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Spotlight: Dwayne Bowe

posted by Jason Wood on Aug 6th


Jason Wood's thoughts

Dwayne Bowe is one of the best values on the draft board this year. With an average draft position of 52 (WR20), Bowe should be on the short list of receivers to target. This year a lot of people are considering quarterbacks early, as well as a few of the elite tight ends - such as Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham. Generally the risk to grabbing QB or TE in the first round or two is a fear that it puts you behind the eight ball at either the RB or WR positions. Bowe is one of the ways you can alleviate that fear - because he could EASILY deliver top 10 fantasy numbers, yet he's only going to cost you a 5th or 6th round pick.

Bowe is a 6'2", 220 lbs. physical receiver that's entering his sixth season in Kansas City. The Chiefs designated Bowe their franchise player, but couldn't come to terms on a long-term extension, which means Bowe will play for $9.5 million tender (once he signs it). Chiefs' officials and Bowe's camp are all saying the right things, but for now he remains unsigned and probably won't be in a rush to get into training camp on time.

Bowe is a divisive player - he has strong supporters (like myself) and equally strong detractors.

His supporters point to the 2010 season, when Bowe had 15 touchdown receptions and finished as the #2 fantasy receiver
His detractors call that a career year and note that he's had 5 or fewer TDs in three of five seasons

His supporters point to three 1,000 yard seasons in the last four (he was hurt for part of the other season)
His detractors point to a receiver that's never eclipsed 1,162 yards in spite of being a focal point

His supporters note that Bowe was on a blistering pace last year until Matt Cassel got hurt
His detractors note that Cassel is a middling talent and the new offensive coaches are hardly proven commodities

His supporters note that Bowe is playing for a monster contract in 2013, either from the Chiefs or elsewhere
The detractors wonder why the Chiefs were reluctant to give him a big extension this offseason

Bowe's supporters point toward his ability to miss tackles (13 missed tackles last year - among the NFL's best) and the way he high points the ball in traffic
His naysayers look at the 10 drops and a catch rate (63%) that's good, but not elite

Use the Confusion to Your Advantage - Draft him with confidence

If Bowe didn't have question marks, his ADP would be more in line with his ability and upside potential. That's what makes him a value. As an overt supporter, let me quickly address some of the concerns:

  • The low TD totals in most years - TD totals are erratic, in general. Yet, watching film on Bowe shows a big strong receiver that's comfortable in traffic. We know that as long as the offense is clicking, he can score in droves (witness 2010). More importantly, Bowe has been a solid fantasy WR2 even when he doesn't find the end zone, so if he can get into the 8-10 TD range - he's got a fantastic shot at top-10 value.
  • The lack of breakout yardage- This is a byproduct of the style of offense played in Kansas City. Bowe has averaged 13.8 yards per reception for his career, so he's clearly not a plodder. I wouldn't expect a 1,400+ yard breakout because the Chiefs are going to run the ball and play ball control offense, but I also think we've seen enough to know that Bowe's downside is 900-1,000 yards; which is an enviable safety cushion versus some of the less proven options going off the board in the same point of drafts.
  • Matt Cassel is a middling QB - I can't argue with this one, it's true. Cassel is toward the bottom third of the league's quarterbacks, and I think we've seen his best already (Cassel's upside left when Charlie Weis left). But, I would point out that Cassel has a good rapport with Bowe, and that's really all that matters. I would also note that Kansas City has no other proven options in the WR/TE corps, so Bowe is going to remain one of Cassel's primary reads.

Here was Bowe's fantasy value with Matt Cassel in the lineup last year:

Top Fantasy Receivers (2011: Weeks 1 through 9)

Rank First Last Recs RecYds YPR TDs FPTs
1 Calvin Johnson 47 804 17.1 11 146.4
2 Wes Welker 66 960 14.5 6 135.2
3 Mike Wallace 47 868 18.5 6 123.6
4 Steve Smith 46 918 20.0 4 117.6
5 Greg Jennings 48 723 15.1 6 108.3
6 Vincent Jackson 34 613 18.0 6 97.4
7 A.J. Green 40 599 15.0 5 89.9
8 Dwayne Bowe 39 646 16.6 4 89.8
9 Jordy Nelson 29 570 19.7 5 87.0
10 Jeremy Maclin 44 606 13.8 4 84.7

Bowe was the 8th best receiver with Cassel under center, but things went completely off the rails - understandably - once the likes of Tyler Palko were forced into the lineup.

Top Fantasy Receivers (2011: Weeks 10 through 17)

Rank First Last Recs RecYds YPR TDs FPTs
1 Jordy Nelson 39 693 17.8 10 129.3
2 Victor Cruz 49 957 19.5 5 125.7
3 Percy Harvin 56 633 11.3 6 121.3
4 Calvin Johnson 49 877 17.9 5 118.8
5 Roddy White 57 795 13.9 5 109.5
6 Larry Fitzgerald 42 765 18.2 5 106.5
7 Laurent Robinson 30 490 16.3 9 103.0
8 Marques Colston 48 682 14.2 5 98.2
9 Nate Washington 38 562 14.8 5 86.4
10 Hakeem Nicks 37 608 16.4 4 84.8
11 Julio Jones 26 470 18.1 6 84.5
12 Brandon Marshall 36 583 16.2 4 82.3
13 Wes Welker 56 613 10.9 3 79.1
14 Dez Bryant 37 485 13.1 5 78.5
15 Vincent Jackson 26 493 19.0 3 72.3
16 Darrius Heyward-Bey 37 541 14.6 3 72.1
17 Brandon Lloyd 34 476 14.0 4 71.6
18 Malcom Floyd 24 455 19.0 4 69.5
19 Steve Smith 33 476 14.4 3 69.4
20 Jabar Gaffney 37 506 13.7 3 68.6
21 Nate Burleson 47 512 10.9 2 67.4
22 Michael Crabtree 42 552 13.1 2 67.2
23 Demaryius Thomas 27 485 18.0 3 67.0
24 Steve Johnson 34 481 14.1 3 66.1
25 Torrey Smith 30 444 14.8 3 65.3
26 Antonio Brown 30 568 18.9 1 65.0
27 A.J. Green 25 458 18.3 2 62.5
28 Reggie Wayne 36 443 12.3 3 62.3
29 DeSean Jackson 29 458 15.8 2 61.0
30 Titus Young 30 294 9.8 5 60.9
31 Santonio Holmes 26 314 12.1 4 58.1
32 Dwayne Bowe 42 513 12.2 1 57.3

Bowe went from an every week, must start to the 32nd ranked receiver after Cassel got hurt. At WR32, he was essentially barely a WR3 or flex player in most leagues.

Other Considerations:

  • New Coaches - Brian Daboll is the new offensive coordinator, and he has a lot left to prove after forgettable stints in Cleveland and Miami. I'm not a Daboll fan, far from it, but I do think that plays to Bowe's benefit. When a team is struggling to execute, quarterbacks lean on their safety valves - and Matt Cassel has just one safety valve; Dwayne Bowe.
  • An Invigorated Running Game - Jamaal Charles is healthy again, and Peyton Hillis is aboard. That means the Chiefs can and should run the ball much more effectively than a season ago. An improved ground game means longer drives, more trips into the red zone, and more chances for Bowe to shine in tight quarters as he did in 2010.
  • The Holdout Isn't A Concern - Bowe is holding out. If anything, the longer his holdout persists the better it will be for his fantasy value. Fantasy owners tend not to learn from the past, and will worry that Bowe will somehow refuse to play and miss games. No one is going to turn down $9.5 million on principle. When the games matter, Bowe will be on the field.

Positives

  • Bowe is a physically imposing receiver with an ability to attack the ball in traffic or beat corners deep in single coverage
  • Bowe was the 2nd best fantasy receiver in 2010 and was the 8th best last year before Cassel got hurt
  • The Chiefs have no viable alternatives, Bowe is guaranteed to be among the most targeted receivers in the league

Negatives

  • Bowe is unhappy with his contract, and holding out. If he doesn't stay in peak condition while away from the team, he could suffer an injury (e.g., a pull hamstring)
  • Matt Cassel is not an elite passer
  • New OC Brian Daboll has -- shall we say -- plenty left to prove

Final thoughts

On draft night, it's great to zero in on an idea like drafting a tight end in the first round, or going quarterback/tight end at the turn. Yet, few fantasy owners think about what that will mean in terms of filling out the rest of their roster. If you opt for filling both your TE and QB slots early, or go a traditional route and grab running backs with two of your first three picks, you're going to need to identify wide receivers that can be drafted in the fifth round or later that have a real shot at WR1 fantasy numbers. Dwyane Bowe is the poster boy for this kind of strategy.


Quotations from the message board thread

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

FF Ninja said:

With an ADP of WR20, Bowe appears to be a very safe, but unexciting play. He's being drafted behind Colston (who fits the same genre), Austin (who is a WR10ish bounce back candidate), and Demaryius Thomas (total wildcard). The guys directly behind him are VJax (new team), Maclin (a WR15ish bounce back candidate), Britt (lots of questions), Stevie (coming off groin surgery), and my favorite - Lloyd. So it's hard to make a case where Bowe stands out given the upside of a few of those guys around him, but he does at least compare well if you look at his situation.

He had a pretty flukey 15 TDs a couple years ago - only caught 7 balls inside the red zone, but 100% went for TDs - and then only snagged 5 while his QB missed 7 games. Aside from the TDs, he finished the year with similar numbers (142 targ, 81 rec, 57%, 1159 yds, 14.3 ypr, 5 TDs) to the year before (131 targ, 72 rec, 55%, 1162 yds, 16.1 ypr, 15 TDs). If you just look at the 9 games with Cassell last year, his stats extrapolate to 142 targ, 73 rec, 51%, 1179 yds, 16.2 ypr, 7 TDs which are really similar to 2010 without the TDs. If it wasn't for the switch in OC, then I'd think we could feel really good about what we've got here in Bowe - a 70-75 rec, 1150-1200 yds, 6-10 TD guy.

I think Daboll runs the ball like crazy with Hillis and Charles, but the good news is that they've been running the ball a lot and only thrown the ball 475 and 501 times the last two seasons, so Bowe should still get 120-140 targets as the WR1 of the team. He finished WR20 last year with a lower than usual ypr and only 5 TDs, so if you are looking for a safe play in the late 4th/early 5th then pass on D.Thomas and even Colston and grab Bowe.

Grahamburn said:

Really can't get on board with Bowe. I loved him before his 15 TD season. Glowing preseason reports regarding his work ethic sold me in 2010. Now he has contract issues, isn't working out with the team, and I expect the Chiefs to be extremely run heavy. He's in the tier with a plethora of other WRs on better offenses with better QBs, so if I'm going WR in that area I'll probably end up with someone else.

Chazzhawk said:

If Bowe reports his floor is very high at 70 catches 1000 + yards and 6+ touchdowns, if everything goes right for him we have seen the upside. He is playing for probably his only big pay day. I could see him near 85 catches 1300 yards and 13 touchdowns but only if it all goes right, otherwise I think he fits in where he always has.


Dwayne Bowe projections

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