Spotlight: Pierre Garcon

posted by Jason Wood on Jul 21st

Jason Wood's thoughts

Some players and situations are harder to project than others. I would love nothing more than to tell you I have 100% confidence in every projection, ranking, comment and article I pen; but if you've been playing fantasy football for any amount of time you know that's unrealistic. Pierre Garcon is probably one of the most vexing players I'm faced with analyzing this year, and judging by the projections from our message board, I'm not alone.

Recs 36 58 78
Yards 545 874 1,110
TDs 3 5 8
FPTs 79 119 156

Indecision abounds for this talented 3rd year receiver, and with good reason. A year ago Garcon was a 2nd year receiver with four catches to his name, and the only one singing his praises was his GM, who said he was one of the more impressive players in OTAs and mini-camps. But the consensus view was that Garcon was a pure backup, and fighting for a spot on the active roster. But that was before we all realized that Anthony Gonzalez would miss the season, thus opening the door for Garcon and rookie Austin Collie.

Garcon rose to the occasion, contributing 47 catches for 765 yards and 4 TDs as the Colts proved themselves yet again one of the AFC's powerhouses. It was in the playoffs, however, when Garcon really emerged: 21 receptions for 251 yards and 2 TDs as a big play threat.

So here's what we know so far...Garcon is a talented young receiver, who got an opportunity last year and seemingly made the most of it. He improved as the season wore on, saved his best for the biggest of playoff stages, and is entering his third year on a team that has a Hall of Fame caliber QB, and lots of other weapons to keep opposing defenses honest. So what's not to love? Why is he such a hard player to buy into hook, line and sinker?

Conundrum #1: Catch Percentage

Garcon had a catch percentage of just 51% (47 of 92), which isn't impressive in its own right but really sticks out considering Garcon played with Peyton Manning. By comparison, Reggie Wayne (100 of 149) caught 67%, Austin Collie (60 of 90) caught 67% and TE Dallas Clark (100 of 132) caught 76% of their targets, respectively. That might be enough to think Garcon's role in Indy is a transient one; except for the fact his catch percentage did improve as the season wore on. In the playoffs, he had a catch percentage of 65.6%, HIGHER than either Collie or Wayne. Garcon wouldn't be the first receiver to dramatically improve his catch percentage from year-to-year, and his lack of experience last year helps defray some of the concern.

Conundrum #2: Targets

The Colts attempted 601 passes last year, 2nd in the NFL. While Indianapolis is a prolific passing attack year in, year out, last year's attempts were inflated and not likely to be repeated. Even in Manning's record-setting 51 TD season, he attempted just 526 passes. Over the prior five seasons, the Colts attempted 547 attempts, which is a more reasonable baseline to use as we look to divvy up targets this season. Out of those 601 attempts, Garcon garnered 92 of them. He trailed Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark, and we can be sure he'll continue to do so. Wayne has commanded at least 21% of Manning's targets for six consecutive seasons, and Clark has garnered 18% or more in each of the last three seasons. That leaves about 40%-50% of the team's targets to go around to Garcon, Collie, Anthony Gonzalez and, of course, the RB stable and scraps for the deeper backups. When Marvin Harrison was still productive (2007), he and Clark each had over 18% of the targets - that seems about as optimistic as one can be with Garcon. 18% of 550 attempts = 99 targets.

Conundrum #3: Depth Chart Uncertainty

In order to think Pierre Garcon can put up demonstrably better numbers than last season, you also have to assume that Anthony Gonzalez is going to be a virtual non-factor and that Austin Collie's role will take a step back as he becomes an infrequently used slot receiver. Yet, as we've already discussed, Collie acquitted himself quite well last year, catching 67% of his passes and scoring 7 TDs. Meanwhile Gonzalez was the unquestioned starter entering the 2009 season, and hasn't lost the ability that made him a 1st round pick. That said, I'm certainly not counting on Gonzalez being healthy, but if he's omnipresent in training camp, you really have to temper expectations for Garcon as a breakout star. There's no logical reason the Colts won't use multiple WR sets and spread the ball around if they're all able to suit up.


  • Garcon is a strong, athletically gifted receiver who proved a fast learner last season after a major role was thrust upon him
  • Peyton Manning is one of the league's best playmakers and the Colts are among the most productive passing teams in the NFL
  • Anthony Gonzalez remains an injury risk and his role is uncertain entering training camp; if he's no threat for playing time, Garcon is in line for a full season as the starter


  • Garcon is a raw receiver, who only caught 51% of his targets last year, and that clearly wasn't the fault of his QB. To be fair though, Garcon's catch percentage improved dramatically as the year progressed
  • Even if you assume Garcon starts all season long, it will be hard to project him for more than 90-100 targets given the team's expected attempts, and the presence of Dallas Clark and Reggie Wayne
  • Garcon has a high bust potential because one can't rule out that he's a part-time player particularly if Anthony Gonzalez earns back his starting job in camp while Collie is a natural fit in the slot

Final thoughts

Garcon is currently being drafted WR25 and 77th overall, but opinions of him vary greatly. With Anthony Gonzalez healthy, Austin Collie looking phenomenal in camp and the omnipresence of Reggie Wayne and TE Dallas Clark, I wouldn't be willing to risk that high a pick on Garcon. I have trouble seeing much upside from him UNLESS either Wayne or Dallas Clark succumb to a major injury, and yet you can bet at least one owner in your league is willing to spend a Top 20 WR pick on him. Ultimately I think Garcon is likely a solid yet unspectacular fantasy option. Assuming he ups his catch percentage in the 56-57% range, and that he gets a major role (say 18% of the targets...which only happens if Gonzalez is hurt and Collie is a part-time player), and you're still talking about a 55-60 catch player. To me, there's more downside than upside from there.

Quotations from the message board thread

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

wdcrob said:

IMO the playoffs were a 2010 preview: 21-252-2 in three games was huge, and I think this year will be the first year where Garcon is to Wayne as Wayne was to Harrison.

Two years ago Garcon was a 6th round pick out of a Div III school. And a year ago he was a second year player with four career catches. So IMO those playoff numbers aren't as fluky as they look - he had a lot of room to take a big leap forward. I think he did.

In the playoffs Garcon had 32 targets (25% of Indy's total) and a 66% catch rate. For my projections I assumed the Colts would throw 525 to 575 times, Garcon would get 20-25% of the targets, and would catch 60-65% of them.

karmarooster said:

What about the fact that there are so many mouths to feed? Wayne and Clark are still going to be the primary targets, and Manning likes to spread the ball to his RBs and slot WRs, whether that's Collie or Gonzo.

Footballguys Staff Writer Anthony Borbely said:

One thing I noticed from Garcon later in the season was how much better his route running was and how he learned to get away from a corner who tried to jam him at the line. Garcon has a lot of strength and when those CBs tried to jam him at the line, especially in the playoffs, he seemed to toss them aside like a rag doll in many instances and next thing you know, a pass was coming in his direction.

Garcon was inconsistent catching the ball, but he improved quite a bit as the season went on. I don't think his hands are bad; rather, he seemed to lose focus from time to time and that can happen with a young player. Also, Garcon's catch percentage was noticeably better later in the year. In fact, his last 8 games (5 regular season games and the 3 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. He improved drastically from the 46% catch percentage he had in the first 10 weeks, which was pretty much his first serious playing time at the NFL level.

The scary thing is he played at a small college and is just learning how to play at this level against elite competition. He has some sick physical skills and has huge upside. His speed is a huge advantage over Gonzalez and Collie. I think Garcon continues to improve and will put a death grip on the starting job.

Footballguys Staff Writer David Yudkin said:

For those citing Garcon's numbers in the playoffs as a primary reason to give him a bump...

Looking just at Manning's numbers in 3 games in the post season last year, projected over a full season, he would have:

464 completions (career high of 393 last year)
683 attempts (career high of 591 in 2002)
5100 yards (career high of 4557 in 2004)
32 TD

Clearly Manning is not going to throw the ball nearly 700 times.

In addition, Anthony Gonzalez was not available in the playoffs. For those suggesting Garcon gets 1000 receiving yards . . . what would you project Gonzalez and Collie to have?

I think this is a classic case of people needing to outline their complete team receiving projections for the Colts, as combined people may be inadvertantly slotting the Colts and Manning for 6000 passing yards when you add up all the individual players.

geoff8695 said:

Unless you are predicting injury, offensive starters sitting out the last 2-3 games of the season, or a significant decline in opportunities from his 1st season as starting flanker for the Colts, then I really don't understand the predictions of <60 catches littered throughout this spotlight thread...

Despite possessing a rare size/speed/explosiveness combo that suits him well to the flanker role, Garcon's value still has ALOT to do with his situation. Taking over Marvin Harrison's old role for Manning and the Colts is a golden opportunity for a young talented WR entering only his 2nd season as starter.

If you believe Garcon is an NFL worthy talent as demonstrated by his 1st season and Super Bowl playoff run, then you would probably expect his learning curve to continue; and greater production is easy to project in 2010. However, if you don't believe that Garcon is anything special, then obviously you would be among those posters who are expecting a decrease in targets, and you may even be expecting the Colts to look for his replacement (some even suggest he is just keeping the spot warm for Gonzo).

No matter what you believe about his abilities, Garcon's production will certainly depend upon continued development (as he enters only his 2nd year as starter & talented NFL WRs need 2-3 years of seasoning); and he will be as productive as opportunities and # of targets allows. Last year he was given 92 targets in 13 starts, or about 7 targets/game. Similar opportunity over 16 games in 2010 would yield ~ 112 targets. He also averaged >16 yds./rec. and converted 51% of his targets into receptions in 2009. So how should that color your projections for 2010?

Considering he was learning on the job as a 1st year starter, I am willing to give him some benefit of the doubt and expect his catch% to increase modestly regardless of # of targets. I will also conservatively project him at 15 yds./rec., rather than last season's 16+yds./rec. If he improves even slightly on catch%, say a conservative bump to a 55% level, then even given a similar # of targets/game, he would be looking at 62 receptions and ~950+ yds (and several TDs most likely) over a 16 game season.

gianmarco said:

The target breakdown from when Garcon starting getting more looks is interesting as well. It seems that coming back from the bye week in week 7 is when they started really featuring him. Here are his targets week to week

Week 7 -- 8
Week 8 -- 7
Week 9 -- 9
Week 10 -- 11
Week 11 -- 8
Week 12 -- 7
Week 13 -- 10
Week 14 -- 9
Week 15 -- 2

(last 2 weeks for the Colts are irrelevant)

That's an average of ~8 targets/game and would put him in the 125-130 range for the year. Over that same timeframe, Collie's targets decreased to a total of 51 targets, or about 5.5/game.

What's even more interesting is looking at WAYNE's targets over that same time frame

Week 7 -- 9
Week 8 -- 20
Week 9 -- 9
Week 10 -- 12
Week 11 -- 10
Week 12 -- 6
Week 13 -- 7
Week 14 -- 7
Week 15 -- 7

With the exception of the 20 target explosion vs. SF, those target #'s were essentially the same as Garcon's. Now, I know this is a limited sample, I know it's taking the "best" portion of the season for Garcon, but I also know that Garcon's role clearly grew as the season went and those #'s bear that out.

I'm cautiously optimistic about Garcon, but I believe his upside is much higher than others in the same ranking tier as him due to his situation along with his talent. IF he does indeed fill that #2 spot and becomes the 1b along with Wayne, you're looking at a top 10 WR. His floor is also relatively safe unless he really loses the job back to Gonzo. I simply don't see that happening, especially considering how the Indy front office seems to feel about him as mentioned above.

Pierre Garcon projections

Jason Wood56790500
Message board consensus58874500