It's Time to Start Drafting Will Fuller in Fantasy Football

Fuller appears to be the leading candidate to snag Houston's number-two wide receiver job.

Will Fuller's career with the Houston Texans didn't exactly start with a bang Sunday night. In the team's preseason opener against the San Francisco 49ers, Fuller saw one target, caught it, and picked up four yards on the play. That was it. Nothing flashy, but also nothing that will raise any eyebrows in a negative sense.

Then, consider this. His top competition as the receiver across from DeAndre Hopkins -- Jaelen Strong -- saw 6 targets, catching 4 of them for 42 yards. If we're judging these pups on their productivity, it's pretty clear how things would shake out after round one.

That's just not how the preseason works.

Even though Strong was the more-involved member of the offenses as a whole, Fuller was the guy who got the snaps that counted. This is something of which we need to take notice.

When we turn to see where Fuller is going in fantasy, though, we get a whole lotta nothing. He doesn't currently have an average draft position (ADP), according to Fantasy Football Calculator. If he were guaranteed a starting spot for Week 1, you can bet this would not be the case, and after the team's preseason opener, it seems as if that's where things are heading.

This all begs the question: are we overlooking Will Fuller in fantasy? Let's dig deeper into his situation to see.

Potential for Volume

The first rebuttal to getting excited about Fuller is that there isn't much room for him in the Texans' offense. Hopkins netted over 31% of the team's targets last year, and Lamar Miller's presence will sap up some of the rest. These concerns sink a bit when you look at what non-Hopkins receivers were able to do last year.

The team's top two targets at wide receiver behind Hopkins were Nate Washington and Cecil Shorts (making it pretty clear why the team saw this as a position of need in the offseason). Even though those two aren't exactly top-tier wideouts, they did see a good number of balls come their way.

The table below breaks down the production they flashed over the course of the season. The column for top-24 finishes is for all wide receivers on a given week based on point-per-reception (PPR) scoring. For context, Washington played in 14 games with Shorts seeing action in 11. They weren't great, but they sure did get their looks.

Receiver 10-Plus Target Games 8-Plus Target Games 5-Plus Target Games Top-24 Weeks
Nate Washington 3 5 10 3
Cecil Shorts 3 5 8 2

The team targeted Shorts at least five times in eight of his 11 games, and he left with an injury in one of the others. Washington had as many games with at least five targets as Sammy Watkins, and he eclipsed the totals of Michael Floyd, Tyler Lockett, Stefon Diggs, and Ted Ginn Jr.. There were more guys in that offense seeing volume than just Hopkins.

Part of this comes down to the pace of the Texans' offense. The Texans led the league in offensive plays the first half of the season, running one play every 23.46 seconds. Over the final eight games -- when they were playing better football -- that transitioned to one play only every 29.30 seconds. That's a huge difference for volume, and it does make you wonder whether a number-two receiver could be usable if they were to stick with the slower pace in 2016.

This is a valid concern, and further examination of Washington's and Shorts' seasons doesn't help clear things up. Here's the same table from above, instead focusing on only the final eight, slower-paced games. This is an eight-game sample for Washington and a six-game sample for Shorts.

Receiver 10-Plus Target Games 8-Plus Target Games 5-Plus Target Games Top-24 Weeks
Nate Washington 1 1 5 0
Cecil Shorts 1 1 3 1

Both players had at least one 10-target game the final eight weeks, but neither had more than seven in any of their other games. This shows that most of the aforementioned volume came when the team was running the high-tempo offense, and there are no guarantees they'll return to that style this year.

This, however, should not scare us off of Fuller entirely. The Chicago Bears are a good example of why.

Over the second half of that season, the Bears had a slower pace than the Texans did. They, too, have a target monster in Alshon Jeffery and a number-two receiver who is a former first-round pick and has never played a snap in the NFL in Kevin White. Yet, White's ADP is in the eighth round of PPR drafts.

First, this shows that White is overvalued at where he's currently being drafted. Second, though, it also shows that -- even in a slow offense with target-hogging front man -- number-two wide receivers have immense value in fantasy. This is why Fuller needs to be on our radar.

This isn't a line of thought that is specific to Fuller, either. If, over the course of the next few weeks, Strong emerges as the leader for that second wide receiver gig, we should be drafting him or picking him up on waivers, too. We're not drafting Fuller because there is something inherently great about him; we're drafting his quality situation, and he happens to be in line to be the main benefactor of that situation at the moment.

There are plenty of concerns about Fuller, whether it be his affinity for drops at Notre Dame or the potential Strong could overtake him. But those concerns are already factored into pre-draft thoughts on him, thus squeezing him into the realm of the undrafted. His upside, though, if he can snag the team's number-two role, is not, and that is why we should start drafting him now before his price starts to climb.

Fantasy football isn't all about talent. We don't know what kind of player Will Fuller will end up being by the end of his career. But what we do know right now is that he is the front runner to see some decent volume in the Texans' offense, and that should be enough to warrant a spot on our rosters.