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Kendall Wright Is(n’t) a Bargain: Two RotoViz Bros Debate

kendallwright

My brother Pat and I love to debate player value. And even though it’s early June, we’re already combing through ADP data looking for bargains. Because even though I was given RotoViz approved 6’2” height, while Pat was only given charm, wit, good looks, and humility, we were both clearly blessed with whatever gene it is that causes a year-round obsession with fantasy football. This year we’ve decided to turn our debate into a series for RotoViz. One of us will lay out the case for a re-draft WR that looks like a great bargain based on their early re-draft ADP, and then you’ll hear from the other Kerrane bro, who’ll tell you why you may be better off looking elsewhere.

Ok let’s get this kicked off. I will lay out the case for Kendall Wright, with Pat’s rebuttal to follow.

The Case for Kendall Wright (Mike)

This one I just find baffling. Wright was 2013’s PPR WR20, and was 15th in the NFL in targets among wide receivers last year. This year his ADP is WR32. Yes, there’s a new coaching regime in town, but Wright’s place on the depth chart and his nominal starting quarterback remain the same. And the arrival of Ken Whisenhunt as head coach is as likely to be a positive for Wright as a negative; in his one year as San Diego’s offensive coordinator, Whisenhunt helped improve their passing offense from 21st to 4th.

Let’s take a step back and look at the big picture: Kendall Wright is a former first round pick entering his third NFL season. He has a proven passing game architect overseeing his usage and already has one top 20 season under his belt. On paper there’s a lot to be excited about, and that’s before looking at his WR Sim Score plot, which has some pretty intriguing comps at the top of his range:

wright

Normally a player with this resume would be hyped all summer and end up getting hopelessly over-drafted. But curiously there is zero buzz about Wright and among receivers he’s now being taken 12 spots below his 2013 finish.

Why?

The first reason is his alarming lack of touchdowns. Wright had only two touchdowns last year. Yep, that’s right. Two. And given his height and weight he’s unlikely to ever be a true redzone factor. But it’s entirely possible we just saw his career low in touchdowns and he still finished 20th among receivers. Bottom line: this just might not be a player who needs touchdowns to be fantasy relevant.

So what does he need?

Volume. Wright owes a lot to the magic of PPR, which in both of his NFL seasons has practically doubled his fantasy ppg from standard scoring.1 And that’s the second issue with him: will he continue to receive that same amount of volume under a new coaching staff?

The short answer is: we don’t know. But there’s no evidence to suggest targets will be harder to come by, as Whisenhunt seems to be a fan of volume himself. Last year Phillip Rivers had the most passing attempts of his career. In his two seasons as a full time starter under Whisenhunt, Kurt Warner had the first and third most passing attempts of his career.2

I suspect that the dark secret contributing to Kendall Wright’s ADP is that he just isn’t that fun to own. It’s boring to own a volume player. But you know what isn’t boring? Winning at fantasy football. And Kendall Wright could go a long way towards helping you do that this season.

The Case Against Kendall Wright (Pat)

For Wright to succeed this year, Mike’s right, he’s going to need volume—because Wright’s simply not an efficient target.  In his two years in the league Wright has had three QBs throwing him the ball: Matt Hasselbeck, Jake Locker and Ryan Fitzpatrick.  Here’s Wright’s AYA from each: 6.55, 6.57 & 6.7.  That’s 241 attempts for a career AYA of 6.62, which looks like a red flag.  None of his QBs were exactly lighting it up the last two years, but neither were Percy Harvin’s when he heroically led the Vikings QB amalgamation of Favre, Ponder and Joe Webb to a combined AYA of 7.95 when targeting him.3  Wright’s fantasy success hinged primarily on his high reception totals, which is actually pretty damn rare.  In fact Rich Hribar identifies it as the type of outlier we see once every four years.

Wright doesn’t have a track record of TD scoring or a physical profile one would expect from a TD producer, so if he’s going to have continued fantasy success, he’s going to need those receptions. Mike makes an interesting case that Whisenhunt’s arrival may lead to increased passing, but I’m not sure how much growth we can reasonably expect given that SD was 22nd in passing attempts last year (Tennessee was 23rd). If anything, I’d expect the run game to become more predominant instead. SD jumped from 21st in rushing attempts in 2012 to 6th last year, and Tennessee spent their 1st and 2nd round picks on an OT and RB.

If you’re still thinking of drafting Wright, let me leave you with this.  Jake locker has missed 14 games to injury in the last two years and the Titans’ backup QB is Charlie Whitehurst.  Remember what it felt like to own Larry Fitzgerald when he was catching passes from John Skelton? Don’t do it to yourself man, don’t do it.

  1. Hribar makes an excellent case for why Wright won’t finish as WR20 with a similar season. But remember: he isn’t priced at WR20. Or even in the top 30.  (back)
  2. You know, the guy who once quarterbacked an offense called “The Greatest Show on Turf.”  (back)
  3. I use Percy Harvin as a comp because he’s one of the few players I can find with a lower aDOT (average depth of target) than Wright’s in the last 2 years.  (back)

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