by Nick Ercolano
June 11, 2020
Ok, so now that we spoke to Dr. Morse - if you missed last week's injury breakdown episode go watch that, we talked about all of the QBs and RBs that might make you a lil nervous going into this year bc of injury concerns - we talked about Stafford. I was concerned about him breaking his byke, byke to byke years - I mean - come on now -- Doc ain't nervous about it at all. So, from an injury standpoint - Stafford should be all systems go, which was the only reservation I had about Golladay heading into 2020 to be quite frank.
We look back at last year, Kenny G finishes as the WR5 in half PPR, he was around WR8-9 in PPG, with 13.5 PPG - which is great but it's not league-winning by any means. Just for context, his fantasy points scored last in 2019, that had him at WR5, if he scored the same amount in 2018, would have had him finish outside of the top 10 fantasy WRs. It was an overall down year for fantasy WRs not named Michael Thomas.
But, there's still plenty to like about Kenny Ballaway. He had the typical 3rd year WR breakout, his first year really operating as the alpha 65 catches on 119 targets for 1190 yards and 11 scores.
So let's cover all sides of the dice here.
We have to be excited about Stafford coming back:
The splits, naturally with and without Stafford are big. There are a few things that come with Kenny G, however. The target total for an alpha is low, especially on a team that was in the top half of the league in passing plays/game, passing rate overall, that didn't have a RB of consequence catching passes, whose WR2 in Marvin Jones was banged up and missed about a month of the season, no TE of consequence after Week 1. If you told me all that in preseason, I'd say Kenny G was lined up for 140+ targets minimum.
And before you say yeah well when Driskel, Blough were under center they didn't throw - they averaged 1.5 pass attempts/game fewer with those guys on the field opposed to Stafford, you can see Golly's targets were one fewer/game, so maybe 8 more if Staff is there.
So the volume is lower than you'd like from your WR1. And, whatt happens when you have low volume, is that you get very inconsistent WoW production.
The 11 TDs obviously helped keep him in the fantasy stud range.
On the flip side, the type of player Kenny G is, doesn't exactly need 150 targets to be great because he's so good in the EZ and as a downfield threat and man was Stafford unafraid to sling it last year:
That was something I tweeted after 8 weeks into the 2019 szn I believe.
Kenny G deep receiving stats:
He's an elite deep threat, built at 6'4-220.
So, getting Stafford back is definitely exciting, and I think we'll see a boost to Golladay's targets, but Marvin Jones will be back, Hockenson will hopefully take a step forward, they draft a great pass-catching back in D'Andre Swift - so to be quite frank, I'm not expecting a huge bump in targets for Kenny G. He's not the type of player I typically try to target as my WR1 - but figured I'd lay out the big facts and let y'all decide.
If you've followed me for a while you know I'm not a big schedule guy, I don't tell you how easy/difficult of a schedule has in May or June - we have no idea how a defense will be the following year, etc - pointless to project - but just a quick glance might tell you Kenny G could be an amazing buy candidate a month in:
First five weeks of the season:
The Bears, at Lambaeu, at Patrick Peterson, the Saints, bye... then:
I find it really hard to leave Thielen out of this area for 2020. This isn't dynasty. Diggs is out of the picture - I mean.. I feel like I don't need to say more - Thielen and Kirk really have that chemistry.
I'm not willing to write off Thielen just because the Vikings went super run-heavy last year. More importantly, his whole year was fucked by injuries. He suffered a hamstring strain in Week 7... Weeks 1-6:
14.3 half PPR - woulda been WR5 behind Julio last year.
The hamstring injury ruined his year, he missed a bunch of time, returned way too soon, got injured again, and it ruined the rest of the year.
If there's anyone I'm not concerned about this year - it's Thielen.
The only thing they have in the passing game is first-round rookie Justin Jefferson. This entire passing game is centered around Thielen - I'd be surprised if we don't see a 30% target share out of Thielen in 2020. They can go more 2TE sets, that's fine, Thielen is a big dude, he can run the outside, he was only in the slot for 30% of his snaps last year regardless.
Run-heavy still, sure, Kirk throws the ball 30 times a game, a 30% target share is gonna land Thielen in the 140-150 target range, imagine if they actually do throw the ball a little more? Much higher ceiling than being given credit for imo.
I like Cooper here a lot. This is where he's going in drafts and I think in terms of where you can get him, in Superflex it's early 4th, which I think is fantastic value.
I think most of us, especially my audience, we've been SO focused on dynasty narratives this off-season, that we're starting to think Cooper is a bad buy in season-long this year. The arguments:
1. They draft CeeDee Lamb
1. He's a rookie. Two even if you think he's going to out-perform rookie expectations which I do, the Cowboys have the second most targets opened up in their offense. He can literally take Randall Cobb's production from last year, who had almost 850 yards in 15 games, and Cooper can still ball.
2. Ohhh his contract has no guaranteed money, etc. etc. He gone. --- I mean that has nothing to do with this year and shouldn't be factored into your mindset on him for 2020 + that narrative is far overblown -- they took Lamb bc he was BPA - not because they, who just signed Cooper to an extension can't wait to get rid of him in two years, at his age apex for WRs of 27.
This is an extremely potent offense, that just had Dak throw for over 4900 yards, 3rd highest pace of all offenses thanks to Kellen Moore - and now Mike McCarthy comes in who is a pass-first head coach that's made absolute killings for fantasy WRs during his time in GB.
Don't make the mistake of falling into the dynasty narratives for redraft this year with Cooper.
We can talk about his inconsistency, and maybe I'm making excuses for it, but I think there's a legit reason to wipe those out.
He arrived halfway through the 2018 season, of course, his performance is going to be up and down for the rest of the year.
But for last year - the entire year was fucked by injuries - he came into the year with plantar fascia - balled Weeks 1-3 - looked like he was going to be a top 3 fantasy WR on the year. Then he got this random ankle MRI after Week 3, came back negative but things were a roller coaster after that. It was ankle MRIs, knee MRIs, quad strains, etc.
If you want to fade because of injuries, I'm fine with that - but the way I see it, Cooper's inconsistency stems from injuries, not lack of talent. If he's healthy, in this very very good offense, he's going to get it done, and at a high level.
Dr. Morse and I talked on Tuesday for a while about Cooper Kupp and his 2019 season. His final statline (94-1161-10) was awesome, but the season was a true Game of Thrones-esq year - so good, finished so bad.
Weeks 1-8 (8 games), Kupp tops 100 yards 5 times, sees 8+ targets in 7-of-8 games, double-digit in 5-of-8, including target totals of 12 , 15 and 17. And that Week 8 game, 7-220-1, before their week 9 bye.
Then things got funky.
Okay, he didn't finish poorly, because of the TDs, but the overall involvement in the offense was concerning.
What we need to dive deeper into, is the makeup of the Rams offense. Their offense had been unstoppable for about two years when McVay came over, running almost exclusively out of 11 personnel, 3 WRs, 1TE, 1 RB. It couldn't be stopped. That was until their offensive line started taking a BEATING in 2020. They fall off like Fetty Wap. Going from the top-ranked o-line per both PFF and FOs to a bottom 5 line in a single offseason. When that happens, you have to adjust the game plan, you have to add an extra TE to the line for extra protection, especially for a QB like Goff who is extremely sensitive to pass-rush pressure. Adding an extra TE means you're now looking at 2 outside WRs, 2TEs and an RB, pushing Kupp from the slot, outside.
From Weeks 1-8, Kupp ran 75.3% of his routes from the slot, didn't have a single game running more routes from the outside. Not a single game where he ran more than 18 snaps outside. From Weeks 10-17, same number of games, 5 games of 21+ snaps outside. 3 games of running more snaps from the outside than the slot. His slot % dropped from 75.3% to 57.8%.
He also played 10% fewer snaps over the 2H of the year (85% -> 75%).
Robert Woods and Tyler Higbee became the alphas.
But, here's what I'll say. Kupp was like 9 months removed from his ACL tear. We love drafting guys two years removed from it. I think he'll be stronger and better than ever in 2020.
Brandin Cooks is also gone. Not that he was a major factor last year, but now we know who the top two dogs are in Woods and Kupp - as opposed to playing a guessing game like last summer.
The last thing, is just the chemistry between Goff and Kupp. It's uncanny. Especially in the RZ. It's almost Aaron Rodgers/Davante Adams-esq. Kupp top-5 in 10z targets last year. 16 TDs over his previous 23 games. I think he's a great bet to catch 90 passes again and finsih with 8-10 TDs in 2020 - love him in the 4th round, even 5th round in SF leagues.
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