To say that some were blindsided by D.J. Chark’s sophomore breakout would be a bit of an understatement. Check out this train wreck of a rookie season:
Chark — a second-round draft pick who only posted 174 receiving yards without a score in his rookie season — was widely regarded as a bust. However, those dynasty owners who trusted the process and were patient were richly rewarded this past season.
Now the question remains: after two seasons of polar opposite production, who is the real Chark?
On paper, his college production was nothing special. Check out his total career line:
The analytics vs. film debate could undoubtedly come into play, but I’ll try to keep this as concise as I can. Context matters, always. When we think of LSU today, our perception is vastly skewed by recency bias and the dominance of one of the most prolific offenses in the history of college football.
It wasn’t always that way. Chark tied for the team lead in touchdown receptions with three in each of his final two seasons in college. That’s a far cry from the massive production put forth by both Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson this past season. Three. That’s all it took to lead the team in 2016 and 2017.
If the offensive production wasn’t coming from the passing game, where was it coming from?
Enter, Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice.
Two of the most talented running backs to come out of LSU both overlapped with Chark. They accounted for much of LSU’s offensive production during Chark’s collegiate career.
Chark serves as a great reminder that if surface-level metrics don’t look impressive, there’s likely more to the story.
It’s fitting that we are in the NFL combine season as of this writing. For all the excitement that it brings, the combine does also provide a multitude of overreactions to forty times, BMIs, and even hand size (sorry, Joe Burrow).
Chark provided plenty of fireworks during his combine performance by leading all wide receivers in both the forty (4.34) and the vertical jump (40 inches). An explosive receiver with field-stretching speed was a lock to be a Day 2 pick at the NFL Draft.
Unfortunately for Chark, his combine performance and draft capital would be the extent of his high points during a tumultuous and injured rookie season.
As you see above, the numbers for Chark’s rookie season are not great to look at. There’s not even much to look at. A late-season quad injury sidelined him for five of the last six games of the season, but he wasn’t all that productive by that point anyway.
Fast forward to the start of the 2019 season, and Chark was essentially undrafted. In redraft leagues, he was free. In dynasty leagues, he was either stashed on a taxi squad or available on waivers due to his putrid rookie season.
Oh, how quickly things change.
Chark roared out of the gate and was a top-five wide receiver during the first 10 games of the season. While eight touchdowns buoyed that production, he showed his potential when he was able to mesh his athleticism with ample, consistent opportunities.
His involvement and role on the offense grew exponentially in 2019.
Of all the Chark stats and data I dug up, one of the most exciting came, as always, courtesy of the RotoViz Screener. Chark has some pretty impressive second-year comps. It would be hard to find a more exclusive list of players.
Another aspect to keep in mind is the revolving door of offensive coordinators he’s worked with. While he’s been fortunate to have consistency at the head coach position, he will be working with his fourth OC in three years heading into 2020. There’s always potential that he could continue to grow and improve as a player in the coming years.
The fantasy community is cautiously optimistic about Chark heading into the 2020 offseason. His current ADP of WR26 seems like an appropriate price based on his WR17 finish in 2019.
I always look at the tier of players surrounding my target prospect as it helps provide a sense of context and value for how to build my roster. Chark is being selected right between fellow wideouts Deebo Samuel (WR25) and Terry McLaurin (WR27), both of whom provide substantial value in their own right.
As I’ve mentioned in a previous article, I believe you should buy high on Samuel after his electrifying rookie season that culminated in a Super Bowl appearance.
Chark remains a young, intriguing player. His quarterback situation is going to be interesting to follow because, while limited in sample size, he showed he could be successful with both Nick Foles and Gardner Minshew. In the two full games that Foles played, Chark put up incredible numbers.
Both Foles and Minshew were at or near their most efficient when targeting Chark, based on their adjusted yards per attempt.
I believe Chark is a value at his current ADP. He’s currently going outside of the WR2 window, and I think he tops that ADP by season’s end. I would happily pay a late 2020 first-round rookie pick for him because of his blend of athleticism and opportunity.
The real Chark is a safe WR2 with the athletic upside to win you a matchup on any given week.