Don't Ignore Jamison Crowder in Fantasy Football in 2017
Never ever ever forget that fantasy football is supposed to be fun.
Sure, you have some pizza money on the line -- maybe more if you're really into it -- and bragging rights over your friends, too, but at its core, fantasy football is just a game. Make it fun.
That can occasionally mean loading up your rosters with your favorite players or guys from your favorite team. That's fun. But winning is also fun. And sometimes in the middle rounds, you need to take draft assets who don't have a ceiling that puts them into elite territory, or whose athleticism isn't off the charts.
Crowder, last season's WR31 in PPR setups, is being drafted as the WR31 in 12-team PPR drafts.
Does he have any upside? Is he destined for a low-end WR3 type of season? Was the WR31 finish last year a mirage? What gives?
Does He Have Any Upside? Yes.
Crowder's fantasy football upside -- like with all wide receivers -- is tied to his passing offense. Without generating yards and touchdowns, fantasy assets can't score points for our teams.
Since 2009, 40.6% of the 192 receivers to post a WR24 or better season played on teams that ranked in the top eight by Adjusted Passing NEP per play.
And 29.2% more (so, 69.8% in total) of the top-24 seasons came on offenses that ranked in the top half of our passing efficiency metrics.
Even if the team takes a step back this year without offensive coordinator Sean McVay and two key receivers from 2016, there's a huge cushion for Crowder, historically, to remain fantasy relevant, and to improve upon his WR31 finish from a season ago.
Is He Just a Flex Option? Maybe.
Of course, Crowder could get boxed out in the offense because of tight end Jordan Reed and free agent acquisition Terrelle Pryor. That's a legitimate concern for Crowder, whose closest athletic comparable is fellow NFC East slot receiver Cole Beasley (according to PlayerProfiler).
However, Washington ran 11 personnel (three receivers) on 736 plays last season, sixth-most in football, per SharpFootballStats.
Plus, according to FantasyData, Crowder's 784 snaps ranked second among Washington receivers last year (behind Pierre Garcon's 808 and ahead of DeSean Jackson's 707). Playing time shouldn't be a concern for Crowder, especially considering he should be on the field in two-receiver sets.
Volume and touchdowns could be problematic, and that does cap his upside.
Along with this, by our Reception NEP metric, or the expected points added to a team's offense on catches, Crowder overperformed in the touchdown column last year. He scored 7 times, but his input by Reception NEP suggested he "should've" had closer to 5 (5.33, to be more precise).
That alone suggests he could regress in the touchdown column, but in 2015, Crowder was held to just 2 scores and "should've" had nearly 4 (around 3.77 based on his NEP output). If you lost count, his performance in Reception NEP suggested he should have 9.09 receiving touchdowns so far in his career, and he's had 9 on the nose. That's pretty nice.
Another reason not to worry significantly about his touchdown ability -- at least, to the point where he's not even a startable fantasy option on a weekly basis -- is that he drew 16 red zone targets in 2016 (20.0% of the team's total looks in the red zone).
Those attempts may not be there for him this year if Cousins looks first to Reed and second to Pryor, but Crowder ranked 33rd in PPR fantasy points in the red zone; he wasn't overly reliant on premium opportunities.
Was 2016 a Mirage? No.
Let's not forget that Washington no longer has DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon. Combined, they drew 213 of Cousins' targets last year, and Pryor can't take them all (we project him for around 129 targets).
When targeting Crowder (99 times), Cousins did post his lowest adjusted yards per attempt (8.61) of any of the five non-running backs he targeted at least 20 times, but by Reception NEP per target, Crowder was just as productive as anyone not named DeSean Jackson.
|Cousins Receivers||Tar||Rec||Yards||TD||INT||AY/A||Rec NEP/Rec||Rec NEP/Tar||Success Rate|
Crowder played as well as his teammates in some aspects, despite an average depth of target of just 8.1 yards, per AirYards. For comparison, Garcon's mark was 10.3, and Jackson's was 14.9.
And in sheer fantasy production, 9 of his 15 games in 2016 (excluding Week 17) were top-30 PPR performances.
His situation might even be better than it was last season, depending on your feelings about Pryor's arrival and Reed's health compared to Jackson and Garcon's collective presence a season ago.
Crowder is going to come off the board somewhere around WR30 to WR35 in your draft, based on his average draft position. Our algorithms project him to finish as the WR33, in line with both his draft cost and his production last year.
His involvement in what could still be a top-eight passing offense even while they figure out how to play together without offensive coordinator Sean McVay is a good sign, historically, for Crowder to push for a WR24 finish.
Conversely, his involvement in this offense at all -- one that is efficient -- gives him a useful fantasy football floor. Crowder is the type of asset who seems to be a can't-miss, productive option in the sixth round of drafts. His true ceiling isn't as fun as those of some other fliers drafted around him, but he can do enough to help you win on a weekly basis with those consistent top-30 types of performances.
And having useful assets like Crowder to rely on? That is fun.