Third Year Breakouts and Busts

2 weeks ago Ellis Johnson Comments Off on Third Year Breakouts and Busts

Wide Receivers

Corey Davis

It doesn’t seem like this is only Corey Davis’ third year.  The fantasy community has the ideology that he has been in the league for a while and is looked at by most as a dynasty bust.  This is mostly likely due to the expectations that go along with being a 5th overall draft pick.  Although underwhelming so far, I believe this label may not be accurate. Corey Davis has played two seasons. In 2017 he played 11 games and finished outside of the top 100 receiver with 65 targets, 34 rec, 341yds, 0 tds, and 51.1fpts.  Last year, he played 16 games and finished as wr 28 in 0.5ppr scoring: 112 targets, 65rec, 891yds, 4tds, 151.1fpts. This is a great progression from year 1 to year 2 but let’s break down last year’s statistics a little more.

In 2018 Tennessee finished 29th in passing yards and 31st in attempts in the NFL. I’ll be straight up and tell you that this is not great for fantasy receiver production.  However, despite being on the 29th team in passing yards Davis managed to crack the top 28 fantasy receivers.  To put this in perspective Washington was 28th in attempts and Miami, Buffalo, and Arizona were 30th-32nd respectively. The only other receiver in the top 30 on any of these teams was Larry Fitzgerald (27th). Therefore Davis managed to be fantasy relevant while being in one of the worst passing teams in the NFL. 

Next we have the Titans passing attempts.  Despite being 31st in attempts Corey Davis managed to be tied for 19th in the league for targets with none-other than Larry Fitzgerald.  This statistic displays that Davis had a huge amount of targets and still didn’t manage to be very productive. Although true, Pro Football Focus displayed that Davis finished 5th for most routes ran against top-30 graded corners.  To put this in perspective Antonio Brown was fourth in percent of routes ran against top 30 corners. Therefore, with the addition of Delanie Walker and AJ Brown, Davis should not receive this amount of attention from opposing defences.  Secondly, many believe that his target share is unsustainable. This target share was not that crazy for Corey Davis as so far in his NFL career he has always been fairly heavily targeted by mariota. For example, if you extrapolate his target total from his 11 games as a rookie to a full season he would have 95 targets.  That amount of targets is the same amount as Chris Godwin last year and Davis was a rookie. Therefore, he could easily maintain his 112 targets from last season.

Lastly, let’s discuss the team. Tennessee is known to be a run first team finishing 9th and 14th  in rushing attempts over the last two years respectively. Tennessee has moved on from Head Coach Matt LaFleur and now has Mike Vrabel running the team.  So far the team has stated its focus on running the ball with Derrick Henry who was a second round pick in 2016 (based on how they closed out last season it seems very realistic).  However, the idea of a new head coach brings optimism for the entire offence. For the passing game, although we do not know what Vrabel may do, it is most likely they finish above 31st in pass attempts this year.  With the talent and historical progression of Corey Davis, I believe his fantasy floor was last season’s production and his talent will overcome the lack in passing attempts and targets. 

Everyone knows the third year breakout narrative for receivers. Keeping that in mind, along with the change in head coach, target share, and tough coverage Corey Davis faced last year, he could very well BREAKOUT and perform to his FantasyPros dynasty ranking of receiver #24.

 

Chris Godwin

This will be Rod Christopher Godwin Jr.’s (yes that is his official name) third season in the league following a WR25 finish in 2018 (.5ppr). Before I start I would like to acknowledge that it is very difficult to make a case against a Chris Godwin’s breakout, and that’s not just because Evans said they are competing for the wr1 position.  However, I would like to bring to light some new touchdown statistics.

Godwin averaged 6 targets and 3 receptions a game over the course of the year. In the 13 games played with Winston, Godwin had 3 games over 100 yards and 10 games under 60 yards. In my opinion I believe the area where Godwin will most likely improve is receptions and yards. It’s hard not to like the potential of a third round talent who has shown progression and now has the opportunity of vacated targets. I recognize the opportunity of vacated targets, but I also see the regression of pass attempts as the Buccaneers finished third in the league last year. Regardless Godwin will have an increased yardage and reception totals from last year, which looks amazing for his long-term value, but let’s talk touchdowns.

At a glance, last year he finished the season with 7 touchdowns. 3 of his touchdowns were from the 3 full games with Fitzpatrick and the other 4 were in the 13 games with Winston. It is also important to note that 2 of these 4 touchdowns came in week 17. Therefore, between the first three weeks with Fitzpatrick and week 17, Godwin had 71% of his touchdown production. This leaves 39% for the remaining 12 weeks, but let’s dive deeper into the statistics.

I determined Winston’s total passing touchdowns each year and divided it into 4 categories: Mike Evans, Tight Ends (TE’s), Wide Receivers not named Mike Evans (Wr2’s), and running backs (Rb). From this I calculated the total percent of Winston’s touchdowns for each category.

2016: Mike Evans 43%, TE’s 32%, Wr2’s 21%, Rb 7%

2017: Mike Evans 21%. TE’s 53%, Wr2’s 21%, Rb 5%

2018: Mike Evans 26%, TE’s 46%, Wr2’s 26%, Rb ~2% 

Mike Evans and the tight end position dominate Winston’s touchdown share, accounting for over 70% each year. If you average the last three seasons Evans will have around 31% of Winston’s touchdowns. I also believe with a healthy OJ Howard and Cameron Brate the tight end touchdown percentage should stay around 46% from last year. Together this is 77% of Winston’s touchdowns.

So what does this mean for Godwin? Thankfully, with Humphries and Desean Jackson out of the way, Godwin should be able to get a fair share of the leftover touchdowns. In the past three years the Wr2’s averaged 23% of Winston’s touchdowns. Let’s say Winston has the year people are projecting and he gets 32 touchdowns. Based on the past Wr2’s, Godwin would receive about 7 touchdowns (23%), which is the same amount of touchdowns he had last year.

Overall, you have to label Godwin as a dynasty BREAKOUT. Vacated targets, the classic third year progression, young quarterback who loves to throw, and a high powered Bruce Arians offence- it’s no wonder fantasy owners are salivating. However, I wanted to temper expectations for next season as if Winston’s historical wr2 touchdown production repeats Godwin is not necessarily a lock for top 24 receiver next year, but his long term value appears to be dynasty gold.

 

Curtis Samuel

The only other player getting as much love as Chris Godwin to breakout is Curtis Samuel.  After a very productive end to his 2018 campaign he has become a dynasty sweetheart and even crept up ADP in redraft.  In redraft he has an ADP of 88, to put this in perspective Marvin Jones is 95 and Sammy Watkins is 98. So he has jumped some well known fantasy assets that are on teams historically better for receivers than the Panthers.  In Samuel’s first year, an ankle injury ended his season in week 10 leaving him with: 26 targets, 15rec, 115yds, 4 rushes, 64 rsh yds, and 25.4 fantasy points. Last season in 13 games he had: 65 targets, 39rec, 494yds, 5tds, 8 rushes, 84 rushing yds, 2 rushing tds, and 117.3 fpts placing him at receiver 47 in half ppr.  Now that we know his production, let’s breakdown the hype for him.

First of all, these stat lines aren’t impressive.  If you think like I do, I needed to figure out why people were so excited for a receiver who has never cracked 500 receiving yards on a team with a rushing quarterback.  So I had to dive into his production a little deeper. The interesting thing with Samuel is that his numbers appear to be consistent however his production and usage is all over the place.  For example, his highest scoring fantasy week came while playing 27% of the snaps with 2 rec for 25yds and a td and a 33yd rushing td. Towards the end of the year he started playing 80% or more of snaps which made it easier to start and rely on him in your lineup.  This is what led to the dynasty love as now he wasn’t just productive but he was also on the field most of the game. What makes these numbers interesting is that in the 6 games (almost half of his season) where he was playing over 50% of the snaps he scored 49% of his seasons fantasy points, displaying that his production pace didn’t necessarily change with increased snaps. The games where he played less than 50% he managed to salvage fantasy relevance with either big rushing plays or touchdowns. To really drive this home, Samuel only had three games with 5 or more receptions yet cracked double digit fantasy production in 7 of his 13 games in half ppr. You can look at this as he was finding a way to maintain fantasy production and the impression of consistency, or you can remove that one play or touchdown in most of those weeks and he single handedly would lose your matchup.  On a team like the Panthers, although the bigplays may be there, I do not expect the consistency to hold up for next season.

So let’s breakdown the team.  Last year the Panthers were in the bottom half of the league in passing attempts.  This isn’t surprising when you have Cam Newton as your quarterback especially when he was still recovering from a shoulder injury.  Of the teams completions 28% went to McCaffery. That is a massive share, especially when you compare it to the fact that DJ Moore, Curtis Samuel, and Devin Funches combined for 36%.  This displays a limited target share for wide receivers on the offence and team that is not prolific in the passing game. That being said, Funches is gone which will increase targets for Samuel, but the tight ends are now healthy which Newton has been known to utilize.  I believe people are forgetting how much Newton likes to use his tight ends. The last full season Greg Olsen played (2016) he finished as fantasy tight end 3. That season Olsen had 129 targets, which to put in perspective McCaffery had 124 targets last season. Historically it’s clear that Newton targets the tight end and even if Olsen doesn’t stay healthy, add a healthy and promising Ian Thomas and Newton could go back to his old ways.  Also, people are projecting the emergence of first round pick DJ Moore. Add this to a healthy tight end position, and I don’t believe Samuel will soak up the amount of vacated targets to maintain consistent production which some are expecting.

Overall, Samuel  is looking like a very promising young receiver. I don’t believe his consistency from last year will sustain as he is too reliant on big plays and the odd long rushing attempt.  However, I believe that due to the historical passing production of the team; Cam Newton having a healthy tight end position; limited usage of Curtis Samuel, he may finish as a top 40 receiver but will feel like a BUST more weeks than not.  I’m not saying he will never breakout, I just don’t believe next season is the year for him to become a weekly fantasy producer and be the breakout people are expecting.

 

OJ Howard

OJ Howard is a physical beast.  At 6’6”, 251lb, and runs a 4.51 fourty, it’s an understatement to say he is physically gifted.  I understand physical features are not the sole contributor to production at the tight end position, but I wanted to start this breakdown displaying the kind of athlete he is. OJ Howard was a first round pick by the Buccaneers in 2017 and has finished as tight end 19 and 13 respectively in each of his last two seasons (0.5 ppr).  These finishes are also a result of missing 2 games in his rookie season and 6 games in 2018. It is important to note that these injuries were not severe ligament or bone issues, both were sprains and did not require surgery. In 2017 in 14 games he had 39 targets, 26 rec, 432yds, 6 tds, and 88.2fpts. During his 10 games in 2018 he had 48 targets, 34 rec, 565yds, 5 tds, and 103.5fpts. This collectively averages out to 3 receptions, 42.5 yards, and 0.46 touchdowns a game. If you take these averages and extrapolate a full season, he would have 134fpts which would have placed him tight end 6 last season behind Jared Cook.  This average includes his rookie season, Ryan Fitzpatrick under center for some games, and Cameron Brate sharing the work. After considering all of this, it is easy to see why Jameis Winston says “the moon” is the limit for OJ Howard.  

Let’s put some statistics to this belief.  Touchdowns are known to be the make or break statistics for fantasy tight ends.  As described in the Chris Godwin statistical breakdown we can display Winston’s touchdown distribution:

2016: Mike Evans 43%, TE’s 32%, Wr2’s 21%, Rb 7%

2017: Mike Evans 21%. TE’s 53%, Wr2’s 21%, Rb 5%

2018: Mike Evans 26%, TE’s 46%, Wr2’s 26%, Rb ~2%

As you can see Winston loves to score touchdowns with the tight end.  In his three seasons, Winston averages 44% of his touchdowns to the tight end position.  If we hypothetically say Winston throws 32 touchdowns, 44% is 14 touchdowns. This means there may be 14 touchdowns up for grabs between Cameron Brate and OJ Howard.  While Howard was healthy last season, Brate never had more than 3 receptions in a game and Howard only had three games with 3 or less receptions. This displays Howard’s involvement in the team’s offence and why he should score most of the touchdowns.  If we are projecting a breakout for Howard we need to breakdown historical fantasy tight end touchdown production. Over the last two years there has only been one top 3 tight end to have less than 8 touchdowns in the season (this was Kittle last year who also had 1377yds).  In order to crack the top tier fantasy production, the tight end needs to score touchdowns and on the Buccaneers the touchdowns are available.  

Although touchdowns are a large part for fantasy, (as Kittle displayed last year) receiving yards can also make a large impact.  I’m not saying Howard sets a record for receiving yards next season but the Buccaneers are also losing their slot receiver Adam Humphries, who had 76 rec, 816yds, and 5 tds last season.  This is a lot of vacated yards and targets that Chris Godwin and OJ Howard can soak up. Add this to Howard’s 2018 16 game yardage extrapolation of 904yds, and you can easily have over 1000 receiving yards. To put this in perspective, last season only three tight ends had over 900 yards: Kelce, Kittle, and Ertz (who also happen to be last years top 3 fantasy tight ends).  

So let’s put all of this together. In the last two years only one tight end has cracked the top 3 with less than 8 touchdowns and last year only the top three tight ends had more than 900 yards.  OJ Howard has the physical ability, the opportunity for touchdowns, and historical yardage usage that 8 plus touchdowns and 900 plus yards are well in the realm of possibility for the third year tight end.  This makes OJ Howard a BREAKOUT candidate, and I wouldn’t be surprised if next offseason we are discussing the “Big Four” tight ends. 

 

Running Backs

Dalvin Cook

In his career Dalvin Cook has 15 games, 4.7 ypc, 969 rushing yards, 395 rec yards, 51rec and 6 career touchdowns.

First of all, his previous numbers are pretty nice, especially the passing game work. However, his 15 games of fantasy production adds up to 192fpts (.5ppr) which would place him rb15 last year behind Derrick Henry and ahead of Chris Carson. So very solid but below where he is currently being drafted. Yes, taking these 15 games is not a rock solid extrapolation to a full season, but it seems fairly accurate, especially because he will probably not play 12+ games this season.  The one statistic that is really below expectations is touchdown production. Touchdowns are key to fantasy, and 6 touchdowns in 15 games won’t get you in the top 10 running backs. Having said that, the Vikings should be a way better team this year and he is “the guy” but I think it is important to note his lack of touchdowns, injury risk, and historical production.

Secondly, usage is also key in fantasy. Cook has only received 20+ carries twice in his career (both in 2017) and at the end of last season he posted 4 games of over 75% snap count while getting 13 or less carries.  This means at the end of last season, although he is on the field, they are not running. This is projected to change as they have discussed running more often and last year the O line was terrible. The positive of this limited usage is that he has been very productive with limited work and now that he is “the guy”, he could easily be above 20 carries a game. That also means he has been constantly injured without a full workload. So there are many narratives to his workload.

Cook has been riddled with injuries that include a torn ACL in 2017, and pulled his hamstring twice in 2018. Hamstrings are one of the most annoying injuries as they seem to always be reaggravated (for example Leonard Fournette and Melvin Gordon).  Along with this, the primary cause of arthritis is previous ligament injuries. If Cook has a history of ligament injuries and people are projecting him as a workhorse, it is logical to be cautious that Cook may be a heavy workload season away from a “Gurley” situation.  Arthritis is primarily an issue if he gets a workhorse workload, however Vikings will want to keep Cook healthy and clearly he will not be able to last with a full NFL workload. Add Alexander Mattison (taken by the Vikings in the 3rd round) to the mix, and it is possible he was drafted to be more than a handcuff, further taking away from Cook’s limited usage.

 Overall, Cook (if healthy) is on a powerful offence and should be a top 12 running back week in and out for next year. However we play dynasty, and I do not believe the risk, statistics, and injury history are there to support the argument for a top 8 dynasty running back which is where people currently have him. I believe there is too much risk for his current value, making him a dynasty BUST.

 

Aaron Jones

In my opinion, Aaron Jones is the most underrated fantasy asset for the 2019 season and in dynasty. In his 24 game career he has 1176 rushing yards on 214 attempts (5.5ypc), 35rec for 228 yards, and 13 touchdowns. Now these stats aren’t insanely productive for 24 games however, it is important to note that in 7 of these 24 games he received less than 5 touches. But even if you average all 24 games he is averaging 58.5 total yards and 0.54 touchdowns a game. For 2018 in 12 games he had 728 yards, 5.5ypc, 26rec, 206 rec yards, 9TD’s, 158.4fpts (.5ppr) making him running back 23 on the season. 

Jones has his flaws including the title of “injury prone”. Since Jones first touched an NFL field he has missed 7 games. Two of those games were for a suspension which leaves the other 5 for two separate injuries (one in 2017 and one in 2018). I’ll admit, injuries are not amazing but in today’s NFL, running backs have missed a lot more over the span of 2 years (Cook, Fournette, D. Freeman, etc.). It also isn’t great that Jones has suffered these injuries while having a lack of usage. In his career he has never had more than 20 carries in a game. Once again this statistic goes two ways. One, he has averaged 58.5 yards and 0.54 touchdowns a game with very limited touches; and two, he has been in a committee where the team hasn’t given him a 20+ carry workload. This fear of a committee is commonly believed to be the biggest strike against Jones. The main cause for the committee suspicion has been Lafleur who has one quote shortly after he was hired saying he was thinking they would run a committee. To my knowledge that is about it. Committee or not, even if Jones’ floor is his past production he will be a very valuable asset.

The other side of the lack of carriers is that Jones was on the field for 50% or more snaps in 7 of his twelve games in 2018. I believe being on an Aaron Rodgers passing offence as a running back helps Jones. After losing Ty Montgomery the team doesn’t have a clear passing down back, making Jones the best receiving option out of the backfield. To make this even better we all know Rodgers loves to throw in the redzone, meaning Jones should be on the field (especially if he improved his pass protection).  Along with being the best receiving back on the roster, Jones’ career 5.5ypc makes him clearly the best runner. I would like to point out that his 5.5ypc is not from a small sample size. 5.5ypc is his average over 2 seasons and 214 touches. Plus, the Score ranked the Packers O line 9th, and 4for4 ranked them the 7th best in the league. Together, this means Jones is a serious threat to be a three down back, with a good offensive line, and on an Aaron Rodgers led offence where touchdowns are in abundance.

The longevity of Jones is hard to extrapolate. This is primarily because since Lacy, the Packers have not been consistent at the running back position. However, I believe this is not due to lack of coaching effort, but lack of talent at the position.  The Packers may have found that talent in Jones, making him a dynasty BREAKOUT.

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