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DeSean Jackson vs Pierre Garcon: Who ya got?

pierregarcon

Did you know that Garcon is actually the French word for boy? If you call your waiter Garcon at a nice restaurant you might think you’re being fancy, but really you’re just being a dick in French.

According to FantasyFootballCalculator.com, Pierre Garcon is being drafted in the early fourth round in redraft and DeSean Jackson is going in the early fifth, about nine receivers later. I recommend you wait a round and take Jackson. There are several good reasons why and I will explain them to you right now.

The first is targets. Garcon saw 182 targets last year, more than anyone else in the NFL. A.J. Green, Demaryius Thomas, Dez Bryant, Brandon Marshall, Calvin Johnson, and everyone else who played wide receiver in the NFL in 2013 saw fewer passes come their way than Garcon. That he will certainly see a decrease in targets this year isn’t even debated by Garcon’s staunchest supporters. The argument for Garcon is that yes, his targets will decrease, but his efficiency will increase as a result.

That’s sound logical, and it’s particularly applicable for someone coming off such a massive spike in volume. There are a couple problems with it though. First is that Garcon’s 184 targets last year bested his previous career high by 50. When you hear someone say that he’ll see a few less passes this year, keep in mind that number might come out to about a 30 percent reduction in target volume.

The other problem is that Garcon’s career AYA is 7.5 and his AYA last year was 7.3. He’s never been much more efficient than he was last year, save for 2012 when he saw 67 targets in only 10 games and turned them into 633 yards for an AYA of 9.4. If you like Garcon, you’re hoping that his shortened 2012 output is what you’ll be seeing this year now that Griffin is fully healthy again and there are other weapons to bolster the offense. It’s not the worst assumption and it’s entirely possible that Garcon finishes in the 8.5-9.5 AYA range on 100+ targets. He’ll be a really solid option again if that happens.

The reason I like Jackson more is that he’s always been more efficient on an AYA basis than Garcon. Here’s a fun little table I made in a program called Excel.

Pierre Garcon
Season Team G GS Target Rec Yard Season AYA
2008 IND 14 0 4 4 23 5.75
2009 IND 15 13 92 47 765 8.32
2010 IND 14 14 118 67 784 6.64
2011 IND 16 16 134 70 947 7.07
2012 WAS 10 67 44 633 9.45
2013 WAS 16 184 113 1,346 7.32

 

DeSean Jackson
Season Team G GS Target Rec Yard Season AYA
2008 PHI 16 15 121 62 912 7.54
2009 PHI 15 15 118 63 1,167 9.89
2010 PHI 14 14 96 47 1,056 11.00
2011 PHI 15 15 104 58 961 9.24
2012 PHI 11 87 45 700 8.05
2013 PHI 16 126 82 1,332 10.57

They both came into the league in 2008, but Garcon only has one season above 8.4. Jackson only has two seasons below nine. Jackson’s career AYA of 9.4 matches Garcon’s best ever single-season efficiency numbers.

But maybe we’re focusing too much on AYA. Hasn’t Garcon proven that in this Redskins offense, with a healthy RG3 and playmakers around him, that he can be a stud? It turns out that there are some issues there as well. Here are his splits when he’s catching passes from Robert Griffin and when he’s not.

 

Garcon Griffin Split

 

These results are surprising. Garcon is a gangster with Kirk Cousins flailing around under center and merely above average with Robert Griffin III. He has more targets, receptions, yards, touchdowns, and points with Cousins at the helm. But wait, there’s more. Take a look at his splits when Jordan Reed played.

Garcon Reed Split

Notice anything? Garcon caught five TDs last year, and three of those came when Reed was out. He only found the end zone twice in the nine games Reed played. The sample is too small to draw a definitive conclusion, but it’s a concern for a guy who isn’t particularly effective at getting in the end zone. It seems likely that he’ll lose out on precious red zone targets if Reed manages to stay healthy as well.

Another brief argument in favor of Jackson is this Rotoworld blurb.

“The Washington Post expects Pierre Garcon to play “X” receiver in new coach Jay Gruden’s offense, with DeSean Jackson at “Z.”

“Z” was A.J. Green’s position in Gruden’s Bengals offense. It commanded a team-high 178 targets last season. The “X” position was manned by Marvin Jones, who finished with 80 targets. Garcon will play a lot more snaps than Jones did, but this is something to keep in mind with a new offense being installed in D.C. It’s conceivable that Garcon will be less of a featured player under Gruden, essentially sharing the role with D-Jax.”

It’s not a foregone conclusion that Garcon gets the lion’s share of looks. Here’s some compelling evidence that they could see about the same number of targets, and there’s a good chance Jackson actually sees more. This seems to be only loosely factored into draft position.

Now we have to consider end zone proclivity. As you may expect, Garcon’s size (6’0,” 216) gives him an advantage. He catches red zone targets and converts them at a higher rate than Jackson, but neither of them are world beaters.

RZ Targets RZ Catches RZ TDs RZ Catch % RZTDR
DeSean Jackson 72 30 10 41.7% 13.9%
Pierre Garcon 88 42 15 47.7% 17.0%

But then there’s also this: excluding rookie years, Jackson has scored TDs on 5.6 percent of his total targets (should be slightly higher actually). For Garcon, that number is only 4.2 percent. That’s a significant difference that factors in respective styles of play – it may seem like an old dopey trope to say that Jackson can score from anywhere on the field, but he’s at least more likely to score from outside the 20.

I’m not saying I hate Garcon, because I don’t. But if we’re talking in terms of value (and that’s all we really talk about here anyway), Jackson has a better shot to return value in the fifth round than Pierre does in the fourth. I punched in a few different projections to illustrate this. The default settings show a massive advantage for Garcon, but those are based on the assumptions of a significant WR1/WR2 split. If we tighten up the target splits to 22 percent + 20 percent, then punch in historical AYA + TD rates for both players, we get this.

Garcon Jackson Projection 1

Jackson has a slight edge here even with fewer targets. If they meet in the middle and split targets at 21%, the decided advantage goes to Jackson:

Garcon Jackson Projection 2

Of course, the argument for Jackson rests on some assumptions of its own, like he’ll acclimate quickly, he’ll be used by his offensive coordinator properly, he’ll maintain his career efficiency numbers, and he’s mysteriously not in a gang anymore. If you’re willing to live with those assumptions, he’s a good investment.

Garcon is probably a better real-life receiver than Jackson, and I’m guessing that’s where the ADP difference starts, but I don’t believe it’s totally justified in this case. Jackson has always been an excellent fantasy asset. His three best fantasy finishes are WR4, WR10, and WR14, and he has two more top-30s to add to that. Garcon’s best finishes are WR13, WR22 and WR32, and the WR13 finish required every capable receiver around him to fall down dead like an extra in a Steven Seagal movie. To this point in his career he simply hasn’t had the same fantasy utility that Jackson has.

There are certainly scenarios where Garcon finishes as the clear WR1, but they mostly revolve around two factors: he gets the most targets in the new offense by a significant margin, and his per-target efficiency matches his career highs from his injury-shortened 2012 season. If either of those propositions falls short, taking Jackson a round later could very well give you a better player for a lower price.

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