Very Deep Sleeper: Chris Conley (Fantasy Football)
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Last preseason, I penned a ‘Very Deep Sleeper’ Chris Conley report because Conley is a bit of a freak of nature NFL prospect – 6′2″/213, runs a stellar 4.35 40-time, and shocked the 2015 NFL Combine posting a 45.0″ vertical with an 11′7″ broad jump…some of the best leaping/leg strength numbers ever measured at the NFL Combine. The athleticism numbers on Conley are beyond intriguing. However, this year’s reasoning to love Conley has a new twist…
As a watcher of a crazy amount of college tape for NFL Draft scouting services for CollegeFootballMetrics.com, I loved watching Conley at work in college – very good hands, tough, nice route running. He checked a lot of boxes. His numbers weren’t eye-popping at Georgia, but they kinda were if you consider the Georgia Bulldogs were stacked with RBs Todd Gurley, Nick Chubb, and Sony Michel. The Bulldogs were a heavy run-oriented team with an awful passing game. Within the context of what Conley had to work with, he was a hidden gem prospect.
Conley has the measurables and receiver skillset to be a starting NFL wide receiver, but he also has the work ethic. He was a leader off the field in the classroom and serving the community in college, plus he lived in the film room honing/studying his craft.
There should be much more talk, more enthusiasm about Conley in the pros, but his rookie year (2015) was an up and down learning process, a season where he improved weekly but didn’t do anything that stood out. His 2016 season found Conley earning the starting role and playing solidly, but for all the snaps and targets he grew into no TDs. No defining moments. Flashes, but nothing attention-getting. Everyone hates the Kansas City Chiefs’ passing game for fantasy to begin with, so Conley gets ignored from that perspective alone, and then Tyreek Hill came in and stole everyone’s thunder in KC.
So, who cares about Conley now? Almost no one.
I think we’re all being duped.
We’re being suckered…a rope-a-dope by Andy Reid. You’re watching his right hand, while his left hand is performing the magic trick.
When the organization unceremoniously released Jeremy Maclin in June, everyone raced straight to Tyreek Hill as the new No. 1 WR for the Kansas City Chiefs. It made some sense. Hill had the best stats, and who else is there? Andy Reid even hinted at Hill as a No. 1 WR for the team. No one cares about Conley, so he’s not in the discussion.
Folks, I’m a huge homer for Hill, but he is not in any way a traditional No. 1 wide receiver in the NFL. He’s a lethal weapon doing exactly what he did last year, playing a wild card WR/RB role where you didn’t know where he’d line up next. The Chiefs aren’t taking a guy who scored 12 TDs last season (and was close to 15-to-16 scores), playing all over alignments, and who was a college running back and making him Antonio Brown. It makes no sense. Hill is not a traditional NFL No. 1 wide receiver.
But Conley is.
The reason Maclin is gone, besides payroll, is because Conley is ready to step into that role.
I went back and watched all of Conley’s 2016 targets, and I was so impressed despite the lackluster fantasy stats. It’s hard enough being a wide receiver on the Chiefs and putting up numbers with Alex Smith and that much harder when you’re the fourth or fifth option in the passing game. Conley will be hidden no longer. He has the skills and physical build of a No. 1 wide receiver. When I re-watched his 2016 season targets, I saw how he had developed into a true professional WR. Conley will work inside, he’s tough/strong and unafraid. He makes the tough, dirty catches, but he will also use his 4.35 speed and 45.0″ vertical to go deep and over the top of defenders as needed. Plus he’s a quality blocker at wide receiver, another reason why Tyreek can blaze trails in the short game.
If Conley is taking over the Jeremy Maclin role, he has to be worth more than his No. 80+ ranking at wide receiver in current fantasy rankings and drafts taking place. He has strong WR3 potential if you buy that he is the new No. 1 wide receiver for KC. I’m not suggesting he’ll be the most targeted KC option or a WR1 fantasy hopeful, but he’s going to see his fair share of work, especially if Hill draws more defensive attention toward his side of the field. Conley could be the ace up Andy Reid’s sleeve for 2017, and that could make for a useful, valuable, maybe even shocking Conley for fantasy 2017+.
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