By Rob Schwarz (@chiruxindfs)
The NFL tried to outdo Kim Kardashian and break the internet on Friday. First, they announced that Ezekiel Elliott will be suspended for six games. Then, two monster trades happened. The craziest part is that the trades took place on August 11th - something that does not happen often in the NFL.
The first of those trades was Sammy Watkins being traded to the Los Angeles Rams for E.J. Gaines and a 2018 second-round pick. The question is, where does that leave Watkins’ fantasy value? I will start out by saying I have never been a big Watkins guy. I think he has immense talent, I just do not trust he plays enough games for me to draft him. This year however, I have him ranked as my WR13.
So what has changed? Nothing really. I like Tyrod Taylor this year and thought Watkins could finally play a full (or almost full) season. Call it a gut instinct. I thought he could string together some consistent games this year too, instead of being a more boom or bust guy. The trade came down and my instant reaction was to move him down my draft board. I mean, the Bills are not great, but they are definitely not the Rams.
I decided to wait it out and think it through before making a rash decision. I actually moved him down my board, but moved him back up again. I looked into the numbers more and well, I have decided he should stay where he is on my draft board.
Let me explain further.
I am not going to sugarcoat it. Sammy Watkins is getting a downgrade at quarterback. Jared Goff was one of the least efficient quarterbacks in 2016. Whereas, Tyrod Taylor had a great year for fantasy owners, and I had him ranked as my QB8 for 2017 (more on him later). Goff was outside my top-24, making him only draftable in dynasty leagues or 2QB leagues. So why am I leaving Watkins as is?
Well, it is where the numbers took me. The Bills are a running team first. In 2016, they only threw the ball 474 times, while running the ball 492 times. To give more perspective to this, the Rams threw the ball 536 times last year and ran the ball 375 times. For those without a calculator or who cannot do the math, that was 62 more passing attempts for the Rams. The Rams fired Jeff Fisher in 2016 and hired young, offensive-minded coach, Sean McVay. McVay was the Offensive Coordinator for the Washington Redskins last year. With that said, here are some more numbers. The Redskins threw the ball 607 times last year. Again for those mathletes, that is 115 more passing attempts than the Bills.
So what do these numbers mean? Well, in Watkins’ eight games he saw 52 targets. That put him on pace for 104 targets on the year. If he maintained his (horrible) catch rate of 53 percent, he would have had 55 catches. Now for the yardage. He averaged 15.4 yards per catch. That would have put him on pace for 847 yards. Personally, I think he’d hit closer to 1,000 yards if he played all season. This is all speculation though.
Now let us move him into McVay’s offense with Jared Goff. In Washington, the top three receivers saw 116, 100 and 97 targets respectively. The Redskins have a better receiving corp than the Rams. I fully expect Watkins sees close to 140 targets if he plays all 16 games. Goff does not throw the deep ball as well as Tyrod Taylor, but the increase in opportunity should outweigh (or at least offset) the difference in talent. I also think that under McVay, we should see Goff take a step forward in his second year.
So now that we are all leaving Watkins alone in our rankings, what does that mean for others affected by the trade?
The second trade that took place on Friday also contained the Buffalo Bills. The Bills traded Ronald Darby to the Eagles for Jordan Matthews and a 2018 third-round pick. Before thinking, I moved Tyrod Taylor down from my QB8 to my QB11 in my rankings. I assumed that without Watkins, Taylor would struggle to produce fantasy points. Then our FLAFFL creator, Steven Marcus, pointed out (via Matthew Berry’s Tweet) that Taylor seems to do just fine without Watkins.
After seeing this, I moved Taylor up to my QB10. I am not sold on Matthews fitting into the Bills’ system as he tends to do best out of the slot (something I will go into more detail on in a separate article).
As I moved Tyrod Taylor down, I am moving Jared Goff up. I think the addition of Sammy Watkins is a huge upgrade for that wide receiver corp. A group of guys who contain the likes of Robert Woods, Tavon Austin and rookie, Cooper Kupp. Goff now has a legit WR1 to throw the ball to each week.
Add in the hiring of Sean McVay, Matt LeFleur and the work he put in with Tom House and Adam Dedeaux, I think Goff takes a big jump in his sophomore season. House and Dedeaux run a quarterback training facility called 3DQB. Some of their clients include Tom Brady, Matt Ryan and Drew Brees. This does not mean that Goff is going to be great all of a sudden, but I do think it helps move him in a positive direction. As I write this the Rams have not played their first preseason game yet, but I look forward to see his progress. Right now, I have moved Goff up to QB23.
Before this trade, I had Robert Woods as my WR53. This is not very high and I know others have had him higher. He should have been the number one target in the Rams offense. Instead, he is now going to be the second option behind Sammy Watkins again. Woods is used to being Watkins’ shadow, and I am sure he would prefer being the top dog. I moved Woods down to WR58 after the news. This is now below Watkins’ old teammate Zay Jones (I will look at Jones’ value in a separate article). On a quick note: Cooper Kupp should stay the same in regards to value. The addition of Watkins should not affect his value too much and I will leave him where I have him at WR68