Over the last 100 days, Marquez Valdes-Scantling is the No. 1 riser at the wide receiver position. He’s screamed up 127 picks during that time, continuing to rise since Cort Smith profiled his ascent a month ago. As an older, former small-school receiver with big-time athleticism, Valdes-Scantling shares a lot of attributes with 2018 breakout star Kenny Golladay. But the differences may be crucial. Can he overcome the hurdles and offer similar value to drafters?
I have to admit to some bias here. Golladay was one of my favorite devy acquisitions during his senior season at Northern Illinois, and that love affair only intensified when he landed with the Lions. I also own MVS in almost every dynasty league. His final year receiving yardage share and freakish athleticism were too hard to ignore at the bargain basement prices. I love both players and selfishly want Valdes-Scantling to blow up this season. But the redraft calculus is a little more difficult at the new prices.
No. 1 Riser
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Over the last three months, Valdes-Scantling has risen from well outside the top 200 to become a selection in the single-digit rounds. He was selected at 7.01 in the Apex Experts draft. This move corresponds with intel from Packers workouts suggesting MVS was emerging as the No. 2 option for Aaron Rodgers. That’s been a valuable fantasy role through the years, but the reports don’t stop there.
The Packers official website provides this analysis from 12-year NFL veteran and Green Bay corner, Tramon Williams:
“You think about MVS’ body type. You think about Randy Moss’ body type. Similar. To get a chance to have a work out with a guy of that magnitude, it can do a lot for your confidence. MVS already has a lot of ability. He’s probably got Moss-type speed. He’s shown a lot already and he’s going to be one of the guys who we’re depending on this year.”
Valdes-Scantling spent the offseason working out with Moss and preparing his mind and body for a big 2019 jump.
“I have a lot of the physical traits that you need to be a great wide receiver in this league. But a lot of guys do. It’s all about the mental approach to the game. Obviously, I can run well but I want to be an all-around receiver and not just a guy who can stretch the field vertically. I want to be able to do it all.”
MVS references his own physical traits, and Williams compares him to Randy Moss. For most players this would be laughable, but Valdes-Scantling first appeared on many radars after running a blazing 40 at the NFL combine. His 4.37 at 6-foot-4 and 206 pounds gives him a Freak Score of 76, the best score among WRs between 2016 and 2017.1 Many NFL athletic metrics give you an interesting descriptive picture of an athlete without providing a sense of what that means for his pro prospects. The Freak Score is different. It’s a height, weight, speed score that projects TD-scoring at the NFL level.
Touchdowns. That’s just what Randy Moss provided in abundance. It’s what Rodgers’ secondary receivers, even some of the lesser talents, have always been known for. If you’re looking for a guy who could do the occasional 64-784-14 season like James Jones in 2014, MVS is your man.
But what about being the “all-around receiver” that he mentioned as his goal?
The Warts and How He Might Overcome Them
In discussing why MVS might be a reach at ADP, Cort listed a handful of red flags.
- Poor draft slot
- Old — played as a 23-year old rookie, giving him about a 13% chance at NFL success
- Never had more than 900 receiving yards in his five college years
- Poor rookie comps
- Despite staying relatively healthy and playing 15 games with Aaron Rodgers,Valdes-Scantling averaged less than 40 yards per game and was just WR7 among rookies
Let’s look at a few of these in a little more detail.
Lack of Early Declare
I mentioned Golladay in the intro because of numerous similarities. Golladay and Valdes-Scantling both spent a long time at the college level, and we know that declaring early is a key indicator of NFL success, even when draft position is considered. From Blair Andrews and the Wrong Read No. 53:
Of course, production still matters. While MVS was good, Golladay was great.
Golladay posted a Dominator Rating above 40% in each of his two seasons at Northern Illinois, numbers that were competitive with Corey Davis and that gave him a handful of impressive comps.
By contrast, Valdes-Scantling didn’t emerge until his last collegiate campaign, and it left him in the same category as another freakishly athletic sophomore.
The only draftable number for MVS came in the form of a solid 29% final season receiving yardage share. That’s not a lot, but it is enough to provide a glimmer of hope.
The Breakout Profile and Draft Position
Collegiate production is still a strong indicator for second-year NFL performance, and that’s one of the reasons we’ve been nailing our second-year WR breakout picks. Last year, we told you to load up on JuJu Smith-Schuster and to grab Golladay. We emphasized the Detroit standout because his profile justified the selection.
If you’re familiar with the Breakout Series, you know that we look at the breakout candidates by class, because they have different profiles. A lower draft slot does not necessarily eliminate a receiver’s chances to emerge, but it has had an impact on when it happens.
With the combination of production and draft slot, it’s heavy edge to Golladay.
How to Play It
I’m still drafting Valdes-Scantling. I’m just trying to remember that some of the key similarities between Golladay and MVS – big, athletic, small school WRs in good NFL situations – are offset by a few key differences as it relates to the odds of a second-year explosion. I’m trying not to reach.
But even with an ADP trajectory that would intrigue Elon Musk, the Packers emerging No. 2 remains the target in his draft area.
Of course, there are always cheaper options that may have equal appeal. As Cort says in his reader-favorite series, Why Buy MVS When This Receiver Is Cheaper?