Everyone loves rookies; they’re new and shiny and the possibilities seem limitless. Unfortunately, they’re also expensive. You know who I love? I love the 2nd year guys. They’re forgotten and cheap, but have a leg up because they already know the offense. This series looks at players from the 2012 NFL Draft who you need to know and track throughout the summer. In case you missed them, check out my articles on other 2nd year guys: Stephen Hill, Brian Quick, Nick Toon, AJ Jenkins.
Nobody is talking about it yet, but Rueben Randle is probably going to be a star in the NFL. Naturally, since nobody else is talking about it, I am going to. Ignore this at your own peril.
According to Rivals.com, Rueben Randle was the #1 wide receiver recruit in America in 2009. You’re probably wondering, “why should I give a damn about what he did in high school?” and that would be a fair point. But, the fact of the matter is that life in the NFL is a Darwinian existence and getting ‘fast tracked’ does matter because it means that you get the best coaching and play against the best opponents. In Rueben Randle’s case, his #1 ranking meant a full ride to play football at LSU and refine his game against top notch defenders in the SEC.
The College Years
As I’ve pointed out before, constant growth is critical in the life of a football player. For Rueben Randle, notice how he improved throughout his college years. First, we’ll look at his expanding role in his college offense and then the fantastic efficiency he maintained with his increased role.
(To help you put his college performance in context, I’ve compared him with NYG teammate Hakeem Nicks’ college years.)
Anything above 9 yards per target is desirable, but posting three seasons above ten yards per target (one first down for every time his team threw him the ball) is mind-blowing. As you might expect, his market share of yards…
…and touchdowns also showed strong upward movement throughout his career. I love to see this ascent, because I think it means that he still has room to grow as a player; he didn’t plateau against college competition.
If you examined Randle’s performance using the RotoViz College WR app, the only blemish you would find is his 0% red zone TD rate in 2010. That said, he only saw three red zone targets all season as LSU ranked 111th in the NCAA in passing touchdowns. He did, however, post a solid 33% TD rate during his junior year (2011), which ended up being his final college season. Overall, he just BARELY falls short of passing the Eric Decker test.
The impressive rookie season
A fun stat we use at RotoViz is something called Fantasy Points Over Par (FPOP); think of it like the baseball term Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP). It basically compares player performance to the league average production for any given yard line on the field (Read more here). When comparing Rueben Randle’s rookie performance to other receivers drafted in the first two rounds of recent drafts, the early returns show an ability to produce above-average results.
|Draft||Pick||Player||Rookie Year Targets||Rookie FPOP||Rookie Age|
To translate this for you, for every three opportunities Rueben Randle got during his rookie season, he produced one more fantasy point than the average player. Hypothetically, if over the course of a season he saw 100 targets, he would get you 30 more fantasy points than average. Yes, please. Sure, you could argue that his efficiency might decline with a larger sample size, or argue that he wasn’t the Giants primary receiver, like some of these other guys might have been, but whether it’s talent, environment, or both, Rueben Randle was an outstanding contributor to the 2012 New York Giants. And if you’d like 3rd party validation that his rookie season was impressive, Bryan Fontaine has also flagged him as a breakout candidate.
Note that Randle was 21 years old during his rookie season. Of more than 180 receivers drafted since 2008, Randle is the 8th youngest, joining a small fraternity of receivers who were just 20 years old on draft day.
As you probably have seen, both Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks are in contract disputes with the New York Giants. Both players become free agents after this season and the team probably can’t afford to keep both: in steps Rueben Randle. Heck, even as things stand right now, Randle could approach full-time snaps in 2013, even if both guys re-sign. In the mean time, Randle has quietly been working as the #1 receiver at Giants’ OTAs, allowing him to further develop rapport with Eli Manning.
Rueben Randle has the pedigree, the youth, the talent, and a growing opportunity. Sooner or later, he is going to be a star in the NFL, which is why I drafted him in the RotoViz Dynasty League. You would do well to acquire him while the price tag is still reasonable.