Five Reasons to Not Draft D.J. Chark Jr. in Any Format in 2021 (Fantasy Football)

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On the most recent Fantasy Footballers podcast, Andy, Mike, and Jason shared their personal lists of Breakouts & Busts for 2021. However, there was one name among that group that I felt some personal zeal as the case was being made.

Andy laid out the argument for why D.J. Chark could be a bust in 2021 and I wanted to put an exclamation mark on that by taking it a step further: don’t draft Chark… in any format in 2021.

Let me walk through and “tag-team” this thing with Andy highlighting some of the statistical analysis we brought up on the show as well as dive deeper into why Chark’s value in all formats is crumbling before our eyes.

Note: You can find ALL of the Footballers’ Bust picks for 2021 in the Ultimate Draft Kit.

1. Our memories from 2019 were… flawed.

First off, 2020 happened. And it was rough with Chark finishing with a line of 57/706/5 on 93 targets. He had only two weeks over 15 points!

Chark hype was real in 2020 and we all felt that at the Footballers. He sunk your team as a Round 4 Pick.

But 2019 wasn’t as rosy as perhaps you remember. The Boom games that Chark had stirred in our minds as a “young A.J. Green” with the tall, lanky frame with a penchant for the endzone. He had four weeks as a WR1 and we remember him being a league winner off the waiver wire. Chark finished as the WR16 but as you dive further into that season, it started out with a boom and ended poorly.

He was the WR32 in our Consistency Metrics and that was clearly evident as you moved past the first month of the season. From Week 4 on, he was the WR26. But from Week 9 on, he was the WR46. In other words, if you kept playing Chark in hopes for an eruption it rarely ever came the rest of the season.

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Were things as great in 2019 as you remember?

2. The Nine Ain’t Working Like It Used To…

Chark’s trump card is supposed to be the deep ball. In 2019, he had a clear connection with Gardner Minshew II on 20+ yard target grading out as a perfect 99.9 on PFF metrics. On 26 targets “deep”, Chark caught half of them and was top-10 in most metrics.

It was very clear that Jacksonville wanted to utilize his 4.34 speed this way again in 2020. But they went a bit overboard…

Chark had the largest increase in the percentage of 20+ yard targets of any WR (min. 80 targets) from 2019 to 2020.

In fact, Chark’s 33.7 percent deep target rate was the highest in the league. The problem was his efficiency plummeted. Minshew predictably cratered and the illustrious combo of Jake Luton and our boy Mike Glennon couldn’t save the day either. On 31 “deep targets”, Jacksonville QBs threw four INTs, the most on deep attempts in the league. Chark caught only ten of those targets. You can chalk that up to bad QB play or the stone age coaching concepts where they said “keep running a nine route buddy”. Regardless, there might be a player on the team in 2021 who actually is better at that trait than even D.J. Chark

Enter Marvin Jones Jr. Ok, truth be told I’m a Marv truther for life but this team signed him to a two-year contract to be an outside wide receiver who excels at a couple of things Chark is supposed to be good at… deep targets and contested catches. Jones also is a red-zone monster in his career.

Urban Meyer’s critical comments from earlier this offseason also weren’t exactly a vote of confidence: “I just didn’t like his [Chark] size, his strength, I just thought it was way below average, way below what we expect from our receivers,” said Meyer. “He was told that and the best thing about DJ is he addressed it and hit it very hard.”

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Remember that this new coaching regime and organization does not think through the lens of fantasy football when making their decisions. Jacksonville will be a better team than 2020 as there’s nowhere to go but up from a one-win season. They do not have the same affinity and ties to make Chark “a thing” for fantasy.

The question then becomes: what is the hope for Chark in 2021? And should you draft him in any format? 

3. In redraft, good luck picking the right week.

Fantasy football isn’t as predictable as we think sometimes. When it comes to wide receivers, they clearly have the most volatility week-to-week and it is those “swing for the fences” that help you “win a week”.

We don’t want to shun players like D.J. Chark who can have spike weeks in redraft leagues. The problem is that the consistency is so bad that those boom games look even further apart than you realize. Chark hasn’t had back-to-back weeks as a top-30 WR since Week 3 of 2019. Only 32.1% of his games have been inside the top-24 in the span making his bust rate absurd as a player who crushed you more than you realized.

Speaking of spike weeks, according to our WR consistency metrics in the Ultimate Draft Kit, Chark has had fewer % of WR1 games over the last two years than Nelson Agholor. He’s given you only five games over 20+ fantasy points in two seasons. That’s it. In those other 23 games, he averaged eight points per game. Woof.

Chark’s current ADP is 6.11 and I find myself bypassing him every single time in mocks. I’ll take the discount and shoot my shot with Laviska Shenault Jr. in 2021, a darling of the fantasy football community, and for good reason.

I’ll ask this again: in redraft leagues, will you know when to start him?

4. His dynasty value is an illusion.

Let’s address the elephant in the room: Trevor Lawrence.

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I’ve yet to mention his name and if there is a reason for optimism for Chark to delete his 2020 from memory, the #1 pick should at least cause us to also forget the lore of the Minshew/Luton/Glennon trio of dubiousness.

While I’m all for Lawrence as a prospect, the big question that I’ve addressed before is: Can Rookie QBs Sustain WR Production? I looked back at every rookie QB since 2004, which is a fairly large sample size to work with. The bottom line is that rookie QBs sustaining WR Production is rare in Year One. A rookie QB failed to produce even a top-36 WR 70% of the time. That’s not good Bob.

Ok, maybe you’re willing to take some lumps in 2021 as Chark’s age (24.7 years old) dictates that he’s going to pay off and explode on a team trending upwards offensively.

Chark is a free agent in 2022. Dynasty managers mistakenly think he’ll be tied to Lawrence long-term despite his young age and based on Meyer’s sentiment, there is no reason to think Chark will be re-signed after 2021. Check out Chark’s dynasty value over the last four years as I compare it to other WRs in that 2018 draft class:

He received a massive boost from 2019 to 2020 as overreaction seems to be the constant chorus in dynasty circles for young WRs.

I’ll admit that I was smitten by his upside but you can see how that value likely will only slide further and further down. There is no guarantee for 2022 and perhaps a change of scenery benefits him. But he’s not likely going to command a huge second contract and trading for him now is still at a point where his expected value in dynasty is a weekly starter. No thank you.

If you want to trade for Chark after this season, his value will likely be lower and his destination clearer. I get it. That’s just usually not how dynasty works. Potential is the siren’s song and I’m done listening to it with Chark in dynasty. Will he gain or lose dynasty value heading into 2022?

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5. But… What About Best Ball?

Yes, we all get the schtick of players being labeled “better in Best Ball”. Laughter aside, this is still a paradigm we take into drafts. I don’t care who you are there are certain archetypes and Chark fits that mold for Best Ball. A “good best ball player” doesn’t just provide boom weeks… they help you win.

I know… wild concept. But as I discussed in Best Ball Win Rates & What They Tell Us, what makes a successful win rate is the opportunity cost associated with that player. Let’s compare D.J. Chark Jr. from 2019 to 2020 and what made him a good best-ball pick and apply that same criterion to 2021. Shall we?

In 2019l, he was declared a “league winner” with an ADP of 219.9 and an elite win rate of 18.3%. However, he was drafted on just 16.7 percent of teams in BestBall10s. If you got in on the ground floor great, but in theory, he helped only a handful of teams. He sunk teams with a sub-five percent win rate in 2020 and if you stacked him with Minshew hoping for more of the 2019 mojo, the win rate plummeted to 1.8 percent. Yikes.

He’s typically being taken as someone’s WR2 or 3. In that same range, I’m much more bullish on players like Chase Claypool, Jerry Jeudy, and Devonta Smith. Chark’s ceiling games will happen but not frequently enough at his ADP (6.09) to make him a certifiable “win rate” player. After doing Best Ball rankings and recording for the Fantasy Footballers DFS podcast, Chark still ended up higher than I realized in the first pass of my rankings. I’ve slowly moved him down (WR46/116th overall) to a point where drafters aren’t getting him at his current WR31 Best Ball ADP in Underdog. Do you have confidence he will be a difference maker at his ADP?

Conclusion

Ok, I lied.  If there is a format you can play Chark in 2021, it will be DFS.

I won’t completely erase him from memory and I love watching him as an NFL fan. Hopefully, this laid out a case why Chark and I won’t be spending much time together on Sunday afternoons in the fall.

Sit with those questions. Take a long walk. Come back. Let me know your thoughts on Twitter @kyle_borg.

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