Player Points - Jabar Gaffney
By Chase Stuart
June 22nd, 2010

Did you know that Miles Austin, Brandon Marshall and -- Jabar Gaffney -- were the only players in 2009 to gain 200 receiving yards in a game? Two of those performances came against the Chiefs awful secondary, and two of those were produced by the #1 wide receiver in Josh McDaniels' offense. Gaffney's game came during week 17 last year, when Brandon Marshall was sitting on the sidelines after violating team rules. With Marshall gone, and Gaffney now in line to replace him, should fantasy owners be racing to draft Jabar Gaffney?

Whether they should or shouldn't be, the answer is they're clearly not doing anything of the sort. Gaffney has an average draft position in PPR leagues of WR 63, behind teammates Eddie Royal (WR 38) and Demaryius Thomas (WR 49). In non-PPR leagues, he's sitting at WR 68; what's going on here? What's the disconnect between Gaffney's huge production in the last game of the regular season and his current ADP?

Royal had 91 receptions as a rookie in 2008 and Thomas was the first receiver selected in this year's draft; while I might not agree, I can understand why the consensus favors those two players over a retread like Gaffney. But Royal ranked as WR 96 last season (in both FP and FP/G), and Thomas is raw even by rookie receiver standards. Gaffney snuck into the top 50 last season, and should be able to grab a much larger slice of the pie with Brandon Marshall gone (recall that the table in the Chad Ochocinco Player Point showed that Brandon Marshall grabbed the second largest percentage of his team's receiving fantasy points last season).

Gaffney's surprisingly low ADP motivated me to dig into my database. I looked at all wide receivers who had ADPs outside of the top 45 from 2000 to 2009, and noted how many of them had games as big as Gaffney did in the prior season. As it turned out, none of them did. This is a sign that maybe Gaffney really is being underrated, and that's without even considering that Denver traded Brandon Marshall. On the other hand, the rest of the data aren't so inspiring. I decided to ignore touchdowns since they skew fantasy point totals -- I used a scoring system of 1/2 point per reception and 1 point per receiving yard, and recorded all 20+ point games by wide receivers in the season before they had ADPs outside of the top 45 wide receivers. The table below shows each receiver, the year of the ADP in question, his FP total in his top game in the prior year, the week in which that game occurred, his fantasy rank from the prior season, his fantasy rank from the ensuing season, and his number of games played in that year:

Wide Receiver
Year
N-1 Top
Wk
N-1
N
N Gms
Jabar Gaffney
2010
28.3
17
49
??
??
Albert Connell
2001
24.6
8
47
96
11
Kevin Walter
2008
22.0
6
34
21
16
Rod Gardner
2005
21.7
3
45
119
12
Quentin McCord
2003
21.7
16
108
124
9
Tony Martin
2000
21.6
5
28
76
10
Jerome Pathon
2002
21.3
2
74
59
14
Hank Baskett
2007
21.2
17
78
114
16
Bobby Engram
2008
20.9
9
13
75
13
Jerry Rice
2004
20.9
16
33
70
17
Dennis Northcutt
2003
20.5
5
47
40
15
Ike Hilliard
2001
20.5
0
25
37
14
Antonio Bryant
2003
20.5
17
40
65
16

As it turns out, most of these players had low average draft positions for good reasons -- only one of them finished the season in the top 30, and none of them finished in the top 20. Further, a bunch of them had their big games during weeks 16 and 17, perhaps a signal that defenses with nothing to play for tend to give up at the end of the year, making those big performances less useful as indicators of ability. So history would tell me to temper my expectations, although no one is spending anything serious to acquire Gaffney.

Still, I can't get it out of my head that Gaffney could be in line for a top-30 season. Yes, his 14 catches for 213 yards against the Chiefs could be discounted because it was both against the Chiefs and came during the last week of the season when Kansas City's defense had mailed it in. But last year, the Broncos #1 WR position accounted for 115 receptions, and now Brandon Marshall and Tony Scheffler (31 catches) are no longer in Denver (with only Thomas and rookie receiver Eric Decker coming to the Mile High city). The Broncos should complete a bunch of passes this season (they ranked 11th in completions last year), and I don't see many capable targets on the team other than Gaffney. There might be 30 or 40 receivers with more talent or better skillsets than Gaffney, but few are in better positions to gobble up passes. Even if Gaffney's ADP rises -- almost a certainty at this point -- I think he'll be a steal as long as he remains outside of the top 40 wide receivers.

Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to stuart@footballguys.com.