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Farewell, Marques Colston

 

Since entering the league in 2006, Colston has been one of the NFLs best, most consistent receivers. Except for 2008, he’s put up over 70 catches, 900 yards, and 5 TDs every season. Yes, his numbers dipped a bit last year, and he is 30 years old now. But surely he’s got a decent amount of production left, right? After all, old WRs win championships.

The end of the line might be coming sooner than we think, for a couple reasons.

Marques Colston is one of my favorite players, real or fantasy, of all time. I won a few league championships when I scooped him up off waivers back in 2006, and like every red-blooded American, I like a good underdog story. In fact, I even think he’ll be quite productive again this year: the WR Sim App likes him for 12 PPR points/game.

Colston Standard Half PPR PPR
Low 6.6 8.5 10.4
Median 7.7 9.9 12.1
High 10.1 12.8 15.5

Physical Decline

So why am I concerned about Colston? Let’s tackle the physical side first. Here’s a graph that shows comparable WRs that had a season similar to Colston’s 2013.

 

Right off the bat we see that only 8 of 25 comparables produced a better season in year N+1 (i.e. 2014 for Colston). So that’s a red flag right there; we should probably expect Colston’s 2014 to be not quite as good as his 2013. But if you look at the comparable players, you’re probably thinking they’re all pretty high quality, so maybe there’s no need to worry.

So just how likely is it that Colston suffers a production decline significant enough to warrant concern? A handful of his comparable players (Marshall, Johnson, Boldin) are still active and going strong. But we know how things played out for the rest of his comps. Let’s take a look.

PlayerYearAgeN+1 SeasonRest of career
Muhsin Muhamad200431Best season of career. 93/1405/16Five more productive seasons.
Terrell Owens2004311200 yards, 14 TDsThree more 1K seasons.
Plaxico Burress200225Big age difference. 78/1325/7Never topped 2002 catch or yardage totals.
Keyshawn Johnson20043272/981/6Posted 2 more similar seasons before retiring.
Eric Moulds20053281/1016/4Played 2 more seasons with sharply declining production.
Marty Booker20073150/556/1Played 2 more seasons with sharply declining production.
Javon Walker200729Less than 30 catches/300 yards.Played 2 more seasons totalling 15 catches, 196 yards total.
Willie Jackson20023125/257/1Final Season.
Jabar Gaffney2012323 games, 4 catchesFinal Season.
Jerry Porter200628Only appeared in 4 games.Posted 55 catches, 886 yards, 7 TDs over two more seasons.
Malcolm Floyd20123056/814/5Severe injury in 2013.

I didn’t include Miles Austin in that table since he just found work. His 2013 season (age 29) saw him play in just 11 games with only 24 catches, 224 yards, no TDs. He only latched on with Cleveland after (a) Josh Gordon got suspended and (b) they signed Earl Bennett first. At this point, I’m counting Austin as a negative comp. 

Let’s tally it up: 3 active comps that are going strong, but we don’t know how they’ll age, and two (Bowe, Austin) that may have hit the wall. Basically 5 of the retired comps put up a really good N+1, and then 6 were useless.Two retired comps played at a high level for three or more future seasons and one turned in two more solid seasons. And then eight retired comps fell off drastically after their N+1 season. Final score: 3/5 of active comps are good, 5/11 retired comps had a good N+1 season, and 3/11 comps put up good seasons after their N+1 year. Not exactly a rosy picture. 

So will Colston buck the trend? I don’t know for sure, but available  information suggests no. This quote from Rotoworld pretty much sums it up: “Coach Sean Payton doesn’t expect the nagging foot woes Marques Colston battled last season to go away.” Rotoworld goes on to report that the Saints are already planning to limit Colston’s practice time as a result. Further evidence that Colston is on the decline can be found in the fact that the Saints acquired not one, but two WRs on draft weekend.

You know about Brandin Cooks already, so let’s look at the other, Brandon Coleman from Rutgers, who signed as an UDFA.

Name Hght Wght Arms Hands 40 yd 10 yd Vert Broad 3Cone 20 ss
Brandon Coleman 6′ 6″ 225 34″ 9¼” 4.56 1.63 32½” 7.33 4.51
Marques Colston 6′ 5″ 224 33⅜” 9⅝” 4.5 1.6 37″ 123″ 6.96 4.44

Gee, it’s almost like they picked up somebody a lot like Colston, maybe in case…they…move on from Colston? For what it’s worth, Coleman1 does have a 30+ dominator rating season to his creditThere are obvious concerns with Coleman – he was undrafted after all – but also some good points. He’s got the best projected red zone TD rate of this year’s WR class, and he’s on the young side. But the potential for physical decline and the presence of a rookie doppelganger aren’t the only reason to be concerned about Colston’s future.

Salary Cap Squeeze

While doing some research for one of my dynasty leagues, I stumbled on this. Over the Cap is a great site for salary cap analysis,2 and I encourage you to delve deeper. But let me break down Colston’s situation for you.

As of now, the Saints have only a little over $600,000 in salary cap room for next season (2015). That’s barely enough to sign a single player, let alone an entire draft and free agency class. How can they generate more cap space? A lot of ways, but the one that stuck out to me was this:

colston

What does that mean? That means that, even though it would create “dead money”, cutting Colston next season will create over $4 million in net salary cap space. If the Saints keep him through 2015, cutting him in 2016 creates over $7 million in salary cap space. In either year, designating him a post-June 1 cut would create even more cap space.

Could the Saints cut someone else instead? Sure. Cameron Jordan is an obvious candidate. Cutting him in 2015 would create $6 million in salary cap space without any dead money. Others, like Jahri Evans and Curtis Lofton, offer similar opportunity. But since I mostly play (non-IDP) fantasy football, I’m less concerned about those possibilities. Besides, Jordan and Lofton are much younger and more likely to be producing at a high level.

Just Say It

Ok, here it is: I think there’s a solid chance that Colston’s productivity declines substantially in the next 1-2 seasons. The Saints are up against the salary cap, and cutting Colston creates significant salary cap space. Aging player, declining production, expensive contract…you get the idea.

Be Naive

Back in March, Fantasy Gumshoe wrote a great article about the “Naive Dynasty Exit Model.”3 In it, he creates a simple projection model for declining WR production. Here’s his forecast for Colston:

colston.projection

Looks like 2015 projects to be much less productive than 2013. I’m taking Gumshoe’s advice and looking for a good opportunity to sell Colston in dynasty leagues. And, maybe, finding a spot at the end of my bench for Brandon Coleman.

 

  1. it even sounds like Colston!  (back)
  2. if you’re into that sort of thing  (back)
  3. Go ahead, read it  (back)

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