James Jones vs. Jordy Nelson: Better Fantasy Sleeper in 2011?

There’s a lot to chew on these days. Super Bowl 45; the NFL’s CBA with the players union; and the NFL combine coming up in a few weeks; and the use of franchise and transition tags. But I recently veered off the established path and posted some 2011 fantasy football sleeper WR’s in an article (and also posted an additional sleeper WR in my fantasy football blog). In the article, I mentioned a preference for Jordy Nelson in Green Bay over James Jones and I know that many like Jones more. I figure that when we look for a sleeper WR from the Packers in 2011, it’s going to come down to one of these two. Even though Donald Driver is under contract until 2013, it’s widely speculated that his production is on the decline and that one of these two younger, emerging WR’s will take on a more prominent role in 2011. Many expect it to be Jones, and while that wouldn’t surprise me, I think Nelson has a chance to usurp him as the better fantasy sleeper.

Will Jones step up in 2011?

Let’s look at the stats from 2010:

James Jones: 50 receptions, 679 yards, 5 TD’s

Jordy Nelson: 45 receptions, 582 yards, 2 TD’s

On the surface, it appears Jones has the edge. Often he played as the #3 WR while Nelson was the #4, but let’s look at the targets (the number of passes actually thrown to a player) for both:

Jones: 87

Nelson: 65

When compared to the amount of receptions each player caught, Jones managed to catch 57.5% of his intended targets. Nelson had a much higher rate catching passes intended for him making the grab 69.2% of the time. Of all the Packers WR’s and TE’s, Jones had the lowest conversion rate of targets to catches. There’s something to be said for having surer hands.

Let’s look at the playoffs. In 3 games against Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Chicago, the stats are:

Or will it be Jordy Nelson who steps up in 2011?

Jones: 6 receptions, 94 yards, 2 TD’s

Nelson: 12 receptions, 146 yards, 1 TD

Only Greg Jennings has more catches and receiving yards than Nelson thru the playoffs so far. The targets in the playoff games also shows a preferred receiver as well.

Jones: 8 targets

Nelson: 14 targets

So in these biggest games, when the most is on the line, who is getting thrown to more often? Nelson is.

Now, like I said in the referenced sleeper WR’s article, Jones has more flash to his game (witnessed by his higher TD total and better yards per catch average), but Nelson has more substance and is more reliable. And like I also mentioned in the article is that Jones is a free agent heading into 2011; Nelson will be in the final year of his original rookie deal. Few things provide motivation like playing for a contract. And players in their contract seasons usually put up their best efforts. Since 2010 was the last year of Jones’ original rookie contract, it’s kind of surprising his numbers weren’t even better considering Driver missed one game because of injury and was limited a lot in several others. Despite the opportunity given, and the motivation of playing for a new contract, Jones didn’t shine like he could have. Like I would have expected a player on a prolific passing team, and in his situation to have done. And there’s even a chance he isn’t back with the Packers in 2011 since he is an impending free agent.

When I look at the two, I see Nelson as the better potential sleeper. He may not have as much natural playmaking ability as Jones, but all things considered, he should have more targets and catch more passes in 2011, and that puts the weights in his favor to have more yards, and better fantasy production.

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