3 Breakout Wide Receivers Undervalued at Almost Any Price
We see it frequently. Fantasy owners excessively target rookie wide receivers because they are disappointed about the production of last year’s rookies. Then it happens; the second year wide receiver improves all offseason and comes in ready to blow the top off.
Here are the best examples in recent years:
In 2013, Josh Gordon saw an increase of 11.8 fantasy points per game in PPR leagues. That was almost matched by Alshon Jeffery’s 9.2 FPG increase. If you drafted those guys, or anyone on this list for that matter, you put yourself in a good position to win your league.
Let’s look at three receivers who are prime candidates to make the second year jump in 2015.
Since 2006, Packers GM Ted Thompson has picked four wide receivers in the second round. They are Greg Jennings (2006), Jordy Nelson (2008), Randall Cobb (2011), and Davante Adams (2014). I’d say he has pretty good taste.
While Adams’ rookie year was disappointing, it was encouraging that he received so much playing time with such elite receivers already on the field. Adams was targeted 66 times as a rookie. By contrast, Jordy Nelson saw 54 and Randall Cobb saw just 31 targets during their respective rookie seasons.
Here are Adams’ regular season and postseason numbers:
Although the postseason is a small sample, it certainly gives the impression that he was improving as the season progressed. Adams’ regular season numbers would have also been better if Aaron Rodgers’ play of the year wasn’t nullified by penalty. It was a 34-yard touchdown to Adams.
Let’s take a look at the athleticism of the top three Packers receivers last year.
While Cobb holds the edge in speed and Nelson in Freak Score, Adams is easily the most explosive and agile of the three players as prospects.
Let’s also consider that Adams was the 53rd overall pick in a draft with Odell Beckham Jr., Mike Evans, Sammy Watkins, Jordan Matthews, and Allen Robinson at his position.
Adams’ college production was also extremely impressive.
Once again, at least in terms of market share, Nelson looks like the best prospect – followed by Adams, and then Cobb. (Before we knock Cobb too much, he did add rushing and even some passing production.) Adams averaged an insane 116.6 receiving yards during his career at Fresno State. He also caught 1.8 receiving touchdowns per game in his final season.
While we think Adams is a good prospect, the next question becomes: Does it even matter how good Adams is? Aaron Rodgers is his starting quarterback and there are a lot of targets up for grabs.
Rodgers is so good that since 2008 he’s never thrown for fewer than 8.4 adjusted yards per target to any wide receiver – except Davante Adams. Adams’ 2014 season certainly has the look of a fluke, although it could be a red flag.
This chart shows PPR FPG for Rodgers’ starting receivers:
That amounts to an average of 15.26 fantasy points per game. Over 16 games that amounts to 244.2 or a WR14 finish last year. You could also argue that Adams is the second best prospect on that list, behind Nelson.
With Nelson out for the season, the Packers need a receiver who can be targeted heavily. It doesn’t hurt that coach Mike McCarthy called Adams the MVP of the offseason.
The amount of targets available, combined with the talent of Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams, makes Adams a very intriguing pick. But it’s also very important to keep in mind that while we think Adams was a similar or even superior prospect to Nelson and Cobb, we know that Nelson and Cobb are NFL stars.
His athletic profile mirrors one of the league’s best wide receivers, Dez Bryant.
These numbers are extremely close. It’s noteworthy that Robinson performed his drills at the Combine, while Bryant’s are from his pro day.
Since 1990, only 11 rookie wide receivers have averaged at least 50 receiving yards per game at 21 years old.
A great list, which includes two of the previous sophomore breakouts that made the intro.
Now 22 years old, the Sim Scores App loves the outlook for Robinson this season.
It’s nice to see Josh Gordon’s 2013 mentioned as a possible outcome.
It was reported by Mike DiRocco that Robinson was the most impressive offensive player on the field at OTAs. Blake Bortles called him “unbelievable” in OTAs.
Last year I wrote about why Jeremy Maclin could replicate DeSean Jackson’s 2013 season. Basically the argument was that Chip Kelly’s top wide receiver produces, period, and Maclin isn’t a worse athlete or player than Jackson. This year, I’m saying that Jordan Matthews will be 2015’s Jeremy Maclin.1
First, it appears that Matthews may be a better athlete than Jackson and Maclin, especially as it relates to touchdown potential.
DJax is the fastest but he’s also the smallest. Matthews’ height/speed combo gives him the highest freak score of the bunch.
Here’s a look the final stats from Jackson’s and Maclin’s seasons as the Eagles top wide receiver:
Both finished as top 12 wide receivers. Matthews sports a higher ceiling and is being drafted as WR15.
While Jackson and Maclin may be better vertical threats, Matthews is likely a better red zone threat. Either way, the thesis remains that it’s smart to draft the receiver around whom Chip Kelly is building his offense.
Matthews dominated joint practices against the Ravens and is expected to be the focal point of the passing offense. You’d be wise to draft him for your fantasy team.
If you enjoyed this, you’ll probably like 7 Undervalued Bargains for Your Fantasy Draft, 3 Players to Avoid if You Want to Win Your PPR League, and Mock Madness: Using Zero RB to Create a Monster.
If you’re interesting finding 5 more receivers primed to explode, you might like Shawn Siegele’s 8 Breakout WRs You Must Own for 2015.
Subscribe for a constant stream of league-beating articles available only with a Premium Pass.
- From a production perspective, not offensive role. (back)