After watching Avengers: Endgame, I couldn’t stop thinking about the multiverse. Then, my mind drifted to the Projection Machine, which acts as a fantasy football time machine. Every little tweak in the timeline of fantasy football can have a wide range of repercussions that echo across the league. So, in this series, I’ll dial up that Projection Machine to examine players who could experience big swings in fantasy value if certain things break the right way.
Andy Reid’s Tendencies
“You can’t teach an old football coach new tricks.” That’s the saying, right? Well, Andy Reid is bucking that old adage. As the past half-decade has rolled on, Reid has actually become more pass-heavy.
He peaked last year with a 60% pass rate and 12-4 regular season record. For context, teams with 12 or more regular season wins have averaged a 54% pass rate since 2013 — Reid’s 2018 Chiefs team bested that mark by 6%. The traditional thought process is that teams playing from behind will be forced to pass more. Last year, though, Eric Bieniemy and Reid showed that they prefer to pass even when leading.1
What Will Probably Happen…
Let’s set Kansas City’s statistical baseline at the Projection Machine’s the default levels, courtesy of Dave Caban’s projections.
These are very reasonable team level projections given what we’ve seen from Reid over the past five years. The next step in exploring potential scenarios in the Projection Machine is to input WR target share percentages. Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce are clear staples in the Chiefs offense. So, barring injuries, they have the potential to soak up over 40% of the team’s targets pretty easily.
Those target share numbers, combined with Patrick Mahomes’ 2018-level efficiency put both Hill2 and Kelce in the top tier at their respective positions. But, we still have plenty of targets to go around after they get their share of the pie.
What Could Happen…
The Chiefs used their 2019 second-round pick to draft Georgia WR Mecole Hardman. Part of that decision was likely due to Hill’s off-field issues, but Hardman possesses intriguing potential nonetheless.
He’s essentially free right now in most drafts, as the bottom has fallen out of his ADP with the news that Hill wouldn’t miss any time via suspension. Hardman is currently going at WR72 toward the middle of the 20th round in FFPC Drafts.
When I began this series, I decided that I wouldn’t use injuries as a basis for swings in player value. So, I’m not going to factor in Sammy Watkins’ injury history.3 Even if we assume that Watkins plays all 16 games and commands a solid target share, there are still around 100 targets left in the Chiefs’ high-volume offense.
Hardman has already shown that he can contribute when given the opportunity. If we just flip his target share with Demarcus Robinson’s from the projections above, he would project for over 130 PPR points and would outperform his current ADP by about 20 spots.
This got me thinking: What is Hardman’s statistical ceiling if he emerges as a rookie to challenge Watkins in almost an even target share split?
It’s realistic to consider the possibility of a breakout for a couple of reasons. Hardman could emerge due to injuries to other receivers, or he could expand his role as the season progresses, much like D.J. Moore did last year. In this offense, just averaging five targets per game would be extremely valuable. A 15% target share projects Hardman for over 180 PPR points, which would have been good for WR28 last season.
I’d argue that these projections even take into account potential regression for Mahomes.4 At Hardman’s ADP range, we want to target players with elite upside. Hitching your wagon to high-powered offenses like the Chiefs is a great way to do so.
Buy Hardman at his current price, because his his floor projection is already above the scoring level implied by ADP — even if he doesn’t break out in Year 1. But, if he does break out, he’s a weekly starter.
Image Credit: John Cordes/Icon Sportswire Pictured: Mecole Hardman
- Last season, they passed over 55% of the time, even with the lead. (back)
- Caban projects Hill for around 260 PPR Points, which would’ve ranked 13th among WRs in 2018. (back)
- Watkins hasn’t played a full 16 games since Hardman was 16 years old. (back)
- These projections “only” have him throwing for 33 touchdowns. (back)