Andy Isabella may be one of the best rookie values in recent memory, but he’s not the best WR value in this draft class. No, that honor goes to a different senior WR from a non-power 5 conference. One who actually broke out before he was 22 years old.
How can there be a better WR value than Isabella, the uber productive WR whom RotoViz rankers have 14 spots higher than his rookie ADP? Well, because this WR literally costs nothing. And at RotoViz the only thing we like more than a severely under-priced WR is an arbitrage version of that same WR.
How cheap is our arbitrage Isabella? So cheap that he was inexplicably un-ranked in the RotoViz rookie ranks, and literally not included in tables of 2019 WRs going 30 deep. Does that seem right for a guy with this production profile?
In combination with a final college age of 21.42, this level of college production means we’re looking at the following prospect profile:
- First among 2019 WRs in Jon Moore’s imperative Phenom Index with a score of 2.87. 1 This is a higher score than the average score of top 12 PPR finishers in every year from 2014 – 2017.2
- The only drafted 2019 WR with a sub-20-year-old breakout age—using the more predictive 30% threshold.
- The only 2019 WR to earn the highest success node in the deeper version of Anothony Amico’s Regression Tree.3 WRs in this node have had a 92% historical success rate.
- One of only two 2019 WRs to earn the highest success node in Kevin Cole’s Regression Tree.4 WRs in this node have had a 61% historical success rate.
Oh… And did I mention that is an undersized WR with a sub 4.4 40 was drafted by a head coach famous for drafting fast undersized WRs who blow the doors off their projected upside?
So what is this kid’s name? Scott Miller, Tampa Bay’s sixth-round draft pick out of Bowling Green, drafted by none other than Bruce Arians, the offensive guru who launched the careers of a slew of late round WRs, and the career of at least one fantasy writer. Miller is classic deep threat who averaged 16.2 YPR last year and has the speed to bring that skill-set to the NFL. In fact, he’s basically a dead ringer for Isabella athletically.
Miller is an Isabella Clone
|Andy Isabella||Scott Miller|
*Miller was not invited to the combine so his results are from his pro day
Now, does Miller have red flags? Of course he does. But you literally hadn’t heard of him until a paragraph ago, so it seems a little unfair to get so worked up about it. Calm down.
Like Isabella, Miller achieved his best season as a Senior. Although, unlike Isabella he posted a monster season 2 years earlier as a 19-year old, with 36% MSY and a whopping 53% of receiving TDs in 12 games. Also like Isabella, Miller played in a weaker conference. But this isn’t some Jeff Janis D2 bullshit. Miller went to Bowling Green, which is in the MAC. If you were down with Corey Davis and Davante Adams as prospects you can get down with Miller. That said–like it is for Isabella–Miller’s profile as 4 year player who dramatically improved as a senior against weaker competition is a red flag.
Small but Fast
But there’s an even more worrying red flag when comparing Miller to Isabella: size. I’m sure it wasn’t lost on you in the table above that although Miller is the same height as Isabella, he weighs 14 pounds less. That’s a big deal.
But it’s probably not a deal breaker. First of all, Miller runs a sub 4.4 40. And as Shawn Siegele showed in 2014, while speed may be over-rated for WRs overall it’s crucial for small WRs:
“When you ignore weight, the hits ran an average 40 time of 4.48. For small receivers, the average for hits is 4.41 and five of the nine players ran a sub-4.4. This would tend to emphasize the idea that 40 times are overrated for receivers in general but simultaneously suggest that speed might be underrated for small receivers.”
Secondly, if if there’s a minimum weight to play NFL WR, Miller appears to make the cut. Since 2000 just one WR under 172 pounds has recorded a 600+ receiving yard season in their first 3 NFL seasons: Taylor Gabriel.5 But there have been 16 such seasons recorded by players weighing between 172 and 179 lbs. And John Brown, another Miller clone selected by Bruce Arians in 2014, is responsible for two of them.
Miller is a John Brown Clone
|John Brown||Scott Miller|
Speaking of Brown, let’s talk about another red flag for Miller: the Tampa Bay depth chart. Entering 2019, Miller is looking up the depth chart at Mike Evans, the only WR in the history of the NFL not named Randy Moss to have 6,000 or more receiving yards before his 26th birthday. And on top of that, Miller is also looking up at Chris Godwin, a third-round pick in 2017 coming off a breakout sophomore campaign of 59 receptions for 842 yards and seven TDs. Honestly, out-competing this duo for targets seems pretty hopeless.
But here’s the best part … Miller doesn’t have to beat out Evans and Godwin for targets at all. As Kyle Dvorchak covered recently, the TB offense lost 230 targets from its 2018 squad, the fifth most in the NFL. Evans and Godwin will undoubtedly eat up a slice of those available targets, but they can’t gobble up all of them. Still, with Evans such a clear cut WR1 and Godwin such a promising young player, is there really any fantasy value available for the WR3 in this offense?
To answer that question let’s remind ourselves of the situation that Brown walked into in 2014. The Cardinals not only had Larry Fitzgerald, a future Hall of Famer who was still in the tail end of his prime, they also had Michael Floyd, a top-15 draft pick coming off of a breakout sophomore campaign where he recorded 65 catches for 1,041 yards and five TDs. Yet Brown still carved out an immediate role, earning the second most targets, the second most receptions, the second most yards, and the most TDs of the three receivers over his first two years. And in those two years, Brown climbed from a third-round rookie pick to a top-60 startup pick, a windfall in dynasty trade value.
The secret sauce for Brown gaining so much dynasty value wasn’t that he beat out Fitzgerald or Floyd for playing time. The key to his success was that he was able to get on the field as third WR in an offense that emphasized deep passing.
Arians Loves the Deep Ball
As I mentioned above, Tampa Bay lost 230 targets from its 2018 roster. But crucially, 72 of TB’s vacated targets were to DeSean Jackson, who led the league with an aDOT of 18.9.6 Moreover, these targets alone understate the opportunity for a new deep threat WR in TB, because Arians’ offense places a greater emphasis on deep passing than Dirk Koetter’s did.
Starting with Brown’s arrival in 2014 and ending with Arians’ departure from the NFL, Arizona had four consecutive years where at least three different WRs recorded an aDOT over 14 yards.7 In Arians’ last two years, those three deep threats were seeing at least 50 targets each. In comparison, Dirk Koetter’s TB teams never had 3 WRs with aDOTs over 14. What does this mean? It means that even if Evans and Godwin take on some of Jackson’s deep routes, TB still has a fantasy viable role available to a speedy deep threat. It also means that we should assume players who can play effectively in the deep passing game are more likely to see the field.
This is backed up by TB’s off-season additions. After losing Adam Humphries and his 102 targets at just 6.7 air yards per target8 and, on the other end of the spectrum, losing Jackson’s 72 field stretching targets, TB invested in just two WRs this offseason: Miller, and Free Agent Breshad Perriman. Perriman of course, ran a 4.26 forty back in 2015 and breathed some life back into his career by specializing as a deep threat for the Browns in 2018.9 Perriman is expected to fill the same role in TB and is currently listed as the third WR on the TB depth chart. So who does Miller really have to beat out for playing time? Not Evans, not Godwin, just Perriman. Now… make no mistake, Perriman is an excellent bet to break 1,000 receiving yards this year… wait for it… for his career. He was drafted in 2015. He has less than 1,000 career yards.10
Tampa Bay’s depth chart may look crowded at first glance, but this is actually a team with a need at WR who just drafted a WR with the exact skill set they prioritize and whose biggest competition for playing time, Perriman, is on a one-year contract with his third team in three years.11
Bonus WR Sleeper
I’ll have more on this WR in a follow up post. But it’s worth noting that there is another interesting WR on Tampa Bay, who’s also completely under the radar: Justin Watson. Watson is 6 feet 2 inches, 215 pounds, has above average NFL athleticism, and absolutely dominated college–Watson had a final year MSY of 50.5% at just 21 years old, and graduated from Wharton school of business. Watson was drafted in the fifth round in 2018 and made the 53 man roster last year. So although he’s not a household name, he’s hardly a longshot to earn playing time this year.
With his timed speed of 4.49 Watson could see action on deep routes, but he wasn’t primarily a deep threat in college. His more likely path to meaningful playing time is to recreate Humphries’ high volume role in the slot. In this scenario, the Buccaneers are either less focused on the deep pass than I expect them to be, or are primarily challenging offenses deep with Evans, Godwin and O.J. Howard.12 This deployment would allow Watson to work underneath as an athletic YAC producer–a role well suited to Watson’s prospect profile.
Watson is also free in dynasty right now, and is really the only other TB WR beyond Evans, Godwin and Miller who is of any dynasty interest.13 So if you can make the space, my advice is to both draft Miller and pick Watson up off waivers.
So let’s sum up: Miller is basically a younger version of rookie John Brown or a smaller Andy Isabella who actually had a good season as an underclassman. And Miller was drafted by the same guy who drafted Brown and enabled his dynasty value to skyrocket. And Miller runs a sub 4.4 forty, averaged over 16 YPR in 2018 and was drafted by a team with a need for deep speed. And the only “established” guy blocking Miller from immediate fantasy value is a fifth-year veteran, on a one-year deal, with under 1,000 career yards, who’s on his third team in three years. And Miller broke out at the earliest age in the 2019 class and scores highest on all of the age adjusted metrics we prize here at RotoViz. So … yea.
Let’s talk price. Wait. What price? Scott Miller is free. Like could not be more free. Like your rookie drafts are probably over and you can still pick Miller up off waivers like he didn’t just get drafted by Bruce Arians to replace DeSean Jackson. Is that crazy to say? No! What’s crazy is that you haven’t picked up Scott Miller for FAAB yet. Even if you have to draft him, it’ll cost like a sixth-round rookie pick. In fact, I just drafted Miller in the sixth round of a rookie/FA draft myself. (I took Miller at 6.09 and Justin Watson at 6.12). This is a league with only 19 non-K/Def roster spots but where our cut down date isn’t until late August.
Honestly, do whatever it takes to get Miller on your roster. No dynasty league is too shallow as long as you have some time before your cut down date, or a taxi squad, or some other way to sneak him onto your roster for the pre-season. Because by the time we get to training camp, Miller is going to start turning heads. And before long he’ll have passed Perriman on the depth chart and your window of opportunity will have closed.
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- Jon hasn’t posted the scores yet, but because he’s posted scores going back to 2004, I was able to calculate a version of the 2019 scores. If you’re curious, the next highest WRs are N’Keal Harry, Andy Isabella, Kelvin Harmon, Marquise Brown and A.J. Brown (back)
- Likely 2018 as well, but I don’t have it calculated. (back)
- Due to breakout age, final age, final MSY and final MS of TDs (back)
- The other being Isabella. Both WRs have career Market Share of Yards of at least 29% and Final Year MSY of at least 42%. (back)
- As a rookie. He posted a 2nd 600-plus yard season in 2018, his 5th year. (back)
- Among WRs with at least 50 targets. (back)
- Minimum 25 targets. (back)
- The lowest of any WR with 75 or more targets. (back)
- Perriman had an ever higher aDOT than Jackson in 2018 at 19.7, albeit on about a third of the target sample. (back)
- But he only needs 84 more to get there! (back)
- Given that Perriman is also extremely cheap I wouldn’t fault anyone for getting some exposure to him as well. However, I see Perriman as more of a 2019 best ball play than a dynasty add. To overcome his “bust” label and become a trade-able dynasty asset, Perriman will need to generate far more production than Miller will to earn appeal as a breakout rookie. (back)
- Howard had an aDOT of 11.8 in 2017 and 12.4 in 2018, so he’s be a better fit for a deep passing offense than a typical TE. (back)
- Sorry Anthony Johnson, but you’re a 24 year old UDFA. (back)