Welcome to the first iteration of this off-season dynasty buy low series! This article series will identify players who the public is too low on right now, or whose value is set to spike soon. Today, I am focusing on two elite wide receivers who crack the top-15 in my dynasty wide receiver rankings who the public is lower on than I am.
Boyd is currently my No. 1 offseason buy.
The Cincinnati receiver had a third year break out last season when he scored 221 PPR points and finished as the WR16 overall. Boyd remained behind veteran A.J. Green in the pecking order – Boyd fielded a 23 percent target share to Green’s 26 percent share in the eight games they played together – but impressively managed to outproduce Green on a per target basis over that span.
The two receivers were utilized differently. Boyd was frequently featured in the slot and had an 8.7 aDOT, which contrasted Green’s 12.6 aDOT downfield usage. Naturally, it is unsurprising that Boyd’s catch rate surpassed Green’s by such a wide margin, but it is important to recognize that Boyd surpassed Green in yardage per target and fantasy points over expectation per target.
So is Boyd going to overtake Green this year as the alpha? Probably not, but there is a chance he does.
Green is on the wrong side of 30 years old and just posted the two worst non-rookie statistical seasons of his career. His time on the field was also cut short by injury in two of the last three seasons. Aging wide receivers are susceptible to sharp and immediate decline, and the warning signs are there for Green. To build off Blair’s piece from last season that labeled Green as a dynasty sell, it seems unlikely Green will ever return to his 2016 and earlier form.
Green’s exodus would benefit Boyd because of an increase in target opportunity.
Concerns over Boyd’s ability to be the lead because his production fell off in the second half of last season which coincided with Green being off the field are unwarranted, in my opinion. Boyd’s target share did not spike in Green’s absence, and his efficiency declined a tad. But, Cincinnati imploded as a team in the second half of last season. They were a complete dumpster fire once Andy Dalton got hurt in Week 11 and Jeff Driskel took the helm. In the only two games Cincinnati played with Dalton but without Green, the team lost 14-51 at New Orleans and got manhandled by the elite Baltimore defense. There is no relevant sample of Boyd playing without Green but with Dalton from which to glean a signal. The extremely adverse team conditions in the last eight games of the season taint the Boyd-Driskel-No Green sample. We still do not know exactly how Boyd’s role will shift when Green leaves. My expectation remains that Green leaving will increase Boyd’s value.
The other point to recognize is that whether Green sticks around or not, Boyd’s youth and prospect profile suggest his 2018 level of production is both replicable and able to be improved upon.
Plenty of signs pointed to Boyd as a future achiever in the NFL, but none summed it up better than his list of similar prospects.
To quote Shawn Siegele’s article which identified Boyd as one of the best late round picks in fantasy drafts last year:
It’s never a bad sign when your top three comps are Randall Cobb, Stefon Diggs, and Antonio Brown. Among the similar players we have first-year breakouts (Keenan Allen, Michael Clayton), second-year breakouts (Cobb, Brown, Diggs), third-year breakouts (Sidney Rice), and sixth-year breakouts (Antonio Bryant).
And the new box score scout app agrees — many of the same names show up there too, along with other impressive ones:
Boyd’s 16 game pace with Green on the field last year was 282 PPR points. Of course, extrapolating samples like that is unwise when making projections, but it does illustrate just how valuable of a fantasy asset Boyd was before his team collapsed, and it also illustrates how high Boyd’s upside is even with Green on the field. Imagine his upside when Green does fall off.
Boyd’s upside makes him criminally underpriced as the WR32. I have him as the WR14 in my dynasty rankings and Hasan Rahim and Blair Andrews have Boyd as their WR13 and WR11, respectively. Boyd doesn’t even need to explode next season for his dynasty value to increase; all it will take is more of the same level of production. Buy low now before it’s too late.
Smith-Schuster is my dynasty WR2 behind only DeAndre Hopkins.
There is a strong case that Smith-Schuster should even be ahead of Hopkins, too, and thus be the No. 1 wide receiver in dynasty formats.
The differentiating factor for Smith-Schuster is his age.
He will be just 22 years old at the start of the 2019 season and he has already established himself as an elite wide receiver.
In the second half of his rookie season Smith-Schuster averaged 19.1 PPR points per game. In his second season he averaged 18.6 PPR points per game while playing all 16 games and finishing fourth overall in targets and receiving yards.
Elite production in the first two years and at such a young age is an enormously powerful predictor of long-term NFL success. Smith-Schuster is expected to succeed at an elite clip going forward.
There need not be a longer assessment period of evaluating whether Smith-Schuster belongs in the elite tier.
Via the RotoViz Screener, the comps for Smith-Schuster’s second season given his age are extraordinary.
Smith-Schuster appropriately has a strong projection for the upcoming season. Low end projections have him as a top-10 WR in redraft this season, while aggressive projections put him as high as the top-3. He is in the same redraft tier as similarly valued dynasty receivers like Michael Thomas, Davante Adams, and Odell Beckham Jr.
But, despite being four years younger than Thomas, Adams, and Beckham while hoisting a similar projection, the public places Smith-Schuster lower in dynasty value than the three older receivers.
I think there are three possible explanations for Smith-Schuster’s public value: redraft projections, talent concerns, and situation concerns.
The dynasty community might be overvaluing the small edge Adams, Thomas, and Beckham seem to have from a redraft perspective. A counterargument could be made that Smith-Schuster should be valued equally to those three from a single-season projection standpoint, but that is superfluous. Dynasty values should not be tied to splitting hairs on individual season outlooks. To debate whether Smith-Schuster or similarly valued dynasty assets Thomas, Adams, or Beckham will have a stronger 2019 season is fruitless because they all clearly have a similar range of outcomes. Once players are in the same scoring tier, factors like age and future situation dwarf the value of a marginally higher single season projection.
A second possible explanation for Smith-Schuster’s depressed value is that the dynasty community incorrectly thinks the 22-year-old still has more to prove from a talent standpoint.
To reiterate my opening point on Smith-Schuster, his talent level is undeniable. What Smith-Schuster has done given his age and time in the NFL is sufficient evidence for his elite status. His early breakout should arguably give him an advantage over Adams, who broke out later in his career.
From a future situation perspective, Smith-Schuster shares quarterback retirement concerns with Thomas, but I find that concern to be overblown. Hopkins and Beckham have proven that elite talents can still thrive in suboptimal team situations.
Smith-Schuster’s upside is actually increasing dramatically now that all-time great Antonio Brown has moved to Oakland. Smith-Schuster’s ability to grow on his rookie target share by stealing more targets from Brown last year speaks to his future ability to be a target hog. Brown and Smith-Schuster combined for 50 percent of Roethlisberger’s targets last year so there is a tremendous opportunity for Smith-Schuster to augment his 24 percent share to a more elite mark.
Concerns around the Pittsburgh offense’s efficacy as a whole without Brown are legitimate, but it is undeniable that Smith-Schuster is destined for the highest target opportunity upside yet of his young career. Any efficiency concerns related to the Pittsburgh offense or Smith-Schuster naturally regressing a bit if he fields a higher target share are overshadowed by the pure volume increase. For what it is worth, Smith-Schuster smashed in the three games he has played without Brown.
For more in-depth perspectives on potential concerns with Beckham and Adam’s situations, tune into the first episode of the dynasty rankings pod.
In the end, it is difficult to differentiate Smith-Schuster, Thomas, Adams, and Beckham from a single-season projection, talent, or situation angle. The Pittsburgh receiver emerges from the pack because he has a sizable four-year age advantage. In a few years, Smith-Schuster will still be producing at an elite clip while his competitors of today will be aging out of the league.
Buy low on Smith-Schuster by offering up other top receiver assets for him. If you’re lucky, you might even get back Smith-Schuster plus more!