Few things were more disappointing than the Giants’ offense last season. A frequent target of criticism? Second year WR Rueben Randle. Now that the 2014 NFL Draft has come and gone, there’s a lot of enthusiasm for the Giants’ #12 overall pick Odell Beckham Jr, and little if any enthusiasm for Randle. Here’s why I’m still buying Randle.
The simplest iteration of my argument in favor of Randle is cost. Courtesy of Fantasy Football Calculator, take a look at the respective ADPs of Randle and Beckham:
The ADP situation is similar across different sites. At Dynasty League Football, Beckham’s May startup ADP is WR33, a full ten spots higher than Randle’s 43. That’s a big swing from April, when Randle was going at WR29, and Beckham at WR39. In other words, Randle’s cost has dropped 14 spots – more than a full round – while Beckham’s has increased 6 spots. Justin Winn talked about this earlier, and it’s still true: the upside-value pick is Randle.
Rookie Rut Roh
If you search our site for “Odell Beckham Jr” you’ll find a lot of coverage that suggests we’re not very enthusiastic about his prospects. But even if you think Beckham will ultimately be a great WR,1 it’s not very realistic to expect that to happen this year. Out of 116 total WRs drafted in the first two rounds since 2000, rookie receivers 6’1″ and under, 205 pounds and under have not produced much. Only 14 produced more than 5 TDs, 50 catches, or 50 receiving yards/game. Here’s the best of the bunch:
On average then, the top 14 rookie receivers from this cohort produced about 158 PPR fantasy points in their rookie season. Last year that was good for WR40 production. So if Beckham makes it into this group, he might be an occasional flex play. Can Randle produce more than that? I think he can, but even if he can’t, this should make us question drafting Beckham ahead of Randle. The other issue here is that only about half of those guys had useful long term fantasy careers. That doesn’t mean Beckham won’t, but it does cast doubt on the idea of drafting him almost a full round ahead of Randle.
Was Randle a disappointment last season? You bet. The most common explanation is that former coordinator Kevin Gilbride’s offense was “too complex” for Randle. But check this out. Over his first two seasons, Randle is second only to Victor Cruz in Giants’ receiving TDs. On a percentage basis, Randle has been the Giants’ best scoring option, scoring a TD on 8% of his total targets. Victor Cruz checks in with a 5% TD rate, Jerrell Jernigan with a 4% rate.
The disparity is emphasized when we focus on just red zone stats. Randle has converted 33% of his red zone targets into TDs. Cruz? Slightly less at 26%. Jernigan only has 3 career red zone targets.
So let’s just say that Randle was clearly the Giants best TD scoring receiver in an offensive scheme that was ill-suited to him. If the Giant’s new offensive system is a better fit for Randle, doesn’t that make him likely to be even better at scoring?
As for Beckham, one of the things we’ve questioned is his lack of TD scoring. I don’t expect Beckham to suddenly become better at scoring as an NFL rookie than he was in three years of college. In fact, you could argue that Jernigan makes a better red zone weapon than Beckham:
So I expect Randle to be the Giants’ best TD threat again this year. Hopefully Ben McAdoo’s plan is to score fu**ing points, not f**ing gain yards. Certainly Beckham isn’t the type of receiver drafted to score points. But maybe the Giants didn’t draft a scoring receiver because they already have one in Rueben Randle.
With Hakeem Nicks and Brandon Myers gone, nearly 200 passing targets are unaccounted for. Theoretically, Adrien Robinson gets some as the apparent TE starter. But I’m not considering him a real threat to get very many. New coordinator Ben McAdoo comes from Green Bay. Although he wasn’t a coordinator there, if we assume his offense will be based on Green Bay’s, then we should note that over the years McAdoo was there (2006-2013), Green Bay ranked only 19th in pass targets to TEs.2 I also don’t expect Jerrell Jernigan to get many targets. He’s a nice story and all, but he had three nice games to end the season last year. In the 29 games he played before that his best line was 3 catches for 29 yards.
So where will those targets go? If the Giants run a Green Bay style offense they’ll be in 3 WR sets more than 60% of the time. They’ve already said they want Victor Cruz to play exclusively in the slot. Well, if Cruz is in the slot, that means there are two outside receivers. So that means both Beckham and Randle on the field. The types of throws the Giants figure to make seem to really favor a receiver of Randle’s size.
Beyond that, it’s a question of whether Randle gets targeted more than Beckham. Since Randle is both the veteran and the better scorer, and Beckham figures to have some rookie growing pains, I’d bet on Randle getting the
lion’s Giants’ share of non-Cruz pass targets. Then there’s this: over the past two seasons, Randle ranks 5th on the Giants in red zone targets. But targets 2-4 (Hakeem Nicks, Martellus Bennett, Brandon Myers) are no longer with the team. Regardless of the distribution of pass targets in general, I’d bank on Randle getting even more red zone looks. When they run 2 WR sets it’s safe to assume one will be Cruz. The other? I’m betting on Randle to beat out Beckham for that duty. But even if they split these snaps, Randle is cheaper at the moment.
Here’s another way to think of it: assuming a Green Bay style offense, Beckham is built like Greg Jennings/Randall Cobb, right? Well, Randle is built like Jordy Nelson/James Jones. If Cobb and Nelson can both be fantasy relevant at the same time in Green Bay, why can’t Randle and Beckham both be relevant in New York?
And if they can, the smart plan is to take Rueben Randle, the cheaper option.