As a sixth-round pick of the 2008 NFL Draft, Pierre Garçon spent his rookie season playing mostly special teams, finishing the year with just four catches for 23 yards. Entering the 2009 season, Garçon was fighting for an opportunity to see some playing time in the potent Indianapolis Colts’ offense.
With Reggie Wayne and Anthony Gonzalez entrenched as starters, Garçon was battling rookie Austin Collie for the third wide receiver role. Everything changed, however, in the Colts’ first game of the season when Gonzalez injured his knee, which ultimately ended his season.
Garçon immediately stepped into the starting receiver position opposite Wayne, and progressed nicely throughout the season, finishing with 47 receptions for 765 yards and four touchdowns over 14 games. During the postseason, it was Garçon that was the Colts’ leading receiver, with 21 catches for 251 yards and two touchdowns.
The big question now is whether Garçon will have significant fantasy value with the return of Gonzalez in 2010. Conventional wisdom will dictate that Gonzalez will surely regain his spot as the starting flanker. A first-round draft pick in 2007, he exhibited good skills and versatility in the Colts’ offense his first two seasons, and he was a popular breakout candidate in fantasy circles heading into last season.
So far, however, nothing has been set in stone by the Colts’ organization. The team is so deep at the receiver position there are a number of possibilities on how the depth chart could play out, and these positional battles should be one of the most closely watched competitions during the offseason.
Here are the thoughts of John Oehser of The Indianapolis Colts Observer : “Wayne certainly will start on one side, and it's hard to imagine the Colts will want Garçon's play-making, big-play ability off the field much on the other side.”
Further, general manager Bill Polian has been a big fan of Garçon, telling the Colts website: “As far back as April, we were singing the praises of Pierre Garçon and telling everyone around the building how much he had developed and how much he had grown up in the year he spent as a rookie – and how much more physical and exciting it was looking at him in the off-season workouts.”
From observing Garçon last season, he appeared to earn the trust of Peyton Manning more and more as the season went on. Breaking down his statistics below shows his average production increasing gradually through the season and then in the playoffs.
His first six games: 2.3 receptions, 40 yards, on 4.8 targets per game.
His next eight games: 4.1 receptions, 65.6 yards, on 7.9 targets per game.
Playoffs/Super Bowl: 7 receptions, 83.6 yards, on 10.7 targets per game.
The purpose here is to caution fantasy owners from assuming Gonzalez is a sure thing to enter 2010 as starting flanker opposite Reggie Wayne. There is a very real possibility that Garçon keeps that job, and Gonzalez may end up competing with Collie for slot duties instead.
In that scenario, Garçon would be an attractive prospect in re-draft, keeper, and dynasty leagues. Although the risk here is that with such a deep wide receiving corps that includes tight end Dallas Clark, the fantasy value of all the wide receivers (except Reggie Wayne) will become diluted.
Keep in mind, however, that in 2004 Manning had three receivers with at least 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns (Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, and Brandon Stokely). It is not out of the question that we could see a similar situation where multiple players have significant fantasy value catching the ball in this high-octane aerial attack.
There is a lot of speculating going on here, and it could very well be that Gonzalez enters the season as a starting wide-out. Being that Garçon is not as effective in the slot as he is outside, this would be damaging to his fantasy value. In this case, look for Garçon to be primarily a backup to Gonzalez, and part of a rotation to enter the game on obvious passing downs.
The bottom line is that a lot of attention should be given to following the progress of the positional battles for wide receiver in Indianapolis, as the fantasy values of several players will be affected by the outcome.
In a nutshell, if Garçon wins the starting job, it means the Colts intend on getting him involved quite a bit in 2010, and he can be drafted as a solid No. 3 fantasy wide receiver or flex option, with a good amount of upside. If Gonzalez gets the job, Garçon is nothing more than a low-end No. 4 receiver and any upside would depend on an injury to either Wayne or Gonzalez.
Garçon will only be 24 years old this season, and he is talented enough to be a good dynasty option regardless of how the depth chart shakes up. In keeper leagues, it’s likely he could be held at a low cost, but using one of the limited keeper spots may only be worth it if he earns a starting role.
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