Failed Breakout: Kendall Wright

Jacob Feldman


The 2014 fantasy football season is over and it is time to figure out what changes you need to make this off-season. Before you can decide what you are going to do moving forward, it is important to look back at the past season as well as the past off-season.

Where were we right? Where were we wrong? What did we miss? These are just a few of the questions we need to be asking and answering.

For me, I find it extremely important to spend some time looking back at the players I thought were poised for a breakout, but who ended up falling flat this season. These are some of the most important players to look back on because there was obviously something we really liked about them last offseason. Were we completely wrong about them or was it simply a case of things not going the right way for the player? If it was the latter, they are likely to be one of my offseason targets because they can be purchased at a discount and could still have that breakout one year later. If it is the former, then I’m trying to sell them to a believer for whatever I can get.

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One of the best examples of a potential breakout player in 2013 who fell flat and then came back in 2014 is Lamar Miller. Heading into 2013, Miller was being valued at or near the top ten running backs in the league. Then disaster struck his team and most notably his offensive line, making the year a lost year for pretty much everyone on the offense. Enough people were burned by him that his price crashed and I was able to buy him up in most of my leagues at a massive discount. While Miller hasn’t been elite, he has managed to be a top 15 running back in PPR leagues even while playing one of the toughest schedules in terms of run defenses and having his coaching staff make extremely questionable play calls and player packages. Considering the price it took this off-season, it was a great return on my investment.

There are a lot of players who need to be looked at from this last season. Previously I took a chance to look back at the following:

Rueben Randle

Now it is time to take a look at Kendall Wright. While the breakout for Wright wasn’t as highly publicized as some of the others like Randle or Cordarrelle Patterson, people were expecting him to take the next step forward and be an every week starter this year. In August, Wright was being drafted as a back end WR2 or a high end WR3 depending on scoring and league size, but he was often just inside the top 25 receivers. His season landed him in the middle forties for his position, barely making him a WR4 in most leagues. Definitely not what we expected from him, so let’s take a little closer look at what happened this past season and take a guess at his value down the road.

Kendall Wright, WR TEN
2014 Stats: 57 receptions for 715 yards and six touchdowns.

The Titans have made a point to upgrade their offense over the last few years. They drafted Wright in 2012, Justin Hunter in 2013 and added Bishop Sankey in 2014. Toss in the addition of Delaine Walker and Shonn Greene to go with several new offensive linemen and they were supposed to have all of the pieces in place to have a solid offense no matter who their quarterback was going to be in 2014. Of course that quarterback question is a huge question mark to have but between Jake Locker, Charlie Whitehurst and rookie Zach Mettenberger they should be able to find something to run the offense, right? That isn’t exactly how things turned out.

The 2014 Titans were 29th in overall offense, 22nd in passing yards and 26th in rushing yards. No matter how you slice it, they were a bad offense. Making matters worse, they had three quarterbacks with over 100 attempts and 950 passing yards but none of them over 200 attempts or 1450 passing yards. With only 20 passing touchdowns as a team for the season there wasn’t a whole lot of points to go around either. Then again, they weren’t much better in 2013, but Wright dropped off from his 2013 levels. Is he destined to be a bye week fill-in or while he eventually become the every week starter on fantasy leagues we hoped he would become?

What We Liked: Wright’s calling card and role is supposed to be similar to Golden Tate and Emmanuel Sanders. He is slightly undersized but with impressive acceleration and change of direction, making him a weapon after the catch over the middle of the field and on the edges. With Hunter starting to develop behind the veteran Nate Washington and highly touted Sankey in the backfield, Wright was supposed to be able to take his game to the next level with defenses unable to key on him.

His 2013 season saw him catch 94 passes on 140 targets for 1079 yards. That put him seventh in receptions and top 20 in receiving yards. The only thing holding him back from being a rock solid WR2 in 2013 was his lack of scoring. With only two touchdowns, he was far below what would be expected from his receptions and yardage. It was only reasonable to expect his touchdown totals to come back to the norm of six to ten touchdowns for someone with his usage. If his receptions and yards stayed close to what he had with that number of scores, he might even be a low end WR1! At only 25 years old, it was definitely more than enough reason to be hopeful.

The advanced profootball focus metrics also really liked Wright’s 2013 season. They had him as second in terms of receivers when it comes to force misses tackles, a top five receiver out of the slot and a top 20 receiver overall. The arrow seemed to be pointing up!

Warning Signs: While the overall stats from 2013 looked pretty good, there were some parts of his season which might have set off a few red flags. His 11.5 yards per reception were one of the lowest for a starting wide receiver, yet his yards after the catch accounted for over half of his total yardage. This means he was catching a lot of dump offs and short routes within a few yards of the line of scrimmage and being asked to gain five or more yards by himself. If that is your role, touchdowns are not going to be very common. It is a similar role to Julian Edelman, but the Patriots are a higher scoring offense. If his role was going to be a short yardage receiver, would he ever have the upside needed to be a consistent WR2?

The other big warning sign was the lack of effort by the Titans to find a quarterback of the future. Locker seemed to be more of a bust than a franchise quarterback, yet the Titans didn’t do much to fix the issue. Spending a sixth round pick on a quarterback and bringing in someone who is a career backup isn’t nearly enough to revitalize a passing offense. That could change with the Titans having the second pick in the upcoming draft but time will tell.

2014 Season: In some ways, Wright was actually a better receiver in 2014 than he was in 2013. His drop rate fell a little bit, his yards per catch increased slightly to a career high of 12.5 yards per catch, and his yards after the catch average increased to an impressive 6.6 yards. He also boosted his touchdown total from two to a career high of six even though he had almost 40 fewer receptions on the year. He was also one of the league leaders in forcing missed tackles as a wide receiver even with only 57 receptions.

So what happened in 2014 that made him drop off overall?

One of the first spots to look was his own health. Wright missed all of two games and parts of a few others due to a broken bone in his hand. This resulted in him only catching six passes in the month of December. That doesn’t come close to explaining everything though. Even at his early season pace, he was only catching just over four passes a game with a little bit over six targets. That isn’t nearly enough to be fantasy viable. A big reason was the ineffectiveness of the entire rest of the offense. Short of Walker, there wasn’t anyone on the offense defenses needed to worry about. The running game was one of the worst in the league and the quarterbacks did a very poor job of getting the ball to the receivers. With Hunter not developing as expected and Washington dropping off due to age, defenses could sell out to stop Wright and Walker, and as the 2-14 record shows, it worked most of the time.

Final Verdict: In the interest of full disclosure, I looked at all of Wright’s metrics for the 2013 season last off-season and I really liked what I saw. He was one of my targets last offseason, and I ended up going after him in a few leagues. One of those trades was in the DLF staff league where I “sold high”, or at least I thought I was, on Emmanuel Sanders in return for Wright and a middle round pick. I was pretty happy with the deal, but it seems to be a trade in the loss column with hindsight on my side. None the less, if Wright can turn things around and get back on track, I might have a chance to break even in this deal over the course of a few years. The question is if Wright will turn things around.

Wright is currently entering the last year of his contract with the Titans and at this point I think the vast majority of the issues are with the team around him. For that reason, I’m really hoping he makes 2015 his last year in Tennessee and takes a cue from Tate or Sanders to join a high powered passing offense. I think he could easily have a season on par with what either of them did this year. His talent level is on par with them and he might be even more agile and dangerous with the ball in his hands.

At this point in time the Titans don’t have a running game, a quarterback or a quality receiving group. They aren’t going to be able to fix all of that in a season. With that said, I think his 2015 could easily get him back to WR3 status. The Titans have the draft picks this year where they can easily address some of their offensive issues, most importantly the quarterback position. Regardless of which of the two quarterbacks end up in Tennessee, both of them are major improvements over anyone on the 2014 roster.

In the leagues where I don’t already own Wright, I’m going to be trying to buy him this offseason. I think he will be a solid WR3 in 2015 with WR2 upside on a new team in 2016. 2014 just seemed to be the perfect storm of an absolutely terrible team.


jacob feldman