Dynasty Watch: Time to Buy the Rookie WRs
Hello! This is Hasan Rahim filling in for series regular John Lapinski, who’s currently accompanying Metallica on their Speed of Sound tour as a roadie. In his absence, I’ll be taking a look at several rookies who’ve missed time due to injury and will try to forecast what their playing time will look like for the 2017 season and beyond.
Drafted ninth overall by the Cincinnati Bengals, Ross has yet to see meaningful playing time. In Week 2 Ross played five offensive snaps, touched the ball once, and fumbled. He’s been sidelined with an injury since. Ross practiced for the first time since September 20th earlier this week, and it’s likely that he plays this upcoming week.
Ross won’t be on waivers, even in the shallowest of leagues, but might make for a potential buy-low target, especially if the team he’s on is currently contending for a title.
Outside of A.J. Green, the Bengals’ receiving corps is very thin. Green leads all Bengals receivers in:
- Target Share
- Receiving Yards
- Yards After Catch (YAC)
- Air Yards
- Market Share of Air Yards
- Weighted Opportunity Rating (WOPR)
Green is currently on pace to see 163 targets this season. The increase in Green’s volume harkens back to his 2012 and 2013 seasons.
Green’s outsize usage is an indictment of the rest of the Bengals receiving corps. Despite Tyler Eifert’s absence, Brandon LaFell has failed to establish himself as the WR2 in this offense. LaFell and Tyler Kroft are well behind Green on the target totem pole, and other Bengals WRs2 have failed to have any fantasy impact. If Ross is able to stay healthy, he should be able to carve out a role.
Prior to the start of the season, Kevin Cole’s WR opportunity score placed the Bengals in the middle of the pack. However, the competition for targets has thinned out. With Boyd sidelined multiple weeks and Eifert out for the rest of the season, Ross immediately slots in as the WR3. Ross’s comps are quite favorable for his dynasty outlook. Hopefully Ross stays healthy and emerges as the WR2 later this season.
After missing OTAs and training camp due to injury, Williams’ 2017 outlook was bleak. Williams returned to practice on September 15th and made his debut against the Raiders in Week 6. Williams caught one pass for a 15-yard gain and did little else. Given that it took Williams almost five months to recover from a back injury sustained at rookie camp, he was on a strict pitch count.
The Chargers are willing to ease Williams into the offense, and expectations for this season should be low. Keenan Allen has garnered the highest target share3 and WOPR4 through six weeks and is the unquestioned alpha receiver. Behind Allen, there is a steep drop-off in target competition.
Melvin Gordon currently accounts for 17 percent of the target share and is ostensibly the No. 2 in the passing game. Hunter Henry has garnered 16 percent of the available targets and appears to have overtaken Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin.5
Tyrell Williams is the player whose fantasy production takes the biggest hit. Williams is experiencing a target squeeze. Against the Raiders, Williams’s snaps were reduced, and he managed only three targets. Although he converted all three targets into catches, it’s clear that the coaching staff views him as the odd man out.
In our 2017 NFL Draft Reaction series, Tyler Buecher explained:
Williams should immediately carve out a role in the red zone, where he can showcase his 6-foot-4-inch size and box out defenders. The Chargers ranked fourth in red zone trips per game last year (3.9), but only 21st in red zone touchdown scoring (51.61 percent). Williams could be a big mismatch Los Angeles utilizes to help improve this area.
Tyrell Williams will be restricted free agent in 2018, and Dontrelle Inman is set to test free agency. It is likely that Mike Williams’s stock has fallen far enough that an owner may be willing to offload him cheaply. Although expectations for Williams to produce in 2017 should be tempered, his future with the Chargers looks bright.
Davis only played in two games before being shelved due to a lingering hamstring issue. His performance against the Oakland Raiders was a glimpse of things to come. He paced the offense in targets, catching six of his 10 for 69 yards. Keep in mind, he posted this line despite not being fully healthy. Davis was the top WR in the 2017 class.
The Titans will hold Davis out until Week 9 with the hope of him being fully healthy. When Davis returns to action, it is fair to question what his target share will be. Rishard Matthews, Delanie Walker, and Eric Decker account for the bulk of Marcus Mariota’s targets.6 However, a glance at Davis’s Box Score Scout comps indicates that he’s an upper-echelon talent who should eat into the workload of the established veterans.
Davis compares favorably with several stud WRs including Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, and A.J. Green. Given that the Titans skew run-heavy, it’s unlikely that Davis makes a big splash this season. His presence would lower the ceiling for both Decker and Matthews.
If Davis flashes down the stretch, dynasty owners should start to get excited for his 2018 campaign. With Decker, Harry Douglas, and Eric Weems set for free agency, a significant chunk of the target share should open up. It is unlikely that Tajae Sharp or Taywan Taylor threaten Davis’s role in this offense.
Hey, remember this guy? The Denver Broncos drafted him in the fifth round, and he opened the season on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. Although we lack any data concerning his athletic ability, his collegiate production indicates that he deserves a spot on your dynasty squads.
Most notably, Butt’s production compares favorably with that of Jonnu Smith and O.J. Howard. This should come as no surprise, as he was considered to be a top prospect before the injury. As a rookie coming off a significant injury, I’d caution against expecting any production from Butt this season. He impressed in his practice debut earlier this week, and it sounds like the Broncos hope he suits up shortly.
If you play in a shallower dynasty league, check the waiver wire to see if he’s available. 2017 is one of the best tight end classes of the last few years, and Butt could start to produce in a big way next season.
The Baby 49ers – C.J. Beathard replaced Brian Hoyer in the second quarter against the Washington Redskins. He threw for 245 yards, a TD, and an interception in relief of Hoyer, and was officially named the starter by Kyle Shanahan. Beathard ranked 12th in the final iteration of the RotoViz Scouting Index and is likely not the long-term solution at QB for the 49ers. He should make for a decent play if you play in a superflex/two-QB dynasty league.8
George Kittle will continue to see receiving opportunity with Beathard at the helm. Kittle played 92 percent of the snaps and posted an 8-4-46 line against Washington. Beathard may utilize Kittle as the No. 2 option, especially since they played college ball together at Iowa.
Matt Breida took a back seat to Carlos Hyde this past week, and it will be tough to predict his weekly usage. He should be rostered in all leagues. Trent Taylor has seen limited run thus far but could emerge down the line as the starting slot WR for the 49ers.
Kenny Golladay – Golladay flashed mouthwatering potential in Week 1 against the Arizona Cardinals. He’s missed the last month due to a lingering hamstring injury and is hopefully activated after Detroit’s Week 7 bye. With Golden Tate sidelined for a few weeks, Golladay could become a focal point and should make for a fringe WR3 play.
Curtis Samuel – Samuel has been limited because of a back injury, and the Panthers have been bringing him along slowly. To date, he’s only managed four catches for 12 yards and two rush attempts for 39 yards. Now with Kelvin Benjamin ailing, it’s likely Samuel sees more opportunity in the receiving game. Although Devin Funchess, Ed Dickson, and Christian McCaffrey will continue to see the bulk of the receiving work going forward, Samuel should start to carve out a role for himself in this offense.
Elijah McGuire – With Matt Forte’s return, McGuire was mostly an afterthought. Despite splitting carries with Forte, McGuire saw no work in the receiving game. McGuire’s done little to establish himself as a capable rusher, posting 11-20 and 10-22 rushing lines over the last two weeks. With Bilal Powell likely back this week, McGuire will have to wait his turn for another opportunity this season.
Wayne Gallman – John evaluated Gallman’s role in the Giants and noted that he’s possibly Just A Guy. After Orleans Darkwa’s breakout performance against the Denver Broncos, Gallman is relegated to change-of-pace duties going forward. Gallman is a strong hold for the rest of the season, as he could see additional opportunity later.
Samaje Perine – Although Rob Kelley was declared out, Perine played only 34 percent of the snaps, seeing limited work as Chris Thompson was treated as the workhorse. Perine could earn a bump in carries if Kelley continues to miss time, but his limited work in the receiving game9 renders him nothing more than a flex option.
Jonnu Smith – Smith is the best value TE from the 2017 draft class, and hopefully you can snag him off waivers. The Titans have deployed Smith as a situational weapon thus far, and through six games he is sporting a 9-85-2 line. Playing on an ascendant offense alongside an aging Walker, Smith makes for a terrific stash candidate.
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- That terrific piece is by Ben Gretch. Also this one. (back)
- Tyler Boyd, Alex Erickson, and Cody Core (back)
- 27 percent (back)
- 0.60 (back)
- Benjamin is deployed as a situational deep threat, and it is unlikely Williams eats into Benjamin’s fantasy production. (back)
- 23 percent, 21 percent, and 19 percent, respectively. (back)
- Not all of the writers have updated their rankings in-season, but Shawn Siegele updated his this week. (back)
- Also a viable starter if you play in a deep league. (back)
- to date he’s only seen four targets (back)