In this segment, two TFA senior writers debate between two players with similar redraft ADP in efforts to win you over. In today’s fantasy throwdown, Jennifer Smith takes the side of Demaryius Thomas and Zack Marmer argues for Sammy Watkins. Tweet at us with #TFAThrowdown with your opinions! Let us know if we’ve convinced you!
Demaryius Thomas (Jen Smith)Follow @FF_female920
Although Sammy Watkins represents a solid draft pick, I didn’t hesitate with taking up the argument that you should draft Demaryius Thomas first. How a player who finished as the #13, #4, and #2 fantasy WR the past three seasons fell into the mid-third round of drafts is a mystery to me. Let me sway you with my one-two punch of research and charisma, sure to knockout my fantasy throwdown opponent, Zack, and his Sammy Watkins love.
Thomas saw 30 percent of the overall target share in both 2015 and 2016. Not only that, but DT is a red zone target monster. In 2016, he received 30% of the red zone targets with the next closest target (Sanders) getting only 12.5% of these looks. A similar pattern existed in 2014, as Thomas saw 30% of overall target share and 34% of red zone targets. I’m sure you’re aware of how large these percentages are compared to typical WR1 numbers (typically between 22-25% of overall target share). To give you a larger perspective, DT’s target share was 4th overall for WRs in 2015 and FIRST in 2014. So, to say that opportunities exist for DT to repeat his fantasy success is an understatement.
Concerning possible reasons for Thomas’ drop into the 3rd round, I acknowledge fantasy players’ hesitancy regarding the quarterback situation in Denver and the likelihood that the offense may lean on the run more often in 2016. Over the past two seasons the breakdown was essentially a 60/40 split between pass/run plays. Even if the passing attempts fall some, DT won’t be the receiver that this impacts most likely, given he now represents the linchpin of Denver offense (formerly Peyton Manning). It will most likely impact Sanders, who Denver targets much less frequently (12.5% in 2015), especially in the red zone.
If we take a look at Gary Kubiak’s coaching over the past several years, perhaps some of these concerns about his more “conservative” approach and possibly run heavy offense will decrease. From 2006-2013, Kubiak was the head coach of the Houston Texans with WR1 Andre Johnson there for most of that time. When he played in 13 or more games, Johnson averaged 167 targets per season and never ranked lower than 9th in overall targets for WRs. Reminder: Texans also had a solid running game during Kubiak’s tenure (e.g. Arian Foster). Therefore, I’m not nervous that Kubiak will neglect his star WR1 in Denver.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the concerns about the continuing battle for starting QB status between Mark Sanchez, Trevor Siemian, and Paxton Lynch. Sanchez’s preseason performances have been lackluster at best (3 turnovers in two games), but we saw sparks of solid play by Siemian (until his pick 6) and Lynch (who coaches say is still “coming along”). You know how some receivers are “match-up proof”? Well, I would say that DT is quarterback proof. The back-and-forth of last season impacted him only slightly (besides the TDs) and still afforded him a #13 fantasy WR finish. The talent is suspect, but I believe Thomas possesses the skills to overcome these hurdles and lead his team successfully.
Even with these question marks discussed, snagging a receiver that hit at least 1,300 receiving yards the past 4 seasons and double-digit touchdowns in 2012-2014 shouldn’t be a difficult one. DT’s TDs decreased in 2015 (6 TDs), but will bounce back this season. I project his stats will be around 110-1400-9/10 TD. Watkins represents huge upside, but Demaryius Thomas is the epitome of a high floor in addition to having a top-5 ceiling. All that in the THIRD ROUND? When we talk about value and taking advantage of ADP, Thomas falling this far is exactly what we are referencing. Take him and don’t think twice about it.
Sammy Watkins: (Zack Marmer) Follow @leagueedge
I actually struggled with this argument, as I think both players will have solid WR2 numbers this year. The main reason you pick Watkins is the upside factor. Watkins has all the tools of an elite receiver: He runs great routes, high-points the ball, makes great catches, and most importantly, has the trust of his quarterback. Nobody knows when exactly it will be, but there will be a year where the Clemson product will put it all together and has an 80+ catch season with over 1,300 yards and 10+ touchdowns.
Style of Offense
The only reservation one may have with thinking this could be his year would be that the Bills run a conservative offense and play above average defense, which means they don’t throw a lot. The Broncos will also run the ball a lot too, but the Bills led the league in rushing attempts last year, and I could easily see them repeating this.
At least Watkins doesn’t have much competition for targets when they do throw the ball. Eighty-nine targets went out the door when Percy Harvin and Chris Hogan left the organization this off-season. I would be willing to bet that most of those go directly to #14. The only competition for targets comes from Charles Clay, LeSean McCoy, and Robert Woods. Woods is the only other wideout who gets any consideration in the passing game, so an uptick from 95 targets (just 20.65% target share) would go a long way to solidifying Watkin’s status as an elite receiver. If he can get 135+ targets and 25%+ target share, he becomes a much safer option based on volume.
Year three is typically the year that wide receivers have their breakout year. With a full season catching passes from Tyrod Taylor under his belt, year two with Taylor looks to be as good a year as ever for Watkins and a prime opportunity to push himself into the conversation of top-flight NFL receivers. If you are looking for more evidence, check out his last 9 games of 2015 where he was healthy and acclimated to working with his new QB. Over those 9 games, he caught 49 passes for 900 yards and 7 touchdowns. Paced over a 16-game schedule, that would give him about 87 catches, 1,600 yards, and 12 touchdowns. This would have tied Odell Beckham Jr. for the 5th most PPR points at the position in 2015. If he can stay healthy for a full slate of games, those numbers are absolutely in reach for this talented former top-5 pick.
Thomas probably has the higher floor given proven production and high target shares, but Watkins has more upside given that he is the only reliable outside receiving option in Buffalo. Also, he can break a game open with just one play on any given Sunday. Both are solid options as your WR2, so it comes down to who you are more comfortable with and if you value upside or floor more in your pick at that position.
Don’t forget to use #TFAThrowdown to give us your opinion on Thomas vs. Watkins! Be sure to check out new content at The Fantasy Authority and watch out for new #TFAThrowdown articles to come!