The Prince Connection: Rodgers and Nelson

If you follow along over at my Twitter account @FG_Dolan (shameless plug), you’ve probably noticed my undying love for Jordy Nelson, and the fact that I’d happily welcome him onto any of my fantasy teams this year.

First of all, he’s madly productive as is: he hauled in 85/1314/8 last year and averaged 16.5 FPG in a PPR league. That was good enough to rank him #13 among WRs who played at least seven games last year. By definition, he was a borderline #1 WR in a 12-team PPR league. A knee procedure last summer might have scared some people, but it helped make Nelson more explosive and turned him into a durable force in 2013, and an incredible fantasy value to boot.

Once again, Nelson proved to be among the NFL’s elite in both catch rate and yards per target: 67.5% catch rate and 10.43 yards per target in 2013, well above the 58.6%/7.80 league average at the WR position last year. This has become a trend for Nelson, who continually grabs a high percentage of his targets down the field, more than most of his peers grab in the intermediate area.

But there’s also one more thing that we have to remember with regards to Nelson’s 2013 season – for all intents and purposes, Nelson played only eight games with Aaron Rodgers – Weeks One through Eight, and Week Seventeen. And he still managed to post numbers in both catch rate and YPT that were significantly above league average yet again (he posted 68.1%/10.35 in 2012). What’s more, consider his numbers in the first half of the season, when he played almost entirely with Rodgers and posted an absurd 72.2%/12.02 line, which is basically a Tecmo Super Bowl line. With Seneca Wallace, Scott Tolzien, and Matt Flynn taking most of the playing time after Rodgers’ injury, Nelson was still above league average in both categories.

Let’s dig a little deeper on Nelson’s production with Rodgers. From Weeks One through Eight last year, playing exclusively with Rodgers, Nelson posted a line of 39/649/7 in seven games. He averaged 20.8 FPG over that stretch, behind only Calvin Johnson and Julio Jones. But note that Nelson posted this line on only 54 targets in seven games – Calvin had 79 in as many games and Julio had 58 in five games, for comparison. In fact, of the players in the top 20 in FPG over that eight-week stretch, only Justin Blackmon and Randall Cobb had fewer targets than Nelson, and they each missed multiple games (Blackmon to suspension, Cobb to injury). In other words, other receivers simply couldn’t match Nelson’s efficiency last year.

Then, let’s factor in Nelson’s production in Week Seveteen, his first full game with Rodgers since Week Eight. Nelson hauled in 10 passes for 161 yards on 16 targets, leading the NFL in receiving that week. In all, Nelson had 49/810/7 receiving in eight full games with Rodgers at QB, on just 70 targets. That extrapolates to an absurd 98/1620/14 on 140 targets over a full season, and a 21.5 FPG averaged that would have ranked him 3rd among all WRs who played at least 10 games in 2013. We can’t ignore Nelson’s dip with the much worse Packer backup trio – 36/504/1 on 56 targets from Weeks Nine through Sixteen – but it’s pretty obvious he wasn’t the problem here.

Jordy Nelson

Make no mistake, Jordy Nelson is one of fantasy’s top producers at the receiver position, and he’s more affordable than many of his peers.

The per-target efficiency is one major reason why I love Nelson so much. Consider his numbers with Rodgers in those eight full games. He posted 172 fantasy points in a PPR league on only 70 targets – a ridiculous 2.46 fantasy points per target.

And – here’s the big reason I love Nelson – for his talent, he’s really freaking affordable. According to our latest ADP data, he’s been going off the board as a late-2nd-round pick in a 12-team PPR league, as the #8 WR off the board. For a player of Nelson’s caliber playing in an offense like Green Bay’s, with a QB like Rodgers, this is absurd. For comparison, let’s look at the per-target fantasy production of Nelson’s peers at wide receiver, the seven receivers going ahead of him according to our latest ADP data.

  • Calvin Johnson – 304.9 FP/155 targets = 1.97 PPT
  • Demaryius Thomas – 319.0 FP/140 targets = 2.26 PPT
  • Dez Bryant – 296.0 FP/157 targets = 1.89 PPT
  • A.J. Green – 306.6 FP/177 targets = 1.73 PPT
  • Brandon Marshall – 301.5 FP/160 targets = 1.88 PPT
  • Antonio Brown – 309.0 FP/165 targets = 1.88 PPT
  • Julio Jones – 111.7 FP/58 targets = 1.93 PPT

And for good measure, the player who took the NFL by storm this year but obviously isn’t being drafted highly in 2014…

  • Josh Gordon – 314.4 FP/158 targets = 1.99 PPT

As you can see, even Demaryius Thomas, who was the best receiver in the best offense in NFL history, couldn’t touch Jordy’s elite PPT numbers when playing with Rodgers. And the league average for all WRs on all 10,540 targets they saw last year? 1.64 PPT.

Rodgers and Nelson have allowed me to coin “The Prince Connection,” one of my favorite stupid little nicknames I’ve come up with over the years, but mostly I love them because they’re a fantasy force to be reckoned with. The argument here shouldn’t necessarily focus on Nelson’s ADP despite the data I outlined above – yes, I think he’s an absolute steal in the late 2nd/early 3rd range, but he may well go higher than that in your drafts. The point is, even if he does, he deserves to go higher than that – if you wanted to put him into the first-round conversation, I wouldn’t argue with you.

He is the guy I want on my team as my #1 receiver if I take one of the stud RBs in the top five, and he is the guy I’m targeting in auctions. For some reason, he seems to be underrated by the general fantasy populace, and that’s something of which I’m going to take advantage this year.

Category: Joe Dolan

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6 Responses

  1. scotchromanian says:

    Nice post. I owned Jordy in a few leagues last year and enjoyed it immensely. He’s my 6th ranked WR for this year. One thing I’m wondering about-how would a healthy Cobb affect Nelson’s production? Seems that one of Cobb, Nelson or Rodgers has been healthy for most of Cobb’s time on the roster.

  2. Joe Dolan says:

    Fair point, but I’m not worried. This is an offense that put two receivers in the top 10 in 2011 even with Jermichael Finley healthy (top 10 TE that year). That was the last year they really had everyone healthy, so it may be a stretch to dig back to that point, but I am just not concerned about an offense with Rodgers at QB.

    The “too many mouths to feed” argument just doesn’t seem to hold up with teams with elite QBs that don’t rotate their personnel like crazy (I’m looking at you, Saints). Rodgers may be the best QB in the NFL, and I don’t see why they can’t be “Broncos lite” in 2014. Heck, they scored a lot of points even with Rodgers hurt last year.

  3. Havre says:

    Can someone enlighten me on why they are “the prince connection”? I tried the hyperlink, but that’s just Prince’s wiki page.

  4. Joe Dolan says:

    It’s in the name: Prince Rogers Nelson. Stupid I know, but I like stupid humor.

  5. Stretch says:

    What’s up Joe. Great article. But I do have a question for ya. You mentioned the league average for both catch rate and yards per target was 58.6%/7.80 at the WR position last year.

    Do you have the league average for fantasy points per target for WRs?

  6. Joe Dolan says:

    Good to hear from you, Stretch.

    The league average points per target in the NFL, for all WRs, was 1.64. I’ll add that to the article.

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