As fantasy football players are well aware, the ability to identify and acquire undervalued players is an essential component of sustained success. In this series, I’ll be taking a look at receivers who appear considerably undervalued at their current ADP and therefore present an attractive risk/reward proposition for prospective owners. To help with the selection process, I’ve decided to incorporate several factors into my selection criteria.
First, I’m targeting receivers currently ranked outside the top 40 in terms of ADP in both dynasty and redraft formats. As a result of this, it should be understood that I’m not expecting WR1 or even consistent WR2 production. That is simply unrealistic. Instead, I’m hoping to achieve solid WR3 production with situational upside for more. Second, I’m looking at players aged 28 and younger. The reason for this is purely selfish as I prefer dynasty formats and try to acquire players with a longer theoretical shelf life. Additionally, these types of players can see a dramatic spike in their value if they pan out, while our downside remains limited due to acquisition cost. Third, I’m looking at receivers with a clear path to both snaps and targets. More specifically, those who are at worst third on the depth chart and saw at least a 60% snap share (Sample size >8 games) last season.
Batting lead off in this series, will be New York Jets WR Jamison Crowder. At the time of writing, Crowder finds himself tagged with an ADP of WR61 in dynasty and WR50 in redraft.
First and foremost, Crowder meets all the selection criteria mentioned above. He is well within the parameters of the ADP criteria, which assures us that it won’t require high draft or trade capital in order to acquire him. As a result of this, we’ve left ourselves some margin for error in the event that he doesn’t pan out.
With respect to age, Crowder just turned 27 and is squarely in the prime of his career. For those who are unaware, wide receivers typically enjoy their best years from 26-27 before beginning a relatively slow decline into their twilight years.
As a Jet, Crowder saw a healthy 84% snap share last season with 70% of those snaps coming from the slot. Entering the 2020 season, Crowder remains firmly entrenched in the slot role and should once again benefit from a similar snap share.
Chemistry with Darnold
Another reason to like Crowder as we enter 2020 is the relative success he enjoyed last season in his first with the New York Jets. Below are Crowder’s receiving stats from last season.
As someone who annoyingly feels the need to opine on everything, those numbers are pretty decent. What’s extremely important to note, is that Sam Darnold missed 3 games last season, leaving Crowder with Luke Falk as his QB on those occasions. In fantasy, 3 games represents exactly 20% of your season which surely had a negative impact on Crowder’s overall performance. If we adjust his stats for the games he played with Darnold in the lineup we get the following:
In those games, Darnold showed good chemistry with Crowder and targeted him frequently. It’s worth understanding that wide receiver production is heavily linked to targets and that’s especially true in PPR formats. Furthermore, targets per game (T/G) and % of team targets (%/TT) have a strong statistical correlation from year to year. Crowder was 16th in the NFL in total targets, 22nd in T/G and 14th %/TT. This provides us with a nice framework for what next year could resemble.
The Jets’ Offense
For fear of spending too much time on the subject I’ll be blunt, Adam Gase is a nightmare. Having said that, what if I told you Gase could actually be a positive for Crowder? Or at least, less of a negative. During his coaching career, Gase has actually had a history of consistently utilizing his slot receivers and we have reason to believe that persists through this season.
Gase aside, there’s reason for optimism when it comes to the Jets’ offense this year. Although they were undoubtedly bad last season, their biggest issue was almost certainly their atrocious offensive line. For context, they started 11 different players on their line last season. This offseason, the Jets prioritized addressing the issue. In free agency, the Jets inked C Connor McGovern, T George Fant, G Greg Van Roten, C Josh Andrews and re-signed G Alex Lewis. Going a step further, the Jets used their first round pick (11th overall) on gargantuan T Mekhi Becton. Additionally, they spent a fourth rounder on G Cameron Clarke. Regardless of how this unit takes shape, it’s safe to assume they’ll be better this year which should have a net positive effect on the passing game.
Speaking of the passing game, it will be interesting to monitor Sam Darnold’s development as the year goes on. For good reason, the jury is still out on him. Darnold will enter this season with the best offensive unit of his career. However, that isn’t really saying much and I’m basing most of the assessment on the perceived improvement of the offensive line. There are still plenty of questions when it comes to the skill position players and that brings us to my next point.
Fortunately for Crowder, he’ll enter the 2020 season as the Jets’ most senior starting receiver. At present, the Jets are projected to start Crowder, Perriman and Mims as their top 3 receivers. That is an extremely thin and unpredictable receiver room. While not particularly great news for Darnold, this is assuredly good news for Crowder.
In an offseason like no other, it’s okay for us to put a premium on continuity. As the only starter who’s played with Darnold before, Crowder has the inside track to begin 2020 as Darnold’s top target. Regardless of what you think of Darnold or Crowder, it’s extremely rare you can get a team’s top receiving option at this price.
But what about Perriman and Mims? This is a valid question but I’m not quite sure it merits “concern” status. Beginning with Perriman, most expect him to step into something that resembles the Robby Anderson role of years past. Given his skill set, I think he could be a fit there and he’s enjoyed a bit of a career resurgence over the past two seasons after falling on his face as a former first round pick of the Ravens. As for Mims, it’s tough to say. I like him a lot as a prospect but I also don’t envision him stepping into a full time role in the early going. He needs time to develop and while we should expect him to see snaps he shouldn’t command enough targets to infringe on Crowder. Fortunately, neither Mims or Perriman spend much time in the slot.
My biggest concern for Crowder is the return of TE Chris Herndon. Many remember Herndon’s strong rookie season followed by the subsequent disappointment of him playing one game last year. If healthy and involved, it’s a real possibility Herndon could cut into Crowder’s targets in a meaningful way and for that reason, I’ll be monitoring this situation closely as we approach the season. For now, we have to assume that Crowder’s role is safe.
Being fair, it’s worth noting that Crowder has never been a particularly efficient receiver during his career. Outside of boasting a solid catch rate (66.3%), it stands to reason that Crowder requires volume to thrive. If you believe his volume is going to fall off, then I would turn your attention elsewhere as I don’t envision him reshaping that area of his career.
If you’ve made it this far, you can understand why I think Crowder presents an enticing risk/reward opportunity for fantasy players this year. In addition to the reasons above, I’m also of the belief that the Jets should see plenty of garbage time again this season. As of now, they’re currently projected for the 8th fewest wins among NFL teams with an O/U of 7. Also, I’ll reiterate that we’re not expecting Crowder to deliver us WR1/2 performances but to offer WR3/Flex production at a very affordable cost. As long as we keep our cost down, these calculated gambles should reward us over time. Happy hunting, folks!
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