It happens nearly every year, during nearly every Week 1. A stud who broke out the previous year and has little or no history beyond that single sterling season has a poor game at a time when the desire to fit him into a narrative mold is at its highest. We must have a bust, we must have a breakout star, and we must have the next Victor Cruz.
But what if this Victor Cruz struggles? You know, the actual guy named Victor Cruz. The imaginary and nameless future Cruz has been discussed so much that the real person seems like some puppet invention. He’s real, though, and last night he was far less than spectacular.
Which is convenient, because we will not rest until we have that bust, because using such labels is easy after one week. Surely Cruz will continue to suck for 15 more games.
Or maybe he just had a bad week, at a bad time, and it’s your expectations that need adjusting.
Look, there’s no way to defend Cruz’s game last night. He’s not doing it and neither is his coach, so I won’t either. He dropped three passes in one game, and although drops aren’t an official stat that’s recorded by the league, most unofficial counts have his drop total during the 2011 regular season at about 10. That means in one week, he’s already two drops shy of being halfway to his total for an entire season.
Yep, that’s bad, but it still doesn’t matter. Much.
You already knew that Cruz’s 2011 season wasn’t repeatable due to the sheer volume of absurdly long catches in which multiple tackles were broken. He finished with 1,536 receiving yards last year on 18.7 yards per catch, and he had nine touchdowns. He also had nine catches for 40 yards or more, and taking those long ball theatrics further, he had five catches for at least 65 yards, including a 99-yard touchdown reception. Dude can run, and usually when he runs, he does it rather quickly.
But the problem then is that a quarter of Cruz’s production last season came on just five catches, and catching that many balls in one year for more than 65 yards hasn’t been done since 1951. This is all quite intentionally repetitive, because a week ago I took an in-depth look at Cruz using these same numbers, and told you to be excited about him, but try to control that raging boner. The odds of Cruz matching or exceeding his 2011 numbers seem to be about as good as the chances of Madden 13 predicting Kevin Ogletree’s breakout (wait, WHAT?).
Here’s the thing. Drops don’t matter to you as a fantasy owner, and especially not if balls are being put on the ground by a speedy, downfield receiving threat who will live in either boomland or bustland every week, and rarely reside at any address in between.
You’ll read and hear about Cruz’s three drops even more this week since there’s a longer wait until football is played again on Sunday. What you won’t hear about nearly as often is that he was targeted 11 times, a team high. The opportunities for a dropped ball rise as more balls are thrown in a receiver’s direction. I know, crazy.
Cruz was targeted 131 times last year, the 12th highest total in the league. And yet his high number of drops as a result of those targets didn’t stop him from finishing third in receiving yards, and giving his owners 205 fantasy points (fourth best at the position). Cruz isn’t a unique case either.
Atlanta’s Roddy White — who’s style is very similar to Cruz’s speed game — was the most targeted receiver in the league last year, with 181 targets. According to Pro Football Focus, White dropped a league worst 15 catchable balls, which made Falcons fans do awful things to inanimate objects. His fantasy owners, however, cared very little, as White finished with 1,296 receiving yards and 177 fantasy points. He also did that while having a game with 137 yards (boom), and another one with 21 yards (bust).
Then there’s Brandon Marshall, who dropped 14 balls, but somehow still miraculously managed to finish with 1,214 receiving yards and 156 fantasy points. His single-game high was 143 yards, and his low was the lowliest of lows at just five yards.
You know what you purchased with Cruz, so don’t let his inflated 2011 numbers or his drops in one game change that perception. Like Marshall, White, and others, there will be booms followed by busts, and there is no weekly pattern. A rough start hasn’t changed that.