Fantasy Football: Robert Woods' Opportunity Is Being Overlooked

Robert Woods could possibly be the top option at wide receiver in the Los Angeles Rams' offense. What does this mean for his fantasy value moving forward?

When out at the grocery store, how often do people reach for the non-dented can of baked beans, as opposed to getting the discount with the dented can? It seems like they go for the non-dented can pretty much every time, but why? You're still getting the same beans, but the appeal on the surface just isn't there, so people end up going with the regular beans.

Robert Woods is the baked beans inside the dented can that is the Los Angeles Rams' offense.

In 2017, Woods will be stepping into an offense that has struggled mightily. It's not very often we see fantasy football owners searching for a player in the Rams' offense to target with their draft capital -- just like nobody goes out to the store looking for damaged goods to get at a discount.

But when the value presents itself, you have to jump on it.

2016 Production

Before we look at where Woods will fit in with the Rams, let's look at how he performed in the Buffalo Bills offense last season.

The below table shows Buffalo's top five pass-catchers with regard to their target market share, along with their Reception Net Expected Points (NEP) per target from 2016. Reception NEP per target is a numberFire metric that quantifies how productive a player is for their team. If you want to learn more, check out our glossary.

Since Sammy Watkins missed eight games last season, we've split out each pass-catcher's production to see how it looked with him and without him on the field.

Player Target Market Share w/ Watkins
Rec NEP Per Target w/ Watkins Target Market Share w/o Watkins
Rec NEP Per Target w/o Watkins
Charles Clay 18.95% 0.55 16.67% 0.69
Robert Woods 16.55% 0.68 23.15% 0.74
Marquise Goodwin 14.81% 0.59 14.81% 0.55
LeSean McCoy
12.41% 0.31 8.79% 0.33
Sammy Watkins 11.33% 0.72
- -

Woods was the top option in the Bills' offense from Weeks 3-9 when Watkins was sidelined, and was more productive per target in a more prominent role. It is encouraging to see a player increase his usage and also increase his efficiency per target.

His 6.6% increase in target volume with Watkins off the field is especially significant for us fantasy football owners -- as we all know, volume is king.

Opportunity in the Rams' Offense

However, that was 2016. Woods is now in a much different situation with the season on the horizon.

To get an idea of his potential opportunity in 2017, let's take a look back at the target market share and Reception NEP per target for the top Rams receivers from last year.

Player Target Market Share Rec NEP Per Target
Kenny Britt 20.71% 0.78
Tavon Austin 19.78% 0.27
Lance Kendricks 16.23% 0.42
Brian Quick 14.37% 0.59

Britt is now on the Cleveland Browns, which opens up a ton of targets for those still in Los Angeles. With options like Tavon Austin and incoming rookie Cooper Kupp already on the roster, there doesn't seem to be a ton of competition, either.

That's where Woods comes into the picture as a 25-year-old receiver who has shown the ability to at least command a decent target market share in an NFL offense without that team's top option. This has to account for something, right?

The Rams threw the ball 536 times in 2016, which was the sixth-fewest in football. Sean McVay takes over as head coach after running a Washington Redskins' offense that threw the ball over 600 times last year, so it wouldn't be surprising to see L.A. be in the same neighborhood of last year's number.

Without Britt, 20.71% of the team's targets are open to go around. If we give Woods a target market share between 17% and 19% for 2017, we could tentatively project him for somewhere between 91 and 102 targets. With the potential of having so many targets available to snatch up, even a mediocre receiver can have some value in fantasy.

The Beans Are Free

With an average draft position of 14.08 in 10-team PPR drafts according to Fantasy Football Calculator, Woods is being selected as the 70th wide receiver. How is a player with a potential opportunity for 90-plus targets being selected that late?

Guys like Chris Hogan and Juju Smith-Schuster are being taken ahead of him, but it's possible they'll see half the target volume. Woods may see 10-20 more targets than last season, yet his draft-day price is lower than his production dictated last year.

Regardless of how average Woods might be as a player, volume is king, and he has a great chance of finishing much higher than his current draft-day value.

Don't let the dented can deter you from having the beans -- Woods is certainly worth a late-round flier in 2017 fantasy football drafts.