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Spotlight: Reggie Wayne

posted by Jason Wood on Jul 31st

Jason Wood's thoughts

Things weren't supposed to play out this way. Reggie Wayne had stepped into the Colts while Marvin Harrison was still an All Pro receiver, and had turned into a reliable #2 option for Peyton Manning. Over the next few seasons, Wayne's career arc continued to ascend, while Harrison's career ended. Wayne had comfortable resided atop the Colts receiving options for years, and had figured he would finish his career in Indianapolis with hopefully another Super Bowl ring or two.

But then Peyton Manning and "the neck" happened.

That brought about a mass exodus unlike few we've ever seen.

  • QB Peyton Manning - Gone (to Denver)
  • C Jeff Saturday - Gone (to Green Bay)
  • OL Ryan Diem - Gone (retired)
  • RB Joseph Addai - Gone (currently a free agent)
  • TE Dallas Clark - Gone (to Tampa Bay)
  • TE Jacob Tamme - Gone (to Denver)
  • WR Pierre Garcon - Gone (to Washington)
  • WR Reggie Wayne -, RE-SIGNED!?!?!?

Reggie Wayne, against everyone's expectations, re-signed with the Colts. Specifically, Wayne agreed to a new 3-year, $17.5 million contract with $7.5mm guaranteed. Regardless of why Wayne opted to stay, the reality is he will be rookie quarterback Andrew Luck's one proven, highly productive veteran target.

Where does Wayne rank at this stage of his career?
Wayne turns 34 in November, and this will be his 12th NFL season. It stands to reason he's no longer the player that led the NFL in receiving (2007) with 1,510 yards, but the question is whether he's still good enough to flourish as the #1 option on a team without many alternatives. A quick look at his last five seasons is a good place to start our analysis:

Year Age Gms Recs Yards YPR TDs FPTs Rank
2007 29 16 104 1,510 14.5 10 211 4
2008 30 16 82 1,145 14.0 6 151 14
2009 31 16 100 1,264 12.6 10 186 6
2010 32 16 111 1,355 12.2 6 172 7
2011 33 16 75 960 12.8 4 120 29

Wayne followed up his best season (2007) with a solid, albeit unspectacular 2008. He bounced back with another pair of Top 10 seasons in 2009-2010, only to fall off considerably last year. His reception total was his lowest since 2004, his yardage the lowest since 2003 (his first season as a full-time starter), and his TD total was the lowest of his career as a starter. Wayne went from a perennial fantasy #1 to a marginal fantasy WR3.

Did 2011 represent the first step in the natural decline of an aging veteran? It's possible; although I'm not convinced it's that simple. Remember, 2011 was the "Season without Peyton."

  • Wayne's four touchdown receptions equaled 29% of the team's total passing touchdowns (14) - which is nearly identical to Wayne's percentage in his best season (10 TD grabs out of 31 total = 31%).
  • Wayne's catch rate fell to 57% last year, after averaging a 65% catch rate throughout his career. Consider that he also went from a quarterback with a career 65% completion rate to a trio of quarterbacks with a 57% completion rate. Coincidence? I think not.
  • Wayne averaged 12.8 yards per reception - which is actually an improvement on his 2009-2010 seasons; he hasn't lost a step.

My enthusiasm for Wayne IS tempered a bit by his contract terms. Although I'm not convinced last year represented Wayne going over the cliff, I am admittedly a bit concerned by the aforementioned 3-year, $17.5 million contract he signed to stay in Indianapolis. I'm sure the opportunity to be a mentor and bridge the Colts from the Manning Era to the Andrew Luck Era was a [i]part[/i] of Wayne's motivation, he like most players wasn't going to pass up millions of dollars elsewhere. $17.5mm is a significant amount of money, but when you consider what other free agent receivers commanded in the open market, it serves as a stark reminder that the rest of the NFL might no longer view Wayne as a difference maker.

Notable Free Agent Signings & Extensions, 2012

  • Vincent Jackson (Tampa Bay) - 5 years, $55.6mm with $26mm guaranteed
  • DeSean Jackson (Philadelphia) - 5 years, $47mm with $15mm guaranteed
  • Pierre Garcon (Washington) - 5 years, $42.5mm with $21mm guaranteed
  • Robert Meachem (San Diego) - 4 years, $25.9mm with $14mm guaranteed
  • Laurent Robinson (Jacksonville) - 5 years, $32.5mm with $14mm guaranteed
  • Josh Morgan (Washington) - 3 years, $12mm with $7mm guaranteed
  • Brandon Lloyd (New England) - 3 years, $12mm with 3mm guaranteed
  • Mario Manningham (San Francisco) - 2 years, $7.4mm with $3mm guaranteed

If you view these signings in tiers, Wayne's contract puts him in-line with Josh Morgan in terms of guaranteed money, and far below the likes of Garcon, Meachem and Robinson. Is that an indication that Wayne is no longer a top option? Or is this a situation where his age and comfort in Indianapolis were enough to scare off other teams at the outset of free agency, so Wayne too less than he could've if he were more patient?

Andrew Luck: A Reason for Optimism
Is Andrew Luck the next Peyton Manning? No one knows, and it's unfair to expect him to compare to one of the best passers in league history before Luck has ever thrown an NFL pass. However, Luck is ABSOLUTELY one of the most praised and well regarded prospects in the last decade. I'm not expecting Luck to be a major fantasy force in his first year (Cam Newton be damned), but I do think he'll be better than the 2011 trio of Kerry Collins, Dan Orlovsky and Curtis Painter. New offensive coordinator Bruce Arians is not going to be afraid to throw the ball...a lot. Look back on Arians career and you will see great success with young quarterbacks, and Luck will be given every opportunity to throw the ball a ton. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Luck complete 60%+ of his passes and throw for at least 3,500 yards with 3,800-4,000 as an upside possibility.

Who Else Is Going to Catch the Ball?
Fantasy productivity is about ability and opportunity. The more targets a receiver gets, the more opportunities they have to make plays. With that in mind, look at the projected Colts roster and tell me who else is going to command targets? TEs Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen are exciting long-term prospects, but they're rookie tight ends for now. Austin Collie can contribute, but he's had trouble staying healthy and may be better suited for the slot. Donnie Avery has caught three passes in the last two seasons. T.Y. Hilton and LaVon Brazill aren't ready to play major roles. So unless Wayne has REALLY fallen off in his ability to gain separation or his catch rate, how can you not expect him to be targeted 150+ times?


  • Wayne re-signed with the Colts and, given the other skill position players, seems assured of being heavily targeted by Andrew Luck
  • In spite of a WR29 ranking last year, a closer inspection shows that Wayne's underlying peripherals held up reasonably well -- he was a victim of a terrible offense and poor quarterbacking
  • Last year's debacle has driven Wayne's average draft position down to a point where he offers very little risk


  • Wayne re-signed in Indianapolis for an amount that is clearly less than a number of other free agent receivers -- they're younger, but have far less impressive resumes. That may signal a general league wide belief that Wayne has hit the wall and on a steep decline
  • With so few viable alternatives, defenses are going to key on Wayne, and at this age it may be more difficult for him to handle the extra attention
  • Andrew Luck is a rookie quarterback which guarantees inconsistency even if his full season numbers are better than last year's trio of Orlovsky, Painter and Collins

Final thoughts

I don't have a strong opinion about Reggie Wayne. I suspect that he'll outperform last year's WR29 ranking for no other reason than he seems destined to be the recipient of 150+ targets. In points-per-reception leagues, Wayne could easily jump into the top 20 as long as Luck is the quarterback with think he is. But at his age, given the lukewarm reception he was given in free agency, and coming off his worst season as a starter, the picture is far from clear. Whether or not you should roster Reggie Wayne comes down to your risk tolerance. At his current ADP, Wayne is being drafted in the same range as Torrey Smith (WR29), Robert Meachem (WR30), Pierre Garcon (WR32) and Denarius Moore (WR33). Wayne isn't going to flop, and is probably safer than all of those alternatives. Yet, each of them is younger and has more upside (perhaps significantly more upside). If you're looking for a reliable, every week option to plug in as your WR3 or flex...Wayne looks like a viable option. If you want to try to hit a home run with your 3rd receiver, or hope to find a potential WR1/WR2 later in your draft, Wayne isn't the guy to focus on.

Quotations from the message board thread

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

Pots said:

He's not what he used to be, and I think Peyton made him look a lot better than what he would have been in allmost any other team. That said, he should have a slightly better year than last year.

TheDirtyWord said:

Think about the Colts for a minute. Pierre Garcon? Gone. Dallas Clark? Gone. Joseph Addai? Gone. Jacob Tamme? Gone. Austin Collie is still around, but if we flash back to 2010, while he was productive, he had difficulty in staying unconcussed. There is a valid argument that says that the Colts QB's were not capable of getting Collie concussed last year.

In the place of names like Clark, Garcon are Coby Fleener, Dwight Allen, T.Y. Hilton. The Colts are simply going to be EXTREMELY raw in the pass catching department. Except we know that NFL teams at a minimum throw for 3000 yards now. Even the disaster that was last years outfit threw for 3223. And while Andrew Luck's situation does not appear near as ready-made coming into the NFL as RGIII's does...there was a reason that Luck was the near unanimous #1 overall selection. He's pretty good.

Which brings us back to Wayne. Collie is now almost by default the Colts #2 WR. But does that mean he's the #2 WR playing out of the slot? Or does a guy like Blair White assume that role...or someone else? There just seems to be a lot of flux at WR for the Colts behind Wayne which would make it seem logical that Wayne is entrenched as the primary target for Luck right out of the gate.

So...Wayne is the #1 WR for a team that most likely will struggle to secure leads. The running game for the Colts is suspect in that Donald Brown right now appears to be RB1. Brown did show flashes in 2011 for perhaps the first time in his career, but before we get ahead of ourselves, let's assume the Colts still will be a bottom half of the NFL rushing outfit as there really is no RB2 that can share the load here.

As I see it, the Colts options on offense are simply limited. The entire offense won't run through Wayne for sure, but he's as sure to maintain his 8 targets/game level he hit in 2011 and I could easily see his targets being closer to 9-10/game. Whether he can convert those targets into production...that's obviously the million dollar question? But with the atrocious QB play Wayne was subjected to in 2011, his catch rate was a relatively decent 57% and his YPR stayed constant. Now, 2009-2010 saw his catch rate at 65.5% so it was an obvious decline, but was that on Wayne? I'd give him the benefit of the doubt here.

He's going to be 34 this season, so it makes sense to wonder if his skills are eroding. 2011 simply didn't offer enough G2 on Wayne to truly decipher this. However, in 2010, Wayne still ranked amongst the games elite WR's (111/1355/6). He can't be that guy anymore because that guy needed Peyton Manning. But I think Andrew Luck is going to need Reggie Wayne and I suspect he'll make significant use of him. And for the price of a 6th/7th round selection...Wayne appears awfully undervalued with many writing him off a bit too soon. Guys that are going ahead of Wayne are named Robert Meachem, Torrey Smith, Eric Decker. Certainly in some cases the upside is higher or at least appears that way. But people were writing off Steve Smith last year too in large part because of a suspected steep learning curve for his rookie QB. A year later and Smith is a bonafide WR1 again. I wouldn't predict this for Wayne, but there is under the radar upside here as well.

FF Ninja said:

The veteran starters on the Colts all appear to be good value. Wayne at WR30, Collie at WR59, and Brown at RB38 all have limited upside as this isn't going to be a 40-50 TD offense, but to expect 3400 passing yards and 1500 rushing yards sounds reasonable considering they did about that last year in a disasterous season.

If Wayne finished WR29 last year with Collins, Painter, etc. then he should be a safe pick this year with Luck. Not an exciting pick, but if you need a WR3 in the 7th round and want to play it safe then he's your guy. His 132 targets last year should be easy to replicate. His career catch/target % is 66.8% while last year he was at 56.8% which is not surprising as this metric has a high correlation with the QB completion %. In Luck's rookie year, I'm not going to expect anything amazing, so I think that a repeat of 75 receptions is a pretty solid assumption, with a possible bump up to 80. I expect his ypr to be in the 12.5-13.0 range. I am projecting a conservative 6 TD, but I expect at least 18 TD from Luck and they've got to go to someone. I think Fleener is overrated, so I expect the majority to go to the WRs.

bigmiiiiike said:

Peyton Manning threw for 3733 and 26 TDs his rookie year. I think we can expect some similar production from Luck this year. I don't think the Colts will baby him too much and dumb down the offense to be run heavy, like the Falcons did for Ryan, the Jets did for Sanchez, or the Bengals did for Dalton. The Colts don't have the defense to do that, in fact they should be way behind in many of their games. So if Luck puts up close to 4000 and 26, then Wayne will be the beneficiary. I see him having a few huge games where the Colts play catch up, and his year end totals finish in the neighborhood of:

Chase Stuart ( Staff Writer) said:

Wayne is definitely one of those guys that you'll bump up if you actually do projections for. If he and Luck stay healthy, I'd be very surprised if he didn't crack the 1,000 yard mark. Honestly, a WR1 season is not out of the question, so I think he's got great upside. The Colts brought in Bruce Arians -- they're going to throw, and throw often. Wayne's a clear WR1 in an offense that should get in around the 4,000 yard mark. He's not sexy, but he's relatively safe with great upside.

Reggie Wayne projections

Jason Wood821025600
Message board consensus801019700