… Larry Fitzgerald Will Be a Failure

Call Me Crazy But … Larry Fitzgerald Will Be a Failure

Fantasy football is full of trash-talking, proving your better than your friends (at least at one thing, but we all know once you’re in a league everything else you do with your league mates becomes a competition), and bold predictions. Everyone thinks they have the hottest takes, wildest theories, or know something you don’t know as they try to look like the smartest guy in the room. Well, I am here to shut that shit down, no exceptions (shout out my man Negan)! This is a series I have titled “Call me crazy but …” in which I like to take the popular names, stats, or takes from the general consensus of the fantasy big-wigs and community and tear them apart like I play quarterback for the Steelers. Continuing the 2019 edition of the series we take a look at a guy who has been one of the best in the business for the last decade and a half, and while his last few seasons say he’s still got it, I say he doesn’t; sorry Mr. Larry Fitzgerald …

Call me crazy but … Larry Fitzgerald Will Be a Failure in 2019.

Let me just say this from the jump, Larry Fitzgerald has been one of my favorite receivers to watch in the NFL over the last 15 seasons, and quite frankly one of the best people in the entire league. For a diva position, Fitzgerald has never once brought any sort of drama to himself, his teammates, the league … any one at all. He’s a very humble man, someone who helps out his community and you can tell he just has genuine love for the game and his craft. Fitzgerald is going to be in the Hall of Fame day one of his eligibility, and for good reason. Fitzgerald currently ranked 8th in gams payed among active players with 234. When it comes to wide receivers, only five have played more games than Fitzgerald has currently; Charlie Joiner (239), Ricky Proehl (244), Tim Brown (255), Irving Fryar (255), and Jerry Rice (303). If Fitzgerald makes it through 2019 healthy, he’d become just the 45th player in NFL history to have played 250 or more games. When it comes to on-the-field stats, Fitzgerald is one of the best ever! He currently sits 3rd all-time in receptions with 1,303; just 22 behind Tony Gonzalez for 2nd. Fitzgerald’s 16,279 yards rank him 2nd in NFL history only behind Jerry Rice; whom won’t be passed any time soon, if ever. When it comes to scoring, Fitzgerald has hit pay dirt 116 times in his career; 6th most ever, and being just 12 back of Marvin Harrison for 5th and 14 behind Cris Carter in 4th, Fitzgerald could move up this list higher if he plays a few more years in the league. In the end it’s hard for me to say anything negative about one of the greatest wide receiver, one of the greatest players, and one of the greatest men to ever be in the NFL. However, this is all about the fantasy numbers and unfortunately, Larry Fitzgerald’s best fantasy days are behind him and I have to say he will be a failure on your fantasy team this season if you decide to draft him.

100×3

No, this isn’t some sort of relay race, it’s all about the receptions, and Fitzgerald is one of the best ever at bringing in the targets he sees. As I mentioned before he is 3rd in NFL history in receptions, and should finish his career at number two if he can play even a handful of games in 2019. In his 15 seasons he had 10 with 80+ catches, including a streak of five seasons from 2007-2011 of 80+ grabs. He’s got five years of 100+ catches to his name, and his three target years of triple-digit catches from 2015-2017 is why we are here. Any receiver catching 100 balls in season is impressive, doing it back-to-back even more so, but three or more in a row? Damn near impossible. When Fitzgerald hit that in 2017 he joined just Antonio Brown (6 from 2013 and counting), Marvin Harrison (4 from 1999-2002), Brandon Marshall (3 from 2007-2009), Herman Moore (3 from 1995-1997), Jerry Rice (3 from 1994-1996), and Wes Welker (3 from 2007-2009). That’s just seven receivers to ever accomplish that feat. But the season they missed the 100-catch mark, how bad was it? Here’s what each player’s first season missing that mark looked like; other than Antonio Brown since he is still streaking:

PLAYER (Year) AGE CATCHES YARDS TDs FANTASY POINTS
Larry Fitzgerald (2018) 35 69 734 6 178
Marvin Harrison (2003) 31 94 1,272 10 277
Brandon Marshall (2010) 26 86 1,014 3 203
Herman Moore (1998) 29 82 983 5 210
Jerry Rice (1997) 35 INJURED ONLY PLAYED 1 GAME!
Wes Welker (2010) 29 86 848 7 212

As you can see Jerry Rice was injured and missed the entire 1997 season, and never hit 100 receptions in a season again, so let’s take him out of the equation. Of the remaining five names only Harrison hit double-digit scores, only Harrison and Marshall hit over 1,000 yards, and all but Fitzgerald had at least 82 catches. Welker and Marshall were the only two on this list to hit 100+ catches after their streaks ended, but neither had triple-digit grabs after 31, so what’s the other big factor in all this? AGE! Father Time doesn’t play favorites and Fitzgerald was the oldest player on this list by 4 years on Harrison (who was the only other thirty-something) while the other three gentlemen all were on the right side of the 30 hill. Which brings me to my next point …

35+ YEAR OLD RECEIVERS

Fitzgerald is no spring chicken. He was drafted back in 2004 age 21 years old out of Pitt, but 15 seasons laster he will be 36 years old when this season begins, and while age breaks down any position, receivers aged 33 or older really seem to lose a step and more. Last year Fitzgerald was 35 and his production was some of the worst in his career. His 69 receptions marked his third fewest in a year, worst since 63 in 2014. 734 yards for Fitz in 2018 marked the fewest in a season of his career, and his 6 scores were the third fewest in his career; also worst since 2014. Now that he’s another year older let’s see how many wide outs in NFL history have a stat line of at least 60 grabs, 750 yards, and 6 scores:

PLAYER (AGE) CATCHES YARDS TDs FANTASY POINTS
Isaac Bruce (36) 61 835 7 185
Cris Carter (36) 73 871 6 196
Charlie Joiner (37) 61 793 6 176
Derrick Mason (36) 61 802 7 183
Terrell Owens (37) 72 983 9 224
Jerry Rice (36) 82 1,157 9 251
Jerry Rice (38) 75 805 7 197
Jerry Rice (39) 83 1,139 9 250
Jerry Rice (40) 92 1,211 7 255
Jimmy Smith (36) 70 1,023 6 208

That’s 10 different seasons by 7 different receivers; some of the best we’ve ever seen play the game to be exact. Let’s take the GOAT Jerry Rice out of the equation because he is just a freak of nature and look at the other six examples. Of those six only Jimmy Smith was able to eclipse 1,000 yards (and just barely). No one went over 73 grabs, and only T.O. scored more than 7 times. Owens and Smith were also the only two to post better than 200 fantasy points as well. If we average those six seasons out we come up with a stat line of 66-884-7 good for 192 points. The last four seasons wide outs with 192 points ended the year in low WR2/high WR3 territory; Fitzgerald and his 178 points placed him at WR30 last season. All the men on that list (not Named Jerry Rice) have two things in common; first being no one improved after hitting those numbers, secondly they were all dealing with quarterbacks who had at least three years NFL experience. In Larry Fitzgerald’s case, he won’t be that fortunate in 2019 …

ROOKIE QUARTERBACKS

Fitzgerald is kicking off his second straight season with a fresh face to the NFL and under center for the Arizona Cardinals. Last year Josh Rosen led Fitz to his WR30 finish, now it’s Kyler Murray’s turn to throw to Fitz. Murray was the first overall selection in this year’s draft and another new face Fitzgerald has to start a relationship with. Not only Murray, but new coach Kliff Kingsbury will being a whole new offense to the desert. So can this past April’s top selection help Fitzgerald get back to some sort of fantasy prominence, or at least relevance? This will be the 7th rookie quarterback to be throwing to Fitzgerald, so let’s take a look at how the other six first-year signal-callers worked with the greatest Cardinal of all-time:

QB (GAMES) YEAR FITZ’S TARGETS FITZ’S CATCHES FITZ’S YARDS FITZ’S TDS FITZ’S POINTS
John Navarre (1) 2004 7 2 12 0 3
Matt Leinart (9) 2006 65 42 592 4 125
Richard Bartel (1) 2010 11 6 68 0 12
John Skelton (4) 2010 39 23 258 1 54
Max Hall (3) 2010 31 16 195 2 47
Josh Rosen (14) 2018 97 59 630 6 158
TOTALS (32) 250 148 1755 13 399

Over the course of two full seasons of games, Fitzgerald is averaging 74 catches for 877 yards and 6 scores totaling 197 points. That puts Fitzgerald in deep WR2 territory at best, and most cases in WR3 range over the last five seasons. While those numbers are acceptable for someone with half the skill set of Fitzgerald, they are Hall of Fame Larry stats. When he gets to play with a veteran QB his numbers skyrocket to 92 grabs for 1,162 yards and 8 scores per season or 256 points. That number pulls Fitz into low WR1 territory at worst and he would have finished as a top 6 wide out twice in the last five years. A difference of 59 points, or almost 4PPG, is a big deal. It’s an even bigger deal for an aging superstar who needs all the help he can get to put up solid, or even elite, numbers week in and week out. 

CONCLUSION

Fitzgerald has been on of the best wide receivers in the NFL and one of the best fantasy contributors at the position for a decade and a half, and much like other things in our lives that we cherish because of how good they were to us for so many years, all good things must come to an end. After his 2015-2017 run of three straight years of 100+ receptions, he hit a wall in 2018, and it doesn’t look like 2019 will be any kinder to him. He is fighting off age, something no one can do, as he will be 36 this season. You saw how hard it was for receivers over the age of 35 to post at least 60-750-6 and of those names only the GOAT Jerry Rice was able to do it more than once after age 35. We also had the issue of rookie quarterbacks throwing to Fitzgerald. He isn’t a total bust with a first year guy, but averaging almost 4PPG less and finishing as a WR3 as opposed to a top 12 wide out is a HUGE difference. If Fitzgerald was 30, or 31, or 32 and working with a new QB in a new system I would feel more confident that he could be a contributor for your fantasy team in 2019, but age plus slipping from elite seasons plus new system and rookie quarterback will equal a horrible season for Fitzgerald this year. I’ll be cheering as loud as anyone Arizona when Larry gets inducted into Canton on his first ballot, but right now Fitzgerald is just like that pair of socks with holes in them; they did their job and got you where you needed to go, but it’s time to trash them and start with a new pair if you want to keep walking to the top. 

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