Is Jarrett Boykin a Worthwhile Fantasy Football Target?
In fantasy football, being in the right place at the right time can be very, very rewarding. Take, for instance, Jarrett Boykin in 2013.
The Green Bay Packers had injury issues all over their offense, and Boykin was the beneficiary, sliding up the depth chart and earning a role on the field in a high-octane offense. In Week 6, he burst onto the scene with a 100-yard performance as the go-to target for Aaron Rodgers, including a garbage time touchdown.
That would be only the first of three full games Boykin would play with Rodgers, who would sit out due to injury for most of the rest of the season. And it was in Rodgers' return in Week 17 against the Bears when we would get a window into what may be Boykin's real role in the Green Bay offense, as he was overshadowed by James Jones, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and others en route to a two-catch, eight-yard performance.
So does Boykin have any hope of sliding back up the depth chart in 2014 with the Packers' loss of James Jones? Can he be fantasy football relevant as he was in the middle of the 2013 season? Let's take a look at the numbers.
Boykin By the Numbers
Using numberFire's Net Expected Points data (NEP), we can confirm the obvious: Jordy Nelson is the best receiver in Green Bay. Nelson had more Reception NEP (or the sum of his production on passes he caught) than any other Packer wideout, and by quite a large margin. He was also the most efficient on a per-target basis, and hauled in a bigger percentage of the passes thrown his way than did Jones, Boykin or Cobb.
Cobb was sidelined for most of the 2013 season and only managed 31 receptions in his six appearances. He also spent the most time on the field with only Aaron Rodgers of any Packer receiver, as many of the other wideouts had to play with the drastically less efficient backups after Rodgers went down due to injury. Jones, who is no longer on the roster, provided an extremely inconsistent level of production and couldn't find the same red zone success he had previously with the Packers.
So Cobb's lack of availability and Jones' inconsistence were the real-life reasons for getting Boykin on the field more often, but the young receiver didn't produce at the same level of his colleagues when given the chance. Even when compared to Jones, who also played with both Rodgers and the frustrating backups at quarterback, Boykin had similar numbers across the board, with a slight advantage in per-target efficiency.
But Boykin was outclassed by both Cobb and Nelson, who return for 2014 at the top of the depth chart. If Cobb had been given the same amount of targets as Boykin last season, using our metrics, he would have been produced six more receptions and five more Reception Net Expected Points over the course of the season. And had Boykin received the amount of targets that Nelson received, he would have hauled in 10 fewer passes and posted 24 fewer Net Expected Points on his catches.
This won't come as a surprise to many, as Boykin is clearly not on the same level as the dynamic Cobb or the reliable Nelson. That's not why fantasy owners are taking him 50th among receivers in MyFantasyLeague's public leagues so far this summer, just behind Marvin Jones and just ahead of Kenny Stills and Danny Amendola. They're taking him because he's supposed to be the third option in a great passing offense. But should he be?
Boykin finished fourth among receivers with 50 or fewer receptions in Reception NEP last season, but did so at a per-target clip much lower than fellow mid-tier receivers such as Riley Cooper, Jerricho Cotchery and Doug Baldwin. In fact, Boykin's Reception NEP per target was more in line with Jerome Simpson, Denarius Moore and Rueben Randle, who all played in less-than-stellar quarterback situations for the entirety of their seasons.
But none of that matters unless someone can overtake him on the depth chart. So despite being less productive and efficient than similar receivers across the NFL, will he keep his role in the Green Bay offense? His toughest challenge will come from rookie Davante Adams.
Our metrics don't exactly love Adams as a college prospect, but in all of the pre-draft research and prognostication, one name consistently arose as a comparable for Adams: James Jones. The Packers clearly saw things the same way, and replaced their sturdy, reliable set of hands in the red zone in Jones for a younger, more explosive version in Adams.
But the hope that remains for Boykin is opportunity. Both Nelson and Cobb were second-round picks, like Adams, and neither saw a great deal of work as rookies. Cobb caught only 25 passes, while Nelson caught only 33 in their first years in Green Bay. So while Boykin is not as efficient as Cobb or Nelson, and isn't as athletically talented as Adams, he still stands a chance to play alongside one of the most productive quarterbacks in the NFL, and that's an opportunity worth taking note of. Aaron Rodgers finished as the fifth-best quarterback using Passing NEP data last season, and that's despite dropping back to pass only 311 times. Not that you needed any numbers to prove just how good Rodgers is...
With that said, it's not the time to buy into Boykin long-term. The opportunity should be there to pick up the scraps of the Green Bay offense and provide some fantasy value as a third receiver in a great passing offense, but there's tons of competition on the horizon for Boykin. Don't be surprised if Davante Adams or any of the other rookie receivers for the Packers (Jeff Janis and Jared Abbrederis) overtake him due to their superior athletic profiles once they've digested the playbook a bit more, but feel free to enjoy Boykin's productivity while he remains high on the depth chart in Green Bay.