We all have had players who screwed us in the past who we just refuse to draft the following year. It’s human nature to assume that players who hurt us before will hurt us again, but when it comes to injuries, we just never know. We have to look at the next year with a clean slate and assess whether a player is fully healthy to start the year and can provide fantasy value at his ADP. If players in your league choose to pass on a player for these reasons, I would be happy to scoop them up at a discounted price, especially if they have the potential to be an elite option.
AJ Green got hurt at the worst time for fantasy owners in 2016. He went down in Week 11 and missed the rest of the regular season, which included the fantasy playoffs. For this reason, many owners in that first round are going to bypass him for the likes of LeSean McCoy, Mike Evans, Melvin Gordon, and Devonta Freeman. Even Jordy Nelson is being drafted ahead of him. Green just isn’t a sexy pick, but it’ll be the pick I make every time. After the big 6 are gone (I’m including Zeke in here for now, until there’s some news on his suspension), I like McCoy followed by Green in PPR drafts. If Green kept his pace for 16 games from the 9 full games he played, he would have ended the year with 117 receptions for 1714 yards and 7 touchdowns, which would have surpassed Hilton for the league lead by almost 300 yards and Fitzgerald by 9 receptions. He could have led the league in targets as well, because he was on pace for 176, 5 more than Mike Evans. Those touchdown numbers should go up too, because in the last three full seasons played, he had at least 10 touchdowns; he missed a few games in 2014, and had just 6 touchdowns that year.
The Bengals should be getting Tyler Eifert back, which will help Green avoid as much double coverage as he received last year. The targets will still be there, even with Eifert back. Remember, they lost Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu prior to last year. They added John Ross, the speedster who will keep safeties honest, which helps out their true #1 on the outside. And what about #1 corners? Andy Dalton doesn’t care, he’s going to chuck to his guy. According to PFF, he still led WRs in fantasy points per game up until his injury. I expect this offense to take a step forward from last year with the additions of Ross and Joe Mixon, and I expect Green to keep doing what he’s been doing. He’s one of the most consistent wide receivers on a per game basis, and I would love to grab someone like that in the first round.
Dez had his share of injuries, and is being drafted in the middle of the 2nd round. He stayed healthy for the most part at the beginning of his career, but could not stay on the field consistently in 2015 or 2016. After missing a few games in 2016, he showed plenty of signs of his old self, but we could still see him not being the Dez Bryant we know. Remember, from 2012-2014, Dez averaged 91 receptions, 1312 yards, and 14 touchdowns. That was his average for three years; we’re talking about an elite wide receiver who you can grab in the 2nd round. Is he a little risky? Sure. But any player can get injured on any play, not just Dez. I rather take the guy who has the potential of bringing in 16 touchdowns in a season.
And yes, he doesn’t have Tony Romo has his QB this year; it will be second year QB Dak Prescott. Prescott had a great season last year, but he did it on the back of a great running game, a better offensive line, and a better defense who kept him in positive game scripts, which allowed him to not have to do too much. That offensive line lost a few pieces and the defense lost six starters. The running game might take a hit, but I can see Prescott’s overall numbers improving, but with more interceptions; I don’t think he can maintain his efficiency, but he can throw for more yards and more touchdowns. With a worse defense, he will probably be forced to throw a bit more, and he will continue to target Dez, who still had 8 touchdowns in 12 games last year (didn’t play much in Week 17). In the Cowboys’ playoff game against the Packers, where Dak was forced to throw to keep up, he gave Dez 12 targets, and Bryant was able to grab 9 of those for 132 yards and 2 touchdowns. I’m in it to win it, so if I can grab an elite talent in the middle of the 2nd round, sign me up. He’s had a healthy offseason for the first time in years, so I would bet on him having WR1 numbers with the ability to win me weeks.
Is Sammy Watkins healthy? It seems so, as this is his first offseason in a while where it seems as though he’s pretty much at 100%. He was able to avoid the PUP to start training camp, which is a great sign. While Watkins was expected to be limited throughout camp, he took first-team reps the first day, and then was upgraded to taking most of the first-team reps the next day. While injury history has derailed most of his career and alienated most, if not all, fantasy football fans, I look at the glass half full; he’s a potential WR1 sitting at the end of the 3rd round. If I’m looking at guys like Terrelle Pryor, Alshon Jeffery, Demaryius Thomas, and Allen Robinson, I would choose Watkins as the wide receiver with the highest ceiling. I would then pair him with a solid floor receiver from the Crabtree/Edelman/Fitzgerald group in the 5th round.
Watkins is only 24 years old, and is not even in the prime of his career yet. We saw what he could do in limited time, and we know he has a rapport with Tyrod Taylor, especially on the deep ball. Even without that, who else is Tyrod throwing the ball to? Robert Woods has gone to LA, so that leaves Zay Jones, Andre Holmes, Corey Brown… should I continue? Jones is a talented wide receiver who can line up anywhere, but Watkins will command a lion’s share of the targets. The Bills will remain a run-first team, but Watkins can do a lot on 100-120 targets. He received 96 targets in 2015 when he missed three games that year. In the last six games of that season, he averaged 6 receptions for 113 yards, and 1 touchdown. That is insane; his 16-game pace would have been 93 receptions for 1800 yards and 16 touchdowns. Remember, he was drafted 4th overall in a WR draft class that could be one of the best ever. Names out of that draft include Odell Beckham Jr, Mike Evans, Jarvis Landry, Brandin Cooks, Martavis Bryant, Davante Adams, Donte Moncrief, and Allen Robinson.
A little more on his injury. Watkins suffered what’s known as a Jones’ fracture. Not named after Julio Jones or Marvin Jones, but those are two guys who had fractures who have successfully come back from surgery to repair their foot. Julio Jones, Julian Edelman, Dez Bryant are three guys who have received a second surgery for a Jones’ fracture, and it seems like their foot problems are behind them. Watkins received his second foot surgery this offseason and is expected to take it slower than usual during training camp. He should be ready for Week 1, and has the potential to finally stay healthy and reach his goal of getting a long term extension from the Bills. Watkins’ talent is there, we’ve seen it on the field, and I’m willing to draft him at his ADP to get potential upside-WR1 numbers.