When Anthony Gonzalez went down with a knee injury in Week 1, waiver wires lit up across fantasy football leagues. Pierre Garcon was a popular pickup and had the potential to be an effective bridge for owners that either had Gonzalez or were unhappy with their depth chart in the early going.
The popular policy among NFL coaches is that a player cannot lose his roster spot due to injury, so what happens when Gonzalez returns to the lineup? Is Garcon worth owning after that point?
So far this season, Garcon has only seven receptions, but those seven catches have gone for 136 yards (19.4 average) and two touchdowns. Garcon also has 13 targets in that time, so Peyton Manning is certainly looking his way.
Garcon has found the end zone the last two games
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
Garcon had only one reception in Week 2, but that went for 48 yards and a touchdown — the game-winning touchdown — which certainly got the attention of fantasy owners everywhere.
He is currently owned in 87 percent of fantasy football leagues and is started in 40 percent of Yahoo! leagues and 66 percent of Sportsline leagues. Garcon is no longer a secret at this point in the season, but, if he is available in your league, he is worth picking up. He is worth owning because he has shown so far to be a capable deep threat and skilled with the ball in his hands, either as a receiver or a runner (one carry for 17 yards).
Garcon is gaining the confidence of Manning, which is certainly the first step to success. The offense has been missing a threat at the X position since 2007. Gonzalez appeared to be that threat, but he went down with a knee injury and his exact return date is unknown.
That means that his value in the short term is unquestioned — if he is available, put in a waiver request immediately, but he is unavailable in the four leagues that I am in. Garcon should continue to get more targets as Manning becomes more comfortable with him and, by proxy, Tom Moore begins to trust him more, which will only make his value increase.
The burning question revolves around what Garcon's role will be when Gonzalez returns. The answer to that question depends upon Garcon's development as the X receiver in the Colts offense. Wayne is firmly cemented as the Y receiver and Clark has been Manning's de facto second option thus far in 2009, but the X receiver was an extraordinarily productive spot for Indianapolis when Marvin Harrison was in his prime.
It can be that position again, but the Colts need to find the right man to fill Harrison's shoes. Gonzalez was, possibly, that man, but he has averaged only 13.2 yards per reception in his career (compared to 19.4 for Garcon in that position so far, in a much smaller sample size), has scored only once every 13.4 receptions (once every 3.5 receptions), and has a career long reception of 57 yards (53).
Gonzalez is a known quantity at the Z or slot position in the offense, whereas Garcon was not able to establish himself in that position when given an opportunity (albeit limited). Garcon's best bet to stay relevant is to establish himself at the X position, where Gonzalez's numbers are less impressive.
The Colts are going to throw the ball. The Colts are going to come out, on average, in a three-receiver set. Clark, on average, is going to get more targets than everyone not named Reggie Wayne. But, the production of the X receiver position in the Indianapolis offense, from an historical perspective, cannot be ignored.
If Garcon can establish himself at that position — and he is off to an exceptional start — then Gonzalez will still be starting on Sundays, but from the Z position.
The time to snag Garcon is either now, while he is languishing on another fantasy team's bench, or when it is announced that Gonzalez will return. When Gonzalez returns, it is entirely possible that he will return as the Z receiver, but it is assured that he will have a limited role until he proves he is up to speed.
If you have Gonzalez, try to trade him for Garcon. If you have a big-name receiver that has underperformed, trade him for Garcon. The strategy is to acquire the rights to Garcon and his production at some point between now and when it is announced that Gonzalez will be back in the lineup. If Garcon continues to develop, he will be the man to have that is not named Wayne, Clark, or Manning.
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