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Why Buy Corey Davis When this Cheaper WR is Projected to Have 17% More Targets?

“You pay for this, but they give you that.”

That classic Neil Young lyric came to mind as I was researching this year’s “Why Buy?” series. We’re often so confident of what we’re going to get when we spend that sixth-round pick on the next big thing, but in reality, we rarely know what we’re buying.

The solution? Simple — pay less.

That’s the concept behind our “Why Buy?” series, which is inspired by the Fantasy Douche’s Getting Something for Nothing article penned back in 2013.

Whatever you want to call it — arbitrage, discount shopping, or simply fading overpriced players — there’s no shortage of opportunities to buy knock-off versions of more expensive players this season.

We already explored discounts plays on Dante Pettis and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Mark Ingram.

Let’s look at a knock-off version of Corey Davis.

Bordering On Bustville

Davis was a pristine prospect whose only real red flag was that he didn’t declare early. But two years into his pro career, the returns are not good, considering his pedigree.

Looking back, the brutal efficiency as a rookie (reFPOE) was a red flag. Things improved in year two but not enough to pay off for those who drafted him.

A true third-year breakout is not out of the question, but here’s the problem — third-year breakouts aren’t really a thing for WRs. Such an occurrence is much less likely now that Davis is through his second NFL season.

Another 112 targets for Davis is reasonable this year, but it’s hard to envision much improvement on that number considering the Titans just spent a second-round pick on A.J. Brown. Delanie Walker and his 6.9 targets per game over the past three seasons are back too.

Davis’ price isn’t outrageous by any means, but there’s another WR going a few rounds later that is likely to give you similar bottom-line numbers.

Pay the Sterling Price

Sterling Shepard may not have the pedigree that Davis brings, but he’s no slouch. He was the 40th-overall selection in the 2016 draft and actually outscored Davis through their first two respective seasons while being the much more efficient player.

The difference between the two last year was less than five points in PPR leagues, and Shepard stands on the precipice of seeing the heaviest target load of his career.

  • The Giants were 10th in pass attempts last year with 36.4 per game (tied with KC)
  • Odell Beckham’s 10.5 targets per game are gone
  • Golden Tate, who’s averaged 7.8 targets per game over the last three seasons, is suspended for four games — 25% of the fantasy season

Meanwhile, Davis is battling with some new blood on an already low-volume, low-efficiency offense.

All considered, it might be generous to assume that the former fifth-overall draft pick will command more targets than Shepard in 2019. In fact, RotoViz projections give Shepard 17% more targets, leading to more yards, more TDs, and more fantasy points.

Player Tgts Rec Catch % Rec Yds Red TD Yd/Rec Rec TD%
Corey Davis 112 71 63 902 4 12.7 6
Sterling Shepard 131 79 60 948 5 12 6

We were getting a slight discount on Shepard when he broke his thumb, but his price — about two rounds cheaper than Davis — has normalized on the expectation he’ll be ready to go for Week 1. It’s still too cheap.

Conclusion

The high end of Davis’ range of outcomes dwarfs that of Shepard’s, so I don’t blame drafters for paying a slight premium for that upside — it’s not like he’ll cost you a fourth-rounder.

I’ve still been grabbing some Davis here and there for those reasons, but the majority of the outcomes have Shepard with more targets and more points. In the long run, you’re better off grabbing middle-round RBs like Miles Sanders and Latavius Murray in Davis’ range, and getting a similar output from Shepard two rounds later.

Image Credit: Daniel Dunn/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Corey Davis.

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