The dust of free agency is settling and its time to take stock of the fantasy landscape. For an in-depth analysis of some of the biggest moves, check out articles on Leveon Bell (RB, NYJ), Odell Beckham Jr. (WR, CLV), and Desean Jackson (WR, PHI). You can also find my fantasy risers here. Unfortunately, not all landing spots were desirable and some free agents we had high hopes for are taking a hit to their dynasty value. Here are my reactions to a couple of these players.
Tyrell Williams, WR
27 years old
Legit deep ball threat
Tyrell Williams entered free agency with optimism and excitement from dynasty owners. He showed flashes and was a consistent downfield threat with his height (6’3”) and massive catch radius (98th percentile) in the Chargers offense. He was given limited opportunities with only 69 and 64 targets in 2018 and 2017, respectively, despite playing in all but one game. What he lacked in opportunity, he made up for in efficiency. Williams was 13th in the league in both yards per reception (15.9) and yards per target (10.2) with an 87.2% true catch rate (accounts for uncatchable passes). This has led him to be top 15 the past two seasons in fantasy points per target given the high value of the deep ball and his knack for bringing them in.
Tyrell Williams Career Statistics
The downside and concern about this type of production is a lack of consistency. Williams was targeted more than five times in only three games during 2018 and eclipsed 50 receiving yards in only four. He was a prototypical boom or bust player with two monster WR1 games (weeks 6 and 7) and 11 games finishing outside the top 36 at the position. Given this profile, the hope was for him to find a team with a downfield passing attack and a quarterback who can take advantage of mismatches to capitalize with a deep threat. Teams that come to mind are the Packers, Eagles (pre-Desean Jackson trade), or Buccaneers (post-Desean Jackson trade).
Path to opportunity
Williams ended up signing a deal with the Oakland Raiders worth $44 million over the next four years. The contract amount is promising given the dollar figure and length. This speaks to the team’s investment in him as part of their near future (however bleak that may end up being) versus players such as Devin Funchess and Donte Moncrief signing one or two years “prove it” contracts.
The positive news for projected production is that he is joining a team that has minimal depth at the position. The top three targets from 2018 have departed the team with Amari Cooper (WR) being traded to the Cowboys, Jared Cook (TE) departing in free agency, and Jordy Nelson (WR) being cut. Jalen Richard (RB) is the only remaining Raider who saw more than 65 targets. The blockbuster Antonio Brown (WR) trade shores up the teams top receiver position and slate Williams in for the Z position opposite him in the formation. It is inevitable that the team will select at least one receiver in the upcoming draft. This may not have implications for Williams’ role in 2019 but could lead to a decline in opportunity as the rookie is further integrated in years two and three. Oakland ran enough 1-1 personnel (67%; 1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR) to keep Williams on the field (may increase further with the departure of Cook being used as a receiver out of two TE sets). But it would be naive to think Williams being the 3rd or 4th target in the offense can lead to consistent fantasy production.
A poor fit
The most glaring problem facing Williams in Oakland is the lack of passing success down the field. Simply, Derek Carr (QB) just did not do it much. He was tied for dead last in Intended Air Yards per target (6.7). For contrast, this is a full 1.2 yards less than Philip Rivers. This is despite the team being behind for the majority of most games, which tends to inflate this statistic since QBs are more aggressive to catch up or capitalize on garbage time. It is noteworthy that Carr was also last in time to throw behind an offensive line that ranked 25th in the league in pass protection. This is not something that is expected to improve with the Raiders firesale of their line this offseason.
Derek Carr 2018 passing chart
*color is the number of targets per zone, and the number is player completion percentage. Visit ffstatistics.com to explore data and tools
This was not the worst place Williams could have ended up because he will have an opportunity to increase his target share and be more integrated into the offense. The downside is that he enters a situation that has failed to capitalize on the skill set Williams brings to the table. I would not be surprised if the Raiders draft a receiver in the first round and Williams ends up being relegated to a complimentary role over the next couple seasons, only to be cut heading into his 3rd or 4th year on the team. My recommendation is to take advantage of his boom weeks this season to trade him for other assets.
Tevin Coleman, RB
(and Jerick McKinnon… and Matt Breida… and Raheem Mostert… and Kyle Juszczyk)
San Francisco 49ers
Age: 25 years old
In a vacuum, I love the 49ers as a landing spot for a running back. I am the guy pounding the table for fantasy owners to look into personnel usage as an indicator for fantasy opportunity, and no other system presents as unique of one as Kyle Shanahan’s. He uses two running backs on the field 48% of snaps, which is the highest in the league by far and 25% more than 4th most. Teams that use 2-1 (2 RB, 1 TE, 2 WR) and 2-2 (2 RB, 2 TE, 1WR) personnel sets historically have shown ability to sustain multiple running back fantasy options (e.g. Patriots, Saints, Falcons). Even the 49ers during the 2018 season had continuous options at the position despite having a poor offense (27th in offensive DVOA) and constant injuries. Matt Breida, Raheem Moster, and Jeff Wilson Jr. were all popular waiver wire adds and startable assets at different points.
All this being said, the 49ers have now gone too far. Outside of Leveon Bell (RB), Tevin Coleman was slated to be the most coveted running back free agent in this class. He excelled in 2016 in Shanahan’s system, accruing 941 yards and 11 TDs on only 149 total touches spelling Devonta Freeman. He is an efficient runner, adept receiver, and has shown a knack for big plays (ranked 7th in the league each of past two seasons). But his production and value stumbled in 2018 after being given the reins as the starter when Freeman was injured early in the season. He rushed for 800 yards and added 276 through the air, but ranked 25th in fantasy points per game and did not vault himself into the top 12 RB conversation as some anticipated. A notable factor that has been overlooked is the decline in the Falcons offensive line. The unit was ranked 24th in 2018 after being in the top 10 the previous two seasons and certainly played a role in the worse rushing attack.
The market is an essential gauge for how players are viewed in the league. It is disheartening that Tevin Coleman was not able to find a situation where he would be a clear featured back. His relationship with Shanahan may have influenced his decision to sign with the 49ers, but a two-year deal worth $8.5 million indicates he was not heavily pursued by other teams willing to give him a sizeable contract. And while early reports had the 49ers moving on from McKinnon via trade or cut, these have been quelled with the team sharing their intent for him to be on the roster in 2019. In addition to McKinnon, Matt Breida is on the roster and shown to be a serviceable asset in their scheme. Raheem Mostert was just given a multi-year extension. Oh, and please don’t forget the highest paid and most utilized full back in the league in Kyle Juszczyk.
49ers Running Back Contracts
From a scheme perspective, Coleman is a strong fit. There was a stark contrast in his success rushing from under center (4th, 5.3ypc) versus out of the shotgun (57th, 1.9ypc) in 2018. The 49ers ran their offense from under center 2nd most in the league with 56% of snaps (60% with Jimmy Garroppolo). This is consistent with Shanahan’s 2016 Falcons offense (61% under center). The problem is we just do not know what the usage will be for the running backs in 2019. No 49ers running back averaged more than 35% of the team snaps last year. This is primarily because of injuries since most of the backfield dealt with them throughout the season.
Tevin Coleman had his best season in 2016 playing on only 34% of the snaps. This is not enough opportunity to sustain fantasy success and he was buoyed by being on one of the best offenses ever. The 49ers are an up and coming team, but will not near the Falcons 2016 production. Coleman will need to carve out a more significant role and be near 50% of snaps if he can be a fantasy asset. This is possible if McKinnon and Coleman split most of the snaps while Breida and others are relegated as backups. There just is not enough evidence to suggest this will happen though.
All of this makes Coleman a hold right now in dynasty since I doubt owners can find a buyer willing to invest much. Enthusiasm has dampened and there is no clear path to getting value from him that was available even 6-8 months ago. The range of outcomes for him is wide. He could excel and contribute as a top 15-20 back in Shanahan’s system as the lead ball carrier. Or he could flounder and lose even more value in a 5 headed monster.
Thank you for reading. You can follow me @DFF_Tom. I am always happy to answer questions and chat all things Fantasy. Be sure keep up with the latest free agency news and all your fantasy needs at dynastyfootballfactory.com.