wayne has been pushing the club for a long-term deal over the last few years, and he enters the final year of his contract in 2011. Wayne indicated on July 17th that he would like to receive a new contract from the team but said that he will report to training camp on time and will not hold out. He is scheduled to make $5.95 million this year. While Wayne wants a long-term deal, the Colts generally don't award long-term contracts to players over 30 - Wayne will be 32 when the season begins, and turns 33 on November 17th. On the upside of this situation, Wayne knows that he is playing for a new contract (with possibly a new club during 2012), so he'll be very motivated to put up strong numbers (and thereby earn a fat new deal). As I noted above, the Colts will put plenty of footballs in the air again this year, and Wayne figures to command a strong share of those passes.

Positives

  • Wayne is Manning's go-to guy on this club, and that doesn't figure to change this year
  • Wayne will be highly motivated to play well due to his contractual situation
  • The Colts' offense is a pass-first unit that relies on Manning's throwing arm for the bulk of their production

Negatives

  • Wayne is getting into his middle thirties, and that is the age at which many NFL players start to "lose a step"
  • The return of Dallas Clark and Austin Collie to the lineup will most likely cut into Wayne's targets this year
  • The Colts have a first-place schedule (again) this year, and their opponents in the AFC South are likely to work on their secondaries during free agency (once that begins) in light of Manning's record-setting season last year
  • Peyton Manning hasn't been throwing the football during the offseason due to the lockout and also his second neck surgery in the past 15 months, and his backup Curtis Painter is not nearly in the same tier as Manning. If Manning's neck problems continue to flare up, the Colt's passing game could suffer significantly during 2011

Final thoughts

Reggie Wayne is in a position to catch 100 footballs again during 2011 - that should lead to a top-tier, elite finish at his position. I have him at fourth on my wide receiver board as of mid-July, which is the most optimistic ranking of him among all the Footballguys (he is the consensus seventh-ranked wide receiver as of this writing). However, I think my optimism is justified given Wayne's string of 100+ reception seasons and the pass-first offense that the Colts run. Wayne will get his share of targets and that will lead to elite numbers.


Quotations from the message board thread

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

Iwannabeacowboybaby! said:

Reggie Wayne probably doesn't get the credit he deserves as a NFL wide receiver. The guy plays 16 games just about every season that has counted for him and has made spectacular plays on one of the most prolific offenses the NFL has seen in the last decade. He's been a reception machine the past couple of season catching nearly 225 during that time span but yet most people expect a decline in Reggie's numbers, even though the Colts still don't haven't invested anything substantial in an improved running game. I think Reggie still has it and represents a solid draft pick this upcoming season. Reggie isn't a "sexy" pick anymore, but he'll give you consistent numbers during the course of a season and that's worth something.

Jason Wood, Senior Writer said:

It shocking how little attention Wayne has received, although I think it's also a testament to his quiet consistency. He's at the point in his career where he's never perceived as THE best potential fantasy wideout, but he's also a guy that someone in your league is going to happily draft as their top option, and generally be rewarded for the choice. The Peyton Manning surgery is a modest concern, because I can't fathom any Colts receiver producing at their normal level without him, but all reports (and his history) suggest Manning will be on the field. So long as that's the case, Wayne should be comfortably in everyone's Top 10, and a Top 5 consideration in PPR formats.


Reggie Wayne projections

RECRECYDRECTDRSHYDRSHTD
Mark Wimer10013001000
Message board consensus981182700