My interpretation of Chad Ochocinco‘s new fantasy-based reality is quite simple.
Yes, he probably has a better chance of individual success playing for the Dolphins than the Patriots this season, given the talent disparity between the teams at receiver and tight end (read: more targets) and his apparent inability to assimilate with the New England playbook.
But at age 34 and coming off a 15-catch, one-touchdown campaign in 2011 (over 15 games), does it really matter what NFL uniform Ochocinco dons before the August fantasy drafts? Would you even take the time to rank him with other receivers in a standard 12-team, 16-round draft?
Every summer, I chronicle 20 veteran receivers who caught fewer than 30 passes from the previous season and then try to project which one will take the greatest fantasy leap in the fall.
With up-and-coming names like Leonard Hankerson (Redskins), Danario Alexander (Rams), Vincent Brown (Chargers), Jonathan Baldwin (Chiefs) and Buffalo’s Donald Jones (my No. 1 breakout choice), their short-term fantasy ceilings easily exceed that of Ochocinco, who barely caught 50 percent of his targets in 2010 with Cincinnati while scoring just four touchdowns.
Throw in a strong rookie class of wideouts, led by Justin Blackmon (Jaguars), Kendall Wright (Titans), Brian Quick (Rams), T.Y. Hilton (Colts) and Michael Floyd (Cardinals), and there’s another wave of fresh, athletic talent that you’d likely covet over an aging Ochocinco—a workout warrior, but notorious patron of McDonald’s, too. Every day.
Heck, I’d even prefer Detroit’s rehabbing rookie Ryan Broyles (torn ACL) or San Francisco’s enigmatic new toy Randy Moss (who missed all of 2011) ahead of Ochocinco. Greater speed, better hands on both fronts.
But it’s not all bad news for Ochocinco and his long-awaited return to Miami (his home area). There are two trump cards to play here:
1. The Dolphins receivers (Davone Bess, Legedu Naanee, Clyde Gates, Brian Hartline) are reportedly having trouble consistently catching passes in OTA sessions and may require the assistance of a veteran wideout.
2. Ocho will have plenty of time to develop a rapport with first-round quarterback Ryan Tannehill…on the Dolphins’ scout team. When Tannehill starts garnering first-team reps (I’m guessing in late October), that pre-existing comfort level with Ochocinco may pay off with more targets, and presumably more catches in November and December.
(Assuming he stays on the roster all season.)
Look, it’s too early in the summer to completely bag on Miami’s signing of Ochocinco.
He’s had a storied career (766 catches, 11,059 yards, 67 touchdowns) and still possesses a lithe, athletic body. He’s even a borderline Hall of Fame candidate 10 years from now, aided by five all-world seasons with the Bengals from 2003-07 (when he averaged 92.4 catches, 1,374 yards and 8.6 TDs).
But I cannot get past last year’s per-game averages of one catch and 1.9 targets. Those are scary, scary numbers to consider, especially when you figure head coach Joe Philbin‘s offense with the Dolphins probably doesn’t encourage receivers to freelance…or quarterbacks to be swayed by unsolicited declarations of “I’m open!” in the huddle.
And last I checked, there are no current fantasy leagues which reward receivers for what they accomplished in 2005.
Pre-draft status: Last-round flier or free agent
Seasonal targets: 39 catches, 514 yards and two touchdowns
Jay Clemons can be reached on Twitter, day or night, at @ATL_JayClemons.