2017 Player vs. Player - Sammy Watkins vs. Tyreek Hill

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Solid floor or enticing upside? Multiple seasons of track record or intriguing 2016 stats? These are just a couple of the questions that drafters might consider when deciding on who to draft.

It is exciting when you can anticipate your turn on the clock during draft time, but excitement can turn into panic quickly if you are unprepared, and inevitably that person drafting right before you takes your guy. You have to be able to react thoughtfully and quickly, and have decisions already made pre-draft. No problem, our Player vs. Player series can help you.

In this installment, Nick Del Vecchio supports Sammy Watkins and Jason Katz backs Tyreek Hill in PPR formats.

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Sammy Watkins (WR, BUF) - Nick

Sammy Watkins has not played with a clean bill of health in quite some time now. It was discovered way back in May of 2016 that the Buffalo wideout was recovering from surgery to repair a broken bone in his foot. It was a fracture to a small bone, but this particular injury has been beyond the “nagging” variety for far too long. It was originally considered to be a 6-8 week recovery period, but it slowed down the star receiver all through the 2016-2017 season.

We have seen Sammy play through pain, as he posted a very respectable 60 receptions for 1047 yards and nine TD in 13 games back in 2015. However, the heavy foot continued to weigh him down the following season, and was only able to suit up for eight games, posting 28 receptions for 430 yards and two TD. Now into summer of 2017, it appears that Watkins is indeed fully recovered, as he has been running drills at full speed with the first team. A lot of it will have to do with how much pain tolerance he continues to have, but if that pain finally disappears for good, we could be looking at the player the Bills need, a dynamic outside receiver.

Still only 24 years old, Watkins is exciting when he is on the field, posting 16.1 yards per catch even despite subpar QB play in Buffalo. For PPR purposes, the big body receiver has averaged about 7.5 targets per game, and you have to think there were a few active games where he was virtually a decoy and unable to play at full-speed. He is still a big play waiting to happen, and once he validates that his speed is back (or never left for that matter) he should rise up the pre-draft rankings during the preseason.

Quarterback Tyrod Taylor has not made the leap we have expected just yet (although some are convinced that 2017 will be the year for that), but he is solid under center and has shown a great rapport when he has his #1 target Watkins active. Here is something to really consider: in his last 14 games with Taylor under center, Watkins has posted 110 targets for 67 catches, 1,236 yards and 9 TD. That pace for 16 games is among the top-five WRs in any format.

Head Coach Sean McDermott says that he has “been impressed” by Taylor’s improving leadership. The philosophy is to run the ball with LeSean McCoy in Buffalo, but they will need to open up the passing game in order to make that successful. Buffalo drafted East Carolina WR Zay Jones early in the second round, and if he turns out to be a wise choice as anticipated, it will only ease the coverage applied to Watkins and the entire offense, creating a more balance attack behind an outstanding O-line.

All in all, the opposition here, 2016 breakout WR Tyreek Hill, is a worthy opponent in this Player vs. Player profile. He was beyond electric with the ball in his hands, and should only get more touches with Jeremy Maclin and Jamaal Charles out of KC. Keep in mind that as a receiver (a role he will be lined up at much more in 2017) Hill only amassed 83 targets for 593 yards. I am a proponent of drafting floor over upside early on, and Watkins has been selected before Hill consistently throughout the summer thus far. Take your upside fliers once your lineup is set in stone. Watkins, the number four overall pick in 2014, has put up big games playing through injury, and has flashed some incredible leaping catches and above-average breakaway speed when stretching the field. I would expect his current WR ADP of 18 to rise up near WR1 status, and that can translate into a very nice value on draft day.

 

Tyreek Hill (WR, KC) - Jason

I love Sammy Watkins the talent. If he could put 16 games together, I fully expect a WR1 season from him. In fact, I don’t disagree with much, if any, of what Nick said about Watkins. But what if I told you I don’t think it matters? That’s right. If Watkins and Tyreek Hill both play 16 games, I’d still take Hill.

Currently, Hill is being drafted as about the 20th wide receiver off the board. As far as I’m concerned, that’s his floor. The price you have to pay to acquire Tyreek Hill is for the lowest amount of production he will realistically give you.

The Bills ran the ball a league high 50.93% of the time last year. The Chiefs only ran the ball 43.01% of the time, which was right around the middle of the pack. Last year, Hill finished just outside the top 24 in PPR. He only caught 61 passes for 593 yards. He did rush for 267 yards, but he did so on just 24 carries. That’s an average of just 1.5 carries per game. He only played on 40% of the Chiefs’ offensive snaps in 2016. Now, admittedly, he was the single most efficient receiver in all of football, averaging a league high 0.48 fantasy points per snap. It is entirely reasonable to project that to decrease. However, Hill also posted a 73.5% catch rate and, in case you’ve forgotten, he’s really, really fast. Even if we account for a drop off in efficiency, he should literally double his snap count this season as the team’s primary offensive player, if not more. If you flat out double his production with the doubled snap count, that projects him for an otherworldly near 400 fantasy points. That’s not happening. But let’s say he sees a 50% drop off in efficiency (which is significant). That still puts him at close to 300 fantasy points. Last year, that would put him squarely in the top five wide receivers.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not predicting that Tyreek Hill will finish as a top five fantasy receiver. I just want to make everyone aware that it’s not that far-fetched to see it happen. The Chiefs cut Jeremy Maclin. Clearly, they believe in Hill as a consistent contributor. All he needs to do is handle two or three carries per game and catch five or six passes. As little as seven or eight touches of the ball and Hill can make magic happen. If we give Hill conservative estimates of 300 rushing yards, 80 catches, and 800 receiving yards, that alone, even without factoring in touchdowns or his contributions in the return game (he’s losing kickoffs but retaining punt duties this year), that would make him a mid WR3. Add in a reasonable six touchdowns and he’s already up to high WR2 status – higher than where he’s currently being drafted amongst wide receivers. But think about the ceiling here – what if the Chiefs really make it a point to get Hill the ball. Handoffs. Bubble screens. End arounds. Jet sweeps. Quick slants. Fly routes. Take the handcuffs off the estimates and maybe Hill catches 95 passes for 1,000 yards, adding in 400 rushing yards and 8-10 touchdowns. Those are top five, potentially top one numbers.

I ask you to ask yourself this question: How many fourth-round players have this kind of upside? I will own Tyreek Hill in as many leagues as possible. I encourage you to reject the mainstream opposition to him and ride this train straight to a championship.

 

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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.