Operating primarily as Kansas City’s top wide receiver for much of the last decade, Bowe cleared 1,000 receiving yards in three different seasons. Since entering the league in 2007, he sits ninth in targets, 11th in receptions, 14th in yards and 16th in touchdowns among wide receivers. Bowe was on the field for 85 percent of Kansas City’s pass plays and handled 24 percent of the team’s targets since 2007.
Once among the most-talented players at the position, Bowe was a strong fantasy asset during his first five seasons. He finished 24th or better among wide receivers in fantasy points during four of his first five seasons – the lone exception was 2009 when he missed five games. Bowe’s career hit a high in 2010 when he caught 15 touchdowns en route to trailing only Brandon Lloyd in fantasy points.
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Although Bowe did have success in his early years, he’s never really had a ton of help at the quarterback position. Matt Cassel was on the other end of 345 (or 37 percent) of his 921 career targets. As shown in the accompanying chart, it didn’t get much better from there. The underwhelming quarterback play often led to poor offensive scoring production, which certainly showed up in Bowe’s stat line. In addition to the aforementioned 15 scores in 16 games back in 2010, Bowe has only 29 touchdowns in 102 games. He hit rock bottom with zero touchdowns on 90 targets last season; Kenbrell Thompkins had the second-most targets (46) among wide receivers who failed to find the end zone.
Durability and drops have also been an issue for Bowe. After missing time in only one of his first five seasons, Bowe has missed at least one game each of the past three. His career 7.6 percent drop rate is on the low end of the league.
Dealing with Alex Smith’s ultra-conservative play, Bowe has watched his average depth of target dip from 12.3 (2007-12) to 9.6 (2013-14). He hasn’t finished better than 43rd in fantasy points among wide receivers since 2011, including a career-worst 59th in 2014. That’s despite handling 25 percent of team’s targets in 2012 and 22 percent during Smith’s two years in Missouri.
Set to turn 31 in September, Bowe figures to still has a year or two of solid production in the tank, but his situation goes from bad to worse in Cleveland. Bowe’s aDOT will recover a bit, but his efficiency won’t with atrocious Josh McCown and/or Johnny Manziel under center. At least for now, Bowe is likely second in line for targets behind only Andrew Hawkins (although it figures to be close). Brian Hartline settles in as the third receiver and Cleveland is still looking for a No. 1 tight end. This is an offense that will look to lean on the run, especially with Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West on the roster.
My early Bowe projection is 97 targets, 52 receptions, 650 yards and three touchdowns. That’s not anywhere close to WR3 production and makes him borderline draft-worthy. Considering Cleveland’s run-first, low-scoring offense, it’s best to avoid Bowe in your fantasy draft. That’s especially the case when you consider that there’s a decent chance the Browns add an impact wide receiver and/or tight end on draft day.
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