Antonio Brown Comparables Point to Increased TDs in 2012
I talk a lot about mean reversion, so people tend to shoot me questions about various candidates for mean reversion. Probably no player generates as many questions as Antonio Brown does. This is because Brown caught over 1100 yards last year, and yet had just two touchdowns to go along with those 1100 yards. That's a pretty light ratio of touchdowns to yards.
One way to see if Brown might be a candidate for the kind of mean reversion that can help fantasy owners (there are plenty of cases of reversion killing fantasy teams) is to look at players that had seasons similar to Brown's 2011 campaign, and see if their touchdown to yards ratios improved. We can actually do that by running comparables for Brown.
I've gone through that exercise and have posted the results of it in the tables below. All I've done is come up with some measures that it might be reasonable to compare players on and then measure each player's absolute distance from Antonio Brown on those measures. The measures includes physical attributes as well as receiving statistics.
The first table shows Brown's 2011 season. The next table is the list of comparables, with the averages for the comparables in the last line. Then below that I've included a table which shows what the comparable players did in the season after they were similar to Brown 2011.
The stats that won't be obvious are:
T/G = Targets per Game
R/G = Receptions/Game
FPOP/G = Fantasy Points Over Par/Game (essentially an efficiency measure)
Y/T = Yards/Target
Antonio Brown 2011
Year 2 following Comparable season
There are a few takeaways that I have based on my review of Brown's comparables.
- The comparables caught about 62 yards per game on average and then they averaged about 1 touchdown every four games. So they were basically on a 4 touchdown season pace if projected across 16 games. That means that Brown's yards to touchdown ratio is more than twice as bad as his comparable group. That is basically saying that Brown's touchdown ratio was such an outlier, that a method meant to find comparable seasons can't even do it.
- The average of the comparables from a physical standpoint are a really close approximation of Antonio Brown. I think there is a lot you can learn from paying attention to physical differences among players, so being able to look at guys of similar height and weight is good.
- There are two players whose names appear more than once on the table, Santonio Holmes and Santana Moss. Santana, Santonio, Antonio... how about that right? Anyway, fun with Spanish sounding names aside, a review of the range of touchdowns that Moss and Holmes have caught in their careers is probably useful. Both of those players bounced around in the 5-9 touchdown range when they were in their mid-20s.
- As a group, the comparables held up extremely well in the year after they were similar to Brown. Their yards decreased slightly, but increases in touchdowns more than made up for the slight decrease in yards. Even with Michael Clayton in there trying to kill the group, they still increased their touchdowns/game by better than 30% over the previous year. So basically we have a group that as a whole had a yards:touchdown ratio that wasn't even as out of whack's as Brown's was, and they increased their touchdowns by a good margin. I think a reasonable expectation for Brown might be anywhere in the 4-6 touchdown range if he plays the full year.
- Current 4for4 Antonio Brown Projection: 87-1260-4.3
An important thing to take into consideration is that because Brown is a smaller receiver, he probably isn't ever going to be a 10+ touchdown guy. Perhaps the easiest way to illustrate the challenge that smaller receivers are up against in terms of touchdowns is to look at the following graph that shows yards divided by touchdowns on the y axis, and player weight on the x axis. It's not a perfect fit, and there is a decent amount of spread to the data points, but the idea is there. As players get bigger, they catch more touchdowns related to their yards.
Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace are cemented as the Steelers top options in the passing game. From a usage standpoint Brown is in a very good position with Hines Ward retired and Mike Wallace threatening to hold out. Also, Brown was so light on touchdowns in 2011 year that you have to expect those numbers to increase in 2012. Given that Brown finished the season as about the 15th WR in yards (weeks 1-15 only) and he's being drafted as the 27th receiver, he represents positive value. There are a lot of good WR options in that part of the draft this year, but Brown's name belongs in the mix.