Jaylen Waddle Fantasy Football Hot Takes | Studs and Duds

by Ilan Shelest · Best Ball Plays & Strategy

Jaylen Waddle fantasy football stock is rising. Meanwhile, Kyle Pitts and the Atlanta Falcons have left fantasy gamers wondering what to do with him across all fantasy football formats. What should fantasy gamers do with Jaylen Waddle and Kyle Pitts in 2023?

Stud: Jaylen Waddle

Many doubted Jaylen Waddle’s ability to produce in an offense that had acquired Tyreek Hill, but the second-year wide receiver proved that notion wrong. Finishing 2022 with 75 receptions, 1,356 receiving yards, eight touchdowns, and the No. 12 most Fantasy Points Per Game among wide receivers with 15.2, Waddle had a monster season. 

Jaylen Waddle Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

Waddle did all of this while having a Catchable Target Rate of 43.1-percent, ranking No. 101 among wide receivers. It is important to note that Waddle is a deep route runner so he will naturally get a lower rate of catchable passes. However, this production with less than half of his targets being deemed “catchable” should prove his production is sustainable. 

How Many Leagues Did You Have Him In?

I drafted him in 3/4 leagues that I was in. The idea of the run-pass-option (RPO) game that Mike McDaniel would bring with Tua Tagovailoa was intriguing to me. Tagovailoa succeeded most when being able to get the ball out quick, so I thought there would be many opportunities for Waddle to gain receptions but also gain yards with the ball in his hands.

His 462 Yards After Catch (No. 10 among wide receivers) proved that to be true. Waddle would get open frequently, with a 49.2-percent Route Win Rate (No. 10 among wide receivers) and gain many yards after the catch. These are two recipes for elite level success. 

When Did You Know He Was One of Your Guys?

When the Dolphins hired Mike McDaniel from the Shanahan tree and then traded for Tyreek Hill, I knew the offense would open up many opportunities for Waddle. The addition of Hill would allow Waddle, the primary option in 2021, to be a secondary option in 2022. 

In a case study done by SumerSports Vice President Eric Eager while working at PFF, Eager found that actually the grades of second and third receivers had a higher correlation to their team’s Expected Points Added (EPA) than the grade of the first receiver. The addition of Tyreek Hill allowed Jaylen Waddle to have a higher share of the expected points added in the Dolphins offense. That would mean more fantasy points since a large part of EPA is production. 

Table created by Eager showing the correlation between receiver rank and EPA in both the regular season and the playoffs.

Why Did You Like Him So Much?

The explosiveness of Waddle coming out of college, even with his injury history, made me a huge fan of his. His first season was promising, but he was clearly hindered by the lack of innovation in the offense and many second year struggles from Tagovailoa. His 9.8 yards per reception in 2021 clearly showed how misused one of the most dynamic players in the league was, and I had so much faith in Mike McDaniel to get the best out of Waddle allowing him to expand his route tree and be a vital part of the Dolphins offense.

What Did You Learn?

I learned that you should not rule out a good player because he is a second option in an offense. The truth was the Dolphins offense was good, and Hill took attention away from Waddle. However, it barely hurt Waddle. It’s best to take chances on athletes who were good prospects even if targets will be going elsewhere. The explosive plays are huge in fantasy, and even with less attention, Waddle produced more explosive plays to more than make up for it. 

Where Would You Be Comfortable Drafting Him in 2023?

I would be happy to get Waddle in rounds 2-3 since he is inside the top 10 of fantasy wide receivers for me next season. He’s so explosive. With much of the Dolphins offense staying the same, those same opportunities will exist in 2023. 

Dud: Kyle Pitts 

Kyle Pitts was a hot name last off-season for a player who many thought would be an elite fantasy producer. He entered the NFL as what many already thought of as a top 5 tight end. His talent is still undeniable, but the production turned out to be extremely worrying. Pitts went from a decent 10.4 Fantasy Points Per Game in 2021 (No. 11 among tight ends) to 7.6 Fantasy Points Per Game in 2022 (No. 22 among tight ends).

Kyle Pitts Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

In the 10 games Pitts played last season, Marcus Mariota averaged an insanely low 23.1 attempts per game. This limited the opportunities for Pitts to have production. Coupled with Arthur Smith’s extremely innovative run scheme, the opportunities for Pitts were not often enough. Pitts did have the highest Target Rate in the league amongst tight ends at 34.3-percent. However, this didn’t matter since his Catchable Target Rate of 59.3-percent was No. 37 amongst tight ends. The situation for Pitts could not have been much worse and is probably at least part of the reason for his lackluster production. 

Kyle Pitts Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

How Many Leagues Did You Have Him In?

I had Pitts in all four of my leagues because I was a huge fan of Pitts coming out of college and even in his first year. Pitts was good enough with an aging Matt Ryan in Year 1. Certainly I felt that this Year 1 production would lead to more familiarity with Arthur Smith and thus lead to more production in Year 2. His 2.2 Yards Per Route Run in 2021 was No. 4 among tight ends and was promising for a rookie. 

Kyle Pitts Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

The biggest issue for Pitts in 2021 was his lack of touchdown production which is an unstable statistic and not a good predictor of future touchdown production. It’s hard to predict that a guy with 20.3-percent Target Share would magically stop getting targets in the Red Zone for another season, so I used that metric to assume Pitts would stabilize to the median and score more TDs. 

When Did You Know He Was One of Your Guys?

After his 2021 season, and Pitts’s lack of touchdown success, I figured many would be fixated on his lack of touchdowns. So I thought I would be able to steal who I thought would become amongst the best tight ends in the league. His 412 Unrealized Air Yards as also a big factor for me. Realizing how much production was left on the field left me daydreaming about what he might be able to do in 2022.

What Did You Learn?

Situation is extremely important for these players. Pitts can not get himself the ball. Teams with heavy and successful run schemes also naturally throw less and will set up far fewer opportunities for production for these players.

Take players in favorable situations for targets even if they are lower down the pecking order for those targets. Take tight ends too who have genuinely good QBs and don’t overlook that. Mariota hurt Pitts last season. 

Where Would You Be Comfortable Drafting Him in 2023?

It’s hard to give an exact round because each league is different, but I wouldn’t touch Pitts until the mid-late rounds. With Arthur Smith still calling plays, and Desmond Ridder now Pitts’s quarterback, I don’t have much confidence in Pitts getting to a top five tight end level this season. His situation has arguably gotten worse since Ridder is entering his first season as a starter. This is unfortunate for Pitts.

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