Faceoff: Reggie Wayne
Andy Hicks: For those who are targeting an elite wide receiver to anchor their receiving corps, one that presents little risk, is in a high powered offense, is durable, gets a good chunk of TD's, has an elite quarterback and is in a proven system, then look no further than Reggie Wayne. He may not dominate a game like Brandon Marshall or Andre Johnson, nor grab touchdowns out of nowhere like Randy Moss, but what he will do is get the job done.
If we look at the wide receivers with a WR1 tag for their ADP this year, there is a risk associated with most of them. Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson, Roddy White, Brandon Marshall and DeSean Jackson do not have elite QB's delivering the ball. Peyton Manning easily fits this criterion. Andre Johnson and Calvin Johnson have had a couple of injury plagued seasons, Miles Austin only has 1 season of fantasy success and Greg Jennings only registered 4 touchdowns last season. For my mind the only other receiver apart from Reggie Wayne who ticks all the boxes is Randy Moss.
Wayne is as consistent as they come. For the last 6 years he has caught between 77 and 104 balls each year, averaging 88 catches a year, registered between 1055 and 1510 yards, averaging 1250 yards a season and has caught between 5 and 12 touchdowns, averaging just under 9 a year. He has played in every game outside his rookie season, has the complete trust of Peyton Manning and will be keen to impress the Colts this year in his request for a big contract extension.
Those who wish to detract from Wayne and categorize him as a risk this season do so in error. The supporting cast of Anthony Gonzalez, Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon will be just that. Garcon barely caught 50% of the ball thrown his way, Collie will stay in the slot and Gonzalez returns from a knee injury trying to work his way into the mix. None of the receivers have the quality of Wayne and Manning knows this. Some will point to Wayne's 2nd half drop-off, but the Colts had pretty much assured safe passage to deep in the playoffs by week 10 and while a repeat is possible in 2010, it is more than likely that the Colts have to fight right until playoffs this year.
While Wayne may lack the extreme upside of your Brandon Marshalls or Andre Johnsons, he gives the guy just wanting to points on the board a solid player who doesn't do any one thing at an elite level, but produces in all areas. Those who like to avoid risks in the early part of the draft can safely get Wayne in the 2nd round and build their squad around him. Simply put the floor with Wayne is so high that barring injury to either Wayne or Manning, who have played every game together for the last 8 years, he is assured of WR1 quality production.
Anthony Borbely: For several years, Reggie Wayne has been among the safest fantasy WRs to rank. Everyone knew he would be a mid to upper WR1 every year with a very high floor. However, there are some legitimate concerns about Wayne this year and I cannot justify ranking him much higher than a low-end WR1. He posted solid overall numbers last year, but there was a drastic decline in the second half of the season. That along with some emerging young WRs could cause Wayne's targets to drop this year. The fact that a top-ten ranking is considered the low side of Wayne speaks to his consistency over the last several years.
There are a few reasons why I have Wayne ranked towards the bottom of the WR1 tier this season. First, I thought Wayne looked slow in the latter part of the year and that could be why his target numbers declined so sharply. In the first ten games, Wayne had 108 targets, resulting in 76/968/8 and in the last six games; he had 41 targets, and 24/296/2. I can't say Wayne is done at age 31, but I also can't ignore that big of a drop in production. I always considered Wayne a very safe top-five WR, but he has to drop a few spots because of those numbers and his struggles to get open later in the year.
Another big reason to downgrade Wayne a bit is the emergence of Pierre Garcon. In his last eight games (five regular season games and the three playoff games), Garcon caught 42 of his 68 targets (62%) for 613 yards. Not too shabby when you consider he averaged close to 15 yard per carry in those games and had several deep targets. Garcon went to a small college and is just learning the game at this level. Garcon's athletic skills are off the charts and if he continues to improve as I expect, his target numbers will increase substantially from the 92 he had last year.
Garcon is not the only young and talented WR that the Colts have. Austin Collie had a very good rookie season and is a very good fit as a slot receiver in the Colt's offense. Collie had 90 targets last year and should see at least that many again. Anthony Gonzalez is attempting to return from a knee injury and that clouds the picture even more. If healthy, Gonzalez will get his share of targets.
Reggie Wayne has been one of the most consistent WRs for many years, but there is cause for concern this year. I thought Wayne had trouble separating towards the end of the year and that along with the emergence of Pierre Garcon raises a lot of red flags. Wayne's ADP is currently WR3 and I cannot possibly justify ranking him that high.