Value Check: Sammy Watkins
Well, that was fast. The fantasy playoffs have already arrived. For the latest installment of my “Value Check” series, the spotlight will be focused on Sammy Watkins, as he is once again fantasy relevant at arguably the most important time of the year.
Watkins began the 2016 regular season with a slow start. Over the first two weeks, he only managed to register 6 receptions for 63 yards. The Buffalo Bills then revealed that its star wide receiver would be placed on injured reserve after he was unable to suit up for the team’s Week 3 game. Consequently, Watkins then proceeded to miss seven games before he was eligible to return shortly after Buffalo’s bye week. Due to the severity of his foot injury (Jones fracture), many fantasy owners were forced to make a difficult decision on whether or not to dedicate a roster spot to Watkins, even if his injury was simply a matter of pain tolerance.
After a visit with foot specialist Dr. Robert Anderson earlier this October, Watkins was assured that a second surgery on his operated foot was unnecessary. Instead, the former Clemson product needed ample time to rest and rehab. Although pain tolerance remains an issue, Watkins was able to make his long anticipated return in Week 12. He was on the field for only 45 percent of Buffalo’s offensive snaps in the contest, but still managed to score double-digit points in PPR leagues with 3 receptions for 80 yards. This past week, Watkins was able to play 68 percent of snaps against the Oakland Raiders. He finished the game with 3 receptions for 38 yards on 9 targets.
Those that took the risk of stashing Watkins or were proactive by acquiring him could reap significant rewards in the fantasy playoffs, as the wide receiver will face the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins over the next three weeks. Each defensive unit currently ranks outside the top-ten in fewest points allowed to opposing wide receivers, making Watkins an appealing option in virtually all scoring formats.
It appears as though Watkins will be limited in practice for the duration of the season, or possibly miss a session on occasion. According to Buffalo head coach Rex Ryan, the wide receiver’s absences from practices are precautionary or maintenance related unless noted otherwise, and should not be viewed as setbacks.
Assuming Watkins continues to see an increase in snaps moving forward, he can be valued as a weekly WR2 with upside. Outside of LeSean McCoy, Buffalo lacks elite playmakers on offense. Of course, a healthy Sammy Watkins can solve that issue immediately. Remember, when active Watkins is a dominant receiver at the NFL level. Below are his receiving totals from 2014 and 2015, in which he only missed three games over the span of two seasons:
Clearly, Watkins offers serious upside from here on out. Barring an unforeseen setback, the only factors holding him back are pain tolerance and Buffalo’s willingness to increase his workload. He is the ultimate boom-or-bust option in fantasy circles, but carries potential league-winning upside in the playoffs. Yes, he is a risk to start during the most important time of the fantasy season. Regardless, the fact that Watkins has seen an increased role in consecutive weeks indicates that he is on the verge of returning the value that he was expected to deliver this offseason.