Last summer I was adamant that we were too low on Sammy Watkins, who was a talented sophomore wide receiver from the 2014 class. Here we sit a year later, and I’m ready to make the same argument again. Watkins’ current ADP makes no sense, and here are the simple reasons you need to be attacking it aggressively in drafts.
Watkins had a tremendous season last year, finishing as a top 10 WR in fantasy points per game with the help of some mid-season adjustments.
Watkins was on a pace that would have made him a top five WR over the course of the full season, and performed better than every WR going ahead of him (with the exception of the big three) down the stretch.1
Even on lower target volume than many of these players, Watkins was the clear leader in yards and every efficiency stat. His 0.71 fantasy points over expectation per attempt was better than every WR in the NFL with at least 60 targets, with the exception of Doug Baldwin, from Weeks 9 to 17.
Does this mean that he will do this over the course of a full season? Charles Kleinheksel did some nice work showing why projecting based off splits can be misleading. Fortunately, a second half split still has one of the stronger R-Squared values when looking at year N + 1 PPR points (.402 vs .441 for a full regular season), but I also wouldn’t go projecting a 1,600/12 season for Watkins with any certainty either.
Watkins showed that he has the upside of a top five WR, and the floor of a WR1 in terms of PPG in 2015, so why isn’t he being drafted that way?
Watkins was going in the second round when MFL10s first started in February, but has since fallen to his current ADP after breaking his foot.
Watkins' surgery to insert a screw was performed by Robert Anderson. Expected recovery time is 6-8 weeks. Hope is he's a go for camp.
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) May 16, 2016
We are now only a little bit past the six to eight week timeline given above, but that seems fairly aggressive considering that DeVante Parker and Dez Bryant had similar procedures last season and it took them longer than that to heal and return to game condition (and you can argue Bryant never did). It’s still July, and the season is a month and a half out. I don’t think we need to hit the panic button just yet. Will Carroll said that bones heal, describing them as functional injuries when I interviewed him in June. He also stated that once those functions return2 to a player, they should be fine, and that is the mindset I am approaching Watkins with.
Now that we are past the injury issue, there is the other elephant in the room: targets. Jacob Rickrode makes a case for Watkins to not receive the same volume he did down the stretch last season, regardless of the foot injury. However, I think there is actually a chance Watkins sees more volume in a higher volume Bills passing attack. When Fantasy Douche mentioned one indicator that showed Seattle could pass a lot more in 2016, there was another team that looks like they could be in line for a big attempts bump; the Buffalo Bills.
|OFF||SEAS||paATTS.Qry1||paFPOE.Qry1||Predicted Pass Attempts|
Buffalo was seventh in passing fantasy points over expectation last year, and that was with Tyrod Taylor only playing 14 games. If we take his 60.5 paFPOE and extrapolate that to 16 games, the team would have finished with over 69 paFPOE. As it stands, FD’s model already predicts Buffalo for about 70 extra attempts in 2016. Even though Buffalo comes out fifth lowest in predicted pass attempts, that’s an improvement from the second fewest in 2015.
Considering that Buffalo just hired a defensive coordinator who ran a historically bad defense to run one that was 24th in Football Outsiders DVOA3 a year ago, an increase in volume for Buffalo, and subsequently Watkins, makes sense.
Watkins is already running, and still has plenty of time to get healthy before the season starts. He is the kind of player I love targeting in drafts because it is easy to see how he could drastically outperform his ADP, and I am the kind of person who would rather shoot for league-winners than play it “safe” with players I think can just meet value.4 A top five WR season is very much in his range of outcomes, and even if he misses a handful of games this year, I think his weekly production will ultimately be well worth his current draft price.