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Sammy Watkins Season is Finally Here

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins is on his third team through six seasons, and, finally healthy. With All-Pro wideout Tyreek Hill on the shelf, his time may have finally come to break out. In Week 1, with Hill for the large part out of the game, Watkins went bananas for his best game as a pro against a pair of the NFL's best cornerbacks in Jacksonville. On 11 targets, he grabbed nine of them for 198 yards and three touchdowns. For those of you keeping the score at home, that's 46 points in PPR formats.

The Chiefs just torched what was supposed to be a top-10 defense on the road without their best receiver for a large part of the game. Watkins didn't care. Moving forward, Hill is out indefinitely, and Watkins is the clear lead guy on the outside. He's had the upside of a WR1 for his entire career, but he's never capitalized on it. Now is his time to do just that.

Watkins could possibly be released at the end of this season in a cost-cutting move, so he's working to make his statement to the Chiefs to keep him or the rest of the NFL to snatch him up. Maybe it's time fantasy football owners do the same.

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Hill is Out

Hill's injury was so bad that he had to be taken to the hospital for risk of complications. Injured reserve was a rumored possibility, but it looks like he will avoid IR. That consideration shows that this is likely going to be a long-term injury, which gives Watkins' stock a healthy boost for at least five or six weeks. If we look at the next six games for the Chiefs, Watkins isn't facing a murderer's row of cornerbacks. Next week, they play the Oakland Raiders, who could be without top corner Gareon Conley (neck) after being stretchered off in Week 1.

Last season, Hill had a 24% target share in this offense. That means that a quarter of Mahomes' passing attempts are now up for grabs. Tight end Travis Kelce, running backs LeSean McCoy and Damien Williams along with rookie wide receiver Mecole Hardman will take some of those, but Watkins is going to be the primary beneficiary of Hill's absence. His 4.43 40-yard dash allows him to get down the field with good size at 6'1" and 211 pounds to win against bigger defenders, which is an area that Hill struggled with.

 

Big-Play Factor

Watkins had two plays that went for over 40 yards on Sunday, and he had four plays that went for over 20. For reference, he had just two 40+ yard plays all of last season and seven of 20+. Unlike some of the other big-play receivers that we saw during Week 1, Watkins was manufacturing his big plays with his skill. His average depth of target was just 8.9 yards down the field. 139 of his 198 yards came after the catch. When he caught the ball, he was making things happen

During Week 1, seven of the top-10 scorers at the wide receiver position were "deep-ball specialists." Watkins doesn't necessarily fall into that category, but it does factor into his long-term success. Players that rely on volume, such as Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landy, see their ceilings fall when they don't receive the volume necessary to maintain their production. Players like Watkins, who will see a volume increase, also have the big-play ability to turn lower amounts of volume into high-scoring plays.

 

Projection Moving Forward

With Hill being out and Watkins fully healthy, he has the opportunity to be a legitimate WR2 with WR1 upside. He plays in what is arguably the best offense in the NFL, and he's playing with the reigning MVP at quarterback. To date, he hasn't had 600 receiving yards since his second year in the league. He also already has as many touchdowns this season as he did all of last year. As long as he remains healthy, Watkins should easily surpass the marks from last season. You likely drafted him as a flex player with some upside unless you're in a deeper league. However, he's going to most likely become a must-start for you every week he's on the field until Hill returns.

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