Willie Snead, the latest No. 2 Saints pass-catcher with fantasy appeal
(“Today’s Crazy Fantasy Stat” is an occasional offseason offering from PFF that highlights something that catches our eye and aids in our preparation for the 2017 fantasy season.)
Let’s start with a question. Imagine everything goes wrong for Drew Brees this year. He stays healthy (always have to start from a standpoint of health), but otherwise he starts to show his age, he’s just not superstar Drew Brees anymore, we start to see the cracks. What’s his healthy floor?
Before you answer that, some facts:
- In 11 seasons with the Saints, Brees’ lowest yardage total is 4,388. He hasn’t fallen below 4,870 since 2010.
- He had 26 and 28 passing touchdowns his first two seasons with New Orleans, but hasn’t had fewer than 32 since. The last six years, he’s averaged 38.3 passing touchdowns per season.
- I told you you had to grant health for my what-if, but that doesn’t even seem like a stretch; he’s played 174 of a possible 176 games as a Saint.
- He’s never been worse than the No. 6 quarterback in fantasy scoring since heading to Louisaina.
Knowing all that, then, I’ll ask again: What is Drew Brees’ floor? If you tell me he hits the low end of reasonable expectations in 2017, then isn’t that still … 4,400 yards and 28-30 passing touchdowns? Even that would have been the No. 6 QB last year. You might argue it’s 4,000 and 25, but regardless. Brees’ floor is pretty remarkable.
So those yards have to go somewhere. Below is a look at the average production of Brees’ Nos. 1 and 2 pass-catchers (receivers and tight ends) during his time in New Orleans:
|Drew Brees’ average Nos. 1 and 2 pass-catchers in New Orleans|
|Years||Targets||Rec||Yards||TDs||Fantasy points||In 2016, that would have ranked…|
|No. 1 receiver||2006-2016||123||83||1102||10||170||WR8|
|No. 2 receiver||2006-2016||94||64||881||7||130||WR24|
With not much doubt, we can safely assume Michael Thomas will be the team’s No. 1 pass-catcher, coming off of a 2016 season in which he put up 1,137 yards and scored nine touchdowns. Brees’ No. 1 receivers have comfortably been fantasy starters for a while now.
But it’s Brees’ No. 2 option that interests me. He’s had eight different No. 2 pass-catchers in New Orleans (Marques Colston was his No. 2 four times, with no other repeat names). Despite that quasi-revolving door in the role, Brees has made a comfortable flex option out of the job. Narrow it down to just since 2011 — when Brees’ game really hit a new level as passing numbers leaguewide leapt — and his No. 2 pass-catcher has been an easy starter in just about any format. Basically, you tell me to rank Drew Brees’ No. 2 pass-catcher sight-unseen, and I’m putting him around WR25 blindly.
Per Fantasy Football Calculator’s ADP information, Willie Snead is currently going off the board as the No. 31 wide receiver.
It’s not quite that easy, of course. There are other options to be the Robin to Michael Thomas’ Batman in the passing game. The Saints signed Ted Ginn this offseason. Brandon Coleman is still around. Coby Fleener has a year under his belt with the team, while Josh Hill is coming back from injury. It’s possible one of them is the No. 2 in that offense.
But man, it’s not likely. In two years with New Orleans, Snead has totaled 141 receptions on 191 targets for 1,879 yards, and 7 touchdowns. Thanks to the presence of Thomas, Brandin Cooks, and Ben Watson, he’s never been the team’s No. 1 or 2 WR/TE, but that’s borderline No. 1 WR numbers for some franchises, especially considering his 2015 and 2016 PFF grades of 77.7 and 82.4, respectively. If you’re telling me that Fleener, Hill, Ginn or anybody else is supplanting Snead in that offense, you’re going to need more of an argument than I currently know how to formulate.
If Brees totally bottoms out, becomes vintage Blaine Gabbert, then sure, yeah, maybe Snead’s baseline talent isn’t enough to make for a fantasy powerhouse all on his own. But the next sign we have of that coming will be the first. Maybe you can squint and bump Brees down a bit from his heights. But even that isn’t enough to make Snead a receiver who should be going in the 30s at the position in drafts. Willie Snead is my No. 18 receiver, a strong flex play, and a perfectly acceptable WR2. And you can get him at a discount.