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Robert Herron: In The Land of Giants

herron

The Tampa Bay draft has brought a lot of attention back to the work that a lot of smart people are doing here at Rotoviz. Whether it’s something that really takes hold in NFL team building remains to be seen, but no matter how trifling the shift, the plates of the fantasy world have shifted. Amongst all of the gigantic, athletic pass targets that Tampa selected, I actually want to take a moment to talk about the one miniscule receiver they drafted in Wyoming’s Robert Herron.

Blasphemous, I know. Herron has some red marks that make him far from the typical Rotovizian Receiver. First, he’s 5’9” inches tall and 193 pounds. Second, he was a sixth round draft choice. Those two things combined have already pushed the probability of his long term success squarely between a rock and a hard place.

He also has a composite ranking of 55 in our staff rookie ranks. That ranking is smashed right in between Joe Don Duncan, a 25 year old tight end who isn’t on a team yet and hasn’t been medically cleared to play, Bruce Ellington, the fourth or fifth wide receiver on a team that ran the fewest three wide receiver sets in the NFL a season ago, and lastly Colt Lyerla, who’s sharing an apartment without furniture somewhere with Jared Leto and Ewan McGregor. So hey, at least I’m not wasting your time here.

The fact that Tampa has so many Vizian prototypes already penned in as key cogs in their offensive wheels opens up an opportunity for Herron to be a contributor. I thought he was a great selection immediately and elaborated a bit on why I had those initial thoughts in a small blurb about him in this piece. Then I caught a much smarter man than me, Evan Silva of Rotoworld, echo the same sentiments on the latest 2 Mugs podcast. So maybe I’m not so crazy after all.

It’s essentially the reason why I liked Reggie Bush so much coming into last season. With Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans on the outside, teams defending the Buccaneers are forced to play a high safety at all times. By adding Austin Seferian-Jenkins, the strong safety and or middle linebacker is now occupied as well, mostly with double assignments. The third wide receiver in this offense is going to have a surplus of favorable matchups and field equity to operate in.

The short term problem with Tampa’s current plan is that Jackson and Evans are very parallel types of pass catchers, and while explosive, they aren’t conducive to generating a lot of offensive efficiency. Both receive a healthy amount of targets that simply have low percentages of success, but when successful; they create results that can’t be duplicated. Jackson has made up for the inefficiency of those targets with the massive amounts of yards and touchdowns they create. Using the NFL Receiver Stat Filter, you can see the effect that those types of targets have had on Jackson’s career catch rate.

Year

Tgt

Rec

Catch %

2006

56

27

48.2%

2007

79

41

51.9%

2008

101

59

58.4%

2009

107

68

63.6%

2010

24

14

58.3%

2011

114

60

52.6%

2012

147

72

49.0%

2013

160

78

48.8%

Average

98.5

52.4

53.2%

Total

788

419

53.2%

Relying strictly on Evans and Jackson to move the football in the fashion that they are going to be used is problematic for sustaining drives. That in turn will cost fantasy owners touchdowns. Last season, Josh McCown leaned on towers in Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, but he also had Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett doing intermediate work underneath. There’s also the fact that Marshall is just a far more complete receiver than Jackson. He does a lot of dirty work underneath himself, which is why he’s always been in the elite class of fantasy pass catchers and Jackson has remained in the next group down. Evans may grow into the next manimal at wide receiver, but it’s hard to see him just lighting it up in every facet year one. Expectations are his early results will be similar to those of a younger Jackson.

You could point to Doug Martin as being a solid option to help in the shallow passing game, but new offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford has shown little history in wanting to use his backs in the pass game at all. In fact, he’s had some pretty elite receiving backs in his offenses and never utilized any of them.

PlayerYearRec.
J.J. Arrington200421
Marshawn Lynch200515
Marshawn Lynch200634
Justin Forsett200722
Jahvid Best200827
Shane Vereen200827
Shane Vereen200925
Jahvid Best200922
Shane Vereen201022
Isi Sofele20116
C.J. Anderson201215

This brings us all the way back to Herron. Checking out his heat map in the College Career Graphs App, he’s right at the cusp of desirable of thresholds that are pivotal to predicting future receiver success. Wyoming changed offensive coordinators in 2013, which could be part of the yards per target dip, or maybe the volume increase just normalized that rate. Many of those who defend the dip in Brett Smith’s play also point to the offensive changes that occurred this past season, but Herron still performs adequately.

I won’t pretend that he’s going to sniff red zone looks at all in an offense built like Sequoia National Park, but Herron steadily improved in the red zone all throughout college.

herrontd

He had nine scores a season ago, but four of those did come in one game versus Hawaii. Given his profile and projected role, I wouldn’t bank on him producing a significant amount of touchdowns in the NFL. He’s also a pretty good athlete in terms of his profile. His explosion score was tied for seventh best among receivers less than 200 pounds, identical to that of Odell Backham. His explosion score has factored into some big play making ability, scoring eight of his 20 touchdowns from over 30 yards out in his career.

Player

Ht

Wt

40YD

Bench

Vert

Broad

Explosion

20YS

3C

Hand

Herron

69

193

4.48

18

35.5

125

160.5

4.27

6.84

9.75

That’s all fine, but what are his real odds of claiming that inside receiver role that should draw accommodating coverage and space to roam? Here’s what Tampa has currently behind Jackson and Evans at wide receiver and their career totals.

PlayerAgeHtWtRec.Yds.TDDrafted
Louis Murphy277420012117448124
Lavelle Hawkins2871187717711126
Chris Owusu2472195141380UDFA
Eric Page23701804680UDFA
Skye Dawson24691832120UDFA
Russell Shepard2473195000UDFA
Tommy Streeter2577219000198

 

There’s going to be a dance off for the third wide receiver role. Streeter was a favorite Van Winkle for Davis Mattek a year ago, but he’s no threat to taking any inside work away from the other options, given his profile. Herron’s true competition will come from vagabond journeymen Murphy and Hawkins, who are on their fourth and third teams respectively before turning 29. The rest of the group is an undrafted smorgasbord of undesirables.

The other option Tampa has at their disposal since they’ve drafted Seferian-Jenkins and signed Brandon Myers, is that they can move Tim Wright back to wide receiver, which he played at Rutgers. Wright is 6’4”, 220 pounds and doesn’t have the athletic agility or speed to really play strictly in the slot in the NFL. He did perform well enough last season in an inept offense to at least compete somewhere for a job, but the offseason moves made by Tampa make his future cloudy at best.

I don’t think Tampa bringing in his college quarterback in Smith to compete for a backup job has big ramifications for his development, but it’s a fun narrative to add on. Do I even really believe that Herron will ever be a top 30 receiver? Probably not, but he’s a tack on option for the end of your roster that comes at a very small cost.

All in all, this is a player and position battle you want to keep an eye on during training camp. All of those trees in the Tampa offense are going to create spacious lanes for the underneath receivers to do damage, and the offense will need to use them in order to efficiently move the football. This is one of those moments in fantasy where the first downs generated by the position will help us get all of those touchdowns we want from the fantasy starlets.

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