2 Heavily Discounted Wide Receivers to Target in 2016
If you sat down and made a list of items in life that are worth paying top dollar for, the list would be fairly short. Whiskey, cigars, cookware and companionship (if you’re into that kind of thing) would be about it. The same goes for fantasy football.
Sure, elite talent makes the list but considering you’ll likely not be able to land more than one or two of those guys, you might as well start shopping in the clearance aisle with the rest of the smart folks.
The clearance aisle is a nice place to find low risk, high reward players. Last season, a few guys with price-cut stickers next to their names were Michael Crabtree, Donte Moncrief and Allen Hurns. Quite likely, the winning owners in your leagues last year had at least one or two of that trio on their rosters. Now, you may have heard that picking running backs late is a good strategy, and it can be, but I find it easier to land weekly contributors at the wide receiver position later in drafts. In this article, I’ll spotlight two wide receivers being drafted later than WR45 that will contribute heavily to your success this season.
In 2015, Benjamin had a career year. After never having more than 18 receptions in a season, he posted a 68/966/5 line on 125 targets. You may be discounting his production because he, Duke Johnson and Gary Barnidge were the only offensive threats in Cleveland. My rebuttal would be that he achieved that production with a combination of Josh McCown, Johnny Manziel and Austin Davis at quarterback. It wasn’t like he had Peyton Manning back there…nevermind, Peyton was terrible last year too.
That projection doesn’t know Benjamin left Cleveland, but that’s a positive, dramatic change. Benjamin is now free from the Factory of Sadness and catching balls thrown by Philip Rivers in San Diego. He’ll slide into the WR2 role immediately, opposite Keenan Allen and ahead of Stevie Johnson. Sounds pretty tasty, right?
Over the past five seasons, Rivers has averaged 576.8 pass attempts. In that same time span, Rivers holds a 65.8 completion percentage. 2015 saw Rivers post the most attempts (661) in his career. Even if the attempts drop to 600, history suggests Rivers will nearly hit 400 completions. Break that down among potential receivers using the Projection Machine App and Benjamin should find himself on the positive side of 100 targets. One circumstance that could lead to Benjamin getting a major boost in targets is if Stevie Johnson sustains another injury. Over the last three seasons, Johnson has missed 27 games, having not played a full season since 2012.
Back in March, Justin Winn wrote an article discussing how the removal of Malcolm Floyd and the acquisition of Travis Benjamin should ultimately help Philip Rivers. That isn’t a one-way street though. Unlike last season, Benjamin owners can bank on a little consistency from the quarterback position. Add in his current redraft price tag of WR48, or 101st overall, and you have some clearance aisle gold in the eighth round.
Let me guess. You just said, “Ew,” right?
The best way I think to start this argument for the old man in Tampa is by stating his current price. Jackson is going in the middle of the ninth round as WR52, or 116th overall. For a player with his track record, that cannot be overlooked. VJax hadn’t missed a single game to injury over the previous eight seasons before 2015. Many have disregarded that stat and gone with the easy argument of, “He is old and Kenny Bell is ready to take his job.”
On June 10th, Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times had this to say about Kenny Bell:
Five days later, a report of Kenny Bell turning heads at camp surfaced, but the reason he is getting more playing time is because Vincent Jackson, like many veteran players recovering from injury, is taking it easy this time of year. VJax wasn’t asked to take a pay cut this offseason and Buccaneers Head Coach, Dirk Koetter, doesn’t believe Jackson is anywhere near being done. All signs point to him maintaining a firm grasp of the WR2 position in this rising offensive for 2016.
Speaking of Dirk Koetter, when in Atlanta, his offenses ranked 8th, third and third in passing attempts. Last year in Tampa Bay, Koetter’s offense ranked 22nd. Perhaps this is due to a better running game in Tampa, or maybe it’s because he had a rookie under center. Could be both but regardless, I fully expect to see the passing attempts rise to around 600 for Jameis Winston. Matt Ryan never had fewer than 615 attempts with Koetter in town.
Only three Tampa Bay players saw more than 50 targets, and of the three, Winston had the highest Adjusted Yards/Attempt when throwing to Jackson.
The first thing skeptics will bring up is the small sample size of targets, so let’s look at what he did with the elite combination of Josh Freeman, Mike Glennon and Josh McCown over the last three years. In 2015, Jackson’s catch rate of 53.2 percent was his best since becoming a Buccaneer and his yards per reception (16.5) was right in line with the average of his previous three seasons. The fall off in Jackson’s play is being overblown because he was injured.
Using the Projection Machine App, we can set Winston’s passing attempts to approximately 600. This is how the Tampa Bay passing offense, sans the running backs, projects out for 2016.
|QB||Winston, Jameis TBB QB||603.95||359.46||0.6||4267.1||25.1||16.61||30.39||101.5||1.05||270.9|
|WR1||Evans, Mike TBB WR||139.51||80.64||1108.85||13.75||6.98||234.77|
|WR2||Jackson, Vincent TBB WR||102.67||57.5||784.01||13.64||4.62||164.73|
|WR3||Bell, Kenny TBB WR||56.77||31.57||410.52||13.01||2.21||86.57|
|TE1||Seferian-Jenkins, Austin TBB TE||73.68||46.49||512.76||11.03||3.91||121.2|
|TE2||Brate, Cameron TBB TE||20.53||13.04||126.12||9.67||1.19||32.8|
Be Cost Effective, Not Cheap
All too often people focus on which running backs they can get in the mid to later rounds, when they should be targeting a wide receiver or two with the upside of a WR2. Travis Benjamin and Vincent Jackson are ideal when utilizing this strategy.
Early on in drafts you can get one of the studs worth paying top dollar for, but remember one or two players will not be the reason you eradicate your league mates this season. No, to dominate them into embarrassment, you need a well-rounded team with depth. Selecting low risk, high reward guys in the center-most rounds will offer cost effective depth. Keep in mind, the owner with the sexiest roster on paper usually isn’t the one that wins. After the games are played and owners are evaluating their teams from the previous season, don’t be the one who paid high costs only to get cheap returns. To this point, I’ll leave you with my favorite Steven Tyler quote, regarding the illusion of appearance.
“You’d be surprised how expensive it costs to look this cheap.”