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