In March, I took a look at free-agent wide receivers to see which team got the best deal—at least in terms of past production—and which took the biggest risk.
At the time, I wrote:
[Judging] from "Bang for the Buck", the three best high-profile signings have been the Patriots' signing of Lloyd, the Colts' re-signing of Wayne and the Saints' re-signing of Colston.
On the other hand, the Buccaneers seem to be taking the biggest risk with their signing of Jackson.
Now that we've reached the one-quarter mark of the 2012 NFL season, it's worth revisiting to see how things have shaken out so far.
I am using approximately the same methodology as in the previous article. Each receiver earns a score based on four criteria—receptions, receiving yards, touchdowns and games played. For each criterion, a player's performance is compared to that of the No. 32 receiver (including tight ends and running backs) on that criterion. The averages are then set to 20 for each criterion. The numbers are adjusted for numbers of games played (so players who haven't had byes aren't hurt for that).
The sum of the values for these four categories is a player's Production Value. Matching the 32nd receiver on each category would give a player a Production Value of 80.0; higher numbers are better.
To find "Bang for the Buck," I divide the Production Value by the average annual value of the player's contract, according to spotrac.com.
This list includes players in ProFootballTalk.com's list of the top 100 free agents last year, plus one "surprise" addition, Randy Moss. They're ranked by Bang for the Buck, from worst to best. (Numbers in parentheses indicate Bang for the Buck based on 2010 and 2011 from my March article.)
11. Pierre Garçon, Redskins, Production Score: 56.6, Bang for the Buck: 6.7 (9.2)
Garçon's Redskins contract, with an $8.5 million average, is the second-highest on this list. His production, however, is not: he's played only two games this season, and only has five catches on the season.
10. Robert Meachem, Chargers, Production Score: 43.8, Bang for the Buck: 6.8 (10.0)
Meachem had about half Colston's production in 2010 and 2011, and even less that in 2012: through four games, he has just six receptions for 92 yards. Unfortunately for the Chargers, he's earning almost as much as Colston ($6.5 million a year).
9. Vincent Jackson, Buccaneers, Production Score: 81.7, Bang for the Buck: 7.3 (5.3)
Jackson is the only player on this list with more than one touchdown—but he also has the only contract worth more than $10 million a year. His Bang for the Buck is still higher than it was in 2010 and 2011, though.
8. Laurent Robinson, Jaguars, Production Score: 50.4, Bang for the Buck: 7.8 (10.0)
The Jaguars were hoping Robinson would play in 2012 as he did in 2011. That hasn't been the case so far: through four games he has just nine catches for 134 yards on a $6.5 million a year.
7. Josh Morgan, Redskins, Production Score: 55.3, Bang for the Buck: 9.6 (5.7)
In March, I wrote "$6 million a year seems a lot for a player who's missed 16 games over the last two seasons and has totaled less than 1,000 yards over that span." So far, Morgan hasn't shown signs of elevating his game far above those numbers: he's currently on pace for 48 catches and 620 receiving yards, but his Bang for the Buck has gone up quite a bit.
Colston leads all receivers on this list with 313 receiving yards; at about $7.25 million a year, though, his contract puts him around the middle of the pack.
Which of these players will likely finish last in Bang for the Buck in October?
5. Mario Manningham, 49ers, Production Score: 58.9, Bang for the Buck: 16.0
Manningham wasn't on my original list; so far, he's been decent, with 15 catches for 160 yards. On the other hand, his contract, at about $3.7 million, is far more reasonable than many of the players on this list.
4. Reggie Wayne, Colts, Production Score: 99.3, Bang for the Buck: 17.0 (15.6)
Wayne is the oldest receiver on this list, at age 33, but also the most productive so far. He has 23 receptions for 294 yards in just three games (the Colts had their bye week in Week 4). At $5.8 million per year, though, he only finishes fourth in Bang for the Buck.
3. Randy Moss, 49ers, Production Score: 50.6, Bang for the Buck: 20.2
Moss spent 2011 out of the National Football League, and surprisingly signed with the 49ers in 2012, agreeing to a two-year deal worth $5 million. His production is near the bottom of this list: eight receptions for 88 yards and one touchdown. His relatively small contract, however, actually vaults him near the top of the list. That said, if he reverts to the lackadaisical ways that caused the Patriots to trade him, his Bang for the Buck will almost certainly plummet.
2. Brandon Lloyd, Patriots, Production Score: 94.7, Bang for the Buck: 21.2 (23.7)
Lloyd was a bargain at $4 million a year. So far, Lloyd leads all of these receivers in receptions, with 25. (Somewhat surprisingly, that ties him with Wes Welker for the Patriots lead, and eighth overall in the NFL.)
1. Early Doucet, Cardinals, Production Score: 47.8, Bang for the Buck: 23.9
Early Doucet is the final player who wasn't on the original list. His performance hasn't been overwhelming—only 10 catches for 89 yards—but his contract is also the cheapest, at just $2 million a year, and that's enough to put him in first place for now.
Perhaps the most interesting thing is that there haven't been any truly drastic changes; the largest swing is just 30 percent. I plan to revisit this list at the end of October, around Week 8 or 9. At that time, I hope to add more receivers, and possibly tight ends as well.