Fantasy Equity Scores: The Kamar Aiken Tier
July 5, 2016 | C.D. Carter
This is the point in the equity score exercise in which I admittedly get creative with generating top-end prospects.
I’ve continued to use both the Rotoviz sim score app and the projection machine, but many of the below high equity scores reflect somewhat/very unlikely best case scenarios for late-round wideouts. It’s not that every receiver available in double digit rounds has some chance at becoming a screaming draft day value that turns a mediocre squad into a stacked one. That’s simply not the case for most of the group listed below. There are several guys, however, whose roles are undefined, could benefit from game script that dictates plentiful passing, or are entering new offensive systems that make last year’s results void.
This tier is packed with wide receivers who could (should) be green-light targets for any fantasy footballer who decides to go running back heavy in the early rounds. That strategy in large part hinges on finding a vastly underrated receiver in the bottom half of the draft who could emerge as a reliable every-week starter.
There are, of course, plenty of running backs who fit that description, as Zero RB zealots might remind you.
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Rotoworld scribe Rich Hribar astutely pointed out last month that Torrey Smith looks a lot like another wideout known for up-and-down production who didn’t do terribly in Chip Kelly’s offensive scheme. Jackson’s yards per reception in 2013 saw a slight decline in Kelly’s system, but his yards per game and catch percentage spiked. DJax was a top-12 wideout that year with just 119 targets. With the Niners projected to face an ocean of awful game script this season — Vegas has San Francisco winning five games — the team’s de facto No. 1 receiver could be in line for an enormous volume uptick over his meager 62 targets in 2015. That’s what drives Smith’s high equity score, which would put him at the cusp of WR2 status. There’s always a chance — however minuscule — that the 49ers could be halfway decent and therefore run the ball as effectively as Kelly’s offense did when the Eagles weren’t terrible. Even Smith’s median score isn’t at all hateful; he’d still be a somewhat solid draft day value taken in the double digit rounds. Finding a wide receiver who will crack 100 targets at this part of the draft is usually laughable, but here we are, staring at the often-disappointing Smith available after 48 receivers are off the board. The circumstances were very different, I understand, but in the only season (2013) that Smith received true WR1 targets (127), the speedster eclipsed 1,100 yards and finished as WR23. I see Smith as a must-have for anyone who decides to buck Zero RB and gobble up potential high-volume receivers later in the draft. Those intent on drafting Smith this summer have this going for them: Torrey has time and again burned his most ardent truthers. People are hurt. They’ve been there and done that with Smith. Everyone hates Torrey Smith. Give me Torrey Smith.
I feel compelled to include this note about Sanu’s equity scores: they reflect the minimal usage of a WR2 in Kyle Shanahan’s offense. They do not reflect Sanu’s fantasy value should he inherit the Falcons’ No. 1 spot in the wake of a Julio Jones injury (I can hear Julio dynasty owners praying to the old gods and the new). Jones saw almost 33 percent of the team’s 2015 targets. Pierre Garcon swallowed 29.4 percent of Washington’s target share when Shanahan called plays there in 2012 and 2013. Andre Johnson, with Shanahan coordinating the Houston offense in 2009-10, saw 29 percent of the team’s targets come his way. Shanahan’s top receivers eat, and eat well. They eat like this. Sanu in that role, no matter what you think of him as a player, would be exceedingly valuable. Do we handcuff receivers? No, but…
Kamar Aiken’s top equity score excludes Steve Smith from Baltimore’s offensive equation. There has been some off-season chatter that indicates the Ravens might be more than a little wary about the old man’s timely return from a horrific achilles injury, so I think putting Aiken into that WR1 role has some merit. I believe there could be a lot of hidden fantasy potential in Baltimore’s offense this year. Between Vegas putting the Ravens at 7.5 wins and Marc Trestman’s history of passing and passing and passing some more, at least one Baltimore receiver is going to wildly exceed his ADP. Trestman’s offenses have been among the ten pass happiest units in seven of his 11 NFL seasons, including last year when the Ravens threw more than any other team. Baltimore was eighth in total passing yards last season, and Trestman’s 2013 Chicago team was fifth in passing yardage. Feel free to roll your eyes this summer when you hear Trestman talk about running the ball more in 2016. Smith posted a 26.5 percent target share before his season-ending 2015 injury. Aiken subsequently had a healthy 23.8 percent target share, playing with all-time greats Matt Schaub, Jimmy Clausen, and Ryan Mallett. The projection machine shows that you could snag a receiver who could get 130 footballs coming his way for the low, low price of a 12th round pick.
Breshard Perriman’s equity scores have, of course, changed since the second-year receiver injured his knee in practice and the fantasy market reacted by dropping him a full two rounds. Perriman’s median and high projections assume that his most recent injury won’t impact his playing time or offensive role.
Devin Funchess, that gleam in the eye of Team Big Wide Receiver, looks rock solid here — or as rock solid as any late-round receiver can look. His median score shows what his fantasy production would look like if he remains a second or third receiving option for Cam Newton. His top-end score is what would happen should he become the Panthers’ No. 1 wideout. The chances of this happening likely depend on your feelings about Kelvin Benjamin as the giant returns from a blown-out ACL. Funchess’ high score doesn’t come as a shock when you remember that Benjamin, widely considered raw and unworthy as a WR1, finished his rookie campaign as a top-15 fantasy receiver with the benefit of 142 targets. While there’s (almost) no world in which Funchess gets peppered with 140 targets in 2016, I think you’d be doing your fantasy team harm by ignoring that coaches and beat writers have talked up Funchess as an off-season standout who has improved his route running and understanding of the Carolina offense. Funchess’ best-case 2016 comps include Alshon Jeffrey’s 2013 and Brandon Marhsall’s 2007 season. I’ll happily plop Funchess on my re-draft roster at his early-13th round ADP.
Probably you’re not the only one screaming at the computer screen about Terrance Williams’ equity scores. The median score looks fine — expected, even — but that high score is, well, something. Williams, in Tony Romo’s last healthy season, finished the year as WR38, and his splits with and without Romo show that he has some fantasy appeal when the Dallas offense is hovering above the seventh circle of Matt Cassel hell. Williams notches 10.7 fantasy points with Romo under center and 7.7 with anyone else taking snaps for the Cowboys. Perhaps most interestingly, Williams has posted a not-horrenouds 11.98 fantasy points per game when Dez Bryant is not in the Dallas lineup (66.9 yards, 3.6 receptions and 0.29 touchdowns). That’s about 2.5 fantasy points per game more than when Dez plays. I wouldn’t draft Williams late expecting season-long WR3 production, but I wouldn’t begrudge anyone for stashing the No. 2 wideout in an offense captained by a quarterback who has posted an adjusted yards per attempt of over 9 with six receivers, including the likes of Laurent Robinson, Patrick Crayton, and Roy Williams.