Initially, I was going to take the seemingly annual run at identifying whether or not Will Fuller was worth the risk this coming season considering his prolific injury history.
Then, free agency happened.
When the Houston Texans traded away DeAndre Hopkins and his 150 targets from 2019 to the Arizona Cardinals, the entire fantasy football community was shaken to its core. While there will likely be additional free agency moves that will shock the football world, I will do my best to work with the information we have now.
For transparency, here are the details of the blockbuster deal:
Cardinals get DeAndre Hopkins and a fourth-round pick
Texans get David Johnson, a second-round pick and a 2021 fourth-round pick
The annual question now holds a little bit more significance: with the Texans living in the Bill O’Brien era, what do we make of Fuller in dynasty leagues?
Beginning with the bad news and the news that keeps everyone from trusting Fuller with anything more than a late-round dart throw, he has never managed to play an entire season and has only appeared in 42 out of 64 possible games in his career.
An ACL tear and repeated hamstring/soft tissue injuries have made Fuller an infuriating asset for fantasy owners. The tantalizing upside flashes a few times a season only to have lingering injuries crush any hope and momentum. As seen in his career splits above, he either finishes as a WR1 or WR3+.
This is the biggest hurdle for Fuller and his owners. Risk management and risk tolerance are essential pieces that need to be considered.
Focusing on the positives, the athletic upside of a healthy Fuller should never be questioned. He has 4.32 speed and posted a 50-point fantasy game this past season. He can obliterate opposing defenses and more than carry your fantasy team to victory on any given week.
Quarterback Deshaun Watson has been at his most efficient when targeting Fuller. Check out his adjusted yards per attempt during his career.
Watson also averages nearly a full additional passing touchdown per game when Fuller is on the field compared to when he is not. There is a tangible, meaningful connection between Watson and Fuller that shows up in the box score and your fantasy lineups.
To shed some positive light on Fuller, here are his last 16 games where he played at least 50% of the offensive snaps.
113 targets, 78 receptions, 1,156 yards, seven touchdowns
If you were to look back at some of the best seasons DeSean Jackson had, as someone who is a known field-stretcher, you would find a similar stat line across the board. Fuller also dominates the air yards as seen by his career average of over 92 air yards/game.
Projecting health is so difficult in fantasy. Some owners will buy the dip in value based on injury, while others will steer clear as often as they can. Every player has value, but that value is so different from owner to owner. Players are seen as injury-prone until they are not. For the sake of discussion, take a look at the following comparison.
Disclaimer – I am not saying these players are the same in any way. I am merely illustrating how two players who were or are perceived to be injury-prone compare to one another.
- First four seasons played 38 of 64 games
- Labeled as injury-prone
- Next three seasons finished as a WR1
- First four seasons played 42 of 64 games
- Labeled as injury-prone
Player A is Keenan Allen, and Player B is Fuller.
Now, as stated, their situations are different, but it’s worth noting how drastically different the last three years of Allen’s career have been compared to his first four. Hopkins is gone, and while you expect the Texans to bolster their wide receiving core in some fashion, a healthy Fuller offers immense upside as Watson’s WR1.
We will have to wait and see how the fantasy community will react to the news coming out of Houston. For the time being, Fuller is being taken as WR40 in dynasty startups. In my opinion, that’s a decent value if you’re willing to take a chance on him staying healthy. However, he’s going a few spots ahead of Mecole Hardman and Marvin Jones, both of whom I would prefer in startups over Fuller.
Also, late last night, the Texans announced they were signing veteran wide receiver Randall Cobb to a three-year/$27 million deal with $18.75 million guaranteed. This is a better football move than it is a fantasy move, but it might prevent the Texans from spending high capital on an additional wide receiver, thereby solidifying, at least in part, Fuller’s role.
If your league-mates are overreacting either direction on Fuller, respond accordingly. If you can offload him for a mid-second, I would do that in a heartbeat. On the flip side, if you can acquire him for a mid-third, I would be willing to take that chance.