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The Good, the Bad, and the Unknown: Sammy Watkins (2019 Fantasy Football)

Aug 2, 2019

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Should fantasy football drafters take a shot on Sammy Watkins this season despite Tyreek Hill‘s non-suspension? Let’s take a look at the good, bad, and unknown elements of the Kansas City wide receiver’s value.

The Good

The Upside
Sammy Watkins finished his rookie season as the WR32 in half PPR points per game after playing all 16 games. He followed that up by finishing as the WR12 in points per game on 13 games played as a sophomore. Since then, he has finished as the WR56, WR46, and WR40 over the past three seasons. There were two games where Sammy Watkins played less than 15 snaps due to injury (surprise, surprise). If you remove those two games, Watkins averaged 11.8 half PPR points per game. This would have been good for WR25 last year.

You are going to get inconsistency with Watkins, but you are also going to get some big weeks. In seven of the twelve games Sammy Watkins has played for Kansas City (including the playoffs), Watkins has hit 60 total yards eight times. He hit 100 total yards in three of those twelve games. In Week 8, Watkins was the overall WR3 after posting 100 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns.

Watkins seemed to have a bit of bad touchdown luck last year. Of all of the players with a receiving touchdown on the Chiefs last year, he had the most targets per touchdown (as you can see in the table below). Watkins averaged one red-zone target per game last year, so it isn’t a lack of involvement in that part of the field. For reference, Travis Kelce led the team with 1.6 red zone targets per game, and then both Watkins and Tyreek tied for second with one per game.

Name Tgt Rec TD Tgts Per TD
Sammy Watkins 54 40 3 18.0
Travis Kelce 150 103 10 15.0
Damien Williams 24 23 2 12.0
Tyreek Hill 137 87 12 11.4
Chris Conley 49 32 5 9.8
Demarcus Robinson 31 22 4 7.8
Demetrius Harris 21 12 3 7.0
Anthony Sherman 7 7 1 7.0
De’Anthony Thomas 5 3 1 5.0
Kareem Hunt 33 26 7 4.7
Charcandrick West 3 2 1 3.0
Darrel Williams 3 3 1 3.0

 
The Offense
I am not going to need to go into too much detail on this one. Kansas City led the league in points scored, yards and yards per play last year. The offense returns all of its key playmakers minus Kareem Hunt, who they had to learn to play without last season. It is going to be nearly impossible to cover all of Tyreek, Kelce, and Watkins when they’re all healthy.

Depending on opponents’ defensive schemes and plans for coverages, different guys will be peppered with targets. The defense in Kansas City is still nothing to write home about, so expect the Chiefs to be involved in some shootouts again this year. Getting cheaper pieces on a top offense can be a league-winning strategy.

The Bad

The Injuries
Be ready to scroll if you are going to look up Sammy Watkins injury history. A book could be written from its content. Unfortunately, a vast majority of them are foot or ankle injuries. These seem to be some of the worst injuries for reoccurrence in the NFL.

It started in 2012 at the Chick-Fil-A-Bowl when Watkins still played for Clemson. A right ankle sprain knocked him out of the bowl game and he did not return. The receiver steered clear of other major foot and ankle problems until he sprained his left ankle in 2015 and missed two games as a result. Then six months later, while working out, Watkins fractured his left foot and needed surgery. In Week 3 of 2016, a teammate stepped on Watkin’s surgically repaired foot, landing him on IR. This injury cost him eight games. Watkins had multiple recovery setbacks from this incident and had another foot surgery in January 2017. Watkins missed no games in 2017 due to foot or ankle issues, but it reared its ugly head again in 2018. Watkins was injured in Week 9 and missed week 10. He attempted to return in Week 11, but re-injured his foot and missed the final five games of the regular season.

So in the last four seasons, Sammy Watkins has averaged four missed games per year due to foot or ankle issues. I am not one to tag people injury-prone, but repeated foot and ankle injuries have one of the highest tendencies for re-injury. I would be shocked if Watkins played all 16 games this season.

The Unknown

Kansas City Passing TD Regression
A big part of Watkins’ upside in the offense is his ability to put up six to 10 touchdowns on the season and maybe one or two multi-touchdown games. Kansas City threw a league-leading 50 passing touchdowns last year. The next closest team was the Indianapolis Colts with 39. The Chiefs also had 16 rushing touchdowns.

If you look at the percent of touchdowns that were passing touchdowns for each team, Kansas City was the sixth highest in the league at 76%. Overall in the league, 66% of offensive touchdowns were passing touchdowns. There is a good chance that this percent comes down to somewhere in the 65%-70% range.

On top of this, it is very likely that the Chiefs don’t score 66 offensive touchdowns again. Say that the number drops to a still-respectable 55 touchdowns (what the Rams had in 2018) and they hit the league average of 66% passing touchdowns. This would give them about 36 passing touchdowns. If this happens, most or all of the Chiefs pass catchers will take a big hit in value. Will the Chiefs regress to a more “normal” great, or is this just the beginning of something special in Kansas City?

Summary

You draft Watkins as a high upside, high injury-risk player. The offense he plays for is one of the best, if not the best, in the league. Watkins has the ability to put up WR1 numbers each week he is on the field. Unfortunately, he has missed 18 games (16 of these to foot/ankle injuries) in the last four seasons and it seems close to certainty that he won’t play 16 games this season.

Another large factor in ranking Sammy Watkins is projecting the Chiefs offense as a whole. They saw some historic efficiency and a high percent of passing touchdowns. There is likely regression coming to the entire offense and their touchdown rate. After factoring in all of these things, I have Watkins ranked as my WR27 for best ball leagues and WR31 in re-draft leagues. I would take Watkins as early as the mid-sixth round for best ball and beginning of the seventh round for re-draft.

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Steven Roy is a featured writer for FantasyPros. For more from Steven, check out his archive and follow him @Rockhead_Roy.

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