Pierre Garcon is the League-Winning WR You Must Own in 2017

Every year we spend time trying to find the one player value that can win you your league. Pierre Garcon is that player for 2017. Here’s why the market has him grossly mis-priced, and you need to be drafting him everywhere this summer.

Competition

The first, and perhaps most important, thing to know about Garcon is that he has extremely little competition for targets in San Francisco.

 

Garcon Competition

None of the 49er WRs were particularly prolific prospects. Only Marquise Goodwin was a top-130 pick, and it was more due to his amazing speed and return ability than his receiving prowess. DeAndre Smelter has the best overall profile but came into the league with an ACL tear and has just one target in two seasons. The lack of ability this group has is reaffirmed by their NFL production.

49er WR stats

As you can see, Garcon is clearly the best NFL producer of this group. Jeremy Kerley has had some staying power in the league but is a pure slot WR. Aldrick Robinson appears to be the best non-Garcon WR between his prospect profile and small sample efficiency. However, it is unlikely that Garcon is anything but the clear top target in this offense for 2017.

Volume

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the potential volume for Garcon. We know that targets are the lifeblood of fantasy scoring, so trying to pinpoint a range for him will be critical for his projection. First, the 49ers are projected by Vegas to win 4.5 games in 2017. Using a model taking the last five years of team wins and point margin, that projection would have San Francisco at a -6.35 point margin.

Kyle Shanahan was an offensive coordinator for nine seasons before becoming the head coach of the 49ers.

Shanny Tendencies

If we average out Shanahan’s career along with the estimated point margin, the result is 576.86 pass attempts for Brian Hoyer. Shanahan-coached teams have averaged 562 pass attempts but have also averaged 7.4 wins, so this seems like a reasonable projection.

League-average target share for WR1s since 2000 is 24 percent. Let’s take a look at some ranges of outcomes for Garcon targets based on team attempts and target share.

Attempts24%26%28%30%
525126137147158
550132143154165
575138150161173
600144156168180
625150163175188

Because of the aforementioned lack of competition, it is unlikely that Garcon cannot at least meet the league-average 24 percent target share. Even if the 49ers throw the ball 50 times less than expected, that nets him 126 targets, which would have been 19th in the NFL last season.

This gives Garcon a tremendous floor, but the rest of his range of outcomes is what should make us excited about him. Exactly half of the outcomes give Garcon 156 or more targets, a number that would have been fourth in 2017. If the team is forced to lean on him enough, he could even lead the league in targets!

What About His Age?

Garcon will be 31 entering this season. Should we be worried that his age will off-set his volume? The short answer is no.

PlayerYearTmGTgtRecYdsTDPPRPPR/G
Average--15.7145.988.91168.77.8252.516.1
Jordy Nelson2016GNB1615297125714306.719.2
Brandon Marshall2015NYJ16173109150214343.221.5
Vincent Jackson2014TAM161427010022182.211.4
Andre Johnson2012HOU1616211215984295.818.5
Brandon Lloyd2012NWE16131749114189.111.8
Wes Welker2012NWE1617411813546289.418.1
Roddy White2012ATL161429213517269.116.8
Santana Moss2010WAS161459311156240.515.0
Chad Johnson2009CIN161287210479230.714.4
Reggie Wayne2009IND16149100126410286.417.9
T.J. Houshmandzadeh2008CIN15137929044206.413.8
Randy Moss2008NWE1612569100811235.814.7
Torry Holt2007STL161499311897253.915.9
Donald Driver2006GNB161739212958269.516.8
Derrick Mason2005BAL161378610733211.313.2
Eric Moulds2004BUF161528810435222.313.9
Muhsin Muhammad2004CAR1616093140516329.520.6
Terrell Owens2004PHI1412777120014281.020.1
Marvin Harrison2003IND1514294127210281.218.7
Joe Horn2003NOR151307897310235.315.7
Troy Brown2002NWE14141978903204.014.6
Joey Galloway2002DAL16120619086187.811.7
Qadry Ismail2001BAL161347410597221.913.9
Keenan McCardell2001JAX161459311106240.015.0
Rod Smith2001DEN15172113134311313.320.9
Jimmy Smith2000JAX151459112138260.317.4
Ed McCaffrey1999DEN151247110187214.814.3
Tim Brown1997OAK1616210414085274.817.2
Michael Irvin1997DAL161577511809247.015.4

The above table shows 31 year-old WRs with at least 120 targets since 1997. The average number of targets for these players was about 146, which fits our expectations nicely. This cohort averaged 252.5 PPR points, and 16.1 PPG. Those numbers would have finished WR8 and WR9 respectively in each category. It would seem that volume trumps age.

Can Brian Hoyer Get Him There?

One potential objection to Garcon’s 2017 prospects is his QB, Brian Hoyer. However, Hoyer is probably much better than people give him credit for. His career 6.9 AYA is about the same as QBs such as Carson Palmer, Matthew Stafford, Andy Dalton, and Andrew Luck. Here are his top five comps in the RotoViz Screener Similarity Search based on career attempts and AYA.

Hoyer top comps

These QBs have each led at least one WR1 season in their career,1 including Hoyer himself.2 In fact, Garcon was already a WR1 under Robert Griffin, who also makes this list. There really is no reason to doubt Hoyer’s ability to get Garcon the ball often and effectively.

Conclusion

Garcon is a clear WR value for 2017 and stands a great chance to finish the year as a WR1. It is easy to see that his target volume should be towards the top of the league, and there is no reason to be worried about his age or QB. As the current WR38 in ADP, he is an absolute must have this season.

  1. in a season with at least 200 passing attempts  (back)
  2. DeAndre Hopkins in 2015  (back)