The NFL Draft’s Potential Biggest Losers: WRs
The NFL draft changes the landscape of the entirety of the NFL. Rookies find their new home while veterans find out who they will be competing with for playing time in the upcoming season. Arguably, no three days are more important to the 2019 season than the NFL draft. It’s commonly said that teams can’t lie in two instances: free agency and the NFL draft.
In this three-part series, we’ll look at veteran players whose value is most up in the air for the 2019 season heading into late April. When analyzing a player’s potential value, we’ll look at both competition at their position as well as elsewhere. This week, let’s dig into veteran wide receivers for whom the NFL draft will have the most impact on their 2019 value.
Once a surprising “reach” in the third round of the NFL draft, Golladay has made a name for himself over his first two seasons in Detroit. After being fourth on the target totem pole in 2017, Golladay made a big jump in 2018. With Golden Tate traded away, Eric Ebron gone via free agency, and Marvin Jones injured, there were a plethora of targets up for grabs in Detroit last season.
In just his second season, “Babytron” topped 1,000 yards receiving on 119 targets. Since 2000, 42 receivers have managed to post at least 1,000 yards in their second year. Some names on the list? Odell Beckham, Mike Evans, Amari Cooper, Antonio Brown, and many more. Alternatively, one could look at Tyrell Williams, Michael Floyd, John Brown, and others who hit this mark and have yet to do so again.
Of the 42 receivers, Golladay ranked 18th in yards per target. This is a good indication that his performance was not purely volume based. As the WR21 in PPR last season, many hope Golladay can take yet another step forward in year three. Currently, according to FantasyFootballCalculator, Golladay is going off the board as the WR18 in redraft PPR leagues.
The above splits from the FFStatistics splits tool are games where Golden Tate did or did not play last season. When Tate played, Golladay’s targets dipped drastically. When the massive target void appeared after Tate was traded, Golladay stepped up and took much of the volume. While the receiving yards and touchdowns were similar in and out of split, fantasy owners want to pay particular attention to targets. Opportunity is king in fantasy football.
With no real threat for targets at tight end currently and an overall weak complimentary receiving group, Golladay is in a great spot to see an increase in opportunity once again in 2019. However, with glaring needs at both of the aforementioned positions, the NFL draft will be key for the third-year pro. If the Lions select one of this year’s top prospects, Golladay’s opportunity share may drop significantly.
While an incoming rookie is not likely to see Golden Tate-level market share of upwards of 20%, Golladay’s share of the offense could see a decline to about 20-22% instead of the out-of-split 26%. With fantasy managers selecting Golladay as the WR18, there is a real risk of his value dropping post-draft.
Flashback to August of 2018 and it would seem stunning that second-year pro Dante Pettis is the clear number one receiver for Jimmy Garoppolo and the San Francisco 49ers heading into the NFL draft. As is, the second-year pro has a lot of potential opportunity heading into 2019. After an incredibly hot finish to the season, Pettis finds himself at the center of a lot of offseason hype. Perhaps surprisingly, from weeks 12-16 last season, Pettis was a fantasy WR1.
While this is, of course, an extremely small window, it shows how Pettis can truly be a fantasy asset. Over this five-week period, Pettis would have been a key contributor to any fantasy team. With Jimmy Garoppolo back from injury, the whole 49ers passing offensive has a chance to take a major step forward.
Unlike the aforementioned Kenny Golladay, Pettis has clear competition from a tight end already on the roster. George Kittle is arguably the best tight end in the league. He surely will garner a high percentage of Jimmy G’s targets in 2019. At running back, Jerrick McKinnon, Tevin Coleman, and Matt Breida all have solid pass-catching profiles. These three project to also be big parts of Kyle Shanahan’s offense this upcoming season.
When it comes to wide receivers, the 49ers are as barren as they come. With primary competition from Kendrick Bourne, Pierre Garcon, and Marquise Goodwin, it’s hard to envision Pettis failing to beat out all other receivers on his team for primary targets. Pettis’ value hinges on the 49rs first few selections in this year’s NFL draft. With the 49ers linked to Hakeem Butler, AJ Brown, and other top prospects, Pettis’ days as his team’s WR1 may be numbered.
One of the most expensive signings of the offseason, Funchess finds himself in a dream scenario playing with Andrew Luck for the Indianapolis Colts. A once productive fantasy wide receiver thanks to volume, Funchess has been gathering hype since his signing. With no clear other WR2 on the roster, Funchess has plenty of opportunity for quality targets in 2019.
However, in order for Funchess to live up to even his WR45 price tag on FantasyFootballCalculator ADP, he’ll need to command his fair share of targets not just in week one, but throughout the whole fantasy season. Last year, incoming rookie DJ Moore was thought to be well behind Funchess for the entirely of 2018. While Moore started off slow, he played so well (coupled with Funchess performing poorly) towards the second half of the season the Panthers barely played their once number one receiving option.
Looking at the right-hand side of this table, we see Funchess’s snap counts drop drastically after week ten. Not-so-coincidentally, this coincides with DJ Moore’s burst onto the scene. In week ten, Moore posted a stellar 157 yards receiving and a touchdown on only eight targets. Ever since that game, Funchess was a non-factor while Moore commanded the WR1 position.
This situation has a real chance of playing out again in 2019 should the Colts select a top wide-out. While the early opportunity is nice, Funchess has shown an inability to hold off top-end prospects. Should the Colts select one of many solid prospects with their 26th, 34th, or 59th pick in this year’s draft, Funchess’ WR45 ADP may drop 20-30 spots. He’s one wide receiver whose 2019 value depends a lot on the results of the 2019 NFL draft.