Jordy Nelson’s fantasy football value has experienced extreme amounts of turbulence over the past three seasons. He first burst onto the national scene in the 2010 playoffs, aiding the Green Bay Packers to a Super Bowl victory:
Although he may have set career highs in the 2010 regular season, which you can observe in the table below, it was hardly noteworthy. That subtle regular season improvement combined with his post-season success later that season made him a terrific sleeper candidate.
Those who drafted Nelson in 2011, which included myself, were rewarded right away when he pulled in 6 of his 8 targets for 77 yards and a touchdown in Week 1. I personally started him as my WR3 until the trading deadline, when I decided that his dependence on big plays and touchdowns made for the perfect sell-high situation. One quick look at the following game lines from 2011 should scream regression to anyone:
I ended up receiving Stevie Johnson, who I expected much more consistency from, in return. Unfortunately, I soon found out that Nelson was only heating up; his numbers went up across the board during the second half. After the dust finally settled on the 2011 season, Nelson ranked as the #2 wide receiver in total fantasy points. Per Rotoworld, he joined Jerry Rice, Mark Clayton and Randy Moss as the only receivers since the 1970 merger to record at least 15 touchdowns and have average more than 18.6 yards-per-reception in a single season.
I all but crossed Nelson off of my draft list entering the 2012 season, although it wasn’t an act of malice; I don’t hold grudges against any players except Darren McFadden. As an NFL receiver, I still liked Nelson a lot. However, his fantasy value was bound to suffer from an advanced form of touchdown inflation. I also thought it would be awfully tough for him to carry his gaudy yards-per-reception from 2011 over into the next season. My worries proved to be warranted; his touchdown rate and yards-per-reception both declined.
Now entering 2013, I’m highlighting Nelson as a prime target. Regression from his career season, coupled with nagging injuries, has rejuvenated his value. His hamstring first tightened up in a practice leading up to Week 8 rendering him inactive for that week’s contest. He felt well enough to play in Week 9, but exited in the first quarter after suffering an ankle injury. After the Packers’ bye in Week 10, Nelson soldiered through the next two weeks with moderate success. Then, he departed early once again in Week 13 after experiencing another hamstring issue. He ended up missing the next three weeks before returning in Week 17. Outside of all the injuries, Nelson did produce as a WR1 when he was able to play reasonable snaps:
Before the unlucky rash of injuries this past season, Nelson only missed three games out of a possible sixty-four. For that reason, I don’t see any cause for alarm in terms of injury proneness. Extrapolating Nelson’s season ending FPPG over a sixteen-game season would lead to 152 fantasy points. That total alone would have placed him 17th among wide receivers in 2012 and 13th among wide receivers in 2011. However, projecting his Adjusted FPPG over an entire season leads to 180.80 points. While that number doesn’t quite live up to the 210 fantasy points he accounted for in 2011, it still would have placed him among the top-seven wide receivers in 2011 and 2012. To provide some visualization, that 180.80 season would look like this:
Last time I checked, Aaron Rodgers was still the quarterback in Green Bay. With Greg Jennings packing his bags and perhaps Jermichael Finley as well, I fully expect Jordy Nelson to continue playing a major role in the offense. I wouldn’t consider him as anything less than a high-end WR2, although I personally expect him to perform as a WR1 in 2013.
So what happened to that fantasy football team of mine back in 2011? Well, I’ll admit it would have been nice to keep Jordy Nelson. Nevertheless, thanks to Percy Harvin and Julio Jones’ torrid play down the stretch, my team was still able to earn a playoff berth and finish in the money.