The Willie Snead trade window has reopened.
Before the 2015 season began, all that Willie Snead had to his professional name was a stat line of 19 catches, 272 yards and one touchdown over two preseasons with the Cleveland Browns and New Orleans Saints. Though he received some praise over the summer, he was a near complete afterthought in both reality and fantasy football circles. Fast forward three months and Snead leads the Saints in receiving yardage and is fantasy football’s WR25 even after his single-target, zero-catch performance in Week 10.
When looking at Willie Snead’s athletic profile and workout metrics, it’s easy to see how he went overlooked in both 2015 fantasy drafts and the 2014 NFL Draft. He’s less than six feet tall, less than 200 pounds and has a third-percentile SPARQ-x score. The 4.62 40-yard dash he recorded at the 2014 NFL Combine is a 20th percentile score, and none of his other workout metrics on PlayerProfiler.com break the 13th percentile. His best comparable player is 2013 sixth round draft pick Alan Bonner, who has yet to catch a pass in a regular season game.
As should always be the case when evaluating wide receivers, the most important metric to focus on is the College Dominator Rating. In a vacuum, the 75th-percentile College Dominator Rating of 39.4-percent that Willie Snead managed to record during the 2013 college season is highly impressive. For some added context, he finished third in the country in receiving yards (1,516) and fourth in receiving touchdowns (15). He outproduced Sammy Watkins, Odell Beckham and Mike Evans, all of whom were picked in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Looking beyond the Dominator Rating and looking further into the kind of player he is can help us figure out how he’s been able to be as successful as he’s been, despite having an underwhelming prospect profile.Willie Snead was the second player in the history of Ball State football to record two 1,000 yard receiving seasons. He owns a school record of 13 games with over 100 receiving yards. Despite making a positive impression on Cleveland’s coaching staff during the 2014 preseason as an undrafted free agent, the same incompetent Browns organization that once cut ties with Dion Lewis and Charles Johnson made Snead a victim of roster cuts. Still, Snead powered through the adversity without giving up and earned the trust of Drew Brees and the Saints coaching staff in advance of the 2015 regular season. This despite a summer of reality and fantasy football hype being thrust upon the lead-footed Brandon Coleman.
Highlighted by a Production Premium of 19.4 (16th in the league), a Yards per Target of 10.1 (8th in the league) and a Fantasy Points per Target number of 2.0 (17th in the league), Willie Snead’s efficiency metrics had already painted him as the best receiver on the Saints entering their Week 9 match-up against the Titans. Though it was Brandin Cooks who found the end zone that week, Snead continued to state his case as 2015 fantasy football’s waiver wire hero at the wide receiver position with six catches for 95 yards on 10 targets in that contest. Despite a zero-point week-10, it’s worth noting that Snead actually jumped up two spots from 16th in the league in Production Premium to 14th in the league in that category.
Even though we heard a lot of offseason chatter about how run-heavy the Saints were looking to become, they rank third in the league in total passing yards (3,132) after ten weeks. Snead is PlayerProfiler‘s No. 35 ranked wide receiver in the rest of season rankings. But considering how quickly he’s been able to phase Marques Colston and Brandon Coleman out of the offense, Willie Snead is also an asset in Dynasty leagues as he ranks 32nd in the PlayerProfiler.com Dynasty rankings.
After zero-point performance, and with New Orleans entering their bye week, impatient owners may be tempted to drop Willie Snead between now and Week 12 if they haven’t done so already. If that happens, you should do all you can to acquire the player who has looked like the best receiver on the Saints at times. There are those that would argue that he’s a better receiver than Brandin Cooks. But being that Cooks and Davante Adams were the only two wide receivers in the 2014 draft class to record both more yards and touchdowns than Snead in the 2013 college season, and given Cooks’ elite prospect profile, I’m not yet going to make that distinction. Regardless, Snead is a bigger fantasy football asset than most people probably realize. And that should continue to be the case in 2015 and beyond.