Kendall Wright Is Poised for Success With the Chicago Bears
We all have our “binky” players in fantasy football -- players we will continually come back to time and time again in drafts. It doesn’t matter how often we get burned by these guys or how often they hit; we trust and like them for some reason, and somehow they always end up on our fantasy rosters.
This is the third year in a row I found a place in the offseason to talk about one of my “binky” players, wide receiver Kendall Wright -- and it’s not because I’m contractually obligated to; he’s a really compelling fantasy option for 2017.
Wright has spent the last five years languishing on the Tennessee Titans’ rebuilding roster, with coaches who actively disliked using him and preferred boring, aging options to a dynamic downfield threat.
Now, though, Wright joins a remade Chicago Bears with deep-ball specialist Mike Glennon under center and a wide-open depth chart at wide receiver. With an affordable price tag in fantasy drafts this year, Wright is a player you should be targeting.
Wright has long been a favorite of mine, due to his immense upside on any given play. The lack of any real competition in Tennessee’s wide receiver group just amplified the intrigue in his potential fantasy production.
Three regimes of Titans’ coaches, however, saw the former first-round receiver as merely a complementary piece. Current head coach Mike Mularkey and former boss Ken Whisenhunt both critiqued his route-running and timing skills, and benched him for “freelancing” too much.
At various points over the last few years, therefore, Wright played the little-used third or fourth receiver roles behind the likes of J.A.G.’s Rishard Matthews and Harry Douglas, the gator-armed Dorial Green-Beckham and Justin Hunter, and even the hollowed-out husk of former star Andre Johnson.
Not great, Bob.
Despite seeing little time on the field due to this (and injury), Wright still dazzled when he did get the ball in his hands. We can see this illustrated by Net Expected Points (NEP) -- numberFire’s signature value metric. NEP describes the contribution a play (or player) makes to their team’s chances of scoring. By adding down-and-distance value to standard box score information, we can see just how much each play and each team as a whole influence the outcome of games. For more info on NEP, check out our glossary.
The table below shows Wright’s production in Reception NEP per target from Weeks 1-16 last year (with a healthy Marcus Mariota at quarterback), compared to the other receivers on the Titans. How efficient was he?
|Name||Rec NEP/Target||Rec Success %|
Wright had a higher rate of value generated per target, but the lowest Reception Success Rate -- the percent of receptions going for positive NEP -- on the team. What does that mean?
A high Reception NEP per target rate paired with a lower Reception Success Rate suggests a player is getting used as a big-play threat, a downfield target. This year, however, resulted in one of the highest Success Rates of Wright’s career, rather than it diminishing from previous seasons as if he was getting thrown to further downfield. This seems to corroborate the idea that he’s actually just taken a lot longer to develop as a route-runner in order to get to a league-average Success Rate.
Wright may be a bit of a freewheeler on his routes, but he finds ways to get open and make things happen. His raw targets don’t portray him well, but when we also look at his rates of stat production, they’re impressive. The table below shows a few of these.
|Name||Target Rate||Catch Rate||Yds/Rec||TD%|
Wright didn’t see a large volume of targets because he was kept off the field (just 309 snaps, per FantasyData.com). When he was on the field, he was Mariota’s favorite target, one of his most reliable ones, and one of his most productive.
There’s a lot to like in Wright’s profile, and he may be coming into his own just in time for the Bears.
The Itsy-Bitsy Spider
The Bears themselves are in the spot the Titans were when Wright sported the sword-and-shield on his helmet for the past few years: a full rebuild is underway in the Windy City.
That may not seem good with regard to the quality of Wright’s supporting cast, but it leaves things open enough for him to seize a real role in the offense.
With Alshon Jeffery's departure, 94 of the Bears’ 383 wide receiver targets last year are available for the taking. Some of that will be soaked up by an increased role for the now-healthy Kevin White, and free-agent addition Markus Wheaton, but there’s a real chance for Wright to step into a sizable slot role in 2017.
Eddie Royal occupied this spot in 2016 and generated just 0.56 Reception NEP per target -- the 25th lowest value among the 113 receivers to see 30 or more targets. In addition, White still hasn’t proven anything in his time on the field; he ended last year with the second-lowest Reception NEP per target among these receivers (0.29) and a Catch Rate barely above 50.00 percent.
To add to this potential role, there’s added impact and value for Wright to make the most of. Mike Glennon has been one of the better downfield passers in recent years, and should make the most of his big arm in Chicago. His Passer Rating on deep attempts since 2012 is the 15th-best among the 48 quarterbacks to attempt 100 deep passes or more in that span.
The table below shows his success compared to the NFL average in that time.
Wright’s former quarterbacks -- even Mariota -- were all significantly worse than the average values downfield. Glennon presents a sizable upgrade for Wright’s production if he can get on the field and steal some extra looks from a replacement-level receiver group.
While there is certainly an open competition for snaps and targets that will occur and the signing of Glennon could end badly, Wright’s superior athletic ability and ability to make something out of nothing should give him an edge on a role with the Bears. His lack of polish won’t matter as much in an offense that won’t be predicated on timing routes or precision, and his skillset is the perfect pairing to his new quarterback’s.
In the overhauled 2017 Chicago passing attack, Kendall Wright seems to fit just right.