At the beginning of the offseason, Dwayne Bowe seemed to be a pretty solid bounce back candidate. The year that everything went right for Kansas City, he finished as the #2 wide receiver in fantasy, mostly on the strength of 16 touchdowns.
Even as things went south in 2011, he finished as WR20 in standard leagues. Last year, not a single thing went correctly for the Chiefs and Bowe wasn’t a starter in even the deepest of leagues at WR45. Given that the pass-happy Andy Reid has come to town, bringing the incredibly efficient Alex Smith in tow, the stars seem aligned for Bowe. I’m not so sure. I think it’s more likely that he is a volume-dependent scorer, with a decent quarterback and a decent offense, but has little chance of returning to the studliness of 2012. Independently, all 3 of these pieces may very well operate above replacement-level, but that doesn’t guarantee a 100% bounce back for Bowe.
The year that Bowe exploded, he scored a touchdown on 11.4% of his targets, a percentage that he hasn’t even come close to since posting a 12.2% in his senior season of college. In that 16 touchdown season, 6 of those scores came from 35 yards out, playing with the immortal Matt Cassel. In that season, Bowe also received 27.5% of the teams targets, and 33.3% of the teams redzone targets. The basic element of these numbers is pretty simple: Bowe was the only worthy receiving option on the team, and the efficiency numbers he posted aren’t sustainable. The Rotoviz WR career graphs do a great job of illustrating that concept through the use of Fantasy Points Over Par. Only in Bowe’s rookie year and in 2010 was he even above average at all.
But maybe Alex Smith and Andy Reid point the arrow up? A quick look at Reid’s entire time in Philly indicate that the redzone usage of one receiver is pretty unlikely. Even in Terrell Owen’s monster 14 touchdown season, he received only 28% of the teams redzone looks. This table of the redzone target leaders for Reid’s Eagles since 2000 doesn’t paint a very pretty picture for Bowe.
It’s pretty simple: Andy Reid doesn’t utilize WR’s in the redzone. His scheme is more reliant on tight ends and running backs once the offense marches inside the 20’s. The list of double digit touchdown seasons for any player at any position in Reid’s offense is Terrell Owens in 2004 and Jeremy Maclin in 2010. The fact that it is rare for any player, of any stature to be a double digit touchdown threat in Reid’s offense already puts a cap on Bowe’s fantasy ceiling. It’s not just Reid however; Alex Smith doesn’t like to use wide receivers in the redzone all that often either. In his career, 30 of his touchdowns were thrown to tight end Vernon Davis, with wide receiver Michael Crabtree falling a distant second at 11. From 2006-2011 (subtracting 2008) the 49er’s and by association, Smith, refused to give wide receivers scoring opps in the redzone. The 1st and 2nd leading target getters in the redzone under Smith were Frank Gore and Vernon Davis. It would seem that the scheme fit of Reid calling the # of TE’s and RB’s in the redzone and Smith’s propensity to throw to them is a nice match; just not nice for Bowe’s TD outlook.
Bowe has an ADP of WR16, according to FootballGuys ADP, ahead of guys like Hakeem Nicks, Torrey Smith, Eric Decker, Pierre Garcon and Danny Amendola. Shawn Siegele ranked the top 40 wide receivers using the WR Sim Score app, and as I expected, Bowe doesn’t come out looking good. I agree with Shawn’s assement that the WR30 projection is too low. This is what Bowe’s N+1 Projection table looks like without adjustment:
With a little adjustment, we can get a projection that is most likely closer to what Bowe is going to be in 2013.
Bowe is my WR20 at the moment, which would suggest that I’m pretty close to him on ADP. The purpose of this study wasn’t to say that Bowe is a clear avoid, but rather to show that the height of Bowe’s ceiling isn’t as high as the masses seem to believe. Bowe won’t have the same target dominance that he did in 2010, when he became a fantasy stud. Reid’s West Coast System won’t allow for it, and talent distribution on the Chief’s roster won’t either. Smith hasn’t shown a tendency to lock onto wide receivers, or even one player. Michael Crabtree’s 2011 is the highest targeted wide receiver in Smith’s career and Vernon Davis’s 2009 with 90 targets in 10 games (24.1% of pass attempts) is the highest targeted player in a single season in Smith’s history.
Given all of these factors, I can’t justify drafting Bowe as my WR1 anymore. Given that RB-RB is fully back and the strategy that I’ve tried to employ in most of my drafts, securing high upside wide receivers in rounds 3 and 4 is of the utmost importance. Marques Colston and Vincent Jackson are preferable options to Bowe. If your choices are between Demarco Murray as your RB3 or Vincent Jackson as your RB1 and the difference between the 2 picks is that Bowe would be your WR1 or 2, that makes the pick plenty easier. Bowe is a rock solid second wide receiver, but not a solid bet to possess the upside needed be a real WR1. Don’t put yourself in a position of relying on the short throw lovin’ Andy Reid to make Bowe a star again.