What to Expect From Kevin White in 2015

Everyone loves rookies when it comes to fantasy football. Let’s face it, owning a rookie player is fun for all the same reasons it’s fun for fans and owners of NFL teams: they’re young, they’re exciting, and the unknown tends to favor all of our daydreams of highlight-reel touchdowns and fantasy championships. While I think that oftentimes rookies can be a value in redraft formats, this is not the fate of many rookie selections. One of the biggest value traps this year is Kevin White at WR30.

Jay Cutler is Surrounded With Familiar Faces

One of the factors that keep most rookie WRs off the field is the presence of veterans, especially those with whom the quarterback is familiar. In addition to Alshon JefferyJay Cutler has enjoyed success throwing to tight end Martellus Bennett and free agent acquisition Eddie Royal.

Cutler Career AYA

Jeffery, Bennett, and Royal represent three of the four most efficient targets Cutler has ever had in his career.1 Considering Cutler’s successful history with Jeffery, Bennett, Royal, and running back Matt Forte, targets may come much harder to come by for White than fantasy owners are currently pricing into his WR30 value. Kevin Cole’s research on projected targets and WR rank agree as White is way above the trend line he created.

rookies_wr_15

Offensive Approach

Even with the familiarity Cutler has with other targets, if White is able to lock down the WR2 job for the Bears, one could expect him to produce considering the offense he will be playing in. Take a look at the combined receiving usage for both the Bears and the Broncos the last two seasons

Denver and Chi 13-14 WR Usage

Both Adam Gase’s offense in Denver and Marc Trestman’s offense in Chicago relied heavily on the top two WRs in the offense, as well as the TE1 and RB1. However, I’m not quite sure that this will hold true for Gase in Chicago. It is entirely possible that the WR3 usage in both offenses was held down due to extenuating circumstances.

In Chicago, Trestman rarely made substitutions on offense, relying on his stud WRs Jeffery and Brandon Marshall to shoulder the receiving load. Third WR Marquess Wilson also missed the first nine games of the season with a fractured clavicle. Trestman is obviously no longer there, and Royal is currently healthy, so the lack of subs probably won’t be as prominent.

In Denver, the issue was the decline of Wes Welker. In 2013, the target load was split up fairly evenly between Demaryius Thomas (21.2 percent), Eric Decker (20.3 percent), and Welker (16.3 percent). Leading up to the 2014 season, Welker battled a concussion and was handed a four game suspension (later reduced to two games). A shell of himself, he only recorded 10.5 percent of 2014 targets. I expect Royal to be much more viable this season than Welker. He was, after all, much better in 2014.

Royal and Welker

The point of all of this is to say that the WR usage in both offenses appear to be more of a matter of circumstance than of something I’d expect going forward. If Royal can contribute it puts a hard cap on White’s targets.

Recency Bias Has Inflated White’s Cost

While discussing my five killer draft strategies, I mentioned that the price tag of rookie WRs has become inflated due to the success they had last year. This year, White is the second rookie WR off the board, going at WR30 and pick 72.5 overall. Last season, Mike Evans was the second rookie WR off the board, and he could have been had as WR40, 96.78 overall. That is 10 WR spots and two full rounds of value. Evans was, of course, awesome, but history shows us that expecting that consistently from a top 10 draft pick at WR is probably a fool’s errand.

PlayerYearTmGTgtRecYdsTDFP14 Rank
Average--13.7085.3542.65594.224.04126.3362
Mike Evans2014TAM1512268105112245.113
A.J. Green2011CIN151156510577212.722
Sammy Watkins2014BUF16128659826199.228
Julio Jones2011ATL1395549598197.928
Andre Johnson2003HOU16119669764187.631
Larry Fitzgerald2004ARI1611558780818431
Roy Williams2004DET14118548178183.731
Justin Blackmon2012JAX16132648655180.535
Calvin Johnson2007DET1593487564147.652
Peter Warrick2000CIN16126515924134.258
Michael Crabtree2009SFO1186486252122.562
Tavon Austin2013STL1369404184105.873
Braylon Edwards2005CLE1059325123101.275
David Terrell2001CHI166334415499.576
Koren Robinson2001SEA167839536198.677
Ted Ginn2007MIA16713442028887
Travis Taylor2000BAL95428276373.692
Troy Williamson2005MIN145224372273.292
Mike Williams2005DET14572935017094
Charles Rogers2003DET55222243364.397
Reggie Williams2004JAX165427268159.8101
Plaxico Burress2000PIT126522273049.3107
Darrius Heyward-Bey2009OAK11409124127.4128

The above table contains all top 10 Draft selections at WR since 2000. As you can see, Evans’ rookie season was the best season for a top 10 WR in the last 15 years. The average top 10 rookie season? Not even in the top 60.2 Just four of the 23 players would have finished higher than White is currently being drafted, and 15 of them finished more than 20 spots worse (65 percent). It defies reason to pay such a premium for a player that historically will not live up to  it, especially when Fox is not known as a player to get the most out of rookie talent.

Conclusion

I will not be owning any Kevin White in my re-draft leagues this year. Paying a WR30 price for a player in his position seems more like chasing hype than chasing opportunity and fantasy value. Is it possible that he defies the odds and has a season like Evans did last year? Yes, but I would say it is far from probable. Stay away from White this summer, you won’t regret it.

  1. Minimum 100 targets  (back)
  2. The median season was also outside of the top 60  (back)

Anthony Amico

Anthony is a football coach who possesses two different mathematics degrees. He uses his combined knowledge in those two fields to attack the fantasy landscape across a variety of formats, including daily fantasy, dynasty, and 2QB. He lives to be contrarian. In addition to RotoViz, Anthony is currently a contributor for Fantasy Insiders, TwoQBs, and numberFire.
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