Fantasy Player Rankings

Martavis Bryant: Potential WR1 Hiding in the 5th Round

Martavis Bryant Fantasy

When fantasy owners hear the name Martavis Bryant, the first thing that jumps into their head is most likely “suspension” or “marijuana.” I certainly can’t fault owners for thinking this way. Bryant is only entering the fourth season in his career. Some may not realize that because he’s missed 20 of a possible 48 games to suspension. This would normally be the part where I would suggest not touching Bryant unless it was at a very low cost. While the NFL is a brutal sport, players who can’t stay on the field aren’t a big help in winning your fantasy title. Martavis Bryant is the exception in a major way.

Let’s discuss the type of price you have to pay for drafting Bryant at this stage of the off-season. According to Fantasy Football Calculator, Bryant carries an ADP of 53rd overall in a standard league. The three WRs going directly ahead of Bryant are Keenan Allen(45th), Jarvis Landry(49th) and Michael Crabtree(50th). Remember, it’s important to not only be aware of ADP but to understand the players going close to your targets. In PPR leagues, Bryant has virtually the same ADP at 51st overall. The three WR going ahead in this format are Sammy Watkins(45th), Julian Edelman(48th) and Michael Crabtree(49th).

Once you get to this point in the draft, every player has question marks. If they didn’t, they would be going in the 2nd or 3rd round instead of in the 50s. When you look at the WRs going close to Bryant, there is an element of safety in them except for two. Sammy Watkins and Keenan Allen both carry significant injury risk with a very high ceiling. Edelman, Landry, and Crabtree are “safe” picks at this point because while the upside may not be elite, you should feel comfortable knowing you have a top 24 WR virtually locked up. I’m not here to claim high floor players aren’t very valuable to your team. However, if you’ve drafted well up to this point, it’s time to take a shot at a home run type player. You’re looking for a player who could finish as a top 12 WR if he plays all 16 games. Unlike Watkins and Allen, Bryant is not coming off any major injury and already has his QB talking him up.

The next factor that could turn potential owners off during the draft is the presence of both WR Antonio Brown and RB Le’Veon Bell. Brown hasn’t seen less than 154 targets the past four seasons, and in 2016 Bell ran more routes per game than WRs such as Julio Jones and Jarvis Landry. With two separate target hogs in the same offense, how can Bryant have the upside to be a game changer? The reason is that the Steeler offense lacked a #2 receiving threat. In 2016, Bell and Brown combined for 258 targets on 596 total pass attempts.

The other weapons returning from last year aren’t much to write home about. WR Eli Rogers finished third on the team with 66 targets. Fellow WR Sammie Coates battled a hand injury and terrible drops to finish with only 49 targets. Even though the Steelers are fortunate to have a top 3 RB and WR, they need a reliable playmaker who can stretch the field. The great Matt Harmon from NFL Network has Bryant graded out above average in all three vertical routes. This is probably a good time to point out QB Ben Roethlisberger is one of the best in the NFL at throwing the deep ball.

So we know the strengths of Bryant and Roethlisberger mesh well. The next step is trying to put together just how many targets Bryant can expect. This is going to be tricky because it’s hard to project how the three of Bell, Brown, and Bryant will co-exist. Injuries and suspensions have coincided to let these three players play in the same game just 13 times the past three seasons. We have to cobble together the best-educated guess we can make at this point. I know, math sucks but stick with me through this next part.

Let’s start in 2015 when Bryant appeared in 11 games. In those 11 games, Brown averaged 13 targets a game while Bryant saw 8.3. These numbers are great news for any Bryant owner, especially when these numbers take into account a game when Brown saw an incredible 23 targets vs Oakland. Now, this doesn’t take into account Bell because he was injured and unavailable for eight games of this sample. Now it’s time to project the target share for the Steelers offense.

It’s reasonable to assume the Steelers offense should be very close to their three-season average of 599 pass attempts. Antonio Brown gets his 175 targets, Bell comes down to 75 targets, the TE position sees 100, and the other WRs see around 120 targets. I think Bell sees a few less than last season. That’s not because Bell isn’t capable; it’s just because the Steelers won’t need him to be the #2 option in the passing game. The TE target share may be a little high simply because Jesse James isn’t going to command a lot with how many other high-end players are in the offense. Eli Rogers and rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster will most likely see slot duties. So the projected TE targets could also bleed into the other WR targets, meaning 220 total for those positions.

That still leaves roughly 130 targets available to Martavis Bryant. If he sees that amount of targets and maintains both his career 54% catch rate and .67 touchdowns per game, his line would look something like 70 receptions for 1,200 yards and 10-12 TDs. That would be approximately 180 points in standard and 250 points in PPR settings. That would have been good for the WR6 and WR9 in PPR. Now, the TD rate is very high. However, Bryant only has a career 8 starts in 21 appearances. Starts may not be the most important stat, but he’s going to be the #2 WR this year without any question.The catch rate could come up slightly even though he should see plenty of deep targets.

The bottom line is neither myself nor any other fantasy analyst can tell you if Bryant can stay on the field this season. He’s let a lot of people in the organization down over the past year. However, provided he stays clean, his potential is sky high. There’s very few WR in the NFL that can match his size and athleticism. You can’t find a better ceiling pick where Bryant is going in drafts.

Thanks for reading!

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