2017 Player vs. Player - Willie Snead vs. Jamison Crowder

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Fantasy football draft season is upon us and RotoBaller is here to help! In this series, two RotoBaller experts will discuss the merits of two players with similar value and average draft position (ADP). These rankings will continue to fluctuate throughout the preseason, which may impact where they are selected in drafts.

Today's debate is between two slot receivers in high-volume passing offenses that may appeal to PPR owners. Brittany Smith will be making the case for New Orleans Saints WR Willie Snead and Adam Hammer will be making the case for Washington Redskins WR Jamison Crowder.

If you can't get enough of these Player vs. Player debates, check out RotoBaller's NFL page for more. We've already thrown down on Jordy Nelson vs. Michael ThomasStefon Diggs vs. DeVante ParkerJeremy Maclin vs. Randall Cobb and Evan Engram vs. David Njoku among others, with more to come!

Editor's note: Purchase an NFL Premium Pass (including 150 days of DFS), and get MLB Premium for free! Whoa. Check out our NFL and MLB Premium tools, and crush your leagues. Sign Up Now!

 

The Case for Willie Snead – Brittany

Anyone that has been around fantasy football for even a short amount of time knows that a player’s success is based on the perfect mixture of opportunity and talent. Heading into his third year, New Orleans Saints wide receiver Willie Snead should reward fantasy owners with steady, high-end production this year with an ideal combination of both parts of this formula.

Following an off-season in which the Saints moved their 2014 first-round draft pick Brandin Cooks, there will be at least 117 targets up for grabs. With his 69% career catch rate, Snead would only need to claim 11% of these vacated targets to finish somewhere in the neighborhood of 84 catches and 1,125 yards. Add in the few touchdowns he is certain to get, and this would have been good for a top-25 finish last season. The only notable offseason addition at WR for the team was Ted Ginn, who will likely use his speed to continue to stretch the field as Cooks did for the past three years. The Saints’ unquestioned number one option is Michael Thomas, which means he will be the one drawing the elite defenders and potential double coverage. This puts Snead comfortably in the number two position in the food chain, which is not at all a bad place to be in a Drew Brees-Sean Payton led offense. Snead has also commented that without Cooks, he will be looking to add the deep threat back to his game to showcase his versatility, much like he did in his final year at Ball State when he finished with 15 touchdowns and 1,516 yards. Insert opportunity here.

As far as talent, the other half of the fantasy production formula, Snead has that too. With the 69 and 72 catches he has grabbed in his first two seasons serving as the number three receiver in the offense, he has already shown that he has gained Brees trust. Last season, Snead had a 71% first down catch percentage, making him the team’s top possession receiver, and the 17th best in the league. The fantasy consistency that comes from possession receivers doesn’t get nearly as much love as it should due to the dearth of touchdown production, but Snead could have his eyes on an uptick in this area as well.  He was quietly tied for the second most red zone targets on the team last year, and all four of the touchdowns that he did snag came from inside the 20. Based on this previous reliability, Brees should have no problem going his way more now that that he will be bumped up to the number two receiving option in the offense.

The Saints willingness to trade away Cooks in part shows that they have a good amount of confidence in Snead and the rest of the team’s receiving group, and he will very likely remain heavily involved in their plans moving forward as his role continues to grow. He has developed good chemistry with an elite quarterback in a heavy-volume passing offense, and will now have the opportunity to display the full scope of his game. Maybe tight end Coby Fleener is more in sync with Brees and has a better year. Maybe the addition of Adrian Peterson makes the backfield a more prominent feature of the offense that eats into the passing game. But Snead has been very consistent in his first two years, and based on the role that he has already carved out for himself, he will offer owners the safety net of production he has shown for the past two years as a bare minimum. With the increased opportunity laying the groundwork for much more, Snead will be a reliable draft pick this year with a shot at a top-30 finish, and could end up outperforming his sixth round ADP by a mile.

 

The Case for Jamison Crowder - Adam

Let me start by saying that I like Willie Snead just fine. He's a reliable option in maybe the league's highest-paced offense. His last two seasons have been very consistent, and he's probably due for a slight uptick in targets with the departure of Brandin Cooks in New Orleans that should put him near 75 catches and his first 1,000-yard season. That said, his ceiling is capped for me, sheerly from being in an offense with too many mouths to feed. Michael Thomas is set to be the featured receiver in New Orleans, plus they signed this Adrian Peterson guy (and drafted Alvin Kamara). The Saints aren't going to all of a sudden become a running team, but expect to see more touches from the backfield than in the past. Snead also isn't a huge threat near the end zone. He ranked just 66th in the NFL last year with 12 red zone targets and has notched seven scores total in the last two seasons.

On the flip side, Jamison Crowder is entering the 2017 season with a giant opportunity. Busting onto the fantasy scene last year, he totaled 847 yards and seven touchdowns in a revitalized Redskins offense, who is putting full faith in Kirk Cousins. So much so in fact, that the Redskins became a top-ten team in 2016 in passing play percentage, jumping 4% and 11 spots from the previous season. Washington's backfield situation is below average at best, likely led by Rob Kelley, and there is no indication that new offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh is going to take the foot off the pedal. Terrelle Pryor was brought in, but there are 200+ targets from DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon that needs to be replaced.

Pryor is likely to see a good chunk of those targets, as is uber-athletic tight end Jordan Reed (if he can stay on the field), but Crowder should also have 20-25 more passes thrown his way. Just that uptick alone would put him at 120 total targets, not even taking into account his natural progression as a receiver. While Snead's first two seasons in the NFL have been very consistent, Crowder's 2016 was a first glance at his true potential. He is an extremely strong route runner with good hands (he's caught 71.2% of passes thrown his way in his career thus far), and he's going to be used all over the field as the team’s second-best wideout, though his 5'8'' stature means that he will be in the slot more than not.

With the undoubted uptick in targets and his continued evolution in the now high-powered Redskins offense, Crowder could push close to 100 receptions and 1,200 yards. Even if he doesn't, he's a no-brainer in all formats for me over Willie Snead, and in PPR it's not particularly close.

 

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Check out all of RotoBaller's 2017 fantasy football rankings. Staff rankings are updated regularly for all positions and include standard formats, PPR scoring, tiered rankings and dynasty leagues.