I recently discovered an Indie band by the name of “The Beths.” If you’re into Indie pop/rock with catchy as hell hooks and lyrics that are deeper than they appear upon first listen I suggest you check them out. Their debut full-length album “Future Me Hates Me” has a song by the same name that’s been rattling around in my brain for weeks now. Though the song itself laments falling in love, it strikes another chord in my mind. It makes me think of Sammy Watkins.
Oh, this well-designed world… Everyone that I know is broken
In Watkins rookie season he was able to finish as the WR33 overall with 12.6 points per game. While not Odell Beckham-level, that’s still an impressive rookie debut for a receiver. It was easy to overlook that Watkins’ season was built on the back of the boom weeks and that he only scored double-digit fantasy points in back-to-back weeks twice during that rookie year. The 2015 season was easily Watkins best, both in fantasy in real football. He set career highs in receiving yards, yards per receptions, touchdowns, and fantasy points per game. On the season he averaged 18.2 points per game, seventh highest among wide receivers who played 10 or more games. Over the final six weeks of the season, he balled out to the tune of 23.16 fantasy points per game.
If Watkins rookie season didn’t get you to buy in on him, then certainly his sophomore season did. Outside of missing three games due to injury, there was no reason to think anything could stop Watkins from turning into a perennial WR1 year in and year out.
The 2016 offseason is where things started to go sideways. Watkins suffered a Jones fracture, probably the most dreaded injury for any athlete, in May. Watkins was able to play in the Bills first game of the season but wasn’t right. After gutting out the next week against the Jets, he was then shut down for the next eight games after the Bills realized not being able to run is a hindrance for a wide receiver to play through.
Watkins returned in Week 12 and produced three fantasy-relevant weeks in the final six games, but he still never appeared to be fully healed. This shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone that knows the typical recovery cycle from a Jones fracture. The fact that Watkins was able to play four months after the injury was nothing short of a (football) miracle. But that doesn’t help you in fantasy football.
Traded less than a month before the kickoff to the 2017 season to the Los Angeles Rams, Watkins seemed to be moving on to a better situation. While he would have only a few weeks to dig into the playbook, he seemed poised to be Jared Goff’s new best friend. The Rams receivers consisted of Robert Woods, who barely produced as Watkins’ teammate in Buffalo, and Cooper Kupp, an old rookie from an FCS college. Watkins owners had to feel pretty good about his chances of producing under those circumstances.
Things did not quite work out the way Watkins owners hoped for, though. Instead, Kupp became a solid fantasy producer finishing as the WR28. Woods was even better finishing as the WR16. As for Watkins, it seemed like he spent most weeks running deep routes just to clear out the coverage for underneath routes and to open up the middle of the field for other receivers. Watkins limped to a WR47 finish. He was able to score in double-digits in just eight of fifteen games played. But at least he was healthy(ish) playing in 16 out of a 17 possible games, including the playoffs.
Watkins performed well when he was able to play this past season. He played in 10 games, but in essence, it was really eight. In one game Watkins was injured early in the first half, and in another, he was active but played only a few snaps. To accurately represent this, I used the RotoViz Game Splits App to look at the splits for games when Watkins saw greater than two targets. In those games, his 14.21 points per game would have been good enough for the WR24 finish overall if done so over a full season.
That’s a WR2 half the season: six games he didn’t play and the two games with less than two targets. Looking at those eight games, there were two dud weeks, but in the other six weeks, Watkins produced pretty consistently. He finished as the WR1 once, a WR2 on two occasions, and had three WR3 weeks. It’s easy to convince yourself that if Watkins were able to play, at full health, in 12, 14, or even 16 games you would be able to plug him in as your second wide receiver on your fantasy roster.
But it won’t happen again… It probably won’t happen again
Around Week 11 or so this past year, I finally gave up on Watkins. Although he is immensely talented, when you remove emotion from the equation, it’s clear Watkins is always injured, and when he’s not injured he’s inconsistent. After enough time reasons just turn into excuses. It’s easy to look at what he did in his second season when he had 1,047 yards receiving and dream big. Since that 2015 season, he’s failed to exceed 593 yards receiving in any other season.
You can tell yourself the reason he didn’t produce with the Rams is that he didn’t get enough targets, but maybe there’s a reason for that. Maybe you watched Watkins put up 176 yards and haul in 10 receptions on 16 targets in the Chiefs two playoff games and think that it could portend good things to come in 2019. Maybe the allure of buying a wide receiver who will only be 26 when next season starts and has one WR1 season under his belt will tempt you. It’s possible to look at that eight-game sample I cited earlier and think “what if?” Not me; I won’t. I’m finished with Watkins.
Thanks for reading. If you ever want to talk fantasy, or indie music, or really whatever you can find me on Twitter @DFF_Shane. And go subscribe to the DynastyTradesHQ podcast today if you’re looking for an entertaining and informative fantasy football podcast.