Fantasy Impact: Sammy Watkins to the Chiefs
In a shocking move that no one predicted, the Kansas City Chiefs have agreed to terms with wide receiver Sammy Watkins on a three-year deal worth roughly $48 million. The move comes shortly after we found out the Bears landed Allen Robinson on a similar deal, though Watkins seems to have more coming annually.
It’s a huge move for the Chiefs, as they lacked what most would call a true No. 1 wide receiver. While Watkins has been dinged up throughout chunks of his career, when on the field, he’s a weapon that can be used in a variety of different ways. If there’s one player who is waking up and feeling better than ever right now, it’s Patrick Mahomes who will now have Watkins, Travis Kelce, Kareem Hunt and Tyreek Hill at his disposal. Even better, Mahomes has the arm strength to meet Watkins’ speed downfield.
With all of that being said, this isn’t the greatest move from a fantasy perspective. Watkins has gone from the Bills, who averaged just 469 pass attempts in 2015-2016, to the Rams, who targeted him just 70 times, to the Chiefs, who have had just three top-40 seasons among wide receivers in the last five years, and two of them were Tyreek Hill. The major reason for that is because Andy Reid has chosen to go with a run-heavy approach in his time with the Chiefs, as his offenses have finished outside the top-20 in pass attempts in four-of-five seasons. The good news, however, is that Reid is like a chameleon who will change with the team around him. Going back to his days with the Eagles, Reid’s offenses ranked top-15 in pass attempts for nine straight seasons from 2004-2012.
Here’s where the issue lies with Watkins, though. The Chiefs are suddenly loaded with playmakers on offense, arguably more so than the team he just left. Think about it – Watkins was unhappy with the 70 targets that he saw in 2017 with the Rams, but going from Todd Gurley, Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, and Gerald Everett, to Kareem Hunt, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce, he’s going to have trouble seeing much more than maybe 100 targets.
With that, Watkins has always been a very efficient player when on the field. He’s part of a small group of wide receivers who have seen fewer than 100 targets in a single season yet finished as a top-20 fantasy wide receiver. There have been just six players to do that over the last five years, and their names are DeSean Jackson, Stefon Diggs, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Torrey Smith, Watkins, and… Tyreek Hill. Let’s be clear about something – one of Watkins and Hill must take a massive dip in efficiency and I wouldn’t bet against the former No. 4 overall pick in the draft when healthy. The silver lining, though, is that defenses will have to pick their poison, leaving one of these field-stretchers in a one-on-one situation.
The issue with relying on elite production from each and every player on the Chiefs, however, is that they’ll have what is essentially a rookie under center in second-year player Patrick Mahomes, who threw just 35 passes all of last season. Yes, he’s a promising young quarterback, but it’s also going to be highly difficult for him to produce a top-two tight end, and two top-24 wide receivers in his first season as a starter. There was just one team (the Vikings) who produced even a top-12 tight end and two top-24 wide receivers last year. To expect Mahomes to come in and deliver that would be a lot. On top of that, Hunt is going to get his chances, so you really do need to start looking at things from a level playing field.
Without playing favorites, we have to assume that Kelce, Hill, and Hunt all lose some of their upside with Watkins in town, but we also must remember that Watkins’ upside isn’t nearly as high while playing alongside all this talent. When we play fantasy football, we are playing the odds the majority of time. Playing the odds in a situation like this ultimately means that we’re going to fade a lot of these players, as their ADP (average draft position) will likely be higher than the offense can handle. Instead, get shares of each of them in best-ball leagues, as their volatility from week-to-week will be worth it in those types of leagues. As of now, I’d consider Watkins a high-end WR3 in redraft leagues, while Hill is going to be a boom/bust WR3 option. The Chiefs got better as a team today, but their fantasy players lost some of their luster.