When my six-month-old son is tired, it can be a struggle to get him to fall asleep. Anyone who has tried to put a fussy, tired baby to sleep will know this scenario all too well.
I’ll try anything – holding him, rocking him, bouncing him, giving him a pacifier, putting him in the car and driving around, humming songs. Anything, I say!
When the little guy is finally tuckered out and in his crib sleeping, I have to get out of the room as quietly as possible, so I delicately tip-toe around the creaky boards on our hardwood floor like they’re landmines. I shut the door behind me and – super calm fist pump! Yeah, I’m a bad man.
The feeling I get from escaping his room without waking him up is, I imagine, similar to what a robber feels when he’s fleeing the scene, knowing he pulled off the improbable. It’s also eerily similar to the feeling I got when I scooped up Keenan Allen in the fourth round of a recent startup.
At this time a year ago, Allen was a budding star, a second-year receiver coming off a 1,046-yard, eight-touchdown rookie campaign. At that time, only five players in NFL history had posted more receptions during their rookie seasons and only Anquan Boldin, Randy Moss, Michael Clayton, Terry Glenn and A.J. Green had more receiving yards as first-year players.
In the final game of his rookie campaign, a nationally-televised AFC Divisional Playoff loss at Denver, Allen exploded for 142 yards and two scores on six grabs, seemingly punctuating an outstanding rookie year with a big ol’ exclamation point.
We had ourselves a top-shelf dynasty commodity. His ADP in startups heading into last season reflected just that as Allen was the 12th receiver off the board.
Fast forward 12 months and Allen’s price tag has cheapened considerably.
After a lackluster 2014, Allen has plummeted to low-end WR2 range. He’s currently being taken as the 21st wideout in startup drafts, which gives him an excellent chance to provide value going forward, especially in PPR leagues. I believe there’s a high-end WR2 to be had for a discounted price.
Let’s examine Allen’s disappointing 2014 season.
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After a rookie year in which he finished 17th among receivers, Allen came in 47th last season — behind surefire Hall of Famers like James Jones and Robert Woods. He scored exactly 50 fewer points than he did in his debut campaign.
It was a startling drop-off, but was he really that much worse or a victim of some bad luck? Here are Allen’s totals from his two seasons in the league.
The volume and opportunity were still there, and often times opportunity is half the battle (maybe more) in fantasy football. In 2014, before missing two games with an injury, Allen was on pace for 88 grabs and 895 yards on 8.6 targets per game. Allen actually caught six more balls in year two.
The difference in the two seasons is clearly touchdowns and a lack of big plays.
His yards-per-catch numbers dropped from 14.7 to 10.2 – that drove his yards per game down from 69.7 to a lowly 55.9. After finding the end zone eight times as a rookie, he only scored four times a year ago.
Touchdowns can vary for even the best receivers and red-zone targets. Calvin Johnson, possibly a computer-created red-zone weapon, has touchdown totals of 16, five, 12 and eight over the past four seasons. The variance isn’t due to injury, either, as Megatron only missed five games in that four-year stretch.
There is nothing in Allen’s profile that suggests he can’t produce big plays or be a good red-zone threat. He’s 6-foot-2, 211 pounds, and his pre-draft profile says he “has the height, speed and ability to win jump balls required of a number-one target in the NFL.”
In addition to bad luck and the randomness of touchdowns, the biggest reason for Allen’s low touchdown total may have been the presence of Antonio Gates, San Diego’s ageless tight end. Philip Rivers threw 31 touchdowns last year – 25 of which went to non-running backs. Gates hauled in nearly half of those 25, finishing with 12 scores.
At some point, the undefeated Father Time will force Gates, 35, to slow down. I don’t know when that will be, but I know for certain he will be halted these first four games thanks to a PED suspension.
Yes, dynasty darling Ladarius Green will finally be let off his leash, but I think Allen is the biggest beneficiary.
The suspension of Gates opens the door for Allen to become the go-to guy for Rivers (for the foreseeable future, not just for the first four games). Allen should be the focal point of the passing game all off-season and a good start to the year will erase any doubt about who is Rivers’s unquestioned top target moving forward.
Also working in Allen’s favor is the fact San Diego is a team bereft of quality pass-catching options. While Green has the measurables that hypnotize dynasty leaguers, he hasn’t shown anything substantial in his limited opportunities. Malcom Floyd, who is 34, and Stevie Johnson are, well, Malcom Floyd and Stevie Johnson.
The addition of first-round pick Melvin Gordon will bolster the San Diego’s rushing attack and help balance the offense, which should open things up for the passing game. The Chargers ranked tenth in passing yards per game in 2014 with 256.1. The running game checked in 30th, averaging a measly 85.4 yards per game.
Lastly, Allen will have an underrated, steady quarterback throwing him the ball. All Rivers does is produce. In two seasons under head coach Mike McCoy, Rivers has thrown for 62 touchdowns to just 29 interceptions and averaged 273 yards per game. Rivers, 33, has started 153 straight games, a string that stretches over nine seasons and ranks fourth all-time.
So, what we’re looking at is a 23-year-old receiver who has already proven he can produce at a high level and is getting targeted heavily in a good offense with a very good quarterback. Not much to dislike there.
Allen is a premier buy-low trade target and a high-end WR2 for years to come that can be drafted in the mid-to-late third round. At this time next year, Allen’s price tag will again reflect that of a dynasty stud, so take advantage of this buy-low window while it’s open.
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Any concern as to what happens to Allen if Rivers walks after this season, which is a distinct possibility?
I don’t think San Diego can — or will — let Rivers walk. He’s still playing extremely well. I know he’s aging, but there just aren’t many good quarterbacks out there. It’s not a concern for me.
It seems like there are always rumblings about big-name players leaving — Cobb, TY, Hilton — but it rarely happens in the NFL when that player is still performing well.
The argument is not if Keenan Allen is skilled because he definitely is…..the argument is are they going to throw to him, which is impossible to predict. Last year week 13 he has 11/121/2 and week 14 he has 2 catches for 3 yards….you just can’t account for that. He was probably on most people’s bench week 13 and in most people’s starting lineup on week 14….last year was sickening.
His usage was definitely frustrating last year, especially in the red zone.
I still believe in Keenan as a solid mid-level WR2 with some upside. Long as Rivers is in town that is.
Me thinks with even more conviction, however, that you might be underestimating Stevie Johnson rather severely. He’s equally talented, and has had a stream of bad situations from the imploding Niners back to the QB-less Bills. Once Chan Gailey and Fitzmagic left the Bills, Stevie’s really never been the same. To be fair nobody on the Bills has been. Add in the fact that Stevie is supremely motivated this year, and in his best situation in many years, and I’m betting he will put up numbers very close to Keenan this year. I say both go over 1,000 yards this year. You heard it here first!
You know what, I thought about that after I posted the story. He’s better than I gave him credit for.
I’m firmly in your camp JohnnyD, and am snatching Stevie Johnson up in 13th – 15th rounds of every startup I’m in this year. Keenan owner also, and I think Stevie only helps him.
Would you trade Allen and Latavius Murray for Alshon Jeffery and Charles Johnson?
That’s a toss up. For me, Alshon is slightly ahead of Keenan, and Murray is a tick above Johnson. Johnson and Murray are both somewhat unknown quantities who are going to get great opportunities this season. If you feel strongly about either one of them, that could tip the scale.
I traded CJ Anderson straight up for Keenan at the end of last season.
I will target Stevie Johnson in waivers. I recommend doubling down on both undervalued assets while you can.
Rivers is the real deal!
Thoughts on dynasty value:
I’d put them in the order you just listed. If Watkins wasn’t stuck in QB purgatory, there would be a big gap between him and the other two. I think Allen is a better receiver than Benji, and I like his situation better. In PPR, it’s definitely Allen>Benji, for me, but they’re close in non-PPR