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This Left For Dead Wide Receiver Could Surprise in 2017

Value. We look for it every year, especially late in drafts in hopes of finding surprise contributors that can blow past their ADP. With the season fast approaching, many smart analysts have already highlighted underrated players, greatly diminishing their value. Yet, there is still one wide receiver that isn’t getting nearly enough love.

It’s time to stop sleeping on Robert Woods.

Commitment and Opportunity

The Rams showed they have committed to Woods this offseason, signing him to a five-year, $39-million contract. That kind of starting wide receiver money almost always comes with plenty of opportunity. Even more exciting, three of the Rams top four leaders in targets last season are no longer with the team. The departures of Kenny Britt, Brian Quick, and Lance Kendricks leave a whopping 275 targets unaccounted for. That’s over HALF of the Rams total pass attempts from last season.

Early Breakout Age

Last year, Kevin Cole famously wrote College Wide Receiver Production Isn’t Everything, It’s The Only Thing. With that in mind, Robert Woods…come on down! Woods had an 18.4 (97th percentile) breakout age according to Player Profiler, which is about as elite as it gets in that category. Look no further than Woods’ illustrious nineteen-year-old sophomore campaign, where he posted numbers of 111 catches, 1,292 yards, and 15 touchdowns.

Robert Woods Sophomore Season 2

Those eye-popping 2011 numbers combined with his career totals at USC produce some very interesting comps. Brandin Cooks, Golden Tate, and Davante Adams have all posted WR1 seasons, Corey Coleman is still held in high regard, and some still hold out hope for Will Fuller and Kevin White. His work to date in the NFL means his ceiling may not be as high as some of these players, but should we be writing him off entirely?

Woods Is No Longer In an Archaic Offense

Woods has a current ADP of WR61 in both MFL10s and on Fantasy Football Calculator. This extremely low ADP can likely be explained by the perception that Woods’ situation hasn’t improved by going from Buffalo to Los Angeles. However, perception is not always reality my friends. It’s time to stop thinking of Woods in a Rex Ryan or Jeff Fisher influenced offense.

During Woods’ time in Buffalo, the Bills finished first or second in rushing attempts in three of his four seasons. They averaged just 510 pass attempts per year over that span, which would’ve ranked 28th in the league in 2016.

Over the last four seasons with Jeff Fisher in charge, the Rams averaged 508 pass attempts per year, which also would’ve ranked 28th in the league a year ago. Many fantasy gamers view this as the style of offense Woods is walking into, but it’s just simply not the case.

Sean McVay is the new head coach in Los Angeles and unlike Ryan and Fisher, he comes to town with an offensive background. McVay was the offensive coordinator in Washington from 2014-2016. Over that span, McVay’s offenses averaged 570 pass attempts per year, which would’ve finished tied for 17th last season. They even threw it 547 times in 2014 with Robert Griffin III leading the team in pass attempts and flaming out of the league all at the same time. Fisher’s teams never once threw it that many times over the past four seasons.

Interestingly, McVay’s three year average of 570 pass attempts per year in Washington aligns very well with the one season the Bills finished in the top half of the league in pass attempts while Woods was on the team. In 2014, the Bills attempted 579 passes, which ranked 13th that season.

 

 

With added volume on his side, Woods had his best season, posting 65 catches for 699 yards and 5 touchdowns. He finished as the WR45 that year while competing for targets with No. 4 overall pick Sammy Watkins, who surprisingly appeared in all 16 games. Woods won’t have to compete with anyone nearly as talented on the Rams.

What About Tavon Austin?

A quick look at the Rams depth chart shows Tavon Austin as likely Woods’ biggest competition for targets, at least early on. McVay recently stated he projects Austin “to be a big part of our offense” and like Woods, Austin is also being paid handsomely, having signed a four-year, $42 million extension with the team last offseason.

Woods vs Austin

However, Woods’ 2014 season is better than anything Austin has shown in the NFL, Woods has topped 550 yards in all four seasons whereas Austin has only produced over 500 yards once, and Woods’ lowest yards per target of his career still outpaces Austin’s best season in that category.

What Could Increased Volume Look Like?

Using Woods’ only season playing for a team in the top half the league in pass attempts, we get some very interesting comps when searching for players in their first through third seasons in the league in 2014.

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Keenan Allen, Jarvis Landry, and Jordan Matthews are all players that were able to turn increased volume into elite fantasy football success in future seasons. Now escaped from Rex Ryan’s outdated offense, could Woods’ breakout season just be a few years behind his peers due to the circumstances? Although unlikely, it’s interesting to consider.

Conclusion

Robert Woods produced at an extremely young age at the collegiate level and has very quietly continued to do the same in the NFL. He has posted at least 40 catches and 550 yards in a low volume offense all four years he’s been in the league. And he’ll only be 25 years old for the entirety of the 2017 season.

Currently the WR61 off the board in the 13th round according to MFL10 ADP, you can easily make Woods your WR5, WR6, or even WR7. For the projected top target in a new look Sean McVay offense, that’s a value. Remember, Targets Are the Lifeblood of Fantasy Scoring. Despite poor quarterback play, Woods’ likely volume will make him a consistently reliable floor play in redraft and best-ball leagues, and his youth and pedigree hint at a higher range of outcomes. With Woods finally a No. 1 option in an offense that projects to finish near the middle of the league in pass attempts rather than the bottom, he has a chance to blow his ADP out of the water. Embrace his bottom of the barrel price.

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