Spotlight: Santana Moss

posted by Mark Wimer on Jun 30th


Mark Wimer's thoughts

Santana Moss is a savvy veteran who has posted some fine seasons over his now ten year NFL career. During his first year in Washington, 2005, he averaged 17.7 yards per reception and set his career mark for receptions and yardage, with 84/1,483/9 to his credit. He was the third-best fantasy receiver in that year.

However, the Santana Moss of today is far removed from the Moss of mid-decade. Over the last three years, he's averaged 13.2 yards per catch twice (61/808/3 receiving during 2007; 79/1,044/6 during 2008), and 12.9 yards per catch last season (70/902/3). He has only broken through the 1,000 yards receiving barrier once in that time span, and his TD production has been disappointing in two of the three campaigns.

The question is, how much of Moss' lackluster performance is due to the inevitable decline that comes with increasing age (more on this later), and how much was due to lackluster quarterback play with Jason Campbell at the helm (learning a new offensive scheme year after year)? After all, Campbell became the full-time QB during 2007, which is when Moss' yards per reception average began to nose-dive. The above is an important question because the Redskins have a new, proven signal caller in Donovan McNabb. Will McNabb be enough to propel Moss to a more productive showing during 2010?

I believe that Moss declined, in part, due to Campbell's struggles in 2007 and 2008, but that his showing during 2009 is more due to his advancing age than the faults of his quarterback. (Moss is 31 now, an age at which many players start to decline in production.)

Campbell actually improved dramatically during 2009, with career highs in completions, passing yardage, passing TDs and yards per attempt (7.1 per attempt last year) - 327/507 for 3,618 yards, 20 TDs and 15 interceptions was the mark he put up last year. His paltry TD totals of years past (12 in 2007 and 13 in 2008) went into the rear-view mirror, yet Moss only managed three TDs in Campbell's best season under center for Washington.

If the human growth hormone allegations surrounding Moss' involvement with Dr. Anthony Galea are true (Moss was reportedly set to receive HGH from an assistant of Galea's last September), Moss may be attempting to ward off Father Time with a substance banned by the NFL. Given the current commissioner's record of handing down suspensions for violations of NFL rules, the mere fact that Moss was mentioned in a high-profile HGH bust should raise a red flag for fantasy owners. There is apparently more risk in drafting Moss, as if he is caught taking HGH or other banned performance-enhancing substances, a long suspension could result.

Another factor to consider when looking at Moss for your fantasy team is that he is learning yet another new offense this year with the arrival of head coach Mike Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. Anytime a team is in a transition period (as the Redskins are during 2010), a slower-than-usual start on offense is a distinct possibility.

Also, Moss faces a stiff challenge for touches on the football from Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly, two rising young receivers who may pry the top job away from the veteran Moss. Neither of the young guys has broken through yet (Thomas posted 47 targets for 25/325/3 receiving during 2009), but both enter their third year in the NFL, which is a time at which many young players finally "break out" at this level. Their challenge for playing time/touches on the ball could restrict Moss' fantasy upside during 2010.

Positives

  • Moss is a wily veteran who has led the Redskins' receiving corps for many years.
  • Moss is a proven commodity at the NFL level, unlike the young receivers who are challenging for playing time.
  • Moss will work with a top-shelf NFL QB this year - Donovan McNabb has been a top-12 fantasy QB in each of the last four years (10th, 12th, 7th, and 12th from 2006-2009).
  • Moss is practicing at a variety of positions on the field this year as the new regime will utilize him in a multi-faceted role - he may be on the field almost every offensive down which could maximize his abilities (and fantasy scoring potential).

Negatives

  • Age - Moss is 31 now, a time at which many players start to decline as fantasy producers.
  • Banned Substance Involvement - Moss was allegedly set to receive a substance banned by the NFL when the delivery person was intercepted and arrested - there is probably an increased chance of an NFL suspension that goes along with drafting Moss.
  • New Offense/Coaching Regime - Moss has to learn and execute another new offense/playbook. The whole team is in transition, which could lead to a slow start for Washington.
  • Moss faces strong challenges for touches on the football from Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly.

Final thoughts

On my wide receiver boards, Moss is on the lower end of the Footballguys.com expert's spectrum on the redraft, non-PPR rankings (the range is 17-38 on the redraft board; I have him 33rd), and right in the middle of the spectrum on the redraft-PPR rankings (the range is 21-50, while I have him slotted at 31st). The wide diversity of opinion on Moss' prospects for 2010 represents the uncertainty we all have projecting Washington players in a brand-new coaching environment/offensive system. In my opinion, Moss is likely to land in the middle of fantasy WR #3 territory by the end of 2010. He's a prospect to start in leagues that require three wide receivers, but I feel that his upside is limited - you won't get many explosive games from Moss, but you'll likely see a steady stream of modestly productive showings from him from week to week.


Quotations from the message board thread

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

Ministry of Pain said:

This is an FBG and Shark Pool special here. All the elements are there for a nice season.

1. He's 30+ years old and for many owners that's ancient.

2. Hasn't had a great season the past couple years. He is a distant memory for some at this point.

3. He has a track record meaning he has had a couple of big years on his resume so he's proven even if he is inconsistent from year to year. Hasn't had the best QB situation all the time either throwing him the football.

4. No one with the arm of McNabb has ever really been slinging it to him, now he will have one of the league's all time best throwing the ball, that has to improve his situation.

5. Who is gonna pass him on the depth charts? he's the number 1 option and almost the only option at WR for the moment.

Holy Schneikes said:

I think Moss could be a sneaky legit #1. I wouldn't pay that price for him, but you won't have to.

He has the talent to do it, he has proven that. All he has really needed is a scheme (coach/coordinator) and a QB. He now has both. McNabb likes to throw deep, which is Moss' bread and butter and the Shanahans like to throw period (and have supported some very nice stats from their first and second WRs).

Here are some interesting tidbits on Mike's #1 WRs over his last 5 years:
Marshall 104 1265 6
Marshall 102 1325 7
Walker 69 1084 8
Smith 85 1105 6
Smith 79 1144 7

Kyle has had Andre Johnson in his two year run but just for fun:
Johnson 101 1569 9
Johnson 115 1575 8

I know that is Andre Johnson we are talking about, but I would point out that those were BY FAR the best two years of his career.

Not too shabby. Granted, these are some pretty good receivers (though Smith was near the end of his run obviously and he still put up nice numbers), but like I said, I believe Moss is pretty talented too.

The risk factor is that with any new regime, you never really know who the go-to guys are going to be. I think the odds are pretty good it will end up being Moss, but that's not a lock which downgrades his value a bit.

All in all, Moss is a guy I would look for in a redraft that COULD put up a VERY good season (like a surprise top 5), and barring injury is likely to at least give you decent #2 WR stats. For where you are likely to be able to get him, that's nice.

rzrback77 said:

Santana Moss has a checkered history of success and then not. He has finished in the top ten WRs twice, but that was back in 03 and 05. Even with struggling QB play in Washington for the past decade, he has managed to have some success.

He has also had some difficulties playing a full season, missing games in five of his nine seasons. However, he has played all 16 games in the last two years. There is much stronger leadership in DC for 2010, starting with Dan Snyder seemingly backing off and allowing Shanahan and Allen to run the show. I have so much more confidence in Allen, Shanahan, McNabb. than 09's trio they replaced.

Recent change in the Ol also leads me to believe that the Redskins offense will be much improved both passing and running.

So, in the two previous years, Moss has averaged 129 targets 75 catches, 974 yards and 4.5 TDs, finishing as WR 17 in 08 and then WR 18 last year. Just a few more catches and a slight uptick in ypc with a couple of TDs and he solidly outperforms his current ADP of WR29 and 82 overall. Sounds like a viable value WR to target.

Assumption is no suspension for HGH.


Santana Moss projections

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