Dynasty bargains: wide receivers
This week's Dynasty Bargains looks at wide receivers including Alshon Jeffery and Donte Moncrief.
Dynasty bargains: wide receivers
A bargain is defined as a thing offered more cheaply than is usual or expected. That said, you may still disagree with some dynasty bargains l recommend. Let’s look at a few players who don’t share many common values, except for their classification as a bargain, in my view. First up is the most abundant position in the bargain bin – wide receivers.
Dez Bryant – WR – Dallas Cowboys – There’s no doubt your eyebrows will rise to the mention of ‘Dez Bryant’ and ‘bargain’ in the same sentence. However, after Bryant’s abysmal 2015 season, I believe he can be acquired for less than he’s ultimately worth.
Only last year, Bryant could conceivably make a claim as the top dynasty receiver, regularly drafted in startup leagues before Julio Jones and Odell Beckham. Over his previous three seasons, he averaged 91 receptions, 1,312 yards and 14 touchdowns. Entering his age-27 season, there was little doubt he could repeat those numbers.
A fracture in his foot in week one quickly derailed those expectations, and Bryant missed the entire first half of the season. When he did return, he was met with scraps at the quarterback position after Tony Romo injured his collarbone and missed most of the season. The poor play at quarterback, along with recovering from the foot fracture, showed in Bryant’s stats, as finished with only one game over 100 yards and just three touchdowns.
If you treat 2015 as an anomaly instead of a trend, you’ll see the caliber of WR1 Bryant has been most of his career. And with the influx of top-tier wide receivers, it makes Bryant more expendable than ever to a fantasy team that could still be reeling from his 2015 season. If you’re lucky enough to find such a team, I would pursue it with the expectation that Bryant will be a top fantasy receiver again. He’s done it in the recent past and needless to say, no one will be more motivated for 2016 than Bryant.
Alshon Jeffery – WR – Chicago Bears – Jeffery is another unlikely candidate for dynasty bargain.
After a lackluster rookie season, Jeffery broke out his sophomore season with over 1,400 yards and seven touchdowns. He followed that up with 1,100 more yards and 10 touchdowns the next season.
Entering 2015, Brandon Marshall had been shipped off to New York, and the stage was set for a big year from Jeffery. However, he suffered the calf injury in pre-season and the hamstring pull before Week 2. The breakout season would have to wait. A low-end WR1 entering this past season, Jeffery missed half the season. Now with a whole offseason to recover, Jeffery should still be considered a low-end WR1.
Jeffery’s dynasty owners may not have to wait for a comeback if last season’s brief performance was any indication. In nine games he had four 100-yard games with three more games over 75 yards. He was also PFF’s 10th rated receiver, scoring just as well as Jaguars receiver Allen Robinson (17.4-17.2) despite half as many snaps (998-516).
Jeffery is a free agent but he’ll either end up back in Chicago, where he’s proved he can be a WR1 or on another team that brings him in to fill the same role. For all his injuries, Jeffery still proved to be productive and efficient. That fact should springboard him to a big 2016 and beyond.
Donte Moncrief – WR – Indianapolis Colts – Even after completing his second season, Moncrief continues to fly under the radar. He’s a young receiver in a young offense with a top quarterback and has graded out positively in both seasons. Yet he still doesn’t get the attention he deserves. However, he’s primed for a breakout season thanks to a combination of ascending skill and opportunity.
Moncrief was lucky to end up in Indianapolis, tied to Andrew Luck for the foreseeable future. Even without Luck, who missed most of the season due to injury, Moncrief was very efficient. He finished 21st among all receivers in PFF’s Wide Receiver rating and finished 13th in PFF’s drop rate. Quite simply, Moncrief was a top-20 receiver this season when targeted.
Luckily, more targets may be on the way. His 105 targets last season were a great start, but there could have been even more if the Colts hadn’t signed veteran Andre Johnson. Johnson had an sub-par (for him) season with a -0.2 PFF rating (compared to Moncrief’s 3.6) but still saw 77 targets. That said, Johnson’s decline, age (he’ll be 35 entering the 2016 season), and $5 million cap savings make him a prime target to be released and open up more opportunity for Moncrief.
Torrey Smith – WR – San Francisco 49ers – If the 2015 season was a test, Smith flunked it. After signing a $40 million contract before the season, the 49ers thought they were getting the deep threat that’s been missing in San Francisco for some time. He was an extremely consistent fantasy receiver, finishing between 19th and 23rd among receiver in each of his four years in the NFL. But Smith suffered, along with the rest of the 49ers offense, and posted his lowest reception, yardage and touchdown totals of his career. He also finished with a -4.6 PFF rating, good for 91st among all receivers.
But for all the bad from the 2015 season, there were glimmers of hope. For example, Smith earned his highest yards-per-reception of his career at 20.1. He was able to accomplish that thanks to finishing 16th among 62 receivers in PFF’s Catch Rate (receptions compared to targets of over 20 yards). So Smith can still catch the deep ball, he just needs the opportunity.
Luckily for Smith, and his dynasty owners, there’s a new coach in San Francisco who has a track record of utilizing his deep threats. In each of his first two years in Philadelphia, two of Chip Kelly’s receivers tallied at least 80 receptions, 1,300 yards and at least 15.0 yards per reception. All while the Eagles had a revolving door at quarterback that included Michael Vick, Mark Sanchez, Nick Foles and Matt Barkley.
There’s no telling who the quarterback will be in San Francisco next year, but Smith’s value may never be lower, especially if a promising start to the 49ers offseason starts garnering more attention.