Turn Down Wat

Bobby Koch

It’s time to fire up that loud fantasy football take. Here comes another round of shots at Sammy Watkins. If you couldn’t tell, that was a parody of the classic hit “Turn Down for What” by DJ Snake, and Lil Jon.

I stand by it.

You should be turning down Wat at his ADP. I know this will offend the sensibilities of Watkins truthers and people with good music taste so let’s get into why.

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It’s August 2014, and Watkins is taking the dynasty world by storm after dominating in three seasons at Clemson. He’s the consensus 1.01 in rookie drafts and going as the 19th player off the board according to DLF’s August 2014 ADP.  He didn’t disappoint many owners, because he managed to finish his first NFL season with 981 receiving yards and six touchdowns. In fact, he and his classmates rejuvenated a position where guys like Victor Cruz and Percy Harvin were still considered top picks.

Speaking of his classmates, we should note two of them completely outplayed Watkins, who finished as the WR27 that year in PPR formats. It’s not that his season was disappointing, but he didn’t burst onto the scene like Odell Beckham who had a top-ten finish that season despite missing four games or Mike Evans who just missed being a WR1.

Hindsight is 20/20 but if you were lucky enough to be on the Beckham train back in August of 2014, you could have gotten him 68 picks after Watkins. It was a little closer in regards to Evans, who was going only nine picks later than Watkins.

Still, Watkins gave hope for his future, especially since he managed to put up those numbers playing with Kyle Orton as his primary quarterback. In August 2015, his ADP was at 20. Not much had changed from the previous year except that both Beckham and Evans had moved to be top ten dynasty picks.

He played even better in his sophomore season than he did in his rookie season, putting up a 60-1,047-9 line in only 13 games. That led to his best fantasy finish to date at 20th overall at his position. It’s understandable that people had hope for him, especially since those numbers in only 13 games were very impressive.

This is also where some of the injury issues really popped up for Watkins. He had experienced some injuries in college and some minor injuries before this season, but he sprained his left ankle in week six of this season and later fractured his left foot during a workout in April. That led to a disappointing season in 2016, where he was only able to post a 28-430-2 line in eight games played. It’s understandable because dealing with a foot fracture is no joke for a receiver, and some would argue that Tyrod Taylor isn’t a competent quarterback (I’m not one of them). However, Watkins certainly disappointed fantasy players who took him at his 11th overall August 2016 ADP.

Right now, we have a picture of a player with tantalizing upside who dealt with some injuries. Why don’t I have more love in my club for Watkins? I should probably say that before the 2017 season, I was still a believer.

That said, Watkins failed to live up to his ADP every season until that point. You may disagree, and I’m even willing to give you a pass on his rookie season. Still, maybe I’m just greedy but if someone is going in the top two rounds of a dynasty start-up, they had better be providing me with a low-end WR1 season at worst.

As I mentioned earlier, heading into the 2017 season, I was still a believer. I was willing to buy into the fact that injuries were the only thing holding him back from being top tier. In fact, Julio Jones suffered a similar foot injury in 2013 but he’s still elite despite what the good people of fantasy Twitter might tell you. It was with this sense of hope I headed into the 2017 season hearing that Watkins had been traded to the Rams. After doing some research to re-assure myself on Jared Goff, Watkins had me falling in love again.

In August of 2017, Watkins was sitting at 14th overall dynasty ADP. It seems like many were still on the train with me, and it was full steam ahead. I don’t think any of us would have fully believed you at the time if you told us Watkins would be healthy for the full year and in a top passing offense , and yet still fail to finish even as a fantasy WR3.

You might say that it was because he was traded well into the pre-season. Or maybe it’s that you think Jared Goff’s deep ball wasn’t all that great. But that isn’t correct. Goff was one of the better deep passers in the NFL last season according to PFF and Nextgenstats.

So, if it wasn’t Goff’s deep ball, is time to think maybe Watkins isn’t as good as advertised for fantasy? I understand that injuries have hampered him, but a full season in one of the top offenses in the league while failing to produce is certainly damning in my opinion. Yet, as of June 2018 DLF ADP, Watkins is still going 46th overall.

Why is that? People are excited about what he might do with Patrick Mahomes in the Chiefs offense. I’ve even heard some people say they believe he will outproduce Tyreek Hill in fantasy this upcoming season. In fact, fellow DLF writer Tom Kislingbury has a great thread about why relying on any of the Chiefs’ receivers to have great fantasy success this season may be a fool’s errand:

I’d recommend checking out the whole thread because Tom gives a ton of historical statistics to show why it’s unlikely. Key among them is that rookie quarterbacks don’t tend to support multiple top fantasy options historically. He doesn’t say it’s impossible for one of them to emerge, and I know this is the point where people who still believe in Watkins will say follow the money.

It makes sense that teams don’t tend to throw out large contracts to receivers they don’t intend to use. It’s a pretty strong argument, but I have a very difficult time betting against the players who have been in the offense already and managed to put up over 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns each last season. No matter what you think of Hill and Travis Kelce, you also need to acknowledge that their presence absolutely caps Watkins’ ceiling in that offense because they’ll get volume regardless of who emerges as the top guy.

Ultimately though, this is about value for me. In the fourth round, I would want Watkins to be providing me with high end WR2 numbers at worst. Is he capable of that? If everything breaks exactly right, I believe he is. That’s a huge if though.

You’re relying on an essentially rookie quarterback locking onto him, despite having high-end options in the offense. You’re also relying on someone with a long history of various injuries popping up not suffering another one. We’ve already seen Watkins’ ADP fall by three rounds after last season. If he fails to produce a WR2 season for the fourth time in his five seasons played how much further do you think it will fall? I’m not willing to find out.