Fantasy football can be a fickle beast. One season a player is poised to be a buy-low, breakout candidate, the next they’re being phased out of an offense during the season. While it’s easy to feel sorry for ourselves for hyping up and buying these players in multiple leagues, that’s not constructive. Our job as fantasy players is deciding what to do next. Do we buy at a discount or move on from that player? Devin Funchess is one such player, and he’s a definite buy for me.
No Longer Mattered
With how awful 2018 went, it’s easy to forget how high most of us were on Funchess entering the season. In May 2018 ADP Funchess was the 66th overall player off the board. That’s earlier than Robert Woods was going off the board in last year’s mock drafts. His ADP in the latest DFF March mock drafts has plummetted to 161. For reference purposes, he’s going after players like Emanuel Hall, Ito Smith, and Ronald Jones. Once the realization sets in of how good a situation Funchess has found himself in I fully expect his stock to rise.
Coming off a top 24 scoring season (per game average) in 2017 the future in Carolina seemed bright for Funchess. His less talented doppelganger, Kelvin Benjamin was exiled the season before to Buffalo. Though the Panthers added D.J. Moore and still had Christian McCaffrey, Funchess still looked like he would be an integral part of the offense.
Through the first eleven weeks of the year he was used consistently, but after returning from injury and with the Panthers season all but over they fazed him out of the offense beginning in Week 13. The organization made a concerted effort to move away from the big-bodied receivers like Funchess (and Benjamin before him). Instead, they have chosen to surround Cam Newtown with smaller, more explosive athletes such as Moore and Curtis Samuel. As you can see below his snaps, routes run and targets all dipped after Week 13.
It was apparent Funchess was not going to be brought back after last season in Carolina.
He Just Fits
As landing spots go though I’d be hard pressed to name a better team for a wide receiver to end up with the Indianapolis Colts. After much hand wringing, Andrew Luck showed himself to be fully healed as he returned to action last year. Luck also just did the whole “revive a players fantasy value” thing with Eric Ebron last year, so there’s that.
The Colts signed Funchess to a one year, $10m contract that can grow to $13m with incentives. The signing was laughed at by many in the fantasy community when the news broke. But not by two of the sharpest analysts in the game. As shown by the below Warren Sharp tweet, the two routes that Funchess succeeds at most just so happen to be the two routes that Luck threw most in 2018. Frank Reich strikes me as the type of coach who knows what routes his quarterback throws most and which wide receivers excel at those routes, so I doubt it’s a coincidence that Funchess was the only offensive weapon of note added to the Colts roster in free agency.
Frank Reich was elated watching Devin Funchess on film. Loved the fact a big, "physical monster" has the feet he does & runs routes like he does.
Turns out Funchess was absolutely OUTSTANDING (80% success) on the 2 routes Luck threw the most last year under Reich: curls & outs. pic.twitter.com/rC6qRgIZuR
— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) March 28, 2019
Not only does Funchess fit what Luck likes to do on the field it, but it appears the Colts will use him in a way that will better utilize his skill set. With the Panthers, he used as an outside receiver, with just a 14% slot rate in 2018 and a 12% slot rate in 2017. As noted by Evan Silva, Funchess has dropped entirely too many passes in his career (9% drop rate) when forced outside. When he plays in his more natural slot position, he has zero drops.
In NFL, Funchess has zero drops on 55 career slot targets. 23 drops on 246 career outside targets.
— Evan Silva (@evansilva) March 28, 2019
Funchess is a relatively late convert to the wide receiver position after playing the tight end position through his sophomore season in college. Allowing him to run more routes from the slot could unlock the potential Funchess showed in 2017.
He Matters Again
Moving from an offense that is middle of the pack in pass volume to one that will rank in the top 10 in passing attempts can’t be understated. The Colts ranked third in pass attempts per game last season with Reich calling the offensive plays. Carolina ranked 15th last year in pass attempts. That was the highest they ranked in pass attempts during Funchess’s four seasons with the team. Reich’s offenses have finished, on average, with the seventh most pass attempts per season. And 2018 was not an outlier for Reich. In six seasons as a head coach or offensive coordinator, his offenses have ranked top six in pass attempts on three occasions.
Expect the Colts to throw upwards of 620 times next season, giving Funchess a sizable number of targets to absorb. Outside of T.Y. Hilton there are no other receivers worth discussing on the Colts (sorry Deon Cain truthers). Even if Eric Ebron and Nyheim Hines maintain their target shares, there’s still enough targets for Funchess to excel. The foursome of Chester Rogers, Dontrelle Inman, Zach Pascal, and Ryan Grant combined for 209 targets in 2018.
A significant number of those targets should go Funchess’s way in 2019. With the Colts, Funchess has the best quarterback of his career. He’ll be on an offense that will throw the ball all over the field, with enough available targets to make him relevant. He has a head coach that’s raved about him since his signing. A head coach that is smart enough to utilize Funchess’s strengths instead of forcing him into a role he’ll fail in.
The dynasty community is still sleeping on Funchess’s prospects. In Mike Tagliere’s latest dynasty trade value chart his trade value is 15, meaning you can acquire Funchess for a mid-2019 2nd round rookie pick. The historical hit rates for mid second round rookie picks damn near dictates that you offer at least that for Funchess in every league you don’t already own him in.
One concern is what happens after the 2019 season. Perhaps that’s keeping his price depressed. Don’t worry about 2020. Worry about 2019. If you can add a player with WR2 upside, a player who has been a WR2 in the past, at the price of a second-round rookie pick you do it. If Funchess doesn’t succeed, you’ve lost an asset (the pick) that likely wouldn’t have paid dividends anyway. Assuming he does produce the Colts will bring him back, or he’ll find another offense that will have a blueprint on how to use him.
As always thank you for reading. You can find me on Twitter @DFF_Shane. I also co-host the DynastyTradesHQ podcast. If you’re looking for a podcast that’s entertaining and informative go ahead and give us a listen.