Welcome back to the NFL Randy Moss . The San Francisco 49ers have signed the enigmatic wide receiver out of Marshall to a one-year contract for the 2012 season. Moss retired (in the Brett Favre sense, it turns out) in August of 2011, and missed the entire season. Of course, any fantasy owners who were in the unfortunate situation of owning Randy back in 2010, could make a strong argument that he actually quit playing football midway through that season. Now that Moss is officially back among the active wide receivers in the NFL, it is time to take a look at just how valuable he can be in a fantasy sense heading into the 2012 season. The fact that none of his 2012 salary is guaranteed, hints that even the 49ers are not completely sold on this comeback story being one for the ages. It also speaks to just how far Moss has fallen out of grace in the fantasy football realm that there is a need to examine whether or not he is even worthy of being drafted.
There is no disputing that Randy Moss is among the best ever to play the wide receiver position, he currently ranks 9th in overall receptions, is tied for 2nd in career touchdowns, and is 5th in career receiving yards. There is the very realistic possibility that before all is said and done for Moss, that he can move up to the #3 position in all time receptions, as he trails Marvin Harrison by 148 receptions for that slot. Moss can also move into the 2nd position in career receiving yards, where he trails current #2 place holder Terrell Owens by 1,076 yards, and no, I do not see Owens getting the opportunity to add to those totals. Moss will have put up Hall of Fame numbers by the time he really does decide to retire, and then the voters will have their say, and character issues will undoubtedly rear their ugly heads. However, that is an argument for another day. Determining what value Randy Moss has as a fantasy entity for 2012, has less to do with looking back at the gaudy numbers he has amassed to date, as it does with he has left to bring forward to the 49ers, and fantasy line ups, moving forward.
The easy way out in looking at what Moss may be able to accomplish in 2012, is to just point to the hugely underwhelming season he had in 2010, and simply say he is too old (35), washed up and not worth the risk. The stat line from that season would certainly tend to support such a theory, 28 receptions, 393 yards and 5 receiving touchdowns, were the lowest totals that Moss had amassed since his "trade me" campaign back in 2006 for the Oakland Raiders. It is interesting to note here that the third least productive season that Moss had was in 2004, his last in Minnesota. The pattern here appears to be that when Randy decides he no longer wants to play for a team, he literally stops playing hard for that team. This lends credence to the comments that ESPN analyst and former all pro wide receiver Cris Carter made in February, "It's not an age thing…I believe it's the elephant in the room. It's that thing called quit." Carter would add "But Randy, when things don't go well, like no other player I've ever been around or associated with, he has a quit mechanism in him that is huge." Ouch, and Carter was once considered a mentor to Randy Moss.
Moss was able to utilize the old adage, 'the squeaky wheel gets the grease', and to manipulate his way off of teams he no longer wanted to play for in Minnesota and Oakland. He parlayed it into landing on the juggernaut New England Patriots and had a fantastic resurgence from 2007-2009. Moss would put up 250 receptions, over 3,750 yards and 47 touchdowns in 48 regular season games for New England. However, when Moss tried the same routine in New England when he felt that an extension to his current deal was in order, he found out 'The Patriot Way' is not to grease the squeaky wheel, but to just get rid of it. The Patriots shipped Moss and a 7th round 2012 draft pick, back to Minnesota for a 3rd round selection in last years draft. Moss would be released after appearing in only four games for the Vikings, and go on to finish out the 2010 season in anonymity for the Tennessee Titans.
It has been 15 months since Randy Moss suited up for a regular season NFL football game, and now the questions of his desire and determination will be tantamount in determining his fantasy value. All reports of his workouts for the New Orleans Saints and San Francisco were glowing, in fact one unnamed league source went as far as to comment "My sources say he just destroyed it. He looked just amazing." If history tells us anything, it is that a motivated Randy Moss can be a dominant force at the wide receiver position. The San Francisco 49ers are a favorite to win the NFC conference in 2012, and make a trip to the Super Bowl in New Orleans next February. One of the few accomplishments to still elude Randy Moss is a championship ring, having fallen just short with the Patriots loss to the New York Giants back in Super Bowl XLII. The motivation to win a championship, and to also reestablish his reputation should be the catalysts to keep Moss focused throughout the 2012 season.
Just how the 49ers intend to utilize Moss, must now be considered when determining his fantasy value. The 49ers finished the 2011 season with a 13-3 regular season, and they did it with a ground and pound offense, complemented by a smothering, run stuffing defense. The 49ers ran the ball 52% of the time, rushing the ball a total of 47 more times than they passed. Only four other teams in the league last season ran the ball more than or equal to the amount they passed. The Dolphins were a 50/50 split between rushing and passing the ball, and only Jacksonville, Houston, and the spread-option offense in Denver rushed the ball more than they threw it. The 49ers were not a quick strike, deep ball offense in 2011, and Randy Moss has built a career by being the ultimate deep threat wide receiver. In the 2011 regular season Alex Smith attempted a total of seven passes over forty yards, completing only one, for a 52-yard touchdown to Michael Crabtree . The addition of Mario Manningham , and Randy Moss to their roster signifies that the 49ers are looking to expand their vertical game in 2012. San Francisco averaged over 4 yards per carry as a team in 2011, and the ability to utilize play action passes to Moss Manningham, along with Crabtree and Vernon Davis could make this a very difficult offense to defend moving forward. At 6' 4", Moss will also represent another viable red zone threat for Alex Smith, as Crabtree (16) and Davis (9), were the top two options for San Francisco last season. Crabtree is best utilized as an underneath route runner, and managed to only convert 1 of 16 red zone targets into a score. Newly acquired Brandon Jacobs will command respect from defenses as a goal line option as well in 2012, freeing up Davis and Moss for some favorable coverage in the end zone. Do not look for David Akers to have over 50 field goal attempts again for the 49ers in 2012. This offense is primed and ready to put up a lot of touchdowns, and Randy Moss will get his share.
It has been reported that 49er head coach Jim Harbaugh actually threw the passes to Moss when he visited San Francisco for a try out. After observing what Harbaugh was able to accomplish in his first season in San Francisco, I have complete faith that this man knows football talent. The fact that San Francisco, and more importantly, Jim Harbaugh, saw fit to sign Randy Moss tells me that it will be the motivated, and determined Moss that takes the field in 2012. Randy Moss is absolutely WORTH DRAFTING in 2012 fantasy leagues, as a solid WR#3/flex option with WR#2 upside.