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10 Red Flag Rookie WRs to Acquire (Part 2): Paul Richardson and the Desert Lilliputians

paulrichardson

This is Part 2 of a three-part series on 10 red flag rookie WRs who I think 1) have the potential to overcome their red flags and 2) are discounted relative to their inherent values.

In Part 1—in which I looked at Jarvis Landry and two other players—I said this:

Red flags create situations in which assets are mispriced because the market as a whole assigns too much significance to those red flags. Yes, sometimes red flags are useful in highlighting horrid investments, but just as often (in my opinion) red flags, especially in fantasy, point to opportunities to acquire potentially useful assets at discounts to their inherent values.

You know who agrees with me? Warren F*cking Buffet, that’s who. Anyway, here are the middle 3 red flag rookie WRs I think are decent draft/waiver targets. They’re presented in no certain order—sort of.

#4 Paul Richardson – Seahawks
P-Rich has the potential to be the frakking shiznitz. He has Keenan Allen upside, and he could quickly replace Golden Tate. P-Rich is small (175 lbs.), but he has good comps, and his 48.05 DR on 35.47% of his team’s receptions is both crazy elite and efficient—and his raw 1350-10 final-season scrimmage stats are also good.

A primary complaint about Richardson might be that he’s slow for his size and that with his diminutive size he really needs to be fast, not just fast enough. That might be true, and last year my primary WR model would’ve agreed with that sentiment, but (after continued tweaking and analysis) my revised model this year sees Richardson as a guy with a good chance of some NFL success, because I’ve adjusted the way I view the interplay of size and speed. In the old model—and still in the new model—if a guy has enough size, then I don’t care too much about his speed, as long as everything else checks out. Now, in the revised model, the reverse is also true: If a guy is fast enough, I don’t care too much about his size—again, as long as everything else checks out. With Richardson, it all checks out. With a 4.40 combine 40 time, he’s fast enough (although I ideally would want him to be at least 0.05 seconds faster)—and his second-round draft position, elite college production, and selection by a team with an open depth chart and good QB all suggest that he has top-20 upside. P-Rich is among the most underrated players in this class.

#5 John Brown – Cardinals

Even though RotoViz is the only site really talking about Brown, we’re still probably too low on him. He can score from deep. He’s the discount Tavon Austin. Or maybe the discount T.Y. Hilton—which makes sense given that Bruce Arians drafted him, and Arians is good at drafting WRs.

Here are Brown’s red flags:

  1. He wasn’t expected to be drafted—and so he’s being treated like a guy who wasn’t drafted in Round 3.
  2. He’s small (5’10” and 179 lbs.).
  3. He’s old (24 years old).
  4. He spent time at three different schools as an undergrad and missed a couple of seasons due to off-the-field issues, which suggests that he might have “maturity concerns.”
  5. He’s a small-school receiver who played exclusively against D2 opponents.
  6. He’s buried on the depth chart behind Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, and Ted Ginn Jr.

But here’s why you should like him: He’s a third-round selection who played like a badass in college. Check out his stats:

School

Season

Year

Age

Touches

Yds

Avg

TDs

Ret TDs

Games

Pittsburg State (KS)

rSR

2013

23

78

1298

16.6

16

1

12

Pittsburg State (KS)

rJR

2012

22

76

1175

15.5

9

1

10

Pittsburg State (KS)

rSO

2011

21

79

1308

16.6

15

3

14

Mars Hill

FR

2008

18

33

637

19.3

7

1

11

If raw stats aren’t your thing—and if you care only about his receiving production and not about all of his offensive touches or return TDs—here are his receiving metrics alone:

School

Season

Year

Age

Pct Rec

Yds/Rec

Yd DR

TD DR

Tot DR

Pittsburg State (KS)

rSR

2013

23

32.62

19.6

39.72

45.16

42.44

Pittsburg State (KS)

rJR

2012

22

34.81

15.4

38.95

53.33

46.14

Pittsburg State (KS)

rSO

2011

21

36.31

19.9

45.59

54.55

50.07

Mars Hill

FR

2008

18

22.31

22.9

29.06

38.89

33.98

Just call him Skeletor, because John Brown holds the Skeleton Key as an 18-year-old true freshman breakout. And since he played D2 football, I haven’t personally taken the time to go through his final-season stats play by play to verify what I’m about to say—but with his high Yds/Rec, YdDR, and TDDR, Brown probably passes the Eric Decker Test. And notice that, with the percentage of team receptions he captured, he was highly productive and efficient. Every year he played, he was his team’s #1 WR—just like T.Y. Hilton. And speaking of Hilton, I should tell you that Brown has the same 40 time: 4.34 seconds.

Most importantly, Brown was drafted by Arians, who excels at drafting small WRs. Here’s a table of all the pre-2014 sub-200-lb. non-late-round WRs drafted by Arians’ teams while he’s been either Offensive Coordinator or Head Coach:

Name

Team

Year Drafted

Round

Pick

Ht

Wt

40 Time

Final DR

Best Pro Position Ranking

Andre’ Davis

CLE

2002

2

47

74

194

4.43

37.66

42

Mike Wallace

PIT

2009

3

84

72

199

4.33

26.62

5

Emmanuel Sanders

PIT

2010

3

82

71

186

4.41

34.18

33

T.Y. Hilton

IND

2012

3

92

70

179

4.34

41.91

19

For a decade, Arians has been targeting smaller relatively uncelebrated WRs with top-100 picks and the worst of these guys was still worth rostering at some point in fantasy leagues. And as great as Wallace and Hilton have been and as great as Sanders could be with Manning this season—if you compare Brown as a rookie to all of these guys as prospects entering the NFL, Brown looks like the best player. With this context, the amount of hype Brown isn’t receiving from the fantasy community is almost staggering.

But you know who is hyping this guy? (Besides me. Repeatedly.) Arians is. When asked at OTAs who out of the rookies has shown potential on “the classroom side of things, the mental side,” Arians had this to say:

John Brown. He’s way ahead of most rookies, and coming from a small school, that’s unusual. It doesn’t overwhelm him at all. He learns fast and he can apply it fast. . . . There’s so many guys that it’d be hard to single one out, but John Brown stands above.

Notice that this quotation has little to do with Brown’s physical speed (although that could conceivably help him “apply it fast”). Arians’ comment primarily has to do with Brown learning the offense quickly and showing on the field that he truly knows it. Given that rookie WRs often struggle to learn their offenses and don’t see the field as a result, this information about Brown is notable.

Given all of this information—and everything we know about Arians and Ted Ginn Jr.—does Brown seem like the kind of WR not to get a shot to beat out the 29-year-old journeyman who’s now on his fourth team?—and when Brown gets that shot do you think Ginn will actually hold off the younger and bigger receiver who is just as fast? In the end, the odds seem pretty good that in 2014 Ginn will play the role of 2012 Donnie Avery to Brown’s T.Y. Hilton.

And, finally—Arians is preparing for life without Larry Fitzgerald, and he’s brought in his kind of receiver eventually to take Fitz’s spot as a starter. Don’t be surprised if in 2015 or 2016 Michael Floyd is playing the role of Hines Ward and Reggie Wayne while Brown plays the role of Mike Wallace and T.Y. Hilton.

And that’s not all.

#6 Walter Powell – Cardinals

Walter Powell is the current front runner to play the role of Antonio Brown and LaVon Brazill.

Who???

Wait, you’re telling me that you didn’t know that Arians drafted a WR in the sixth round?

Remember in 2010 when Arians drafted Antonio Brown in Round 6 after drafting Emmanuel Sanders in Round 3? Or in 2012 when Brazill was selected in Round 6 after Hilton in Round 3?

Arians did it again. For the third time in five years, Arians’ team selected two sub-200-lb. WRs, one with a top-100 pick and the other near the bottom of the draft. It’s like the guy has an eternal itch, and the only thing that can scratch it is the tiny hand of a Lilliputian receiver.

Let’s look at all of the pre-2014 sub-200-lb. late-round WRs drafted by Arians’ teams while he’s been either Offensive Coordinator or Head Coach:

Name

Team

Year Drafted

Round

Pick

Ht

Wt

40 Time

Final DR

Best Pro Position Ranking

Andre King

CLE

2001

7

245

72

199

4.61

5.15

109

Antonio Brown

PIT

2010

6

195

70

186

4.56

32.93

7

LaVon Brazill

IND

2012

6

206

71

192

4.48

34.83

118

It’s self-serving to say, but King can be written off as a non-prospect with his combination of 40 time and DR. How did he get drafted? But just consider Antonio and LaVon—both have decent DRs, but otherwise they’re small-and-slow late-round receivers—essentially, players no one should ever want to own . . . but Antonio was a top-10 receiver in 2013 and LaVon has shown potential, going 6-127-2 in two playoff games last year, despite his inconsistency and off-the-field problems. In other words, Arians’ previous legit late-round red flag WRs have actually done pretty well for themselves, especially considering that late-round WRs as a group are barely more successful in the NFL than I am.

So let’s check out Arians’ newest late-round WR, Walter Powell:

  1. He’s a sixth-round selection.
  2. He’s small (5’11” and 189 lbs.).
  3. He’s slow (4.63 seconds).
  4. He’s not young (will turn 23 years old as a rookie).
  5. He’s a small-school receiver who at Murray State played exclusively against FCS opponents in the Ohio Valley Conference.
  6. He’s buried on the depth chart behind Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Ted Ginn Jr., and many others.

Powell has just as many red flags as (and probably more than) John Brown. But, like Brown, he also was a stud in college. Here are the total raw stats for his final two seasons:

Season

Year

Age

Touches

Yds

Avg

TDs

Ret TDs

Games

SR

2013

22

68

870

12.8

13

2

10

JR

2012

21

95

1218

12.8

10

2

11

And here are his receiving metrics for those years:

Season

Year

Age

Pct Rec

Yds/Rec

Yd DR

TD DR

Tot DR

SR

2013

22

27.62

12.7

38.34

65

51.67

JR

2012

21

25.41

12.9

31.61

33.33

32.47

Holy Balls!—his senior-year DR and efficiency are insane. Even in the FCS, a DR of 40 is uncommon. Anything above 50 is godlike, and that doesn’t take into account that Powell’s DR nearly doubles the percentage of receptions he caught. Powell might be a red-flag player who looks like a subpar NFL athlete—his Freak Score of 27 is almost too embarrassingly low to put in writing—but with Arians as his drafter and coach he has potential rarely seen in late-round selections.

Before the draft, I thought of Powell as a guy to watch. Now, he’s a guy to add off waivers—assuming he makes the Cardinals’ roster. The odds aren’t horrible that it happens.

Want to know about other red flag rookie WRs to target? Check out Part 1 and look for Part 3 soon.

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