Reggie Wayne 2014 Fantasy Football Outlook
Reggie Wayne is making a comeback and it wouldn’t be wise to bet against him. It’s true that’s he 35 years old and has lost some speed and explosiveness, but he’s still someone people in fantasy football shouldn’t be forgetting about. But they are.
Wayne is still at the very worst Andrew Luck‘s number two option in the Indianapolis Colts‘ passing game, and with T.Y. Hilton serving better as a number two guy or slot weapon, it’s not even crazy to think Wayne could actually be the top target in the passing game. Yes, the old and seemingly slow Wayne, bulky knee and all, just might be insanely undervalued.
But we can’t just say that and believe it will stick. To prove Wayne is still a solid fantasy football catch, let’s breakdown his ability, role and overall value:
Obviously Reggie Wayne is no longer the burner he once was, but despite not having the same long speed he still has a tendency to make some big plays and rack up some yardage after the catch. Mostly, though, he’s just as reliable as it gets when it comes to running routes and catching passes. Through seven games, last year, Wayne hauled in 38 receptions and was easily quarterback Andrew Luck’s safety net. Once he went down with the knee injury, everything changed and the Colts weren’t nearly as consistent overall.
Wayne can still get open and reports have stated he’s even looked “fresh and fast”. If Wayne can still get separation, he’s a lock to be a steal coming off of his knee injury. Talent-wise, he’s still got the goods to be productive. But what about his role?
Despite his age and knee injury, we can probably safely bank on a healthy and effective Wayne locking up one of the top two receiver jobs. T.Y. Hilton is a very explosive and versatile weapon, but he’s probably not a true number one option. Wayne won’t be asked to go deep a ton or extend plays after the catch as much as he had in the past, but why would Luck look anywhere else for the first down or in a clutch situation? Wayne can still get open and still has the most reliable hands in Indy, so he’s going to be seeing a good amount of balls come his way. Last year he was on pace for roughly 86 receptions, and possibly more when you factor in his seventh game saw him leave early due to injury.
He’s not a big red-zone guy (17 touchdowns over the past four seasons), but he’s shown capable of scoring in the past. That’s not why you want Wayne, though, anyways. You want him in PPR (points per reception) leagues, and there he can return high-end WR2 value. He still has value in standard leagues, too, but his ceiling will be lower unless he surprises with a ton of touchdowns.
Trent Richardson is a slouch and probably a bust, which goes hand in hand with the idea that the Colts aren’t going to be able to run the ball all that effectively or consistently. If they indeed struggle to run the ball (much like they did a year ago), Wayne could see even more targets than he did last season simply due to the Colts being a little more one-dimensional. What helps that notion out even more is that the Colts have already been starting to lean to a more pass-oriented approach again for 2014. Their coaching staff seems to have come to grips with the fact that they need to actually use Andrew Luck, instead of waste him by running the ball all the time.
The hope, of course, will be that Luck and the passing game sets up the run and helps keep the offense balance by starting off through the air. Either way, Wayne is made in the rain here. Two years ago, the Colts passed the ball a ton and Wayne racked up 106 receptions and over 1,300 receiving yards. He might not get quite back to that level right away, but with the Colts open to passing more, it’s not completely impossible, either. To be safe, we probably should use his 2013 pace as a hopeful high point. If he can get back to how he was being used and producing before going down in 2013, his fantasy owners will be happy.
The lone thorn in Wayne’s side potentially could be off-season addition, Hakeem Nicks. Nicks actually did a solid job in his last preseason game and potentially still has the size and ball skills to be a real factor in Indy’s offense. He’s in a second straight contract year and has suspect hands and a bad injury history, though, so the odds of Nicks keeping Wayne from a successful return aren’t amazing.
Wayne’s Fantasy Value
Enough about what Wayne can still do at 35, his knee or his role. We can’t be totally sure about any of that. With technology and medicine these days, a possession receiver’s knee injury probably isn’t as big of a deal as we think it is, while the talent on Wayne’s team probably isn’t going to keep him from being productive, either. In fact, the lack of elite talent in the running game appears to only be helping him. We’ve also seen the rapport with Wayne and Luck before. It was amazing in 2012 and it was on pace to continue to remain pretty darn good in 2013. I don’t see much reason to suddenly expect it to turn to mush in 2014.
Although Wayne does have a few obstacles, the reports have been good and he remains a top option in what figures to be a more balanced offense. That has him in line for elite WR3 production at the very worst, if not locked and loaded WR2 potential. Heck, if Wayne bounces back completely and scores more than his career averages, he might be the steal of the draft.
Obviously we always need to exercise caution when dealing with aging and/or injured players. But Wayne can be had in the seventh round of fantasy football drafts. If you can get him there, or even later, there’s really not much risk involved when you consider the enormous upside.