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Stop that Hype Train! DaeSean Hamilton


Denver's 2018 draft featured two players that will be linked for quite some time. The narrative doesn't call for much attention in a broad sense, but it definitely does in terms of how they produce for the franchise that selected them. I'm talking about the two wide receivers the Broncos picked more than a year ago in Courtland Sutton (40th selection) and Daesean Hamilton (113th).

Entering the 2019 season, the feeling is that Sutton is the sure-thing ready to establish himself as a WR1/WR2 while Hamilton is the one bringing the more upside to the team's receiving corps. It's reasonable to think of it that way (as we'll see) given how they produced last year.

What strikes me as surprising is how high some people are valuing Hamilton during this fantasy draft season. As we get closer to Week One it looks like things have stabilized a bit and Hamilton's ADP has lowered to more realistic values, dropping him out of standard 16 round drafts. Even with that, it is still worthwhile to warn you about the risks you'd be taking when banking on Hamilton come draft day. Let's take a look at why DaeSean Hamilton might let us down in 2019.

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DaeSean Hamilton - WR, Denver Broncos

ADP: 215 overall, WR70

The first thing I wanted to double-check before writing anything was Hamilton's injury history. Looking at Denver's game log from 2018, the receiving corps mostly featured five receivers and Hamilton, as a fourth-round pick, was the second least used WR of the unit (only four snaps more than Tim Patrick.) He appeared in 14 games but was actually targeted in only seven of them. Was he injured at some point during the season, losing playing time? Nope. Or at least not officially.

Hamilton said after the season that a problem in his knee prevented him from playing at his true level. Denver, though, never included him on any official injury list. Call me crazy, but reading between lines I see no more than excuses here.

In the 14 games he saw the field, Hamilton was targeted 45 times, caught the ball 30 times and finished the season with 243 yards and two touchdowns. Just for context, Sutton was targeted 84 times, caught 42 passes, racked up 704 yards and scored four touchdowns. The difference between the two wideouts was quite noticeable indeed. But let's keep focused on Hamilton.

Among rookies with at least 45 targets last season, Hamilton excelled in terms of Catch% with a fourth-best mark of 66.7 percent of catches (11 rookie-WRs/TEs qualified). The problem with Hamilton's game, though, is his absolute lack of production on the mid/long distances. He put up a paltry 5.40 yards per target. Not to paint an ugly picture, but that was the second-worst mark in the league for every rookie WR or TE in 2018, only besting Marcell Ateman.  Hamilton's 2.4 YAC per reception is also a concern, as he finished with the fourth-worst mark in the league.

If we're fair to Hamilton, we must acknowledge that his opportunities were not the best last season. Had it not been for Emmanuel Sanders injury late in 2018 he would have probably had even fewer chances of showing anything. Perhaps that would have been good for him, though... His snap share of 53.2% ranked 115th among all WR, his 45 targets were 91st and his target share fell to the 109th spot. Much of the hype around Hamilton is related to the upside and potential outcomes he could reach if given more chances rather than what he actually did last season. There is no other reason for this optimism.

Looking at his PlayerProfiler page I can't wrap my head around such a buzz. By the site's productivity metrics, Hamilton's best rank among receivers was 79th in touchdowns with two. In more meaningful fantasy stats (due to volume) like receptions and yardage, he ranked 86th and 113th. Getting back to his YAC numbers, he was only 123rd.

A similar pattern emerges when looking at his efficiency-related stats. Yards per reception? 8.1 for 108th. Yards per target? 5.4 for 105th. Yards per route? 1.14 for 103rd. Simple math: knowing each team puts three receivers in their formation, that is 32 times 3, which are 96 wide receivers starting each game every week. On average, Hamilton would easily be out of that group with his poor ranks.

Hamilton wouldn't be the first rookie to have a rough first season and turn into a good receiver later in his career. I have queried Pro-Football-Reference.com database looking for rookies to post under 6 Y/Tgt with a lower than 67 Catch% and fewer than 45 targets. The results contain similar or worse rookie-seasons than that of Hamilton. You can find players such as Golden Tate or Mike Williams among them. No slouch.

While all is not lost for Hamilton (he's just a second-year player after all), I'm not buying into any of the hype his name has brought. Hamilton's ADP peaked in early June (155) and has been dropping constantly to this day (currently at 215 and trending down).

I would advise against reaching for him. There are much better options going late in drafts or falling into the waiver wire. Just with a slightly higher ADP, you can find Davante Parker (203) who could be Miami's WR1 if Kenny Stills is finally traded and who has a higher floor than Hamilton's. Randall Cobb (209) will be Dallas' featured slot receiver and a safety valve for Dak Prescott.

Deeper in the ADP ranks there are more options to also consider over Hamilton such as Andy Isabella, Rashard Higgins, Miles Boykin or Zay Jones. None of those receivers will come at any cost, and all of them bring the same upside or more than Hamilton does and are as good fliers as Hamilton could ever be.

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