Victor Cruz is fast, and fast guys who can catch a football are paid to run really far, look up, reach out, and grasp a spiraling object. Hopefully it’s a football.
We know that Cruz is quite good at this, and we also know that he’s a skilled dancer, with a salsa hip gyration his move of choice. Wide receiver is stupid deep this year, but you’ll probably still buy high on Cruz because the sex appeal of a speedster wideout is far too difficult to resist. That might be connected to Cruz’s hip thrusting, or he may have mastered blue steel.
Either way, you’ll get the quality production you’re purchasing. Just don’t invest expecting Cruz’s 2011 numbers in 2012.
Six percent of Cruz’s receptions were for more than 65 yards last year. Considering his overall receiving yardage in 2011 (1,536, third in the league with a 96 yards per game pace), Cruz had a more moderate reception total with his 82 catches, which barely cracks the top 10. To get to a similar big play percentage for the elite receivers we need to reduce the range to catches of 40 yards or more, with those lengthy completions representing 10 percent of Calvin Johnson’s haul.
But even though he led the league in receiving yards with 1,681, Johnson didn’t have a single +65 yard catch. Wes Welker had only one, and it was his 99-yard reception during the Patriots’ season opener against Miami, an improbable feat that Cruz also accomplished during a Week 16 win over the Jets. Meanwhile, the similarly speedy Steve Smith in Carolina had two, while Larry Fitzgerald posted a goose egg in the really long ball category, and Brandon Marshall had one
Jordy Nelson had three, making him the closest to Cruz among 2011′s top ten receivers. Which is swell, and it did wonders to smash the slow white receiver stereotype. But Cruz’s five catches for 65 or more yards is still comfortably ahead, especially with those five long bombs representing 25 percent of his total yardage for the season.
Cruz had five touchdowns of 65 yards or more last season. The last time that happened was when Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch did it in 1951, and you undoubtedly remember how overvalued Hirsch was in 1952 fantasy drafts. Cruz will still be good, but those five plays were responsible for more than 30 percent of his fantasy production last year; if he only has one of them this year, he’s far less valuable. Jordy Nelson and Laurent Robinson scored at a rate greater than once every five receptions, which is also almost always unsustainable.
Five catches = a quarter of his production. Surely that’s repeatable, no?
What’s also discouraging about Cruz is his lack of targets when compared to the other top receivers, which is a product of Eli Manning’s scattered attention last year with Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham (who’s now been replaced by Reuben Randle) also drawing touches. Cruz received 131 looks last year, which is still plenty, but it placed him in 12th and well behind league leader Roddy White, who was targeted 181 times. Nicks was actually targeted slightly more than Cruz (133).
Cruz’s deep ball volume simply isn’t sustainable. He’ll still have his long catches, he’ll frequently display his speed, and overall he’ll still produce enough to warrant that early round pick you’ll have to use to ensure that he’s a member of your fake team.
But with 54 of his 205 fantasy points coming by way of the deep pass last year, the number of touchdowns in which Cruz sprints for over half the field is set to decrease, and so will his output on your roster. Buy the boom, but be very aware that it might not be nearly as loud.