Fantasy Football Profile: Time To Sell Jordy Nelson
Have we hit the point in Jordy Nelson’s career where he’s going to start drifting away from the top fantasy wide receivers? Granted, he finished as the No. 2 wide receiver last year, despite being just one year removed from a torn ACL. But things come at you fast in the NFL, and for Nelson, the clock is ticking.
After scrolling through recent ADP in dynasty formats, I was taken aback when Nelson sat there as the No. 19 receiver in start-up drafts. He’s being taken in front of guys like Doug Baldwin, Stefon Diggs, and Donte Moncrief. If you’re drafting based on career numbers, sure, Nelson is your guy. But he just turned 32 and has already shown signs of slowing down, regardless of his 2016 finish. In fact, I’d argue that you might get one more top-12 season out of him, though it’s far from a lock.
Slowing Down After Injury
Coming into 2016, Nelson hadn’t totaled less than 15.2 yards per reception since way back in 2010, which was before he became a full-time player for the Packers. In fact, his numbers had been extremely consistent from 2012-2014, as his yards per reception ranged from 15.2-15.5 in each of those years. Methodical, right? Coming back from his torn ACL, Nelson averaged just 13.0 yards per reception in 2016. Some may attribute that to early season struggles returning from his injury, which would make sense, so I looked at that. Over the first eight weeks of the season, Nelson averaged 13.4 yards per reception, but it only went down as the season went on, to just 12.8 yards per reception after that. His 8.3 yards per target was easily the lowest of his career, and almost two full yards short on the numbers he hit from 2012-2014.
You’re probably wondering why this matters if Nelson finished as the No. 2 fantasy receiver, because I would’ve wondered the same thing. Well, because it’s not common for a receiver to average less than 13.0 yards per reception and finish among the top 12 receivers in fantasy. In fact, over the last four years, there have been just five instances (out of 48 possible receivers) where that’s happened. Antonio Brown (154 targets), Michael Thomas (121 targets), Doug Baldwin (125 targets), Larry Fitzgerald (145 targets), and Eric Decker (132 targets). Sure, Nelson saw 152 targets in 2016, but they will look like a different team in 2017.
Strong Competition for Targets
Starting with the addition of Martellus Bennett to a tight end unit that saw just 103 targets last year. You don’t pay someone like Bennett to come in and see the same amount of targets that you threw to Jared Cook and Richard Rodgers. Next, we have a healthy Randall Cobb, who saw just 84 targets in 2016 after seeing 256 targets the previous two seasons. There’s been chatter about him this off-season, saying they need to get him re-involved in the offense. Then you have Davante Adams, who showed flashes of the player they thought they were getting when they drafted him in 2014. And lastly, it appears that converted-wide receiver Ty Montgomery will be the starting running back, and he saw 56 targets last year while playing a limited role.
We haven’t even mentioned that Aaron Rodgers threw the ball 610 times, which was almost 40 more attempts than any other season in his career. It’s clear that this was a product of poor defense and weak ground game, leading the Packers to go out and draft two running backs (Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones – favorites of the draft community). Looking at the Packers pass to run ratio in the red-zone last year, you should also expect some regression, as they threw the ball 114 times inside the 20-yard-line, while running it just 42 times. Think about that for a minute. Nelson scored 14 times and led the league in that category, but expecting more of the same with less targets in 2017 likely isn’t in the cards.
2017 & Beyond Outlook
If you were to go into my article on wide receivers and how their age matters (read it here), you’d see that Nelson is about to enter the dark ages. There have been just two of 71 wide receivers over the last 10 years who’ve finished inside the top-five at age-32 or older. I’m not going to say that you shouldn’t draft Nelson in redraft leagues, because it’s hard to pass on a guy who you know will have 100-yard, two-touchdown games from time-to-time. But you should know that by drafting him there, he won’t have the ceiling he once did.
As far as dynasty players are concerned, Nelson is an easy sell. If you can get any player mentioned above (Baldwin, Diggs, Moncrief) for him straight up, do it. In fact, I’d rather have his teammate Adams on my dynasty roster in hopes that he was just scratching the surface in 2016.
If you’ve missed any of the other Player Profiles that have gone up, you can see the full list right here.