By Matt Kelley (@Fantasy_Mansion)
Special to Yahoo Sports
The NFL anointed a new No. 1 wide receiver last month, and no one cares. On June 12, the New York Jets released Eric Decker, three months after dumping Brandon Marshall, who signed with the New York Giants. Enter Quincy Enunwa, the primary receiving option for a Jets team that is overtly tanking the 2017 season, and the tanking part matters.
Opportunity Is King
In 2016, more wide receivers were drafted in the first round than running backs for the first time in the history of fantasy football. With the popularization of the point per reception (PPR) format, the Fantasy Football landscape has been transformed into Wide Receiver World.
In Wide Receiver World, Mike Evans finished as the No. 3 WR in 2016, despite a 56.1-percent Catch Rate (No. 67 among NFL wide receivers) and 7.7 yards per target (No. 55), because targets, not efficiency, are the primary driver of fantasy points. Evans was an elite-yet-inefficient fantasy producer last season, because his 171 targets and 30.0-percent target share led all NFL receivers. Opportunity is king in fantasy football, and the easiest path to wide receiver opportunity.
The New York Jets will enjoy inordinate amount of garbage time, because the team is overly tanking the season.
In 2016, every team with four or less wins, with the exception of the San Francisco 49ers, finished in the top-12 in pass-to-run ratio. Furthermore, the two teams with brands most closely affiliated with garbage time, the Jaguars and the Browns, finished No. 4 and No. 7 respectively in total pass plays called. Indeed, the Jaguars and the Browns have very little in common with the Packers and Saints, with the glaring exception of total plays. Heading into 2017, no football fan that accidentally flips over to a Jets game would be surprised to see them losing by double digits. Tanking = garbage time. Garbage time = WR opportunity.
The Flanker Role
Coming off a triple-digit-target 2016 season, Enunwa steps in as the clear favorite to assume his rightful position at the top of the Jets target totem pole, the Target King. Admittedly, even a featured position on a tanking Jets team does not sound exciting. However, the Jets No. 1 wide receiver will assuredly receive copious targets, and that is the fantasy gamer’s primary concern. SHOW. ME. THE. TARGETS.
Enunwa is not merely a No. 1 wide receiver in the NFL. More specifically, he plays the flanker position. Flankers often line up on the near side of the formation off the line of scrimmage. Prototypical NFL flankers from Pierre Garcon to Keenan Allen specialize in short and intermediate routes: slants, drags, and outs. Flankers are often a featured option in the West Coast offense. Just ask record-setting NFL flanker, Jerry Rice.
Last season, Enunwa commanded 105 targets (No. 34) for a team that finished in the bottom half of the NFL in total pass plays. Meanwhile, Marshall vacated 129 targets from 2016 (173 in 2015) and Decker vacated 21 targets from 2016 (132 from 2015).
Enunwa steps into one of the NFL’s great target vacuums. If Enunwa commanded 100-plus targets in a situational role in 2016, how many of the 150 vacated targets will he absorb this season? Multiplying 150 targets by Enunwa’s 19-percent 2016 target share yields a 27-target increase, which equates to 132 targets.
Decker is a prototypical NFL flanker. Playing flanker for the Jets in 2015, how many targets did Decker accrue? 132(!) Decker converted those 132 targets into 16.9 fantasy points per game and finished as a top-12 fantasy receiver that season.
Does Decker personify Enunwa’s upside? Not exactly. While Decker competed with Marshall for weekly targets, Enunwa will be competing with Robby Anderson and a myriad of late-round picks for receiver targets in 2017. Enunwa’s upside is Decker-plus.
Anderson, who is 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, is an exciting downfield playmaker, but he is not sturdy enough to be a featured receiver in an NFL passing game. The table below sorts all receivers signed by NFL teams in the last five years by body mass index (BMI) under 24.0. Zero receivers listed commanded a significant target share.
After absorbing 27 less targets than Enunwa in 2016, the analytics suggest Anderson is too svelte to be the main guy in the Jets passing game. Moreover, Anderson’s presence as a situation field stretcher should provide Enunwa more room to operate in the short and intermediate zones of the field.
Enunwa, on the other hand, is 6-2, 225-pounds and runs a 4.45 40-yard dash, which equates to a 116.3 Speed Score (96th-percentile) on PlayerProfiler.com. Enunwa is significantly bigger and faster than both Decker and Anderson. Enunwa is an overwhelming athletic force, with workout metrics on PlayerProfiler.com comparable to Josh Gordon and an athletic and production profile mirroring Pierre Garcon, who led the NFL with 184 targets as Washington’s No. 1 receiver and flanker target hog in 2013.
For reasons outlined above, the fantasy community have rightfully become target wolves, but oddly, the pack seems to be distracted by Tyreek Hill’s fraudulent ascendance to the No. 1 receiver chair in Kansas City. At the same time, these same target zealots fail to appreciate Enunwa.
- Tyreek Hill Way-Too-Early ADP: No. 45 overall (No. 22 WR)
- Quincy Enunwa Way-Too-Early ADP: No. 110 overall (No. 47 WR)
Enunwa is the least expensive No. 1 NFL receiver, and given his upside, is the best-value WR in fantasy football. The target hog with league-winning upside is available in ninth round of drafts. Pinch me.