Fade Sammy Watkins? Yes, Fade Sammy Watkins
DFS Contrarian

Sammy Watkins is one of the most talented wide receivers in the league. He’s been compared to Amari Cooper and now joins an Elite Cohort of WRs who have broken their feet. So why have I been fading him all along?

I was fading Sammy before the news of his broken foot came out because he plays for Rex Ryan.

My Twitter rants against Watkins haven’t gone unnoticed. I’ve been asked if Watkins ran over my dog, told to delete my account and even had my process called “bad.”

So why fade one of the most talented WRs in the league?

Watkins’ cost prior to injury news was extremely high in Dynasty leagues. He’s going eighth overall in Dynasty League Football ADP. I’m not convinced he’s  currently worthy of a first round pick. His offense may not even be capable of supporting a high finish. Rex Ryan has a terrible track record of supporting fantasy pass catchers.

Let’s review some of the rebuttals I’ve received when questioning Watkins’ upside on a Rex Ryan team.

 “Watkins was heavily targeted at the end of the 2015 season.”

This is true. Watkins had four games with 10+ targets in 2015. The Bills lost three of those games.Rex Ryan believes that running the football is the best way to win games. Ryan’s offenses have consistently been bottom 25 percent in passing attempts in the league. His rushing attempts are consistently top 10 in the league. While Watkins was heavily targeted over six games, there’s little evidence to suggest that pace will continue into the future.

“Sammy Watkins is the most talented WR Rex Ryan has ever had.”

That’s debatable. Ryan has coached Braylon Edwards, Santonio Holmes, and Eric Decker. Edwards and Holmes were both first round picks. Edwards finished as the WR4 in PPR in 2007. Holmes had two top 24 seasons with Pittsburgh and was the Super Bowl MVP. Both were hardly relevant playing for Rex. Decker finished twice as a top 10 WR in Denver, was just WR26 under Rex Ryan, then finished as the WR13 following Ryans departure. Ryan has had plenty of talent but never threw enough to any of them. Decker was the most heavily targeted WR during Ryan’s HC tenure. He saw a whopping 115 targets, with 11 coming in week 17 when it was almost a certainty that Ryan was going to be fired, and with most fantasy leagues not even playing that week.

“Rex doesn’t call the plays, Greg Roman does”

This is also true but let’s not assume Ryan doesn’t have heavy influence over the play calling. Former “pass happy” Jets OC Marty Mornhinweg hinted at a difference in offensive philosophy with Ryan. For argument’s sake, I’ll play along with Roman as the primary play caller theory though. After reviewing the statistical record in SF, Roman and Ryan are a match made in offensive philosophy heaven. Roman also is always tops in rushing attempts and never finished higher than 29th in pass attempts.

Here’s a few reasons that might make you hesitant to draft Watkins with a high pick.

Tyrod Taylor was very efficient last year and Buffalo is still not behind him

This is kind of a red flag for me. The Bills have made no effort to sign Taylor long term and even drafted a QB. Taylor has some similarity to Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick and Roman were never able to improve significantly year over year. The same could be true with Taylor or whatever QB ends up behind center.

Watkins scored nine TDs in 2015 on only six red zone targets

TD regression is real. This statistic shouldn’t be that surprising though from the history of both Ryan and Roman. Did I mention they like to run? Half of Watkins games saw 6 targets or fewer. Michael Crabtree had a six game heavy target streak at the end of 2012. It’s reminiscent of Watkins’. Over the next 21 games with Roman, Crabtree averaged only 6.3 targets per game.

Fading for Cost and Situation, not Talent or Injury

Let me reiterate. I’m not fading Watkins for lack of talent. I’m fading him because of his draft cost and his situation. He’ll likely have a WR2 season that will be very inconsistent week to week. In a head to head league, inconsistency can cost you the playoffs.

If Watkins suddenly had a creative offensive play caller in the fold, I’d be trading the farm to roster him. Drafting a dynasty player in hopes the head coach gets fired seems a tenuous practice though. Ryan could lose his job only to be replaced by Greg Roman.

As for my process.

My process has me avoiding a high priced WR that

  1. Plays in a run-first offense
  2. Isn’t heavily targeted in the red zone
  3. Doesn’t have an elite QB or one that the team even believes in

For those reasons and not his broken foot, I’m fading Sammy Watkins.  Until his play calling situation changes, his ceiling may be capped. He’s best owned as a WR2, not a WR1. There are plenty of other pass catchers on teams that aren’t run first and throw in the RZ in the first and second round of a dynasty startup.

If I’m going to own a Buffalo Bill, it’s going to be one that is part of the game plan; the running backs.

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