Two of the better young wide receivers in the NFL, Bills’ Sammy Watkins and Packers’ Davante Adams, are both entering their fourth season in the league and are in a contract year. Both players have high expectations for the upcoming season but also have major red flags based off their production or lack there of during the 2016 season. But who do you draft in fantasy football this year? Let’s debate:
When healthy Watkins is one of the most dangerous receivers in the league. He has the speed to take the top off a defense and can’t be covered one on one. Last season Watkins only played in eight game, but in his first two years in the league Watkins was fairly healthy.
During his first two years Watkins averaged 63 catches on 112 targets for 1,015 yards and eight touchdowns; when he is healthy Watkins is an excellent fantasy receiver. Additionally, Watkins is the main passing threat on his team and could be force feed targets this season. His quarterback, Tyrod Taylor, is one of the best deep ball passers in the NFL. In 2015 Taylor completed 48.9 percent of his passes traveling 20 plus yards down field; adding even more value to Watkins’ deep ball big play ability.
While Watkins’ big play ability is appealing, the biggest thing he is known for is his injury history. Over the past two seasons Watkins has missed 11 game; eight last season. The main concern in Watkins’ injury history is his foot. Watkins had at least two surgeries on that foot stemming back from a 2015 injury. If the foot injury creeps back on him, it will affect Watkins’ speed and his effectiveness.
However, the good news is both Dez Bryant and Julio Jones suffered the same injury but returned to their old selves after the second surgery; hopefully the same happens for Watkins. Lastly, while Taylor is an excellent deep ball pass and an underrated quarterback, Watkins isn’t playing with a quarterback like Aaron Rodgers.
Not often do you see a team’s top two wide receivers finish as top seven fantasy scorers, but that is exactly what happened last season, in part because of Aaron Rodgers. The Packers are clearly a pass first offense and that allowed Jordy Nelson to finish as the WR2, while Adams finished as WR7 in standard scoring.
Adams has remained healthy during his pro career; missing only three games in three years. Adams had a career year in 2016; putting up career highs across the board with 75 catches on 121 targets for 997 yards and 12 touchdowns. His 12 touchdowns was tied for second in the league.
By comparison the 2015 season was ugly for Adams; posting only 50 catches on 94 targets for 483 yards and one touchdown. Was Adams’ 2016 season an one year wonder? Possibly. Also consider a larger part of Adams’ fantasy production came from his touchdowns. After having four touchdowns during his first two years Adams ballooned to 12 last season. Adams isn’t likely to repeat that this season and likely fall into the seven to nine range.
In addition to the likely regression, Adams’ value could take a hit if Randall Cobb, who has battled injuries the past two seasons, can return to his 2014 form. In 2014 Cobb made his only pro bowl team and had 91 catches on 127 targets for 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns. If Cobb can come close to those numbers in 2017, Adams is going to lose targets and production. Even if Cobb doesn’t return to his old form and Adams remains the team’s number two receiver, he is still behind Nelson in the pecking order and doesn’t offer the top five upside like Watkins.
Looking at both players performance over the past two seasons, let’s compare the number of double digit fantasy scoring games, in standard scoring.
Watkins in 2015 had eight double digit games and in 2016 he had only two. Adams in 2015 had zero double digit games but in 2016 he had nine. In 2015, Watkins best year, he played 13 games, scored 158.7 points and had 12.2 fantasy points per game. In 2016, Adams best year, he played 16 games, scored 171,7 points but only had 10.7 fantasy points per game. For Watkins 34 percent of his fantasy production in 2015 came off of touchdowns, while Adams had 42 percent of his fantasy production in 2016 come from touchdowns; bottom line Adams is more touchdown dependent.
Currently Watkins is my WR12 and Adams is my WR16 in standard scoring. However, both are ranked slightly lower in PPR scoring. Both players could have very similar scoring seasons but Watkins tremendous upside is why he is ranked higher and the player I rather own.