Late-Season Bloomers: WRs

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By John Paulsen (Senior Editor) on July 2, 2012

John was named FantasyPros Most Accurate Expert of 2010, was runner-up in 2011 and finished 4th in 2012 for in-season rankings accuracy. He also won the Fantasy Sports Trade Association award in 2011 for the most accurate preseason rankings. Follow John on Twitter: @4for4_John.

One good way to identify potential sleepers is to take a closer look at the late-season game-by-game stats. Oftentimes a player will make a splash, major or minor, in the final few weeks of the season and then take that momentum into the following year. Sometimes this is a product of an injury to a player ahead of him on the depth chart, and sometimes a team is just ready to give the player an opportunity for one reason or another.

Before joining 4for4, I did this study last year over at my blog, FantasyShrink.com, and the table revealed a few interesting names; Jordy Nelson ranked #17 and he obviously had a breakout year. Pierre Garcon finished 11 spots ahead of his draft ranking, while David Nelson and Jerome Simpson finished as fantasy-relevant even though they were largely undrafted in August. Kenny Britt was well on his way to a top 10 finish when he tore his ACL. Remember, we're mainly looking at emerging players, so the fact that Wes Welker or Brandon Marshall had fantasy success in 2011 shouldn't surprise anyone.
 
There are definitely some disappointments on that list as well -- Mario Manningham, anyone? -- so it's important not to place too much emphasis on late-season performance. It's a good way to further justify established sleepers or perhaps put a few more players on the radar.
 
In the table below you'll find the top 30 WRs ranked by their corresponding increase in Fantasy Points / Game (FP/G) in standard scoring formats from the first half of the season (W1-W9) to the second half (W10-17). To be eligible, players had to be fantasy relevant, which means they played in at least three games in both halves and averaged at least 5.0 FP/G during the final eight weeks of the season. That corresponds to 50 receiving yards per game or a TD.
  WEEKS 1-9 WEEKS 10-17 DIFF
# Player TM G T/G FP/G G T/G FP/G T/G FP/G
1 Percy Harvin MIN 8 5.4 4.2 8 9.6 12.4 4.2 8.2
2 Malcom Floyd SD 7 5.1 6.5 5 6.8 13.9 1.7 7.4
3 Denarius Moore OAK 8 5.9 4.9 5 5.8 10.5 -0.1 5.6
4 Jordy Nelson GB 8 5.1 10.8 8 6.8 16.3 1.7 5.5
5 Victor Cruz NYG 8 6.6 10.3 8 9.9 15.6 3.3 5.3
6 Roddy White ATL 8 9.8 8.6 8 12.6 13.7 2.8 5.1
7 Laurent Robinson DAL 6 5.5 8.1 8 5.9 12.9 0.4 4.8
8 Marques Colston NO 7 6.7 9.4 7 8.9 13.9 2.2 4.5
9 Donte Stallworth WAS 4 2.8 1.2 7 3.9 5.5 1.1 4.4
10 Demaryius Thomas DEN 3 5.0 4.2 8 6.9 8.3 1.9 4.1
11 Nate Burleson DET 8 5.5 3.8 8 8.4 7.9 2.9 4.1
12 Andre Roberts ARI 8 4.8 2.4 8 7.5 6.5 2.7 4.1
13 Michael Crabtree SF 7 7.3 5.4 8 7.9 9.4 0.6 4.0
14 Donald Driver GB 8 3.0 3.1 8 4.0 7.0 1.0 3.9
15 Titus Young DET 8 4.8 4.2 8 6.0 7.9 1.2 3.7
16 Johnny Knox CHI 8 4.5 4.5 6 5.5 8.1 1.0 3.6
17 Nate Washington TEN 8 6.8 7.3 8 8.4 10.8 1.6 3.5
18 Golden Tate SEA 8 2.4 2.0 8 4.9 5.1 2.5 3.1
19 Derek Hagan OAK 6 3.3 1.9 4 5.5 5.0 2.2 3.1
20 Larry Fitzgerald ARI 8 8.8 10.4 8 10.4 13.3 1.6 3.0
21 Greg Little CLE 8 7.4 3.7 8 7.6 6.7 0.2 3.0
22 Lance Moore NO 8 5.5 6.7 6 4.7 9.6 -0.8 2.8
23 Austin Collie IND 9 5.8 2.4 7 6.3 5.1 0.5 2.7
24 Reggie Wayne IND 9 8.6 6.4 7 7.9 8.9 -0.7 2.5
25 Antonio Brown PIT 9 8.1 6.7 7 7.0 9.0 -1.1 2.3
26 Darrius Heyward-Bey OAK 7 7.1 7.0 8 7.9 9.0 0.8 2.0
27 Robert Meachem NO 9 4.3 5.2 7 3.1 7.2 -1.2 2.0
28 Julio Jones ATL 6 7.5 10.2 7 7.0 11.9 -0.5 1.7
29 Dezmon Briscoe TB 8 2.8 3.8 8 3.6 5.5 0.8 1.7
30 Jabar Gaffney WAS 8 6.6 7.0 8 7.8 8.6 1.2 1.6

 

A few things to note:
 
- This looks at receiving stats only, which is why Percy Harvin's averages may look a little off. However, when his rushing stats from each half are added, he averaged 15.2 FP/G in the second half of the season, which was a 7.9 FP/G increase over the 7.2 FP/G he averaged in the first half of the season. So he'd still top the list with rushing numbers included. He should be very productive in 2012, especially with Adrian Peterson iffy to start the season.
 
- There are some popular early-round WR picks on the list, specifically Harvin, Nelson, Victor Cruz, Roddy White, Marques Colston, Demaryius Thomas, Larry Fitzgerald and Julio Jones, who looked like he improved as his rookie season wore on. This doesn't mean much for veterans like White, Colston and Fitz, but it's good to see that the younger players found more success in the second half of the season.
 
- In addition to the popular early-round picks, there are a few middle-round players that we like in 2012: Antonio Brown, Denarius Moore, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Robert Meachem, Lance Moore and Titus Young.
 
- Malcom Floyd is a player who will produce if he can stay healthy, but he has missed nine games in the last two seasons. Fantasy owners who take Meachem should consider drafting Floyd as well. He should produce WR3 numbers when healthy and would provide insurance if Meachem were to get injured.
 
- Laurent Robinson was as hot as anyone during the second half of 2011, but now that he's with the Jaguars, his fantasy prospects are fairly dim due to QB Blaine Gabbert's lack of progress. If Gabbert makes a leap in the preseason, Robinson could turn into a late-round sleeper.
 
- Andre Roberts was pretty good down the stretch for the Cardinals. Along with Early Doucet, it looks like Michael Floyd has his work cut out for him to move up the depth chart. He may not get significant snaps in his rookie season.
 
- There has been some talk about Greg Little making a jump in his sophomore season, but his fantasy upside depends largely on how well QB Brandon Weeden adapts to the NFL game. We're not terribly excited about Weeden, which is why Little is currently ranked as a fantasy WR4.
 
- Michael Crabtree's prospects would be bright if not for the various additions that the 49ers made in the passing game, specifically Randy Moss and Mario Manningham. The team is going to have to throw quite a bit more for Crabtree to continue to get the number of targets he saw (9.4) over the second half of the season.
Filed Under: 2012, Preseason