The following is a guest post by Jonathan Bales, the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Dominate Your Draft. He's also the founder of The DC Times and writes for the New York Times.
There's really no doubting Justin Blackmon's athleticism and seemingly unlimited upside. Blackmon is a world-class wide receiver who has the potential to dominate in the NFL. In 2012, however, you might want to stay away from Blackmon in fantasy redraft leagues. Here's why. . .
- Rookie wide receivers possess little value.
In my book Fantasy Football for Smart People, I talk about the risks of drafting rookie receivers. Take a look at the top rookie wide outs from the past five seasons. Even in today's pass-happy NFL, rookie receivers simply don't make much of an impact. Going into 2012, second-year receiver A.J. Green is getting selected as high as the third round in fantasy drafts. Still, Green-2011's top rookie receiver-was just 14th in points among all receivers.
And Green is actually an outlier. In 2010, the top rookie receiver was Dez Bryant. He checked in 41st among all receivers in fantasy points, meaning he wasn't even good enough to start in three-receiver leagues. In 2009, Percy Harvin led all rookie receivers, but still managed to total only the 25th-most fantasy points at the position. DeSean Jackson led rookie receivers in 2008 at 29th place, and Dwayne Bowe set the pace the previous season at 24th. Even the great Calvin Johnson was the 35th-ranked wide receiver in his rookie year.
Simply stated, you can't rely on rookie receivers in the short-term. At best, the draft's most elite rookie receivers can be counted on as low-end third options at the position.
- Blackmon's ADP is far too high.
Fantasy football drafting is all about securing value. Blackmon's average draft position, as shown below, is too high for owners to obtain value with his selection.
You can see Blackmon's ADP took a tumble after he was arrested for an early-June DUI. Nonetheless, his current 10th-round draft spot is much too high in redraft leagues. Remember, rookie receivers have almost no chance of posting quality stats.
About 50 receptions for 800 yards and five touchdowns is realistic-and solid-for Blackmon in his rookie year. Still, he's getting selected near guys like Darrius Heyward-Bey and Mike Williams who, although admittedly less talented, possess more upside due to a longer tenure in the NFL.
There are monumental differences between redraft and dynasty draft strategy, and Blackmon's value to dynasty owners is outstanding. Here's why. . .
- Blackmon has a supporting cast.
The Jaguars have lacked the ability to attack defenses vertically over the past few years. Maurice Jones-Drew is an all-world running back, but defenses have been able to clamp down on him due to a lack of elite talent outside.
With the arrival of Blackmon and Laurent Robinson, the Jags finally have the home run threats they need. Blackmon will be the man in Jacksonville sooner rather than later, but he doesn't need to do it all on his own. With all of the parts in place, Blackmon should receive plenty of single coverage in the beginning of his career.
- Wide receivers get selected too late in dynasty leagues.
Fantasy owners often don't deviate too much from their redraft strategy in dynasty leagues. This means they wait on rookie receivers because the first-year value isn't there. If you're willing to draft a young gun and wait it out, you can acquire great career value with rookie receivers. You'll lose a mid-to-late-round pick in 2012, but Blackmon could (and should) begin producing starting-caliber fantasy points as soon as 2013.
- Blackmon will probably be the top-scoring receiver from this draft class after a few years.
My friend and fellow fantasy football analyst Frank DuPont has a pretty awesome formula for projecting rookie wide receivers' fantasy impact. It utilizes a player's market share of collegiate yards, 40 time, and a few other factors to project production over the first three years of his NFL career. Blackmon comes out on top in those rankings.
Ultimately, Blackmon's skill set is too elite to deny. Even so, don't expect his 2012 production to be in the top-tier of fantasy receivers; if he's in the top 20, that's outstanding. Beyond this season, however, Blackmon's potential is uncapped. In dynasty leagues, look to grab Blackmon in the middle rounds, sit on him for a year, then start cashing in as soon as 2013.