Nelson Agholor was one of the last year’s best redemption stories. After two moribund campaigns to start his career, the No. 20 pick of the 2015 draft gained 768 yards, scored eight touchdowns, and finished as WR21. While he still hasn’t recorded even an 800-yard season, his current ADP outside the first 90 picks is surprising. He even fell to WR46 in the Apex Experts draft, a sharp discount on his 2017 results. However even with potential for a secondary breakout in the offing, he may not be the best fantasy play in Philadelphia.
The Secondary Breakout
Fourth-year breakout candidates at the WR position aren’t sexy, but they do happen. Since 2000, Jordy Nelson, Peerless Price, Reggie Wayne, Michael Crabtree, and Santonio Holmes were all first- or second-round picks who scored 100-plus points in Year 3 and then went on to score 230 or more the following year.
Given Agholor’s 2017 development and his position within a high-powered offense, it costs you remarkably little to find out if he’s the next Nelson or Wayne. The target situation isn’t ideal, but that’s the benefit of playing in Philadelphia and with an up-and-coming quarterback like Carson Wentz. You may not need the elite volume to be playable, and if you fall into the volume, you quickly move toward league-winner status.
However, there are some red flags that have presumably held down Agholor’s ADP.
Agholor took a step forward in all of the important categories last season, earning more targets and seeing more air yards for an improved weighted-opportunity rating (0.38). He turned those extra targets into more yards and TDs, in part due to improvements in red zone TDs (4) and yards after the catch (301). He caught a TD every 11 targets, which probably isn’t sustainable but reflects the offense’s jump as well as his own.
Unfortunately, these numbers pale in comparison to a less expensive teammate.
Mike Wallace Is Free, And He’s Still Good
Mike Wallace comes over to take the Torrey Smith role in the offense, but he brings a superior resume to the departed deep threat. The new burner has posted consistently strong air yards numbers across multiple seasons and bumped his WOPR almost back to the 2014 levels (a season where finished as WR20). He recorded nine weeks in double digits, including the final six in a row.
Wallace has three top-30 seasons in the last five, but his ADP never recovered after the down 2015 campaign, his ill-fated stint with Teddy Bridgewater and the Vikings.
How To Play It
We’re finally seeing a little bit of movement on Alshon Jeffery, but not the decline you would expect from someone on active/PUP as he recovers from rotator cuff surgery. After finishing outside the top 40 in 2015 and 2016 due to injuries, Jeffery jumped back to low-end WR2 status a year ago with a WR23 finish. With injury questions and increased target competition, he’s being drafted at or above his ceiling in Round 4.
Agholor looks like a bargain, although much of the cushion disappears when you consider his peripherals and the fact that he too has missed much of camp with a lower-body injury. Expected back for Week 1, there’s every reason to be worried about a slow start, especially when you consider that Wentz has also been limited.
Meanwhile, Wallace is essentially free despite a solid profile and the possibility of expanded opportunity early in the year. If he shows the deep ability that is still apparent in his profile – and on the practice fields in Pennsylvania – he should lock down a meaningful role. This is a very different situation than the one he left where Jeremy Maclin and Breshad Perriman were his top competitors for volume, but it’s also a potentially better situation should he carve out a niche.
You want exposure to this offense, but with the targets split between Jeffery, Agholor, Wallace, Zach Ertz, and the backs, you can’t afford to overpay for what could amount to a tricky weekly start. Wallace allows you to gain that exposure with a price tag that imposes no penalty if you miss.