Spotlight: Mike Sims-Walker

posted by Jeff Pasquino on Jun 28th


Jeff Pasquino's thoughts

Mike Sims-Walker is the clear top dog for Jacksonville at wide receiver, which is both a blessing and a curse for him and his fantasy owners. Much like Calvin Johnson in Detroit, every defense knows where the ball is heading on a pass play if the star receiver can get open, so coverages always will shade towards the top target. Jacksonville has two main options in the passing attack - Sims-Walker and Maurice Jones-Drew. Until another option or two steps up to join them as viable candidates to make some plays for Jacksonville, every defensive coordinator will put heavy coverage on those two guys and make quarterback David Garrard look elsewhere. For Sims-Walker to put up big stats in 2010 he will need either Troy Williamson, Mike Thomas or Jarrett Dillard to step up and draw defensive attention and respect this year.

Sims-Walker dealt with this problem some last season, as Jacksonville had a rapidly declining Torry Holt at the other starting spot (51 catches, 722 yards, 0 TDs) and an inexperienced Mike Thomas (48 catches, 453 yards, one touchdown) coming on later in the second half. Jacksonville was bitten some by the injury bug as Troy Williamson - a projected starter during training camp - was lost for the year with a torn labrum in week two last season. Both he, Mike Thomas and Jarrett Dillard will be asked to produce as either the second starting wideout, slot receiver or first man off of the bench for four-wide situations.

Jacksonville is still a run-first, play good defense second style franchise. That suits their head coach well, as Jack Del Rio was a former NFL defensive player and favors the Bill Parcells style of grinding out victories with defense, special teams and a good ground game. With David Garrard not asked to do too much with the ball via the pass, chances diminish for everyone in the passing attack.

Positives

  • Jacksonville does not have many viable targets on their roster. After Sims-Walker, it will be a battle in training camp between Jarrett Dillard, Mike Thomas and Troy Williamson to establish the second starter, slot receiver and the fourth option on the depth chart. Only Sims-Walker will command targets in Jacksonville this year, and an average of around 10 a game would not surprise me at all.
  • Maurice Jones-Drew is a weapon for the Jaguars, and the opposing defenses must account for him on virtually every play. Jones-Drew can run inside or outside and also catch the ball well out of the backfield. With defenses keying on him first, Sims-Walker may be able to slip through now and then against defenses cheating against the run.
  • David Garrard is not spectacular, but he sure knows who his top option is in the passing game. When it comes time to throw the ball, the first read will be Sims-Walker. You really do not need to look any further than the touchdown pass totals from last season - Garrard threw for 15 scores and Sims-Walker reeled in seven of them. No other Jaguar had more than two.

Negatives

  • Jacksonville is lacking in viable receivers after Sims-Walker. Defenses can double up the Jaguars' top option and force the ball to the other side of the field.
  • Maurice Jones-Drew is the engine that drives the Jaguar offense. Head coach Jack Del Rio knows that getting the ball in Jones-Drew's hands is how he can best march his offense up and down the field, but that does limit the opportunities for the passing game.
  • When passing situations come up, David Garrard knows to look for Sims-Walker first, but that does not mean that he will check his other options and then come back to Sims-Walker. Quite often Garrard will tuck the ball and run himself rather than wait for Sims-Walker to beat tough coverages. A good rushing quarterback helps an offense but does not aid a wide receiver's fantasy numbers.

Final thoughts

The Jaguars need to find alternatives in their passing game to Mike Sims-Walker and Maurice Jones-Drew. Unless one of the three other receivers (Williamson, Thomas and Dillard) can command some respect from other defenders, it will be more of the same again in 2010 for Sims-Walker. David Garrard will still look his way about half of the time (Sims-Walker led Jacksonville in targets for the year with 111 in 2009, including 11 out of 16 games with at least seven chances) but if he cannot beat double coverage then both Garrard and Sims-Walker will struggle for the year. Maurice Jones-Drew does help to pull eight men into the box quite often and he gets plenty of targets of his own, but linebackers will be keying on the versatile running back. Sims-Walker still has to beat two defensive backs most of the time.

All is not lost because of the likelihood of teams focusing on the top receiver in Jacksonville most weeks. Sims-Walker has shown that even if he is covered well all game, he can still get open and get his fair share of chances. Teams are looking for the ball to head to him and he still grabbed 63 passes for almost 900 yards and seven scores last year. I have to expect that he will put up at least that much productivity for this coming season with an upside of 20-25% off of those catch and yardage numbers. For that big upside to happen, another target must emerge on the other side of the field to pull double coverage away from Sims-Walker. With both Houston and Indianapolis on the schedule twice, shootouts might happen and that also will boost Sims-Walker's numbers.

Given all of the above, I would put the floor for Sims-Walker's stats at right around 65-800-6 for the season with an upside of 20-25% if Jacksonville throws more and develops a second wide receiver. His upside of an additional 25% from that baseline would put him right around 80 catches, 1,100 yards and 8 scores, which would be an outstanding year by any measure. My prediction would be a middle ground between those two, so put me down for a 70-75 catch, 950-1050 yard, seven score season for Sims-Walker.


Quotations from the message board thread

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

Bayhawks said:

Sims-Walker averaged 7.4 targets/game last year (counting week 1, before he "broke out" & had only 1 target). He averaged about 8 targets/game after week 1. With very few receiving options in Jax, I could see that increasing some, maybe to 9 targets/game. That would total 144 targets for the year. Sims-Walker caught 56.8% of his targets last year. If he maintains that percentage, he would catch 81-82 balls.

Sims-Walker's Y/R average last year was 13.79. I wouldn't expect that to go up much in Jax's offense, but I also don't see it dropping drastically either. Let's say 13.5 Y/R. Sims-Walker scored 1 TD for every 9 receptions last year. That's a lower average than the big boys like Moss or Fitzgerald, but I'd still drop it to 1 TD every 10 receptions.

So, projections (and I'd consider these his floor, barring injury): 144 targets, 82 receptions, 1107 yards, 8 TDs.

A good WR2 (especially considering when you can get him), or a great WR3.

Creed Bratton said:

This is a guy that I've been high on for the last couple years, and has pretty good size and speed for a wide receiver and looks to have pretty good hands. With so few options in jacksonville, he's going to be productive because there's nobody else there that they can count on. But I think that also may limit his upside a bit. I don't think that he's going to crack fantasy WR1 status unless he catches a lot of breaks. However, he makes a pretty solid fantasy WR2 who you might be able to draft as a WR3. Owners out there might be worried he's a flash in the pan, but I strongly believe he's a legitimately talented receiver.

His value might be depressed because his numbers last season weren't eye-popping from him not playing a couple of games due to the coaching staff, getting banged up down the stretch, and the jags o-line having issues last season. He was overshadowed by the bigger breakout stars last season like Sidney Rice and Miles Austin who looked like better physical talents. That combined with his injury history should make him a value play, especially in PPR leagues. I think he could have as many as 90-95 receptions next season. Though, I don't see him averaging more than 14 yards a catch in that offense.

karmarooster said:

Last year MSW missed 2 games - week 1 when he wasn't a starter, and week 5 when he was suspended for curfew violation. Even considering the slump he suffered in the second half of the season, he played well on a points per game basis... about WR17 in PPR. Pro rate his stats for 2 more starts and you get 72 catches for 993 yards.

This year he goes into the offseason as the unquestioned number 1 WR, and he'll get the reps that going along with the title. He should connect with Garrard early and often, provided Garrard can be accurate (always an IF). There's reason to believe he'll improve and won't post as many stinkers as he did last year (he had 5 total last year).

You should be thankful that 1.) he missed two games and 2.) he disappeared in a few others. It will keep his value low and you can scoop him up as a difference maker WR3 that can post borderline WR1/2 numbers when he's hot.

Projection: last year, pro-rated to 16 games, plus a 10% improvement based on WR1 reps in camp.


Mike Sims-Walker projections

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