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Spotlight: Pierre Garcon

posted by Mark Wimer on Aug 6th

Mark Wimer's thoughts

The Washington Redskins have been rebuilding the team since Mike and Kyle Shanahan arrived for the 2010 season. During the past two years, they made do with fading veterans at quarterback (Donovan McNabb; Rex Grossman) and among the wide receiving corps (Santana Moss; Joey Galloway; Donte stallworth; Jabar Gaffney). However, thanks to aggressive offseason moves in free agency (Pierre Garcon and Joshua Morgan) and in the draft (Robert Griffin III), the Redskins' passing attack enjoyed a big infusion of youthful talent. The prize of the free agent class was Pierre Garcon, who fled the awful 2-14 2011 Colts to join the (hopefully) ascending Redskins. He is expected to be the Redskins' new headliner at wide receiver - and fantasy owners want to know if Garcon can rise to become a legitimate #1 wideout.

During his four years in Indianapolis, Garcon increased the number of targets he saw (from four in 2008 to 134 during 2011) and his production (from 4/23/0 in 2008 to a career-best 70/947/6 receiving last year). He just missed out on a 1,000 yard season during 2011 despite shagging flares from luminaries like ancient Kerry Collins (three games started), Dan Orlovsky (five games started) and Curtis Painter (eight games started). Hauling in 70/947/6 under the conditions prevailing in Indianapolis last year was a major accomplishment, friends.

This year, Garcon will provide rookie quarterback Griffin with a steady veteran presence in the huddle and out of it. Garcon has become a polished route runner during three years of working with Peyton Manning in Indianapolis (and being coached by Manning on the sidelines last year), and we know that Griffin has an arm that is strong enough to pitch Garcon a lot of long passes - and Garcon has the speed to get under them. Expect to see an increase in the number of scoring opportunities that Garcon enjoys, once Griffin has acclimated to the pro game and learns to evade NFL pass rushers. Obviously, the level of production fantasy owners see from Garcon will be impacted by Griffin's learning curve.

Earlier in the offseason many observers were concerned that Garcon would struggle to break free of double-coverage as the other receivers in Washington were perceived to be on the weak side. However, reports out of OTAs and training camp indicate that Moss still has gas left in his tank - on June 15, 2012, OC Kyle Shanahan noted that Moss entered offseason practices "possessed" this year, and the good reports continue with Moss performing well out of the slot in training camp. With a viable #2 wide receiver running medium-range routes in the middle of the field, Garcon should be able to create opportunities for himself outside. The Redskins also have a very capable tight end in Fred Davis, and an up-and-coming young tight end in Niles Paul - the surrounding cast of receivers in Washington looks better as of August than it did back in May.

Coach Mike Shanahan believes that Garcon is a gamebreaker, saying on July 28, "No question he can be a No. 1 receiver. He has a ton of ability." When your head coach believes in you, a lot of balls tend to come your way - Garcon should enjoy a healthy diet of targets week in and week out.


  • Garcon is young (just 26 when the season begins) and is entering the prime of his career. He's never missed more than two games in a single season, and played a full slate of 16 contests during 2011 - Garcon is a reliable presence on the field
  • Garcon has the full backing of the coaching staff as the team's number one wide receiver, but has enough talent surrounding him to allow Garcon room to manuever on the field
  • Garcon's skill set matches up well with his quarterback - the potential for a lot of completed deep passes is undeniable
  • Neither Joshua Morgan nor Leonard Hankerson is likely to push Garcon for playing time - Garcon is secure in his cat-bird seat this year


  • Garcon has to suffer through the rookie errors of Griffin. A slow start out of the gates for the Redskins' offense is a distinct possibility
  • The pressure of being the annointed "star" of the offense and the distractions a big money contract can bring to bear are intangible factors in play with Garcon this year - will his new wealth go to his head?
  • The running game in Washington isn't impressive, so opposing defenses will be able to concentrate on shutting down the passing game

Final thoughts

Garcon is in a situation to succeed in fantasy terms - I believe he can be a #1 wide receiver for Washington. The Redskins' young quarterback will look to Garcon often on called plays. Griffin's arm will allow Garcon to break some big-gainers this year. With powerful offenses like Dallas, Philadelphia and New York on the schedule twice this year (and a season opener vs. New Orleans, with Atlanta up in week five) , the Redskins will likely be in chase position often this year - which usually begets strong passing numbers from game to game. Garcon will likely enjoy far more than the 134 targets he saw last year, and he'll have a better-quality quarterback slinging him the football in those chances (but some of those additional chances will be deep passes, which have a lower completion percentage). Currently, I have Garcon at 26th on my wide receiver board, which is slightly above the consensus 31st ranking the Footballguys experts collectively create. I do believe there is significant upside potential for Garcon from where I'm currently ranking him, if Griffin adapts to the pro game more quickly than most rookies.

Quotations from the message board thread

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

TheDirtyWord said:

The story of Garcon's career to date has been this simmering level of bust-out potential that has for circumstances both within and beyond his control prevented him from truly becoming a fantasy force. With the disaster that was the Colts QB situation last year, Garcon was effectively useful for only 3 games last season where he posted a ridiculous 16/421/6 line. The other 13 - #### on a bull.

But if you harken back to the 2010 season, when he actually had QB throwing him the ball...I felt Garcon was able to start to establish some consistency. In his final 9 games in that season (including their playoff loss), Garcon produced to a prorated 16 game total of 87/1047/11 as the #2 option in that passing attack. During that period, he had but 1 game where he totaled fewer than 5 receptions. And during the same time period, Reggie Wayne put up a prorated figure of 94/1124/5. Could the argument have been made that Garcon was doing to Wayne what Wayne had done earlier to Harrison which was to at the very least be the 1b option to 1a?

No doubt, Garcon was catching passes from an MVP caliber player, and despite whatever hype RGIII generates...Garcon will still be catching passes from an inferior option than to the one he had his best stretch of production under. BUT, breakout sleeper potential exists here because I think previous perceptions will work against him. Garcon was always seen to have a ton of natural ability, but coming out of Mount Union, was extremely raw. He'll only have just turned 26 when the season starts so the idea that he has acclimated to the NFL game while approaching the peak of his physical abilities is valid.

The wild-card will be RGIII himself. Can he approach the same level of success as previous years highly drafted QB's (aside from Gabbert)? His pre-season performance will allow some sort of indication here (Ryan, Newton, Stafford had good stretches in pre-season that ultimately acted as a pre-cursor to their rookie succesess). Ultimately, Garcon's range of performance is as wide as any player and you'll be placing a big bet on him if you draft him. But currently, Garcon is being drafted as WR32. There is literally no downside here and I suspect by the time drafting season rolls around, he'll have climbed into the 5th round range. But he has WR1 upside and if you're willing to roll the may wind up with a gem.

wdcrob said:

No idea how Garcon is flying under the radar again. Finished at WR#28 (PPG/PPR) last year with QBs from hell, #29 the year before that, was highly courted in FA and signed an $8m/year contract to go to Washington and be the man. Yet somehow he's currently projected to be barely startable -- giving up significant targets not only to the presumptive #2WR, Leonard Hankerson, but also Santana Moss and Josh Morgan. No one at FBGs currently has him with more than 61 catches. I think it's much more likely that Garcon plays the role he was paid to play -- #1 WR. Starting with the FBGs projections for the WAS offense as a whole I think something like 79-1100-8 is more likely. Good for WR#15-20, as well as some respect.

We Tigers said:

He was paid to play it, but...I don't think he is. Career 53% reception rate, including two years with perhaps the best QB in the history of the NFL. I never really saw a very versatile skill set out of him, and although he cut back on the drops a ton in 2011, his positioning still didn't impress me. He's okay to good, but there isn't a particular thing he does really well.

I don't know how good Griffin will be, but even if he's a 4000-yard passer in year 1, I'm not sure any Washington WR really blows up this year. It's a pretty weak group. I think Fred Davis will lead them and be a 900-yard type guy. As for Garcon, I expect something around 64/850/5 TD. Decent numbers and probably worth his current ADP (late 7th/early 8th), but not a star. I was pretty surprised to see the first three responses to this spotlight all projecting him for over 1000 yards.

Sweet Love said:

I like the fact he has worked through tough QB situations before. That speaks a lot to me...most guys at this level can put up pinball numbers when featured or part of a system with a good QB. I like to see what a guy does when all heck breaks loose...because now I have his baseline. Even if things implode in Washington (i.e. Griffin lost for the year in week 1), the guy will come up with 60-875-6 TD...I like that, and I know it sounds silly, but that is my floor...I know if this guy steps on the field 14 times in a year (out of 16), I get that...very nice numbers as a FLOOR for a WR3 (which is where he is going...I actually got him as my WR3 in a 16 teamer).

Now that we established a floor, we need to look at the the ceiling. I am not a Griffin fan, but I also did not believe in Cam. While I believe Newton was an outlier, I still think that Griffin can put up some nice numbers, and as many rookie QBs do, I think he will focus on a specific WR and TE. Moss is still there 9and that bears watching), but I have heard nice things from camp about Garcon and even if Moss sticks and does his thing, Shanny still had a team with Rod Smith-EdMcCaffrey-Shannon Sharpe (and he was able to keep each "in business", and now he has the poor man's version in Garcon-Moss-Fred Smith. I could see a ceiling of 75-1250-10TDs, but like the middle of my above projection.

Pierre Garcon projections

Mark Wimer701020800
Message board consensus711027700