Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson began last season with little attention or recognition from fantasy football owners. In fact, in many leagues he even went undrafted. However, after a breakout season in 2011, fantasy footballers are definitely aware of Nelson now because whether he is well known or not, he is an elite fantasy option.
Despite being considered the no.2 option on his own team due the immense talents of fellow Packers receiver Greg Jennings, Nelson dominated in fantasy point per reception leagues, finishing the season 284.3 fantasy points, an average of 17.4 points per game.
While most fans and prognosticators would not classify Nelson as an elite receiver, fantasy football owners know different and his advanced metrics shows beyond the shadow of a doubt, that he was by far the most by efficient receiver in the NFL last season.
Nelson’s aforementioned 2011 numbers qualify as a great season by any standard of measurement. Yet, digging just a little deeper, reveals that on a per target basis, Nelson was not only elite, he was in a class by himself.
The astounding part of Nelson’s 2011 season is that he produced eye-popping statistics on just 96 targets (40th in the NFL). Despite the relatively low number of targets he received, he was still elite because he did more with his targets than any other receiver in the league, catching over 70 percent of the passes thrown his way for 1,263 yards, which equates to an average of 13.2 yards per target, by far the best total in the NFL last season.
To put that into context, consider that Calvin Johnson, the consensus choice as the best receiver in football, averaged 10.6 yards per target.
The only players that even come close to approaching Nelson were Chargers receiver Malcom Floyd, who averaged 12.2 yards per target and the Giants’ Victor Cruz, who averaged 11.7 yards.
Even though he was targeted only 96 times, Nelson still managed to finish seventh in receiving yards and was the only receiver to eclipse 1,000 yards with fewer than 100 targets and every other receiver that finished in the top ten for receiving yards had at least 114.
Nelson’s yards per target numbers are extremely impressive, but his touchdown per target numbers are equally if not more impressive.
Once again let us compare Nelson to Johnson.
Johnson, who was targeted 158 times last season led all receivers with 16 touchdown receptions, meaning he caught a touchdown once every 9.8 targets. Nelson, on the other hand, had 15 touchdowns in 62 fewer targets, which equated to a touchdown every 6.4 targets.
Outside of Johnson, only one other player even came close to Nelson in touchdowns per target, as Laurent Robinson caught 11 touchdowns 0n just 80 targets for the Cowboys, which works out to be a touchdown every 7.2 targets.
So not only did Nelson produce more yards than receiver in the league, he also had the lowest number of targets per touchdown receptions in the league. Thus, in every major statistical category that matters for fantasy football, Nelson excelled.
With that in mind, the fact that Nelson was left off the 2011 NFC Pro Bowl roster is unthinkable. And even though some may suggest it, his production last year was no fluke.
In 2010, Nelson caught 70.4 percent of the passes thrown his way for an average of 9.3 yards per target, not great but it would have placed him in the top 15 this year.
Also in 2009, Nelson caught 71 percent of his targets and had an average of 10.3 yards per target. The only difference between 2011 and the previous two season was the amount of targets he received, getting 65 in 2010 and just 31 in 2009.
For his career, Nelson has averaged 10.3 yards per target and a touchdown every 11.6 attempts. So he should continue along this path as long as the Packers keep feeding him the ball.
So while many fantasy football owners were able to acquire Nelson mid-season on the waiver wire or late in the league’s draft, it will not happen again this year. Nelson is a bona fide fantasy stud and his services are going to be in high demand in 2012. Yet, for some reason, he still does not get the respect he deserves and in some leagues may even be available as late as the fourth-round, which would be a tremendous get in a point per reception league.
It may be hard for Nelson to continue the torrid pace of productivity he maintained all last season but as his career numbers suggest, Nelson should be a very good receiver again in 2012 and at FantasyPPR.com we will be projecting him for 71 catches 1,100 yards and nine touchdowns in 2012.
Therefore, if you get the chance to draft Nelson in your league, especially after the third round, do not pass it up because Nelson may be the least expensive WR1 in fantasy football this season.