Sammy Watkins’ Fantasy WR1 Trajectory

by Danny Coffey ·

“Hey, I need my targets… for a guy you go up in the draft to take as your No. 1 receiver, you would love those 15 targets that Julio gets, those 20 targets that Odell gets.  Of course I’d have 100 yards every game and a TD, if I’m getting 20 targets.”
– Sammy Watkins

In a previous article, I discussed how DeAndre Hopkins‘ counting stats in 2015 were fueled by Houston’s unsustainable pace.  On the other end of the efficiency and pace spectrum last season was Hopkins’ Clemson brethren Sammy Watkins.  In a vacuum, both Watkins and Hopkins have nearly identical size but Watkins is younger than Hopkins with a more appealing athletic profile.  Sammy Watkin’ measurables: 109.6 (87th-percentile) Height-adjusted Speed Score (HaSS) and 120.8 (46th-percentile) Burst Score demonstrate a higher ceiling and better fit as a go-to NFL X-receiver.


Sammy Watkins Advanced Metrics Profile

While DeAndre Hopkins received more opportunities, Sammy Watkins got more with the targets he received.  As Houston and Buffalo’s respective offensive pace numbers regress to the mean, so will Hopkins and Watkins’ respective counting stats.  Watkins will be a significantly better redraft value than Hopkins in 2015.  Watkins’ strong close to 2015 also represents a “buy-high” opportunity in dynasty leagues as Watkins counting stats disappointed in 2015 relative to his 1.04 draft capital.


DeAndre Hopkins Advanced Metrics Profile

Looking back, Sammy Watkins‘ fantasy stock has been a roller coaster the last two years, closing 2015 season strong with 49 catches for 900 yards and 7 touchdowns over his last 9 games.  Compare that to Odell Beckham’s last 9 games of his historic rookie year and it may pale in comparison at first glance (81 catches for 1199 and 9 touchdowns), but not when you consider the Giants attempted 377-passes to the Bills 243-passes during the same period.  Watkins accounted for 49.3-percent of the Buffalo’s receiving yards during that 9-game span to end the 2015 season in comparison to Beckham who accounted for 43.8-percent of New York’s receiving yards during in the final 9-games of the 2014 season.  Impressive company.

Sammy Watkins posted 16.8-fantasy points per game (No. 13), 60 receptions (No. 36), 1047 receiving yards (No. 25), 167 yards after catch (No. 66) and only 4 redzone receptions (No. 74).  Like DeAndre Hopkins, Watkins’ 2015 counting stats tell only a partial story.  Few receivers can match Watkin’s ruthless efficiency.


Sammy Watkins’ 2015 Productivity vs. Efficiency

Sammy Watkins posted the best per-target metrics in the NFL in 2015.  He averaged 11.2 yards per target (No. 1) and 2.28 fantasy points per target (No. 2).  Sammy’s resume also features a +39.6 (No. 2) Production Premium (’s situation agnostic efficiency metric) and a +43.8-percent (No. 2) Target Premium (per-target production compared to other Bills receivers).

A slow pace throttled Sammy Watkins‘ production more than any skill set shortcomings.  The Bills only threw the ball 465 times (No. 31), down from last year’s 579 attempts (No. 13).  Buffalo finished 2015 averaging 28.86 (No. 26) seconds-per-play.  Even when trailing by at least 7 points the Bills only averaged 26.71 (No. 24) seconds-per-play.  Although the main stream media compared Watkin’ public comments to Keyshawn Johnson saying “throw me the damn ball,” his criticism represented a fair criticism of the offense and a nuanced understanding of efficiency metrics.

Sammy Watkins knows that when quarterbacks throw the ball to Sammy Watkins, good things happen.