What’s on Tape: Cameron Meredith (Fantasy Football)

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Never did I think a simple tweet would stir up so much conversation over a player few have been talking up this off-season.

Seriously, I was simply minding my own business perusing the weekly PPR performances of 2016 when Cameron Meredith‘s name starting poking out among the top 10. He joined the likes of Odell Beckham Jr., Doug Baldwin, Julio Jones, Jarvis Landry, Antonio Brown, T.Y. Hilton, and Jordy Nelson as the only WRs to have 5 top 10 PPR performances on the year.

This off-season has given me the time to give Meredith a long look in the film room and see what stands out on tape. Our goal is to evaluate what we see watching every single one of Meredith’s targets in 2016 and discuss whether his production is something sustainable over an entire season and be able to project his range of outcomes for the 2017 fantasy season.

Who is Cameron Meredith?

Meredith’s story is a fun one considering he’s a local guy from St. Joseph High School in Westchester, Illinois who went on to play at Illinois State. Meredith, originally a QB, was holding the clipboard as a backup until he transitioned to WR. He led the team in receiving in 2013 and 2014 highlighted by 66 receptions for 1,061 yards and 9 TDs as a senior. Unfortunately, he lacked the notoriety and wasn’t even invited to the NFL Combine.

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It was interesting a team did not give him at least Day 2 grade in the draft given his measurables coming out of Illinois State. According to PlayerProfiler.com, his most impressive attributes included ranking in the 95th percentile in catch radius, 86th in agility and 88th in burst score. In other words, this guy has some rich physical tools. The Bears took a flyer on the hometown kid and it seems that he progressed quickly from being a UDFA and small contributor as a rookie to a legitimate asset at WR in 2016.

What’s On Tape

After taking on the daunting task of sitting through all 96 targets of Meredith’s season, there were a couple of highlight moments and common threads that seemed to show up on film. Here are a couple takes:

-He’s more of a glider than an elite speed freak. However, when someone has this style of running it really means they look incredibly smooth for such a big physical specimen. It seemed that there were a number of times faster cornerbacks were aloof in their pursuit hoping to simply body him.

-To give you a frame of reference, think of a younger version of Larry Fitzgerald, who was never considered blazing fast but was certainly able to break away from defender. Both players are tall (6’3) yet don’t play overly big instead relying on nuances of route running and a finesse approach. Meredith has good hands but not Fitz’s elite Hall of Fame-level mitts.

-After finally getting integrated into the offensive game-plan, Meredith saw his snap count rise and remain at healthy 85% or higher the rest of the season. Part of this was due to the injury to Kevin White which allowed Meredith to command targets at his most natural position, outside receiver. He lined up outside on 96% of his snaps so it’s clear that’s where he stays. If Jeffrey bolts in free agency, you’re looking at a WR with 125+ available targets, something only 20 pass catchers saw in 2016.

-In Week 5 and 6, when both Jeffrey and Meredith were focal points of close games, I couldn’t really tell a huge difference on film. Jeffrey definitely has an elite ability to catch the ball at highest point and body smaller CBs. And yet Meredith looks like the younger, spry version of Jeffrey with the knack to create yards in open space to the tune of 287 yards after catch on the year. That total was more than the higher-profiled Jeffrey, Emmanuel Sanders, and even Mike Evans. Multiple times Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley (not exactly Joe Montana) looked to him on screens, one of which in Week 6 he made 36 yards out of basically nothing. I definitely think he isn’t limited to just deep routes. I also counted two plays where Meredith was questionably ruled down at the 1-yard line after racking up YAC.

-I specifically looked at games that Jeffrey was targeted heavily to see if perhaps Meredith got phased out of the offensive gameplan or was “alpha-dogged”. Their splits on the year are frighteningly similar.

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Despite the fact that Jeffrey missed 4 games due to injury and suspension, Meredith did not see a target until Week 3 and wasn’t utilized in a meaningful way until Week 5. In other words, they had roughly the same opportunity in 2016.

Getty Images Sport / Andy Lyons

-The guy made some big plays down the field, especially on double-moves. 19.7% of his catches on the year went for 20+ yards, which was roughly the same percentage as Odell Beckham Jr. In Week 5 against Indianapolis, he scored a TD on a double-move making Colts safety Mike Adams look silly biting on the curl route. Pro Football Focus actually graded Meredith as the “best route runner for double moves” in 2016. His deceptive speed and consistent use of the slant route made cornerbacks bite on these double moves.

-The film showed that Meredith was a consistent chain-mover with 44 first downs on the year. He was a first down machine converting 66.7% of his catches, a rate right below Michael Thomas and above Odell Beckham Jr. and Jordy Nelson. Whether the QB was Cutler, Hoyer, or Barkley, it didn’t really matter.

Projecting 2017

Currently, Meredith is going at the back of the 13th round in standard mocks according to FantasyFootballCalculator.com and undrafted by many. If and when Alshon Jeffrey bolts town, expect his ADP to skyrocket. He’s shown that he can command targets even on a terrible offense. The argument of playing with a bad QB just doesn’t phase me when you watch the film and see Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley throwing him the rock. I can see a scenario where drafting Meredith as your 4th WR returns WR2 value especially in PPR leagues.

It’s time for Meredith to receive some offseason love.   It’s clear that I’ve developed google-eyes for Meredith after reviewing his tape and his numbers from 2016. Our own Mike Wright also recently expressed that Meredith was his Valentine’s Day love on the podcast. So join this party as the 4th wheel before the Cameron Meredith love train becomes everyone else’s thing.

Check out the rest of our NFL Film Breakdowns on Quincy Enunwa and Carlos Hyde.

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