Kenny Stills Fantasy
Wide receiver Kenny Stills enters the 2018 season with a very large target opportunity share. The Miami Dolphins moved on from wide receiver Jarvis Landry this offseason, vacating his 161 targets. Coming off his best season as a pro with Miami in 2017, it’s certainly possible that Stills sees an increased workload in the Miami offense. The team did also sign receivers Danny Amendola, Albert Wilson, and drafted tight end Mike Gesicki this offseason. However, none of those players should necessarily influence Stills’ role as a primary down the field threat receiver. But, what does the departure of Landry and return of Ryan Tannehill mean for his fantasy value?
Last year, Kenny Stills Fantasy production finished him as WR27 in Half Point PPR leagues. Will this success carry over from last year, or do the other offensive pieces on the Dolphins a cause for regression? I’ll address all these questions using some projection analysis to best predict Stills’ fantasy outlook for the 2018 season.
Dolphins’ Offense 2018
Adam Gase returns as the head coach in 2018, after back to back underwhelming offensive seasons. The biggest change in the offense is the return of quarterback Ryan Tannehill. A knee injury derailed any chance of the offense taking that next step in 2017 and in 2016 it was all about riding the legs of Jay Ajayi. But as we enter 2018, look for Gase to finally get the opportunity to implement his heavy passing offense that we saw years ago in Denver. Via the Sun-Sentinel, Gase had this to say when talking about the offensive players: “It’s all going to be about how we can play it out to where we can spread the ball around and use guys to their strengths, create efficient plays, create explosive plays, find ways to get into the red zone more and find ways to get into the end zone.”
Expect Gase’s offense to focus on passing the ball, especially with the return of Tannehill through dynamic play-calling, down the field throws, and the no-huddle concept. It’s worth mentioning Tannehill in 2016 had his career bests in completion percentage (67.1%), TD percentage (4.9%), yards per attempt (7.7), and quarterback rating (93.5). Having Tannehill should be a positive for the Miami offense with him being in his second healthy season within the Gase offense. That same offense that ranked 6th in pass attempt volume, that could realistically increase with Tannehill back. He will have to adjust to life without Landry however who has been his favorite target since entering the NFL. Those missing targets will definitely benefit the other offensive skill position players.
Kenny Stills’ History
The real story of Stills’ football career has been about being a deep vertical threat. He has averaged 16.1 yards per reception over his career. After two years in New Orleans, Stills became a Dolphin and has scored 18 touchdowns over his career with Miami. Specifically, he has scored 15 touchdowns in the past two seasons, while averaging around 800 yards receiving. At age 26, Stills is still relatively young and is coming off a season where he accumulated a total of 1,574 air yards, good for ninth highest in the NFL.
In both 2016 and 2017, Stills finished in the top 28 at the wide receiver position. Additionally, Stills averaged 2.01 fantasy points per target in 2017, 10th highest of any wide receiver with at least 58 touches.
So what statistic best describes how Stills’ overall production from last season? Boom or Bust. Looking at his consistency over the past season, Stills finished as a Top 36 wide receiver seven times last season and finished outside the Top 36 nine times. But with a potential for an increased role in the offense, could this consistency improve?
Kenny Stills Career Stats
Why Kenny Stills Could Succeed
Interestingly enough despite being a downfield threat, Gase has not shied away from utilizing Stills in the slot. According to Matt Harmon’s Reception Perception, “The veteran receiver lined up in the slot on 38.8 percent of his sampled snaps and was off the line of scrimmage on 54.7 percent.” With the absence of Landry, Stills could see more work in the slot, which could lead to much easier separation on his routes. Additionally, Stills has graded well as a contested pass-catcher, performing above average on contested targets.
No Jarvis Landry and more role players than featured players currently on the offense, this creates an opportunity for Stills to be number one on this depth chart. In the offense, Stills will most definitely see a larger role in the passing game. Gase offenses have heavily involved targeting receivers down the field in the passing game. With more stability at the quarterback position in 2018, Stills should shine with an uptick in passing volume. Over the past two season Stills had the second most targets on Miami.
Why Kenny Stills Could Fail
The biggest concern for Stills will be the other offensive options on the Dolphins and quarterback Ryan Tannehill. DeVante Parker has more of the number one wide receive profile and could potentially be on the brink of his breakout season with targets up for grabs. Considering Tannehill also slightly favored Parker with 87 targets over Stills’ 81 targets in 2016, there is a chance Parker could receive more targets.
The other player that could also steal at Stills’ targets is tight end Mike Gesicki. Though reports out of camp initially had him stapled as struggling early, he apparently has been building chemistry with Tannehill. Via the Dolphins Wire, Tannehill had this to say about his rookie tight end, “He’s young, he’s learning,” Tannehill said. “He’s hungry to learn. He has incredible range, and that’s one thing that’s struck me from him so far is just his range. If you put a ball … (he has a) huge radius. He’s got a huge catch radius. If you put a ball anywhere near him, he has the ability to either jump and get it or reach out and get it. One way or the other, he’s going to get his hands on it.”
If Stills’ is not able to see an increase in passing volume he will remain a boom-bust player week to week that will be difficult to trust outside best ball leagues, and ultimately leave fantasy owners frustrated. Especially on an offense that will probably not be scoring too often if Tannehill cannot run a productive offense.
Kenny Stills Fantasy Forecast: My Take
I’m buying Kenny Stills fantasy stock in 2018. I think that at his draft price compared to that of Parker he is the much better option. Considering that Stills according to Fantasy Football Calculator is going at the end of the eleventh round and Parker is going in the top of the ninth, this decision is easy for me to go with Stills.
Stills has already produced more than Parker and should thrive in the Gase offense. Then throw in the fact that rookie tight ends tend to not produce in their first year, make Gesicki less of a threat. But even if Stills does not see a great boost in targets from the newer offensive weapons he has big-play upside. He does not necessarily need target volume to be a viable fantasy asset. Consider this. In half point per reception league Stills finished as the WR27 on 105 targets. This groups him with Nelson Agholor, Cooper Kupp, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Stefon Diggs, and Tyreek Hill as receivers to finish top 28 on 105 targets or less. Even if the Dolphins offense is inefficient as a unit in 2018, Stills’ big plays will be able to provide big weeks to fantasy owners.
Stills has upside with the Dolphins’ offense in 2018 which is why I believe he will succeed for fantasy owners. In an offense that is not hugely incorporated by featured proven playmakers, Stills could be the biggest fantasy asset in Miami. And at the cost of an eleventh round pick? Yes, please!
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