I expected Reggie Wayne to slide under the fantasy football radar in 2012 – the graphic below is an excerpt from last season’s High Value Players article. However, to my surprise, the Indianapolis Colts wide receiver has once again developed into one of the best bargains in 2013 fantasy football drafts.
To put it kindly, Wayne dealt with less-than-stellar quarterback play throughout 2011; he played catch with the likes of Curtis Painter, Dan Orlovsky and a 39 year old, Kerry Collins. Ultimately, that was too much to overcome for the veteran receiver and his total receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns were his lowest marks in the past seven seasons.
The arrival of Andrew Luck then sparked a revival of Wayne reminiscent to what Cam Newton did for Steve Smith a year earlier with the Carolina Panthers. Wayne returned to Pro-Bowl levels, finishing among the top six at his position in receptions and receiving yards. His touchdown total from 2012 left room for improvement, otherwise known as touchdown regression. Ironically, his receiving yards in Luck’s rookie season matched the receiving yards he totaled in Peyton Manning’s last active season with the Colts.
Wayne may still be aging, but he has suited up for all sixteen games in each of the past eleven seasons for a total of 176 straight games – that’s an incredible display of durability and lessens the worry of his body breaking down this season. His strong route running is also still a factor. In 2010, Darrelle Revis had this to say about Wayne:
“A lot of receivers run straight up and break in 10 yards. (Reggie Wayne) going to set you up within those 10 yards, to get himself open. And I think that’s what sums up a good route runner.”
The 195 targets that Wayne merited last year denotes that he was the go-to-guy for Andrew Luck by a large margin and I don’t expect that to change much this season. In fact, the target hoarding leaked over into the playoffs, where Luck targeted Wayne a whopping 18 times versus the Baltimore Ravens in the Wild Card Round.
I’m sure you’re also aware of the overwhelming praise that is heaped on Andrew Luck from seemingly everyone in professional football. All that praise is 100% warranted; Luck is primed for a very fruitful NFL career and should only improve in his sophomore season. Luck’s impending improvement can only benefit Wayne as he puts the finishing touches on his tremendous career.
A widespread concern with the Colts passing offense is that it will be hindered by the departure of Bruce Arian’s vertical passing game. To quell those concerns, it’s been reported that Pep Hamilton, the new offensive coordinator, will try to “minimize changes in the playbook and adapt as much of Bruce Arians’ offense as possible.” Any West Coast tendencies (i.e. shorter drop-backs, more efficient passes) that Hamilton does infuse into the offense would likely hurt the Colts receivers with limited route trees (T.Y. Hilton and Darrius Heyward-Bey) more than the well-refined Wayne. Not to mention, Wayne posted an abnormally low catch-rate of 54.5% in 2012. I expect that to rise closer to his career catch-rate that stands at 62.9%, which would help offset a loss in targets.
According to FantasyPros.com, Wayne’s ADP sits at an awfully enticing 54.8 as the 21st wide receiver off of the board. In the past ten seasons, he has finished worse than WR21 only once – the 2011 season. His average positional finish in those seasons is 12.5. I currently have Wayne slotted as the 16th wide receiver and believe he’s worthy of a fourth round pick. Another 1200 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns is completely reasonable and I urge you not to overlook the aging Reggie Wayne as a target for the 2013 fantasy football season.