Sammy Watkins Is A Fantasy Football Winner
The situation in the Kansas City Chiefs passing offense has changed pretty drastically over the last three months. Tyreek Hill is unlikely to play another down for the team, Chris Conley left in free agency as did Demetrius Harris. The Chiefs drafted raw rookie Mecole Hardman from Georgia in an attempt to replace some of Hill’s speed while Travis Kelce rehabs from offseason ankle surgery. As it sits now, Sammy Watkins is the clear top dog in the Kansas City Chiefs passing offense.
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Our current projection for Sammy Watkins is only 96 targets, 62 receptions, 891 yards, and 8.5 touchdowns. To me, that reads like a very conservative projection. At a very granular level, we have moved back the Kansas City Chiefs offensive production a good bit back from where they were in 2018 due to the absence of Tyreek Hill. We have a scaled 16.3% market share of targets projected for Watkins which is second on the team to Travis Kelce. That projection puts Watkins at WR17 in standard leagues and WR18 in PPR leagues. He’s ahead of players like Cooper Kupp, Amari Cooper, Mike Williams, and Robby Anderson with that fairly conservative projection.
The real upside for Sammy Watkins will come if he is able to A) play 16 healthy games which he has not done since his rookie season in Buffalo and B) increase his target market share to something close to Tyreek’s 24% market share from 2018. The reason that I’m projecting Watkins semi-conservatively is that he has only seen over 100 targets once (his rookie year) and averages 3.7 receptions per game for his career. As a player, I’ve generally been lower on Watkins than the market ever since he was a prospect coming out of Clemson. For the first time, I find myself in the position of being an advocate for him over the market.
While he is never going to be a real WR1 the way that Dez Bryant, Calvin Johnson or Deandre Hopkins are WR1’s, he can function as a team’s top target. He is particularly capable of that role when playing in a creative, Air Raid/Spread style offense in which he is frequently in motion and allowed to play out of the slot. Watkins played 110 of his 286 snaps in 2018 out of the slot and recorded 20 of his 53 targets from that position. In 2017, Watkins played 31% of his snaps from the slot but recorded only 12 targets from that position.
My general assumption is that our baseline projection is correct. It prices in the probability that the Chiefs take a step back on offense, that Kelce leads the team in targets and that Demarcus Robinson and Mecole Hardman prove capable contributors over 16 games. However, there is certainly unrecognized upside in Watkins ADP of WR29. Even the moderate projection we have for him makes him a value at his current ADP and pricing in the upside he would have if he moved to closer to a 20% market share of the Chiefs targets. Given that he averaged 9.4 yards per target last season, moving him to even 110 targets would project him for close to a 1,000-yard season and KC has 27 touchdowns they will be looking to replace with Hunt/Hill out of the picture.
Amongst wide receivers being drafted after the 4th or 5th round of competitive leagues, almost no wide receiver has this sort of ceiling. If the Chiefs are only the league’s fifth-best offense instead of the best, their top WR will still almost assuredly be top 15 at the position and offer several week-winning scores throughout the course of the season.