Last week, I ran through five deep running backs that you need to be aware of for redraft and dynasty. Running back fantasy football production is very much related to volume, so many of those names were taking advantage of uncertain situations. Wide receivers, on the other hand, need to have solid skills in multiple areas to produce on a level that makes them fantasy relevent. Every year, the Miles Austins and Cecil Shorts of the world make a significant impact and there is tremendous value in finding those players early. What follows are five wide receivers who colleges statistics, physical measurables and brief professional performance suggest they are better than popular perception.
Clyde Gates, New York Jets: Standing 6’0 and weighing 192 pounds, there is nothing physically imposing about Clyde Gates; until you get to his impressive 4.31 40 time which makes him the 14th fastest wide receiver since 1999. His broad jump is tied with Mike Wallace, higher than Vincent Jackson and Julio Jones. The point being, none of Gates physical metrics bury him as an NFL talent. Gates had an unusual route the NFL, playing a year of college basketball at Tyler Junior College and then playing 4 years at Abilene Christian. He exploded his senior year for 66 catches, 1,182 yards (out gaining the next closest receiver on his team by 529 yards) and catching 13 touchdown of his teams total passing touchdownss. After being drafted by the Dolphins, he was waived and claimed by the Jets. Several of my colleagues are on Stephen Hill, and I tend to agree with them, but I believe Gates is a dynasty buy and redraft watch. In 17 targets from the Tannehill, Sanchez, Tebow trifecta, Gates had only 1 drop and caught 2 of his 3 deep targets. Unless the Jets upgrade their passing situation, it is unlikely that Gates is anything but a speedy bye week option, but his underlying numbers suggest a greater future potential.
Tommy Streeter, Baltimore Ravens: Any wide receiver who stands 6’5, weighs 219 and runs a 4.37, scouts and fantasy football players are going to drool all over themselves. For perspective, Streeter is the exact same height as Calvin Johnson, Marques Colston, Brandon Marshall and Vincent Jackson while being a bit slighter of frame and faster than all of them, besides Megatron. Streeter is clearly an elite physical talent, but one who disappointed his freshmen and sophomore years of college at Miami. His junior year was more impressive, leading the Hurricanes with 41 catches, 811 yards and 8 touchdowns. His Red Zone TD Rate was higher than Brandon Marshall’s year at UCF, higher than Calvin Johnson’s sophmore year, and equal to Dez Bryant’s video game numbers at Oklahoma State. Streeter’s Market Share numbers clearly suffered from the poor quarterback play of Jacory Harris, but he still had over 35% of the market share in yards and touchdowns. What makes Streeter more exciting are the Ravens other options at wide receiver. I like Tandon Doss, but nothing about his college metrics or physicality suggest an elite player. Torrey Smith is much closer to being elite but the Ravens system still limits what they are willing to let him do. With the Anquan Boldin trade, it wouldn’t surprise me if Streeter ends up as the #2 option in that offense and having a top 30 season at the wide receiver position; it’s simply a matter of converting impressive physicality to NFL production.
Cole Beasley, Dallas Cowboys: Unlike Danny Coale, Beasley was actually able to stay on the field and make meaningful contributions last year for the Cowboys. With the offensive line hopefully improved and a contract extension for Romo, I think it’s safe to say that an offense that threw 658 passes in 2013 is going to stay around that number. Jason Witten posted an incredible year in 2012, but the Cowboys still need a presence in the slot. During the 4th edition of MockOne where I was an assisant GM, I advocated for selecting Tavon Austin or Tyler Eifert in the first round for that reason alone. However, even if the team doesn’t make an addition, Beasley could produce if given the role. Dwayne Harris is not an answer as a replacement level player. Beasley was a 4 year college product at SMU, and he posted 11.6 yards per reception playing mostly in the slot. His Market Share of yards his senior year was an impressive 30% and he handled two 100+ target seasons in college. Just for shits and giggles, I ran Beasley’s comparables with Danny Amendola’s college production, since that is what all lazy football analysts will want to do anyways. Beasley came out ahead yards per target, dominated in market share of yards, won market share of touchdowns, was more efficient in RZ TD rate, but didn’t get the same number of targets. Bottom line, is that Beasley is a great possession receiver on an offense that desperately needs something on third down and in the red zone.
Marvin McNutt, Philadelphia Eagles: Similar to Tommy Streeter, McNutt is a tall and athletic wide receiver prospect whose hype has not equated to NFL production. As he spent all year on Philadelphia’s practice squad, I decided to run his numbers against 3 of the incoming wide receivers in the 2013 NFL Draft Class. When compared with Corradelle Patterson, Markus Wheaton and DeAndre Hopkins, the numbers smile favorably on McNutt. His yards per target of his sophomore and junior years dwarf all of them except one season of Hopkins’. His senior year’s Market Share of Yards and Touchdown are similarly impressive. McNutt’s sophomore red zone TD rate was astronomical and he was no slouch his next two years either. It’s a mystery to me why Riley Cooper and Damaris Johnson got playing time over McNutt in 2012, but there is no sense trying to find logic in a lost season of an NFL franchise. One would assume that Chip Kelly has the brains to realize that a 6’3 receiver with success in the redzone is a better option than the unspectacular Brent Celek or underwhelming Riley Cooper.
Jarret Boykin, Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers said about Boykin in November of last year that “he is going to be a big time player for us”. That statement is a little shocking on the surface. Boykin stands 6’2 and weights 217 pounds and runs a generally unimpressive 4.57 40. He does have a solid lateral agility, posting a 4.28 shuttle time. Boykin wasn’t really a standout at Virgina Tech, either. His Market Share statistics, both yards and touchdowns, indicate a solid but elite performer. However, when compared to five other Packers pass catching studs (Greg Jennings, Jermicheal Finley, James Jones, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb), Boykin is the most impressive in yards per target, their equals in Red Zone TD rate, better than Cobb on Market Share for yards, and finally, inferior in Market Share of TD’s to all but Finley. This analysis would suggest that Aaron Rodgers’ passing prowess can make most anybody a fantasy super star if given the chance. Boykin may not have the raw skill of Cobb, Jennings or Nelson, but his college production hints at his potential to fit in the offense. With Greg Jennings out of town, Donald Driver retiring, the team finally realizing how worthless Jermicheal Finley and his 58% catch percentage in the redzone is, and the James Jones rollercoaster, there is a real chance that Jarret Boykin could find himself in a fantasy relevant situation.