Drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in the sixth round of the 2008 draft, Pierre Garcon made a name for himself as an intermediate and deep threat for Peyton Manning. Garçon had three full seasons as a starter with the Colts, before signing a five-year, $42.5 million deal with the Washington Redskins prior to the 2012 campaign. At the end of that contract, he signed another five-year contract with the San Francisco 49ers for $47.5 million, with $20 million guaranteed and a $12 million signing bonus. Garçon can make up to $16.025 million in the first year of the contract based on incentives.
Kyle Shanahan Experience
Kyle Shanahan recently signed a six-year contract with San Francisco, the same length as the deal offered to new general manager John Lynch. Both appear to be sticking around for a while, even though Shanahan is the fourth coach in four seasons for San Francisco. For the 2016 season, Kyle Shanahan was the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons, where he won the NFL Assistant Coach of the Year award.
Since 2008, Kyle Shanahan has been an offensive coordinator in the league. Taking a look at his stats, we can see that he has produced some serious passing yardage:
[wpdatatable id=396 table_view=regular]
Why is Kyle Shanahan so important to this article? Well, besides being Garçon’s current head coach, he has also played an important role in Garçon’s development. In 2013, the second year of Garçon’s contract, Shanahan was the offensive coordinator for the Washington Redskins. During that year, Garçon led the entire league with 113 receptions on an absurd 181 targets, totaling 1,346 yards and 5 TDs. This would prove to be Garçon’s best statistical year, and Shanahan would be fired from the Redskins after the 2013 season.
Kyle Shanahan is highly regarded for his offensive talents and has done well as an offensive coordinator. He has the ability to elevate the players he has signed based on the playbook he designs. In 2016, Garçon produced 79 receptions for 1,041 yards and three touchdowns, as part of a wide receiver group with DeSean Jackson and Jamison Crowder. Now, moving back with Kyle Shanahan as a number one wide receiver in San Francisco, some serious PPR potential exists.
Garçon isn’t particularly large, by wide receiver standards. Standing at 6’0”/210 lbs, he’s known for his speed and crisp route running. These two attributes are what helped him stand out in 2013, as Kyle Shanahan’s offense typically features the X receiver.
The X receiver in football is the split end and is typically lined up as the farthest wide receiver from the tight end. They typically line up on the weak side of the formation, which is the side of the offensive line that has the least protection or blockers. The unique aspect of being an X receiver, as opposed to the other Z receiver, is that the X receiver is tethered to the line of scrimmage and cannot move. When watching pre-snap motions, the Z receiver or Y tight end is the one that goes into motion and is usually lined up just behind the line of scrimmage. Thus, the X receiver is always at the line of scrimmage, cannot go into motion, and will almost always be jammed by the cornerback at the start of the play. So, an X receiver needs to have the speed to get down the sideline, quickness to get away from the corner, and good footwork and strength coming off the press to generate separation.
All these attributes feed into the strengths of Garçon. Keep in mind that Garçon is 30 years old entering the season, but he still has some advanced stat attributes that should help him succeed in this role. His workout metrics from 2008 are relatively true to his current stats, where he ranked in the 76th percentile for speed score, 70th in burst score, and 64th in agility score (Source: https://www.playerprofiler.com). During his time in the league, he’s had time to polish his route running, and his catching ability. In 2016, Garçon didn’t drop a single pass and had a 69.3% catch rate. He has become a well-rounded player, and his natural abilities feed into the X receiver position.
San Francisco Offense
The 49ers offense hasn’t had a passer exceed 3,500 yards in the past 17 years. The offense and defense were a complete wreck last year, and the organization took some steps to advance the team. John Lynch drastically improved the defense through the draft, focusing most of their picks on defensive players. Kyle Shanahan will be relied upon for improving the playbook, but it depends heavily on the quarterback and offensive coordinator Hue Jackson.
Brian Hoyer is the presumed starting quarterback for the 49ers, and he has previous experience with Kyle Shanahan as well. In 2014, Shanahan was the offensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns, where Hoyer was the starter. Coming off a 4-12 record in 2013, Hoyer and Shanahan led the Browns to a 7-6 record by week 13, with Hoyer compiling 3,326 passing yards and 11 TDs/12 INTs. However, Hoyer was injured in week 13, and the Browns were saddled with Johnny Manziel to end the season.
Hoyer isn’t a rocket-armed, deep ball quarterback like Matt Ryan. However, he does fit the mold of what a Shanahan offense needs. He is an experienced quarterback that can complete high-percentage throws, sell the play-action, is accurate on short to mid-range throws, and can read defenses before the snap.
That being said, I don’t expect the San Francisco offense to be otherworldly in 2017. They’ll likely feature a heavy dose of the run game, relying on Carlos Hyde with sweeps and draw plays. They’ll mix in some play-action, but only to provide separation for their receivers in the short to intermediate range. Deep balls will be rare but occur often enough to keep the cornerbacks and safeties honest on slant routes.
Garçon is one of my favorite targets in redraft leagues. There’s enough data for us to glean what sort of player he is and his role in this new offense, where he is the undisputed #1 wide receiver on the team. His history with Kyle Shanahan bodes extremely well, even if it was four years ago.
Current projections have him as the 33rd wide receiver in PPR, behind receivers like Kelvin Benjamin, Jamison Crowder, and Eric Decker. I would gladly take Pierre Garçon over all these receivers. He has shown the ability to stay healthy throughout his career, and his stats are consistent. His and Hoyer’s familiarity with Shanahan and his natural fit for the X receiver position lead me to believe that he’ll have success in San Francisco.
In terms of projections, I would assess Garçon for 130+ targets, 90 receptions, 1,150 yards and 5 TDs. He won’t be a red zone threat, but his real value comes from the aforementioned short-to-intermediate throws the Browns will be heavily relying on. In a PPR league, Garçon can serve as a solid WR2 at a heavily discounted price. While he is playing on a below average offense, he is the undisputed #1 receiver and will be peppered with targets to keep defenses honest for the San Francisco run game. Look to draft him in the middle to late rounds as a sneaky flier with production.