Fantasy Football 2014: Who Gets the Edge Between Pierre Garcon and Victor Cruz?

Garrett BakerSenior Analyst IAugust 3, 2014

Oct 21, 2012; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz (80) races into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown late in the second half against the Washington Redskins at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Mills/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports
The Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports

It's the little decisions in fantasy football that can make or break a season. This year, there are many potential tough calls to make, with one of them being at the deep wide receiver position.

Last week, I compared running backs and former Clemson teammates Andre Ellington and C.J. Spiller, concluding that Ellington has a slight edge. The poll revealed a near 50/50 split, which was pretty remarkable and made me want to do another article of the same type.

This week, I'm looking at NFC East rivals Pierre Garcon of the Washington Redskins and Victor Cruz of the New York Giants.

These two 27-year-old downfield threats are both in their physical primes and have put up big numbers in the past. There exists some question marks about their own games, but the bigger concerns are with their offenses and supporting casts.

According to FantasyPros, they are currently being drafted as the 15th and 17th wide receivers, only three spots apart overall at No. 39 and 42, right around the end of the fourth or beginning of the fifth round.

Let's break these two down and figure out who is the better option.


The Case for Garcon

After being drafted in the sixth round of the 2008 draft, Garcon broke out in his sophomore season to the tune of 47 catches for 765 yards and four touchdowns. Since then, he has established himself as one of the premier deep threats in the game.

His yards-per-catch average hasn't gotten back to that season's incredible 16.3, but he hasn't slipped below 11.7 in the four seasons since.

After signing with the Washington Redskins prior to the 2012-13 season, he was expected to make the jump and become a true No. 1 receiver.

In 2013, Garcon was one of the best in the entire league, posting an incredible 113 catches for 1,346 yards and five touchdowns. He proved that he is more than just a downfield receiver, with a career-high 60 first downs and a season long of just 53 yards.

Robert Griffin III is becoming more of a pocket passer, and that will only mean more targets for Garcon, who had the most in the entire NFL in 2013 with 184.

The addition of DeSean Jackson will also only serve to take more attention away from Garcon. He's going to be all over the field in 2014, and there's no reason to think he won't approach last year's stats.

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 15:  Pierre Garcon #88 of the Washington Redskins celebrates a touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on December 15, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images


The Case Against Garcon

The 2013-14 season was only the second time in Garcon's six-year career that he played in all 16 games, and it seems like he's always on the injury report.

In 2012, Garcon suffered a foot injury that caused him to play at less than 100 percent for most of the year and sit out of six games. He's also dealt with nagging hamstring, hand and ankle injuries.

Even without the newfound presence of DeSean Jackson, there's almost no chance that Garcon would have been able to repeat his career-highs of 2013, since they came mostly due to his insane 184 targets.

But with Jackson running across from Garcon in 2014, it's a lock for his targets to decrease significantly. Even if his average yards per reception goes up, he'll definitely catch less than 113 passes, and getting another five touchdowns might be tough as well.

Finally, a lot is in the hands of Robert Griffin III, who has had well-documented knee problems in the past few years. If he can't transition into being a true pocket passer, that means bad things for Garcon and the rest of the Redskins offense.


The Case for Cruz

Cruz's first two seasons in the NFL were incredibly impressive. He had 82 catches for 1,536 yards and nine touchdowns as a rookie, and he followed that up with 83 receptions for 1,092 yards and 10 scores in 2012.

He has averaged 15 yards per reception over his three-year career, which is an exceptional stat that can only mean good things moving forward.

Cruz still managed 72 catches and 998 yards despite playing in only 14 games in a brutal 2013-14 season for the rest of the New York Giants. 

As one of the most dangerous deep threats in the game, Cruz has had a number of incredible performances in his career. He has 19 games with 90 receiving yards or more in his 46 career games.

Prospective owners should also be extremely encouraged by his volume of work over the past three years. He's averaged an incredible 8.63 targets per game throughout his career.

Hakeem Nicks is also far away in Indianapolis now, which will only give Cruz more opportunities. First-round pick Odell Beckham provides a lot more speed than Nicks and will make more space around the field.

Eli Manning has thrown more than 508 passes in each season since 2009, and Cruz will be the lone focal point of the offense in 2014.

Cruz himself has talked about how excited he is for the Giants' new high-powered offensive attack, according to the New York Post. There's no reason to think his consistent production won't continue.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 15: Wide receiver Victor Cruz #80 of the New York Giants warms up before the game against the Denver Broncos at MetLife Stadium on September 15, 2013 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Ron Antonelli/Getty Images)
Ron Antonelli/Getty Images


The Case Against Cruz

Let's talk a bit more about Eli Manning, because a quarterback can make or break a receiver for fantasy purposes, and there's a whole lot of negative to discuss here.

Manning's numbers have generally deteriorated over the past five seasons, culminating in an awful 2013. He threw for just 238.6 yards per game, and he had a 57.5 completion percentage with 18 touchdowns and 27 interceptions.

At 33 years old, there isn't much reason to be confident that Manning can bounce back and have a great season after such a dismal 2013-14 campaign.

The offensive line is still a question mark, and the running game is relying on Rashad Jennings, Peyton Hillis and rookie Andre Williams. 

Cruz is going to be getting all of the attention from the defense. He will have to hope that Manning gets enough time to throw the ball, make a good throw and that he isn't being triple-covered.

He was banged up in 2013, and he missed the end of the season after getting arthroscopic knee surgery. If he doesn't regain his old speed, his big-play potential could take a big hit.

Speaking of 2013, that season was a pretty big disappointment as well. Cruz gained under 1,000 yards for the first time in his career, and he scored just four touchdowns. His average yards per reception also hasn't come anywhere near his rookie-year total of 18.7.

There are a lot of mitigating factors here which could hamper Cruz's potential production in 2014.


Verdict: Draft Cruz

Another extremely close call, but Cruz gets the upper hand by just a smidge.

Garcon has been too inconsistent throughout his career because of injuries and just the nature of his downfield game, and he is likely to be overdrafted due to his big 2013-14 season.

His targets should decline significantly from last year, while Cruz has shown remarkable consistency in his volume and subsequent production.

Both players have questions around the rest of their offenses, although I think Manning will bounce back OK, and there is still a lot up in the air about RGIII.

The addition of Jackson on Washington can mean good things for the offense as a whole, but it will probably hurt Garcon's numbers more than help. Meanwhile, Nicks being gone from New York should give Cruz even more volume of work.

Overall, Cruz is a more reliable player with very high ceiling. Garcon's ceiling may be just as high, but his floor is a whole lot lower, making Cruz the better selection.



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