The Leftovers show takes place three years after a large number of people mysteriously vanished in what has come to be known as the “Sudden Departure.” The event caused the unexplainable disappearance of 140 million people, 2-percent of the world’s population. Neither scientists, nor government officials, have been able to explain it. The plot focuses on how the remaining 98-percent of the population attempts to cope with a tragedy of this magnitude (Spoiler Alert: some characters act out with violence), while weaving in subtle supernatural elements alluding to larger forces at work.
I have identified with the Leftovers’ like no other show. I, too, am coping with, and investigating, a mysterious disappearance. Michael Floyd, Justin Hunter, and Rueben Randle represent 2-percent of the active NFL wide receiver population, and government experts have no answers. Chilling.
This is most challenging case to ever come across my desk. To solve a crime/mystery/tragedy of this magnitude, my modus operandi of simply visiting PlayerProfiler.com, where so many answers may be found, was not enough. In order to truly understand what happened, as well as provide a scarred and scared fantasy football community with some closure and a way forward, I also needed to summon resources from a neighboring precinct. This case required the collective resources of both Player Profiler and RotoViz.
Let’s examine each case individually.
Michael Floyd: Awkward Third Wheel
Among a group of guys living in a house off-campus, Michael Floyd would be a pretty cool roommate. He has an Xbox. He has a fake ID. He can borrow his brother’s car sometimes. Unfortunately for Floyd, a new roommate just moved in. He has the latest PlayStation console. He has a weed connection. He owns a car. His name is John Brown.
Life was easy before John Brown showed up. In 2013 Floyd teased the fantasy community by posting fantasy WR3 production with WR2 efficiency. Floyd’s Production Premium, PlayerProfiler’s isolated efficiency metric, was +10.4, his Target Premium, PlayerProfiler’s relative efficiency metric, was +8.0 percent,1 and his Yards Per Target were 9.3 (No. 22 in the NFL). Efficiency aside, when a 6-foot-3, 220-pound wide receiver with a 113.2 (92nd percentile) Height-adjusted Speed Score eclipses 1000 yards in his sophomore season, the fantasy football community naturally goes on WR1 high alert. Projected by many fantasy experts to ascend into the top-20 fantasy wide receivers, Floyd’s ADP soared to No. 52.2
Since Brown arrived, Floyd’s productivity and efficiency has sharply regressed. Floyd is averaging 7.9 Fantasy Points Per Game with a Production Premium of -3.6, Target Premium of -0.4 percent, and 7.7 Yards Per Target in 2014.
Furthermore, Floyd’s raw output has dropped more precipitously than his efficiency since Brown arrived. Floyd’s Target Share has dropped from 20.6 percent in 2013 to 17.1 percent in 2014. Floyd cannot crack the NFL top-50 Target Share, because he no longer has a well-defined role on offense. This target volume issue was raised on RotoViz in October.
Floyd’s stature and athletic measurable are perfectly suited for the flanker/Z receiver role, a horizontally oriented position primarily responsible for outside breaking or crossing routes — Reggie Wayne and Hines Ward have been Bruce Arians’ most recent Z receivers.
Larry Fitzgerald fueled the Michael Floyd fantasy hype by posting a Production Premium of +4.5 (No. 51), a Target Premium of +8.7 percent (No. 47), and a 7.0 (No. 81) Yards Per Target in 2013. Perhaps moving into a transitionary period in his career at 31-years old, had Fitzgerald’s lower body become permanently degraded due to repeated lower body issues (think Kenny Britt and Hakeem Nicks) or general leg degeneration (think Anquan Boldin and Dwayne Bowe), or was he playing through nagging injuries last season? Given Fitzgerald has bounced back with a +7.6 Production Premium, +15.7 percent Target Premium, and 9.2 Yards Per Target in 2014, it seems his 2013 efficiency collapse was temporary after all. To Michael Floyd and his fantasy owners’ dismay, the Cardinals’ split end role has been occupied all season.
Indeed, Larry Fitzgerald has refused to relinquish the Cardinals No. 1 WR/flanker chair to the up-and-comer. The “Fitzgerald is done” narrative was voiced with vigor this summer partly because fantasy owners wanted Floyd to take over. The wanting overrode the fact that veterans like Fitzgerald and Wayne rarely concede alpha receiver status and accept situational roles. The NFL has no 6th Man role for its aging scorers.
Fitzgerald’s resurgence wouldn’t be a major tragedy for Michael Floyd, except that before he has had a chance to settle into a role as the Cardinals No. 2 receiving option, John Brown darted in and sat in Bruce Arian’s featured split end/X receiver chair. The split end typically runs go routes, short slants, and bubble screens. Prototypical X receivers offer great long speed, exemplified by Arians’ two most recent split ends: Mike Wallace and T.Y. Hilton.
Here is John Brown’s PlayerProfiler prospect profile:
College Dominator Rating: 42.4 percent (81st percentile)
Breakout Age: 21.4 (22nd percentile)
40-time: 4.34 (98th percentile)
Burst Score: 121.6 (49th percentile)
Agility Score: 11.03 (64th percentile)
Offering greater long speed and agility than Michael Floyd, John Brown is better suited for split end, leaving Floyd without a well-defined role in the Arians play book. John Brown’s skill set not only aligns with the requirements of the X receiver position, his prospect profile indicates that he was one of the better athletes in the 2014 rookie wide receiver class.
With an influx Marquise Goodwin-esque track stars skewing wide receiver workout metrics, few uber-fast wide receiver prospects have actually demonstrated instinctual on-field efficiency. Only 7 relevant NFL wide receivers who posted a sub-4.40 40 during redraft workouts also posted a College Dominator Rating above the 50th percentile. Here is the list:
You just heard Michael Floyd gulp.
It makes sense that Brown would crowd out Floyd. Here are their respective target logs by game this season:
After the Cardinals’ week 4 bye, Brown has averaged 7 targets per game to Floyd’s 4.3. Double-gulp.
We can now close the book on this investigation. Michael Floyd’s disappearance has less to do with him, and more to do with Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown, and the Cardinals offensive system. Floyd’s efficiency has waned just when he needed to be become more effective in order to climb the depth chart. While he has not made a compelling case to overtake Larry Fitzgerald, he remains an exciting dynasty prospect, perfectly suited to thrive in Bruce Arian’s flanker role when that chair is finally vacated. Until then, particularly now that Drew Stanton is his quarterback, Floyd is expendable in all redraft leagues, but remains an ideal dynasty stash and trade target.
Justin Hunter: Symbiotic Sucking
The analysis pretzel required to stake out a position that a third year receiver like Michael Floyd is both droppable in redraft and yet still has a fantasy WR1 ceiling in dynasty requires a comprehensive depth chart review. Justin Hunter’s 2014 disappearance is more straightforward.
Hunter was the single most popular sleeper pick headed into his second year in the NFL. As a situational deep threat with a 10.0-percent Target Share, Hunter was often deployed specifically for shot-plays, evidenced by his 19.7 yards per reception. Hunter’s propensity for highlight reel plays as a rookie as well as his PlayerProfiler workout metrics:
40-time: 4.44 (78th percentile)
Burst Score: 136.9 (98th percentile)
Agility Score: 11.52 (11th percentile)
This paints the picture of a young Sidney Rice. Propelled by his rookie year per-target output and athletic profile, Hunter’s ADP eventually rocketed up to No. 114.3 This sleeper was wide awake to start the season.
A more comprehensive review of Hunter’s 2013 efficiency reveals a +19.2 Production Premium and +17.9 percent Target Premium, which led all Tennessee Titans receivers. However, one 2013 efficiency metric stood in stark contrast to the others: Catch Rate. Hunter’s 42.9 percent Catch Rate (No. 136 amongst NFL wide receivers last season) gently bounced like a warning buoy in a sea of preseason hype.
Going further back, to Hunter’s college resume, more warning signs were lurking. At the University of Tennessee, Hunter maxed out at a 27.2-percent (36th percentile) College Dominator Rating. And because he suffered a torn ACL during his sophomore season, Hunter only played 28 games at the college level. Wide receivers unable to dominate at the college level generally have a lower probability of becoming fantasy relevant and often require additional years of development before ascending to a starting role.
Regardless, Justin Hunter’s College Dominator Rating, relatively low number of total college and NFL snaps, and abysmal 2013 Catch Rate were pushed to the furthest reaches of fantasy football’s collective conscience once the Titan’s gave us what we all said we always wanted: Hunter was named the team’s starting wide receiver in September. Through eight games in 2014, Hunter has surprisingly played 94.1-percent of the team’s snaps, compared to 31.0-percent in 2014. Unfortunately, playing every down has not been a good look.
Justin Hunter has been exposed playing an every-down role, running a more sophisticated route tree, and receiving a 19.0-percent Target Share. While Hunter’s Catch Rate has remained steady at 41.7-percent (a 1.2-percent year-over-year drop), he has experienced one of the most precipitous efficiency declines in recent memory. Hunter’s -13.3 Production Premium, -18.8 percent Target Premium, and 7.3 Yards Per Target all fall outside the NFL wide receiver top-60.
And it gets worse. Quarterback and wide receiver production are inexorably linked. Peyton Manning propels Demaryius Thomas from great to excellent, and Demaryius Thomas propels Peyton Manning from great to excellent. On the other hand, when two drug addicts fall in love, the union often dooms their respective rehabilitations. It’s hard to stay clean when your girlfriend is free-basing to Scooby-Doo! With this visual in mind, let’s look at the RotoViz Game Splits App to visualize how the Titan’s recent switch from Jake Locker/Charlie Whitehurst to Zach Mettenberger has affected Hunter.
Through the first six games, Justin Hunter averaged more than 50 yards per game. Since Mettenberger became Tennessee’s starting quarterback, Hunter has averaged 20 yards per game. Hunter’s Catch Rate was close to league-worst before the Titan’s installed a 6th-round rookie, and now, it seems all hope for an efficiency turnaround is lost. While Mettenberger’s current Total QBR of 24.8 and Passer Rating of 78.3 can be partly blamed on Justin Hunter’s inefficiency, it also doomed Hunter’s redraft outlook.
In summary, Justin Hunter is a highly inefficient wide receiver with a highly erratic quarterback in a low-scoring offense. Though expendable in redraft, his athletic profile and highlight reel on-field ability warrants a confident “hold” status in dynasty no matter how bleak it gets in 2014.
Rueben Randle: Just Bad, No Offense
Applying learning from the Michael Floyd and Justin Hunter cases, the Rueben Randle disappearance is easier to explain. Like Floyd, Rueben Randle is a big receiver who dominated at the college level and projected to be an ascending third year receiver. And like Justin Hunter, Rueben Randle had a 10th-round ADP (No. 112 (according to MyFantasyLeague drafts after Aug 15).
Unlike Floyd, Randle has been at or near the top of his team’s target pecking order all season. Randle received 8.6 Targets Per Game and a 24.8-percent (NFL top-20) Target Share. Despite ideal volume, through ten healthy weeks, he remains outside the top-40 fantasy receivers. How is this possible? Randle’s efficiency has been bad, epically bad:
Production Premium: -28.1 (No. 84)
Target Premium: -35.3 percent (No. 88)
Yards Per Target: 5.4 (No. 136)
Catch Rate: 55.1-percent (No. 64)
How does a professional wide receiver post 5.4 yards per target? Only by improbably combining a 55.1 percent Catch Rate with 1.3 YAC Per Target can that number be so low. This efficiency is particularly shocking given his 2.73 (No. 15) Phenom Index Score (Jon Moore’s well-documented RotoViz prospect grading system). Yet, Randle has looked like a slightly more functional version of Stephen Hill (incidentally No. 10 on the Phenon Index).
Like Hunter, perhaps Randle has been exposed as the Giants’ defacto No. 1 wide receiver in the absence of Victor Cruz? According to the RotoViz Game Splits App, Randle has produced fewer fantasy points with more targets since Cruz’s season-ending knee injury.
Unlike Hunter, Randle cannot fall back on inexperience to save face in dynasty leagues. The fantasy gods are not kind to receivers who fail in such epic fashion when handed the No. 1 receiver chair in their third or fourth year. With Odell Beckham ascending, Randle has missed a potentially once-in-a-career opportunity to become fantasy relevant. He is now expendable in both redraft and dynasty leagues.
Michael Floyd, Justin Hunter, and Rueben Randle are phenomenal talents who mysteriously disappeared from our box scores for different reasons. In the redraft leagues, each is expendable, but in dynasty leagues, each holds vastly different valuations.