Does Josh Reynolds Hold Any Fantasy Football Value for the Rest of the Season?
The Los Angeles Rams have been enjoying a fantastic season with a much-improved offense. One of the benefactors of these improvements has been wide receiver Robert Woods, who has collected 703 yards receiving with 4 touchdowns through 10 games. However, the shoulder injury he suffered in Week 11 will make it hard for him to suit up against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 14. This would be the third consecutive week he's forced to the sideline.
While it'd be better for Los Angeles to have Woods on the field, his absence in the last two games has led to a chance for rookie wideout Josh Reynolds. Can the youngster turn this increased opportunity into a fantasy-relevant performance against the Eagles? What about his value moving forward for the remainder of this season?
Seizing the Opportunity
While Reynolds' sample size is small -- he's only seen 15 targets so far this year -- our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric paints an encouraging picture of him when looking at his performance on a per-play basis. His 0.66 Reception NEP per target is above the league average for wide receivers (0.60). That's good.
But it still trails Woods (0.79), Cooper Kupp (0.75), and Sammy Watkins (0.99). The only Rams' wideouts he's ahead of (when looking at those with at least 10 targets in 2017) are Pharoh Cooper (0.08) and Tavon Austin (-0.12), who actually has the lowest Reception NEP per target in football among receivers with 10-plus targets.
NEP doesn't tell the full story, though. Of those 15 targets that Reynolds has received, 12 have come in the last two games. The first-year pass-catcher has played 80.5% and 72.4% of L.A.'s offensive snaps across the last two. He's gotten 6 targets in each contest, converting that into 6 catches for 43 yards and a touchdown. It's also worth noting that four of those targets of come in the red zone, with his lone score coming in that area of the field.
The Rams haven't exactly been a pass-heavy squad this year -- their 1.22 pass-to-run ratio is the ninth-lowest mark in football. However, they've been very efficient when putting the ball in air -- their 0.23 Adjusted Passing NEP per play is a top-five mark in the NFL. That'll come in handy for their upcoming matchup.
Large Obstacles in Week 14
Opposing offenses have produced a 2.12 pass-to-run ratio against the Eagles this year, mostly because of Philly's great run defense, which ranks as the league's third-best unit, per our schedule-adjusted metrics. They're also not too shabby against the pass -- third-best by our metrics -- but fall toward the middle of the pack with regard to yards allowed through the air (2,701).
Los Angeles may have to use their passing attack more because of this, but Philadelphia hasn't made it easy on their opponents in recent weeks. They've allowed nine or fewer receptions to the position three times in their past five games, while only two receivers have found the end zone in the last seven contests. Cornerbacks Jalen Mills, Rasul Douglas, and Patrick Robinson are the only trio of teammates in the NFL to all have at least 10 pass breakups.
However, what could be viewed as an obstacle could also present an opportunity. If the Eagles shut down Todd Gurley and the Rams on the ground, quarterback Jared Goff will be forced to throw more than he usually does, which should hypothetically benefit Watkins, Kupp, and Reynolds.
Another reason for hope with Reynolds is him staying away from the slot, an area almost exclusively patrolled by Kupp. According to Pro Football Focus, nearly 66% of Reynolds’ routes run this season have come from the outside. Of the top-10 individual wide receiver performances against the Eagles, only two came against specialist slot receivers (Sterling Shepard had 133 yards in Week 3 and Doug Baldwin had 84 in Week 13). If the Eagles are to be beaten by wide receivers, it’s usually on the outside.
Outlook Moving Forward
Opportunity is typically the driving force behind production. While there are many factors that could make Reynolds an attractive prospect heading into Week 14, there are just as many that make him someone to stay away from.
As evidenced by his snap rates over the past two games, it's likely that he'll be on the field a great deal, which is the first step toward collecting stats valuable for fantasy football. He has some things going in his favor heading into this matchup, but it would be more surprising than not to see him have a huge performance against one of the league's best defenses.
We have him projected for just 1.84 standard fantasy points in Week 14, which checks in at WR99. He's in an intriguing situation, but if you're looking for value in the first week of the fantasy playoffs, it's probably best to look elsewhere in order to find someone with a more stable floor.
If he is able to carve out something approaching a productive outing, though, could he provide value for the remainder of this season? Following their matchup against Philly, Los Angeles will face the Seattle Seahawks in Week 15 and the Tennessee Titans in Week 16 before closing things out against the San Francisco 49ers.
Seattle boasts the NFL's 11th-best defense, per our metrics, but this unit has been hit hard with injuries -- especially in the secondary. They've allowed at least 139 yards through the air to wide receivers in seven of their last eight games while allowing touchdowns in each of their last three. Meanwhile, the Titans own the league's third-worst pass defense and have allowed at least 13 catches and 161 yards to the position four times in their last five games.
Week 17 may not hold much appeal for season-long fantasy football players, but it should still be noted that the 49ers, our fourth-worst pass defense, have been helpful in ushering wide receivers into their end zone. San Francisco has allowed at least one touchdown to the position in all but two games and even gave up one to the Chicago Bears last week.
While it'll be tough to trust him in Week 14, there's some intriguing upside when looking ahead -- as long as he continues getting on the field at a decent clip. He's far from a must-start player, but depending on your situation and any future injuries that may pop up, his situation is one to monitor.
If Robert Woods can't return next week for some reason, Reynolds could have a chance to make a statement with a strong end to the season. Even if Woods does make it back onto the field, the rookie could force his way into head coach Sean McVay's plans as another productive weapon in this offense. A lot of this could depend on how he performs against the Eagles, so this will be an interesting matchup to keep an eye on.