Fantasy Shark Tank: Sammy Watkins

Who are the Sharks? They’re self-made fantasy football players who are also savvy dynasty owners and traders.

Miguel Chapeton (@DynastyGuruFF) is the creator of the Prospect Success Indicator Advanced Metric (PSI) and co-host of the Dynasty War Room podcast.

Kevin Cutillo (@WallyCentral) went from playing redraft work leagues to becoming the CEO of the FLAFFL House podcast and co-host of the Dynasty Wall Street podcast.

Travis Teschner (@TravisTeschner) is a thought leader and dynasty expert who built his fantasy knowledge on evaluating NFL Draft prospects.

And Meng Song (@FFA_Meng), perpetual dynasty trader, and the co-host of the Fantasy Football Addicts podcast.

The following are actual evaluations and analysis from the fantasy “Sharks.” The Sharks submitted their opinions independently without any prior knowledge of each other’s stances on the selected player.


Entering the tank today is new Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins.

Sammy:

Hey, Sharks. I’m a wide receiver entering his fifth year in the league. I started my career with the Bills and played for the Rams last year, and this will be my first year with the Chiefs. My current market valuation is around the 1.06 rookie pick, and you should definitely invest in me. What do you think, Sharks?

 Miguel (@DynastyGuruFF):

Look, the Watkins hate has gone too far. It wasn’t long ago that he was a top dynasty asset coming off his first 1,000-yard season. Watkins averaged 17.5 yards per reception (YPR) and caught nine touchdowns during his career year in 2015. For his career, Watkins has averaged 15.9 YPR and just shy of eight touchdowns per season when healthy. But due to injuries and misuse while with the Bills, many have forgotten these feats and written him off in dynasty.

Last August, Watkins was traded to the Rams a week before the season began. He had no time to develop chemistry with Jared Goff and put up what many considered a disappointing year. However, Watkins averaged 15.2 YPR, just barely under his career average, and scored eight touchdowns on just 70 targets. When you dive into the numbers, Watkins was just as productive as he was pre-injury; he simply didn’t get enough of the target share. His lack of fantasy production was largely a result of Goff playing the role of game manager. Watkins was getting open deep, but Goff wasn’t finding him.

Kansas City wasn’t my ideal spot for him, but the silver lining is that Watkins is now on a team with a young gunslinger in second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes. This time around, he gets time to build chemistry with Mahomes throughout training camp and the preseason, an opportunity he didn’t get with Goff last year. With Mahomes’ fearless disposition to throw the deep ball, I’m confident that Watkins can, at a minimum, match his 2015 production. The 2018 rookie class has no elite wide receiver prospects ready to contribute the same way Watkins is. If I can buy Watkins for the 1.06 rookie pick, count me in.

Kevin (@WallyCentral):

Oh, Sammy. Sammy, Sammy, Sammy. I want to like Watkins, but I just don’t understand his current market value. The talent was certainly there at one point. That was proven when he totaled over 1,400 yards and 12 touchdowns his junior year at Clemson. But ever since Buffalo traded two first-round picks and a fourth-round pick to Cleveland to move up to draft Watkins, his ADP has far exceeded his production. Prior to his rookie season, Watkins was already a top-24 pick in start-up drafts, going ahead of proven wide receivers at the time like Jordy Nelson and Brandon Marshall. Since then, his ADP has been in the top 24 start-up picks every year in September per Dynasty League Football, topping out at 12 overall in September 2016.

Putting aside the ridiculously large amount of draft capital it would take to acquire Watkins for a moment, let’s talk numbers. He’s had 346 targets over his four seasons in the league, with a high of 128 targets in his rookie year in 2014. Since then, the average target total of the top 24 wide receivers has been 135 in 2014, 144 in 2015, 134 in 2016, and 129 in 2017. Watkins has finished as a top-24 fantasy wide receiver in PPR only once, finishing as the WR20 in 2015. His production has steadily declined since, and Watkins hasn’t topped more than 70 targets in the last two years, his 2016 season having been cut short by injury.

Some might argue that his lack of success has been due to offensive scheme or that a slew of hapless injuries has limited Watkins. The other Sharks might see his fantasy upside and continue believing in his perceived talent, but I see a receiver on his third team in five years who has averaged only 763 yards per season thus far in his career. Now Watkins is going to a situation where he will most likely be the third option in the passing game with Mahomes under center, an inexperienced second-year quarterback that we’ve only seen start one game so far.

Even if we project Watkins to get 100 targets this coming year, his career 55% catch rate and career 15.9 YPR would total just 55 receptions for 875 yards. Assuming his 7.2% career average scoring rate per target, Watkins would finish the year with just seven touchdowns. These stats would give Watkins just 184.5 points in PPR formats which would’ve equated to the WR25 last year, and I see this as his ceiling regarding the range of 2018 fantasy outcomes. Considering that his current market price is the 1.06 rookie pick, that’s way too much for me to invest in Watkins. I’m out. I’d rather take my chances with the sixth rookie off the board.

Travis (@TravisTeschner):

Watkins was the crown jewel of the 2014 draft class at wide receiver. But since then, he has suffered a number of nagging injuries and is currently on his third NFL team. Now Watkins has to compete for targets with a talented, young receiver in Tyreek Hill, an elite tight end in Travis Kelce, and a capable receiving back in Kareem Hunt. However, many are still holding out hope for this young man, myself included. Based on the current valuation of the 1.06 rookie pick, I’m buying.

Why am I investing in Watkins? The main reason is that the Chiefs have invested in him as well. His contract pays a robust $16 million per season, making Watkins the fourth-highest paid wide receiver in the league. This massive deal came as a shock, but clearly Kansas City felt that his talent warranted such a hefty contract. Whether his production and talent can be strung together for 16 consecutive games is yet to be seen, but we’ve seen stretches of pure domination during his time in Buffalo. In 2015, Watkins was on pace for 74 catches for 1,289 yards and 11 touchdowns had he not been injured for the final three games of the season.

During his career year, Watkins flashed the ability to create separation and stretch the field with his speed and strength off the line as well as the ability to create yards after the catch with his agility and elusiveness. Since that stretch, however, he has failed to stay healthy. And even when healthy last season in Los Angeles, Watkins was largely overshadowed by Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods. But again, we saw flashes of his potential, particularly for scoring plays, scoring eight touchdowns on just 39 receptions (Donte Moncrief would be proud).

Watkins still possesses a high level of ability, and his injuries are not soft tissue in nature, nor are they linked in causation. I’m no doctor, but I’m fairly confident that Watkins can stay healthy in 2018. Assuming he does, he’ll be a key piece in an explosive offense with both a quarterback and a head coach who will be utilizing his penchant for catching passes downfield. For a relatively cheap price of the 1.06 rookie pick, you’re getting a wide receiver whose talent far surpasses that of any rookie receiver in this class. Looking at current rookie ADP, the top tiers of running back talent begin to fade at this point in the rookie draft. I’m all for buying Watkins at this bargain price.

Meng (@FFA_Meng):

Over the last couple of seasons, Watkins has continually improved his route running and overall handle on playing the wide receiver position. While it’s fair to argue that he still has holes in his game, one thing most analysts and casual football fans can agree on is that his biggest strength is getting open deep on fly routes and post routes. Watkins may not be the most polished wide receiver, but I’d like to present two arguments as to why I love Watkins and all the Chiefs skill positions for fantasy this year regardless of individual talent assessments.

First, game flow projections are likely to be very pass-heavy given the state of the Kansas City defense. Per Football Outsiders, the Chiefs were the third-worst defense last year regarding DVOA. Now the defense is in a total rebuild after trading away CB Marcus Peters and releasing LB Derrick Johnson, LB Tamba Hali, and S Ron Parker. Despite some improvements next season with S Eric Berry returning from IR, signing LB Anthony Hitchens and a few other defensive free agents, and drafting a bevy of rookies on defense, it’s still fair to say that one of the worst defenses in the league last year has gotten worse overall this offseason. This liability of a defense will set up a lot of negative game scripts for the Chiefs in 2018, leading to pass-heavy game scripts that will result in more targets for Watkins.

The second reason I love Watkins and all the Chiefs for fantasy is the fact that Kansas City will boast one of the best offensive skill position groups in the league this year, possibly second only to the Steelers. The marriage between a horrendous defense and elite offense almost always leads to fantasy fireworks. One has to look no further than Drew Brees and the Saints for much of his career as an example of fantasy gold due to the talent on offense marred by a weak defense.

Now let’s get back to Watkins specifically. We’ve established that the Chiefs will have to throw a lot to keep up in games this year. But Goff sometimes struggled to find Watkins open deep last season or was off-target when he did. What about Mahomes? I think Mahomes has elite potential and could be Aaron Rodgers one day, but that’s a separate article I’ll save for another day. Suffice it to say that Pro Football Focus assessed Mahomes before the 2017 NFL Draft and found that Mahomes’ “arm is special and may define the term ‘arm talent.’ [He] can make any throw with accuracy and power to any level/area of the field, from every type of platform and arm angle.”

With defenders having to focus on Hill deep, Kelce up the seam, and Hunt on the ground, Watkins will have free reign to dominate with a talented sophomore quarterback. I will happily invest in Watkins for the price of the 1.06 rookie pick.

Sharks:

Congrats, Sammy! Three out of four Sharks are on board to invest in you for the price of the 1.06 rookie pick. Let’s score some touchdowns in 2018!

Sammy:

You got it. Let’s go!

Photo Credit: Jeremy Brevard / USA TODAY Sports

By | 2018-05-14T12:50:28-06:00 May 4th, 2018|
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