Fantasy 5: Sammy Watkins looks ready to go for Buffalo
The star WR has been cleared to practice. Jeff Ratcliffe on that, plus Robert Griffin III and three young receivers.
Fantasy 5: Sammy Watkins looks ready to go for Buffalo
Every weekday, the Fantasy 5 will take a look at the five most important NFL news stories for fantasy football players, giving you the advice you need to improve your team.
It’s depth chart time. With teams releasing the first batch of depth charts, we’re going to hear a lot about where players are listed. This is an interesting first glimpse at how players stack up, but it’s important to not overreact to initial depth charts. A lot will change between now and the end of the month, and the preseason games are a better indicator of where players stand than initial depth charts.
Other than initial depth charts, here are five things to know from the last 24 hours.
1. Fire up Sammy Watkins.
While his status appeared to be shaky at times in the offseason, Watkins passed his physical and was cleared to practice. He was dealing with a broken foot and underwent surgery back in May. Watkins is coming off an impressive 2015 campaign where he led all receivers in standard fantasy points per opportunity, ranked fourth in average depth of target (18.3), and paced the league in touchdowns on deep receptions with eight.
There was some concern that Watkins would miss regular season time, which is a likely contributor to his ADP currently sitting at the 18th wide receiver being taken. While the Bills are one of the league’s most run-heavy offenses, Watkins still offers WR1 potential thanks to his massive big-play upside. He’s a strong value at the tail end of the third round.
[If Watkins really is healthy, is he worth a high draft pick? Take a spin with PFF’s new Draft Master tool to figure out the best approach, plus get recommendations on the players you should target in every round of your draft.]
2. Jordan Matthews avoids major injury, but will miss time.
The third-year Eagles receiver is dealing with a bone bruise in his knee and will be sidelined for two to four weeks. Matthews took a shot in practice, but avoided any structural damage. He’ll miss at least the Eagles’ first two preseason games and could potentially be out for the entire preseason.
With Matthews out, Nelson Agholor will serve as the No. 1 receiver, with Chris Givens and Rueben Randle also likely to see time with the first-team offense. Randle has received mixed reviews in his time with the Eagles so far. Some have placed him on the roster bubble, but head coach Doug Pederson praised Randle’s play in the preseason.
Randle is fighting it out for the No. 3 job, which could prove to be an important one. Matthews will continue to be the slot receiver in 3-wide sets, meaning that the third receiver will play the “X” spot, which is the role DeSean Jackson played under Andy Reid. The player in this role is likely to surface on the season-long fantasy radar, and is very likely to be a DFS asset. As for Matthews, the fact that he isn’t a candidate for that role hurts his overall fantasy upside. He isn’t a good bet to return WR2 value this season, and is best viewed as a high-floor WR3 option.
3. Robert Griffin III is a borderline QB2.
The wait is over. Cleveland officially named Griffin as their starter. Anticlimactic for sure, but there’s very real fantasy implications here. While he’s a longshot to repeat the success of his breakout rookie season, Griffin is in a good spot with a talented surrounding cast and a strong head coach. The Browns boast two Baylor receiving products in rookie Corey Coleman and Josh Gordon along with breakout TE Gary Barnidge and one of the league’s better receiving backs in Duke Johnson. On paper, that’s a much better set of weapons than Griffin had in 2012 when his best options were Santana Moss, Pierre Garcon and Chris Cooley.
At this point, the taste Griffin has left in many fantasy owners’ mouths is still pretty bad. However, it’s important to look forward in fantasy. We see post-hype sleepers emerge every year. While it’s a stretch to argue QB1 potential, Griffin is certainly on the fringes of the QB2 radar. That makes him a relevant late-round option in 2QB formats in addition to being a player to consider for those who stream in single-quarterback formats.
4. Pump the brakes on Michael Thomas?
Optimism surrounds the rookie out of Ohio State, especially after the New Orleans Advocate called Thomas the best player in Saints camp. However, Nick Underhill at the Advocate believes the Thomas hype has gone a bit too far. Underhill said Thomas will help the Saints in the red zone, but also that there have been some “overeager proclamations” about the rookie’s role in the offense. He also pointed out that Willie Snead has “looked even better than last season” and appears to be locked in to the No. 2 receiving role.
Snead is currently coming of the board in the 10th round, with Thomas going two rounds later. Volume could be an issue with Thomas, as he’ll be behind Brandin Cooks, Coby Fleener and Snead in the target pecking order. There’s still upside to be had with Thomas, but fantasy drafters should factor in his potentially low floor.
5. Tyler Lockett buzz continues
One of this season’s most popular breakout candidates, Lockett’s ADP has crept up to the seventh round as the 35th receiver being taken. A PFF College favorite, Lockett emerged down the stretch of the 2015 season, catching five touchdowns over Seattle’s last seven games. Not surprisingly, the Seahawks are going to find ways to get the ball in his hands this season.
While that’s certainly a positive thing, the question is how many touches can we expect for Lockett? Seattle has been one of the league’s most run-heavy offense during Pete Carroll’s tenure. As a result, the receivers aren’t typically very heavily targeted. Doug Baldwin managed a WR1 season last year thanks to his 14 scores, but he also saw just 99 targets. Lockett’s season-high for targets was seven. That number will likely be higher this season, but it’s tough to envision a scenario where Lockett cracks triple-digit targets. He certainly has weekly WR1 upside, but Lockett’s projected target volume makes it tough to value him as anything more than a high ceiling WR4 option.
Jeff Ratcliffe | Director of Fantasy
Jeff Ratcliffe is the Director of Fantasy at Pro Football Focus. He produces all of our projections and is 2016's second-most-accurate ranker in the fantasy industry. Jeff also is the host of our show on SiriusXM fantasy sports radio and is one of the main hosts of our Fantasy Slant podcast.