Fantasy Studs Who Could Have A Huge Season… If They’d Just Get The Damn Ball More!
On any one play in the NFL, there is but a single ball in use.
This scarcity makes it a highly prized commodity. On offense, only six players have the legal opportunity to get their hands on it, knowing that inefficient usage could see a long wait before they get it again. The ego of every player should mean that they all want the ball on every play, yet in a team game this is not going to happen.
The big stars, the stud receivers or the dominant running backs get most of touches, often leaving others to feast on their scraps. But what of these supposedly underfed players? How many of them could become stars if they just had more opportunity? With this in mind, I look at six fantasy studs who in 2015 showed flashes of productivity whenever they had their number called and could be huge fantasy studs this season if they just got the damn ball more.
Eagles Running Back[the_ad id=”59300″]Playing behind the same “terrible” line that DeMarco Murray limped his way to 702 rushing yards at 3.6 yards per carry, Mathews always looked the better player with the Eagles last season. His 107 totes were the 43rd most in the whole league, and saw him amass 539 rushing yards (39th), at a more than acceptable 5.0 yards per attempt. Mathews is, at the time of writing, sitting atop the Eagles depth chart, with only Kenjon Barner for company.
While Howie Roseman will certainly look to add a tailback or two in the draft, Mathews looks set to be given first crack to earn the starting job in Doug Pederson’s “West Coast hybrid” offense. He will almost certainly miss time, given that durability and availability have not been his greatest talents, but if he stays healthy for most of the season, he should flirt with RB1 numbers.
Bills Wide Receiver
Despite spending his season in a run heavy offensive scheme, Watkins was highly efficient when he was actually targeted. His mark of 17.5 yards per reception was good for a tie for 6th place in the NFL last season, matching Allen Robinson of the Jaguars.
The biggest difference between Robinson and Watkins? Robinson was targeted 151 times last season, whereas Watkins saw just 96 looks.
46 players saw more targets than this, including the likes of Ted Ginn (97), Theo Riddick (99) and Danny Woodhead (106). Watkins is what the great Rumford Johnny calls a “crawl space” player, in that his floor and his ceiling are very close together. The Bills are unlikely to alter their mind-set so dramatically to start force feeding Watkins, no matter how effective. This will, I fear, keep him from breaking into the WR1 discussion.
Titans Wide Receiver
A physical freak, DGB struggled to get onto the field in the early parts of his rookie season, as then coach Ken Whisenhunt complained that he wasn’t a very good blocker. Green-Beckham began to see more snaps when Mike Mularkey assumed the controls, but even he couldn’t resist pointing out the rookie’s foibles.
Mularkey called him out for not finishing his routes after a loss to the Panthers last season, and implored him to make more plays after he secured just one of five targets in a Week 12 reverse against the Raiders. He responded with two 100 yard receiving games in his next three outings, and finished his rookie year with 32 grabs, 549 yards and 4 touchdowns, with an impressive 17.2 yards per reception average. With Mularkey committed to running his “Exotic Smash Mouth” with the Titans, a receiver like DGB should be a vital asset in ensuring teams cannot fully set out to stop the run, but he will need to continue to work on his skills. But his deeds with the ball in his hands so far in his short career are deserving of at least twice as many receptions in his sophomore campaign.
Buccaneers Tight End[the_ad id=”58837″]As Austin Sefarian-Jenkins failed to break out for the second consecutive season, playing in just seven games with 39 catches for 338 yards (four scores, but only two after Week 1), the Buccaneers managed to coax some production out of Harvard alum Brate, who snared 76% of his targets in 14 games in 2015.
Granted, he only saw 30 targets, but with 23 grabs he was able to amass 288 yards and found the end zone three times. With serious questions over the durability of ASJ and how much Vincent Jackson has left in the tank (he only played ten games in 2015, finishing with 33 catches for 543 yards and three touchdowns), Brate could see an expanded role in Dirk Koetter’s offense. At 6’5, he should offer second year quarterback Jameis Winston a formidable red zone weapon. Am I predicting a Gary Barnidge / Jordan Reed type breakout (or Brate-out)? No, but with the consistent inconsistency of fantasy tight ends, his could be a name to remember.
Seahawks Wide Receiver[the_ad id=”61410″]The breakout star of the 2015 Seattle Seahawks was going to be Christine Michael, or Thomas Rawls, or even Robert Turbin. They were going to stay true to themselves, and continue to ride the ground game that had seen them make two consecutive Super Bowls. While Rawls was impressive, Michael put up some decent stats after returning from a cup of coffee with the Cowboys, and Turbin was impressing no one in Dallas or Cleveland, the surprise star was rookie Tyler Lockett.
After seeing just 29 targets in his first nine games, everything seemed to fall into place for him from then on. Lockett saw 40 looks in his next seven outings, and secured 30 of them for 404 yards and five touchdowns. With Jimmy Graham’s fitness and fit still open to debate in Seattle, Lockett’s production down the stretch virtually demands that he feature prominently in the Seahawks offensive game plan moving forward. Jermaine Kearse took a steep discount to remain with the team, but the Seahawks would be wise to allow Lockett to see more of the ball in 2016.
Bengals Tight End
Returning from a lost 2014 season, Eifert exploded as a red zone threat in 2015. He finished the season with 52 receptions from 74 targets, for 615 yards and 13 touchdowns. 12 of these receptions, 106 yards and 11 of the scores came inside the opposition 20 yard line.
Eifert gobbled up 70% of his targets, and a staggering 25% of his receptions produced a touchdown. While this last stat is clearly unsustainable, Eifert is in line for a bigger workload in 2016. Marvin Jones (103 targets, 65 catches) and Mohamed Sanu (49 targets, 33 catches) have left in free agency, and while the team will surely add a pass catcher or two Eifert should be the second target behind A.J. Green in the Bengals offense. His higher target share enhances his value in standard scoring and PPR formats, while coupled with his skills in the red zone he could very well come close to double digit scores again.
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Neil’s been playing fantasy football for ten years, including a victory in 2014 in a league arranged by NFL.com Fantasy expert Adam Rank. Huge Philadelphia Eagles fan, and follows the fortunes of the England cricket team, usually with his head in his hands for both. Neil lives with his fiancé Kate and their daughter Zoe. He is an atrocious Words with Friends player.