Jamison Crowder Is an Obvious Fantasy Football Value
Only 28 active wide receivers have racked up at least 280 targets within their first three seasons in the league.
Among those 28, only 6 recorded a catch rate of at least 65%, and only 3 of those 6 averaged at least 8.0 yards per target.
All three of those wideouts are also still 26 years old or younger.
The third is the unheralded Jamison Crowder, who is being selected as WR45.
If you want to find a season in which Crowder didn't beat that WR45 mark, you have to go all the way back to his 2015 rookie campaign. In 2016, he finished as the WR31, and he stayed consistent with a WR33 finish in 2017.
Even with the changes to the Washington offense this season, Crowder has no business being taken so late in fantasy football drafts.
The Quarterback Change
Obviously, quarterback play is going to have a big impact on wide receivers. So if we're looking for a reason to explain Crowder's low ADP, Washington's move from Kirk Cousins to Alex Smith at quarterback is a top candidate.
And on the surface, it looks like there could be something to that. At numberFire we have a metric called Net Expected Points (NEP), which reflects how many expected points a player contributes (or costs) his team on any given play. Through the lens of NEP (more specifically, Passing NEP per drop back), we can see that Cousins has been significantly more efficient since 2015 -- when Cousins took over as a full-time starter.
|Year||Kirk Cousins||Alex Smith||Difference|
Even with the big shifts for both guys in 2017, Cousins holds the edge over a significant three-year sample. Cousins also bests Smith in Passing Success Rate in this split (50.3% compared to 46.9%).
We see a similar edge in terms of fantasy efficiency of the pair's pass-catchers, in terms of fantasy points per target.
And if you're curious, Crowder hasn't done anything to inflate Cousins' numbers, sitting just below the team average with 1.74 fantasy points per target in that time.
So there's good reason to believe that we could see a decline of efficiency in the Washington passing game this year.
But the drop-off isn't huge and doesn't appear to be too harmful to Crowder. He produced at an efficiency rate only 1% below the average for everyone catching Cousins' passes over the last three years, and 99% of Smith's 1.68 clip would be 1.66.
Applying that to Crowder's 103 targets in 2017, he'd have finished as the WR31. Applying it to the 99 targets in 2016, he'd have finished as the WR46 -- a significant drop but still in line with where he's being drafted this year.
And that would be if his workload decreased, something we haven't seen in any of his seasons in the NFL.
Here's a look at how Crowder has stacked up among wideouts in both targets and target market share (Target % -- the percentage of their team's targets that a player accounted for) over his three seasons in the NFL.
|Year||Targets||Rank (WR)||Target %||Rank (WR)|
So both in terms of overall targets and market share, Crowder has seen his workload expand every year. He has also never finished lower than third on his team in targets, which includes ranking first in the Washington offense last year.
Perhaps surprising, considering he's only 5'9" and listed at 177 pounds, is that he has also been one of the team's top offensive weapons in each of those three years.
He has ranked no lower than third in the offense in red zone targets, and he accounted for at least 20% of the team's red zone looks in each of the last two seasons, ranking second and first in 2017 and 2016, respectively.
How Will It Come Together This Year?
Just because Crowder's workload has increased in each of his last two seasons certainly doesn't guarantee that the same thing happens in 2018. If we dig a little bit deeper into his situation, though, we can find good reason to believe that he will likely see yet another increase this year.
Washington's offense will see some changes beyond the quarterback shift this year. They have lost two wideouts in Terrelle Pryor and Ryan Grant this summer. Neither saw a huge workload, but they did combine for 102 targets in 2017 -- accounting for 19.1% of the team's total.
The return of Jordan Reed doesn't look especially likely to cut into the available volume, either. He and Vernon Davis combined for 104 targets last season, and Reed has only ever eclipsed 100 targets once.
They have added Paul Richardson to the mix, and he does stand to eat up a fairly significant amount of the volume that Pryor and Grant's absences free up.
Looking at the way Alex Smith throws the football, however, we could quickly see Smith and Crowder become best friends.
Over the last three seasons, Cousins has yet to post an average depth of target (aDOT) below 8.0 yards, while Smith has not cracked 7.9
If we expand our view to their entire careers, things stay consistent, with Smith averaging a clip of 7.4 and Cousins an 8.4.
Washington has had at least three wideouts see 30-plus targets in each of the last three season (with four doing so in 2015 and 2017), and Crowder had the lowest aDOT of the group in all three years -- by a significant margin.
In 2017, his 7.1 aDOT was 27% lower than anyone else in the group, 2016's 8.1 was 21% lower, and 2015's 6.1 was 34% lower.
Depth of target is quite consistent year-over-year (as you can see with Smith's three-year average match up his career average), so it's a safe bet that Smith will continue to do a lot of his work underneath, where Crowder has proven himself more than capable. This positions Crowder to see yet another increase in market share.
As we all know by now, volume is king in fantasy football.
There's a real chance we see a slight drop in efficiency for Crowder thanks to the quarterback change, but as we saw, even the volume he put up over the last two years would leave him as a reasonable pick with his hugely deflated draft cost in 2018.
Crowder looks to be in line for a career year as far as volume goes, however, which makes him a no-brainer pick for as long as he's going outside of the top 35 or so wideouts.