Studs and Duds 2020 – Volume 8 – Brandon Aiyuk and Devin Singletary

by Aditya Fuldeore, May 15, 2021

We all have them. The players we attach ourselves to over the course of the pre-draft process. The ones we try our damnedest to draft or acquire in fantasy football. For better or worse, these are the players we end up attaching our reputations to as fantasy players and/or analysts. This series will focus on both sides of that particular coin.

In this new Underworld venture called Studs and Duds, we will talk about one player we planted our proverbial flag on that was a hit and one that was a bust. Along the way, we’ll be using PlayerProfiler’s advanced stats, metrics and analytics to analyze the process, figure out how and why these players hit/busted, and decide whether we want to target/fade said players next season.

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Volume 8 – Aditya Fuldeore

STUD: Brandon Aiyuk

As a rookie last season, Brandon Aiyuk totaled 748 receiving yards, No. 44 among qualified wide receivers and No. 6 among rookies, and averaged 15.4 (No. 16) Fantasy Points Per Game. He was a multi-faceted asset for San Francisco, and unfortunately missed four games due to COVID-19 issues and a couple of short-term injuries.

How Many Leagues Did You Have Him In?

There was not much hype around Aiyuk among my fellow league members, so I was able to snag him in two redraft leagues. He went undrafted in a third, where I was able to pick him up off waivers, but I could not get him in a dynasty league.

When Did You Know He Was One of Your Guys?

I had my eye on Brandon Aiyuk when the 49ers drafted him, but he really stood out on my radar when Deebo  Samuel was hurt prior to the start of the season. As I do most of my drafts the week before Week 1, I picked up Aiyuk, but he was also out in Week 1, so I had to wait to play him. He was one of my favorite receivers in the draft and I was eager to hop on the hype train right after he was drafted.

Why Did You Like Him So Much?

Aiyuk tallied 1,192 receiving yards in 2019 for Arizona State, along with eight receiving touchdowns in 12 games, displaying electric special teams return skills along the way. He also showed great explosiveness and athleticism, evidenced by his elite 132.0 (92nd-percentile) Burst Score. His pre-draft results and size reminded me of dominant fantasy WR Davante Adams. Comparing the two, Aiyuk’s 40.6-percent (82nd-percentile) College Dominator Rating was just below Adams’ 40.7-percent (83nd-percentile) mark, while Aiyuk is just one inch smaller and seven pounds lighter. Their 40-yard Dashes, Speed Scores, and Burst Scores were all similar as well.

With the intangible similarities to Adams, Aiyuk emerged as one of my favorite receivers in the 2020 NFL Draft as he landed in San Francisco. I liked his fit in the 49ers scheme and thought he would be a big yards-after-catch guy. He obliged with 309 (No. 28) Yards After Catch. After news of Deebo Samuel’s multi-week injury broke, I immediately looked to Aiyuk to fill Samuel’s role in San Francisco’s offense. Ultimately, Aiyuk’s 2020 Target Share exceeded Samuel’s 2019 Target Share, and he got more opportunities amidst Samuel’s missed games and fluid COVID-19 issues for San Francisco.

What Did You Learn?

Look for offensive fit and/or a unique opportunity when evaluating a rookie’s fantasy outlook. This may seem obvious, but look at talented rookie Jerry Jeudy, who took longer to get going because of questions around Denver’s offense. While I really liked Brandon Aiyuk coming out of college, I ultimately did not think of him as an immediate fantasy producer for the 2020 season until Deebo Samuel’s unfortunate injury, which led to Aiyuk’s unique opportunity. His game is similar to Samuel’s, and seeing that he would fit right into the 49ers offense helped raise him as “my guy.” Ultimately, Aiyuk caught short passes, shed tackles, drew Deep Targets, and received rushing carries in a multi-faceted role, like Samuel’s in 2019. Through the course of the season, Aiyuk received more opportunities (four double-digit target games after Week 7), becoming a player that could sustain fantasy significance with Samuel in the game.

Aiyuk’s relevance as a fantasy asset began with Samuel’s injury and sustained because of the San Francisco WR corps’ injury and COVID-19 issues. His opportunity due to other injuries and fit into Samuel’s role propelled him into his alpha-WR outlook for the future.

Where Would You Be Comfortable Drafting Him in 2021?

Brandon Aiyuk’s ADP is fluctuating around pick No. 63 in Underdog fantasy drafts as of now. He finished the 2020 season with five 20-plus fantasy point finishes out of 12 games played, but there is uncertainty around where to draft him with a rookie QB in Trey Lance potentially starting in San Francisco. It doesn’t bother me too much, however. Aiyuk scored 20-plus fantasy points in games with C.J. Beathard and Nick Mullens throwing him the ball, and with his several uses in an offensive role for the 49ers, he will still be fantasy relevant with a new QB. I don’t see him as a top tier fantasy wideout, but I would be optimistic drafting him as my second or third WR, in round 6 of a redraft league, right around his current Underdog ADP.

DUD: Devin Singletary

Devin Singletary was an explosive young back in his rookie season in Buffalo, but was limited his second year. He averaged 9.0 (No. 40) Fantasy Points Per Game, which was 3.3 fewer than in his rookie 2019 season.

How Many Leagues Did You Have Him In?

I picked up Singletary in all three of my redraft leagues for 2020. I was eager to get him in these PPR formats. In dynasty, I could not get a share, but turned out for the better.

When Did You Know He Was One of Your Guys?

I decided to stake my claim into Singletary after the end of the 2019 season. I had him in a redraft league and he provided well as a PPR back. His evasiveness and receiving abilities caught my eye in an expanding Buffalo offense that averaged 29.1 (No. 6) Team Run Plays Per Game in 2019. Even with the addition of Zack Moss, I projected him to be a high-volume receiving back with enough carries prior to the 2020 season, with a role that Nyheim Hines or J.D. McKissic played for their respective teams.

Why Did You Like Him So Much?

Simply put, Devin Singletary is tough to bring down. In 2019, he logged 60 (No. 18) Evaded Tackles and had a 33.3-percent (No. 3) Juke Rate. Throw in his 59.4-percent (No. 21) Opportunity Share and 7.3-percent (No. 3) Breakaway Run Rate, and it looked like he would be a shifty runner with plenty of carries in a run-heavy Buffalo offense.

Devin Singletary 2019 Opportunity, Productivity & Efficiency Metrics

His efficiency and production led me to believe he would be the lead back with rookie Zack Moss behind him. Honestly, I got carried away staking my claim into the next “great” fantasy PPR running back, trying to find another Alvin Kamara, and his ADP for 2020 was low enough for me to believe he would be a high-reward RB2.

What Did You Learn?

I learned that a rookie RB’s efficiency metrics are not everything. Projecting opportunity matters for production (see: James Robinson). Looking at the offensive pieces around Singletary, I should have been a little more cautious with him. Stefon Diggs elevated Buffalo’s passing offense and helped the Bills go from No. 6 in Team Run Plays Per Game to No. 17 with a 25.7 average. This led to Singletary’s decrease in both Snap Share and Opportunity Share in 2020.

Devin Singletary 2020 Opportunity & Productivity Metrics

Fumbling issues in camp may also help a back fall out of favor with coaches. Running back is the most fluid positions in fantasy sports, especially with RBs becoming less and less valued in the NFL. Looking at purely efficiency metrics for a young RB may not go so well. Context matters for those metrics. Maybe I should have listened more to articles like this:

Looking at incoming pieces and considering other offensive factors and metrics, like I did with Brandon Aiyuk, would help project a rookie RB’s sophomore year better.

Where Would You Be Comfortable Drafting Him in 2021?

Devin Singletary’s current Underdog ADP is hovering around pick No. 145. While he isn’t completely undraftable, he has lost some of his opportunities to Zack Moss. Throw in Josh Allen’s “rejuvenation” as a passer (yes, I know it was just his third season), and Buffalo’s slightly pass-heavy offense, and Singletary’s value is only as a late-round PPR RB. In redraft leagues, I would consider taking a flier on him in the last couple rounds. He is depth only for me in dynasty leagues.