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Marquise Goodwin: Can You Trust a Small Sample Size? - Footballguys

A detailed look at Marquise Goodwin's fantasy prospects for 2018.

Nearly five years into his career, Marquise Goodwin was a minor footnote. After struggling to earn a regular role in Buffalo over four seasons, he signed a two-year contract with the 49ers and was viewed as a complementary deep threat in a rebuilt offense under Kyle Shanahan's watch. Through eleven games, Goodwin was exactly what most thought -- an undersized vertical threat with questionable hands. However, Jimmy Garoppolo's arrival not only turned the 49ers around (5-0 in the final five games), but Marquise Goodwin was his security blanket. Goodwin averaged 8.6 targets and 77 yards and was on a 90-catch, 1,200+ yard pace. Fantasy owners must now ask themselves whether Goodwin and Garoppolo clicked and can build off their late-season heroics, or if a five-game sample size is too risky to bet on particularly when juxtaposed against 4+ years of less-than-stellar play.

  • Goodwin (5-foot-9, 183 pounds) doesn't profile as a No. 1 receiver
  • Pierre Garcon was injured during Goodwin's five5-game breakout
  • Kyle Shanahan has a long history of favoring No. 1 receivers with a massive target share
  • Shanahan's history is much less kind to No. 2 receivers
  • Small sample sizes are difficult to trust without supporting context
  • The 49ers rewarded Goodwin with a three-year, $20.3 million extension including $10 million

It's tempting to believe what we saw from Marquise Goodwin last year in the final five games is his new baseline. Fantasy owners are perfectly happy buying into the small sample size for Jimmy Garoppolo; he's being drafted as a top-10 fantasy quarterback. If what we saw in the final five games was statistically predictive for Garoppolo, how could it not portend big things for Goodwin? Ultimately, Goodwin's fate hinges on whether he can fend off Pierre Garcon in the preseason for the No. 1 role. He'll get the chance, but Garcon has a better pedigree, including a 181-target career year playing in Shanahan's offense in Washington back in 2013. Goodwin has WR2 potential with a WR4 ADP, but he could also be a complete bust depending on how other young players evolve. It's a risk worth considering, but only if you're disciplined enough not to reach for him.


The 5-Game Breakout

Marquise Goodwin was a non-factor until the final five games of last season. After being drafted in the third round by the Buffalo Bills in 2013, Goodwin never gained a foothold. In four seasons, Goodwin played in 39 games (out of 64), and had 100 targets, 49 receptions, 780 yards, and 6 touchdowns. Goodwin struggled through injuries, inconsistent hands (49% catch rate), and an inability to beat press coverage downfield. The Bills didn't pick up Goodwin's fifth-year option, and he signed a two-year, $8 million contract with the 49ers with little fanfare. Through the team's first 11 games, Goodwin looked like the same bit player he was in Buffalo.

  • First 11 games
  • 62 targets
  • 27 receptions
  • 43.6% catch rate
  • 578 yards
  • 21.4 yards per reception
  • 1 touchdown

Goodwin was a one-dimensional deep threat and an ineffective one at that.

And then, along came Jimmy Garoppolo. The 49ers made a blockbuster trade with the Patriots to acquire Garoppolo, and he took over as the starter against the Bears. Garoppolo invigorated the 49ers offense and helped spark a five-game winning streak to end the season. Over that span, Marquise Goodwin emerged as the unlikely go-to receiver.

  • Final 5 games
  • 43 targets
  • 29 receptions
  • 67.4% catch rate
  • 384 yards
  • 13.2 yards per reception
  • 1 touchdown

Pro-rating Goodwin's stats with Garoppolo over a full 16-game season yields:

  • 138 targets
  • 93 receptions
  • 1,229 yards
  • 3 touchdowns
  • 140.9 fantasy points (standard)
  • 233.9 fantasy points (PPR)

Where Goodwin's Pro-Rata Breakout Would Rank (2013-2017)

Season
140.9 FPTs Rank (Std)
233.9 FPTs Rank (PPR)
2017
WR15
WR10
2016
WR15
WR13
2015
WR24
WR16
2014
WR21
WR14
2013
WR20
WR18
AVG
WR19
WR14

Goodwin's five-game streak was impressive, but it wasn't elite. Even if he sustained that rate of production over a full season, he would rate as a high-end WR2 in PPR leagues and a middling WR2 in non-PPR.

Is The Distinction Between No. 1 and No. 2 Important?

Does it really matter whether Marquise Goodwin or Pierre Garcon is the de facto No. 1? Isn't it possible they both play key roles and offer fantasy value? Unfortunately, history says it's a vitally important distinction. Throughout Kyle Shanahan's coaching history, his offense has strongly favored the No. 1 receiver.

Distribution of Wide Receiver Targets, Kyle Shanahan Offenses

Team
Wide Receiver 1
Targets
% of Team
Wide Receiver 2
Targets
% of Team
Team Targets
2008 Houston
Andre Johnson
171
31.5%
Kevin Walter
95
17.5%
542
2009 Houston
Andre Johnson
171
29.4%
Kevin Walter
70
12.0%
582
2010 Washington
Santana Moss
145
24.4%
Anthony Armstrong
86
14.5%
595
2011 Washington
Jabar Gaffney
114
19.7%
Santana Moss
95
16.4%
579
2012 Washington
Josh Morgan
73
16.8%
68
15.6%
435
2013 Washington
181
30.2%
Santana Moss
79
13.2%
600
2014 Cleveland
Andrew Hawkins
112
22.4%
Miles Austin
73
14.6%
499
2015 Atlanta
Julio Jones
203
32.9%
Roddy White
70
11.3%
617
2016 Atlanta
Julio Jones
129
24.3%
Mohamed Sanu
81
15.3%
530
2017 San Francisco
105
17.5%
67
11.2%
599
Averages
140
25.2%
78
14.1%
558

On average, No. 1 receivers capture 25.2% of the team's targets. The No. 2 receiver averages just 78 targets for a 14.1% market share. It's difficult for a receiver to have fantasy relevance in a 12-team league seeing less than 80 targets over a 16-game span. In examining the table above, one might note the distinction between seasons where Shanahan had a bonafide star at WR1 versus seasons the depth chart was flatter. Unfortunately, delineating his coaching history that way is no more encouraging for whoever gets the No. 2 role.

  • Seasons with a clear-cut No. 1 (Houston '08-09, Washington '13, Atlanta '15-16) -- The No. 1 averaged 171 targets (29.8% share), and the No. 2 averaged 79 targets (13.8%)
  • Seasons without a clear No. 1 (Washington '10-12, Cleveland '14, San Francisco '17) -- The No. 1 averaged 110 targets (20.3% share), and the No. 2 averaged 78 targets (14.4%)

Thinking of this another way, Shanahan's No. 2 receiver doesn't benefit from the quality of his No. 1 teammate. It's not a given the No. 1 will see a ton of targets (171 vs. 110), but it is clear the No. 2 is going to be a complementary player, at best.

Other Threats to Goodwin's Emergence

Assuming Goodwin can't displace Garcon as the No. 1, his role could be further threatened by a trio of other skill players.

Threat #1: Running back Jerick McKinnon

The 49ers signed McKinnon to a four-year, $30 million deal with $16 million guaranteed in the offseason, and team executives and the coaching staff have all made it clear McKinnon will be an offensive focal point. The former Viking is an excellent receiver, catching 94 passes in the last two seasons. McKinnon should lead the team in touches, and that including poaching targets from the secondary receivers and also dominating the goal-line offense.

Threat #2: Tight end George Kittle

Kittle quietly delivered an impressive rookie season. The former Iowa Hawkeye caught 43 receptions for 515 yards (12.0 yards per reception) and scored twice. Kyle Shanahan's offenses have a history of favoring the tight end over the team's No. 2 receiver. In Houston, Owen Daniels outperformed Kevin Walter. In Washington, Chris Cooley, Fred Davis, and Jordan Reed all outplayed No. 2 receivers in successive seasons. In Atlanta, Jacob Tamme outplayed the complementary receivers in 2016. While Kittle is no sure thing, his consistency last season versus Goodwin's bust-then-boom performance is a factor to consider.

Threat #3: Rookie receiver Dante PettIs

Dante Pettis wasn't a consensus top prospect, but the 49ers drafted the former Washington Huskie in the second round. While Pettis didn't test because of a minor ankle injury and lacks elite size (6-foot-1, 192 pounds), he's among the best route runners in the draft class. More importantly, Footballguy Matt Waldman rated Pettis as the No. 1 rookie receiver -- ahead of Calvin Ridley and D.J. Moore -- in his 2018 Rookie Scouting Portfolio.

Based on production, workout metrics (which he has not due to an ankle injury he’s nursing), and physical dimensions, Pettis is not a safe choice as the No. 1 receiver in this draft. However, this publication is about studying talent on the field. Pettis is as good of a route runner as any receiver in this class—including Calvin Ridley. He’s skilled after the catch like D.J. Moore but with a different style. And unlike Moore and Ridley, he’s their superior at the catch point and releasing from the line of scrimmage against press.

If any of this trio reach their potential, it bodes ill for Goodwin (or Garcon if he ends up as the team's No. 2).

Projections

Projector
Games
Rushes
RuYards
RuTDs
Recs
ReYards
ReTDs
FumLost
15.3
4.0
30
0.0
57.0
884
4.9
0.5
15.0
4.0
40
0.3
57.0
960
3.5
0.0
16.0
0.0
0
0.0
61.0
900
5.0
0.0
16.0
3.0
19
0.0
46.5
738
3.0
0.5

Final Thoughts

It's easy to root for Marquise Goodwin. He's an undersized receiver who overcame his physical limitations to earn a third-round draft pick by the Bills. Then after failing to make his mark in Buffalo, he became the centerpiece of the 49ers strong late-season finish; flourishing in the No. 1 role with Jimmy Garoppolo. The 49ers saw enough to give him a $20 million extension. If last year's five-game breakout is a new baseline, Goodwin is a draft day value. But history tells us to question small sample sizes, particularly when they're not backed up by supporting facts. The biggest concern is Pierre Garcon's absence during that late season push. Garcon is healthy, and he's a proven fit in Kyle Shanahan's system. And the 49ers made a big investment in Jerick McKinnon this offseason, who will play a role in the passing game. Last but not least, the team drafted Dante Pettis in the second round. Goodwin played like a fantasy WR2 last year when given a chance to star, but 4.5 years prior and other extenuating circumstances raise red flags. If you're comfortable rostering Goodwin at his current ADP, recognizing he has high bust potential, it's a risk worth considering. However, he's not a high priority breakout that warrants consideration ahead of his expected draft slot. Consider Goodwin a "nice to have" rather than a "must draft."

Other Thoughts from Around the Web

CBS' Jamey Eisenberg prefers Garcon to Goodwin:

"I like Garcon better than Goodwin this year, but both should be viable Fantasy options if Jimmy Garoppolo has the breakout campaign as many expect. Goodwin took off last season after Garcon suffered a neck injury in Week 8, averaging 8.9 Fantasy points in a non-PPR league over his final eight games of the year. Garcon never got the chance to play with Garoppolo, but he was on pace for 80 catches and 1,000 yards before getting hurt."

Fansided's Joshua Herman thinks Goodwin will have a breakout season:

"Goodwin has the speed, hands and route-running ability to be Garropolo’s go-to man in San Fran. Although so many are super high on Garoppolo, his No. 1 wideout is getting no love right now.

Goodwin was burdened by poor QB play and limited opportunities to shine during his time as a Buffalo Bill. Even so, many are blindsided by this and focus on his past flukiness and minimal production, as well as his short stature."

Shark Pool (Footballguys Message Board) Views

stuckinthemuck recommends passing on Will Fuller in favor of Goodwin a few rounds later:

"The numbers look unsustainable, but if the Niners do not draft or sign anyone as serious competition this year he can afford some regression by making up for it with volume. Great best ball WR. Why buy Will Fuller in the 7th round when you can get Goodwin in the double digits rounds?"

travdogg believes Garcon will be the No. 1:

"I think Goodwin has a lot of real-world value, as defenses always have to account for his ability to get deep. But they have better options elsewhere and ones Garoppolo will likely be encouraged to hit. In a redraft, I think Goodwin is pretty similar to D-Jax in Tampa. He'll have the occasional big game where he catches a long score, but good luck guessing what game it'll happen in. Goodwin is a WR4 in my opinion, and not a very appealing one."