Is Danny Amendola Worth the Risk?

Injuries and a perceived production ceiling make Amendola a dicey draft selection.

You remember, don’t you?

That fateful day back in September 2012 when the Rams played the Redskins in Week 2, and a bolt of lightning descended in human form onto Edward Jones Dome field (and no, I’m not talking about then-rookie Robert Griffin III). Before you could even check your lineup to see if you had started/were facing him, Danny Amendola had destroyed PPR leagues across America, catching 15 Sam Bradford passes for 160 yards and a touchdown, with 12 of those catches coming in the first half alone.

And just like that, the bulldog slot specialist scored his way onto mainstream fantasy radars everywhere, not just as a high-volume reception sleeper (which he’d been since his 85-catch season in 2010), but as a bonafide receiving demon, a la Wes Welker.

But a funny thing happened on the way to his owners’ fantasy championships: Amendola regressed back into what he’s been most of his career, which is a 60ish-catch, 550ish-yard, a-coupla-touchdowns-maybe receiver. And that’s only if he stays healthy, which he’s been pretty incapable of doing throughout his five seasons, averaging just 10.8 games played per year.

According to our fantasy football cheat sheet (which you’re gonna need to check out if you haven't already), Amendola is projected as the 40th-best wideout in 2014, with 71.44 catches, 862.34 yards, and 4.23 touchdowns on the horizon - hardly what we’ve come to expect from Tom Brady’s slot guy.

But as we always do, let’s look a little deeper at our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, specifically Reception NEP, to see what Amendola's all about (Read up on NEP here).

Danny Amendola’s Metrics

Let's take a look at Amendola's numbers through the years using our Reception NEP metric, which measures the point contribution from a wide receivers on all catches.

Rec NEPReceptionsYardsTouchdownsWR Rank in Rec NEP

There's pretty consistent production aside from missing nearly all of 2011, and what could possibly be deemed a ceiling. When healthy, Amendola can be a serviceable WR4-5 in fantasy, maybe a little higher in PPR leagues. But he does seem to have that cap on his numbers, due in large part to his lack of touchdowns, but mainly because even Tom Brady can’t throw to him when he’s on the trainer’s table.

That being said, the excitement was understandable when, coming into New England before the 2013 season, Amendola was seen as a more affordable, bizarro-world heir apparent to Wes Welker. Both went to Texas Tech. Both went undrafted. Both are versatile, shifty receivers who Brady enjoys making into multi-millionaires and fantasy MVPs.

And not only that, but Amendola’s career in St. Louis closely resembled Welker’s pre-Patriots days in Miami: an under-the-radar, reliable receiver who could find cracks in the defense and pick up valuable yardage on short passes.

And this gets at what is Amendola’s most valuable asset: his hands. He routinely posts one of the lowest drop rates in the league and largely has for his four “healthy” seasons. Which leads one to the assumption that all the man needs are targets, which New England has in abundance.

TargetsTarget NEPRec NEP/targetDropsCatch rate

Last year, whispers of “developing chemistry” leaked out of Patriots camp all fall, and in Week 1 against Buffalo, Amendola caught 10 balls for 104 yards. It seemed like that PPR Destroyer was back with Brady, and all those who took the risk were going to be rewarded handsomely.

But as with all things football, things didn’t quite work out according to plan. Amendola limped off the field towards the end of the first half, having torn the groin muscle off the bone (yeeeesh), and while he toughed out the second half with a flurry of impressive catches in a hard-fought Pats’ win, what everyone knew would happen happened. And he didn’t come off the injury report until the playoffs.

Amendola missed the next three games, and by the time he came back, Brady’s passing game (sans his mutant tight ends, Welker, and any meaningful deep threat) was running through another heir apparent, Julian Edelman. Amendola still caught his requisite 50 balls for 600 yards, but not anything near what could have been.

Slot It Like It's Hot

The problem in New England is that there's a plethora of passing options. Do you know what a “plethora” is?

While Brady has been hurling more than 600 passes a year lately, Amendola still has to compete with Edelman (now a proven commodity), Rob Gronkowski (inhuman when healthy), Shane Vereen (a target-stealing back) , as well as developing wideouts Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson (who are only getting better).

A similar crowd awaits him in the slot ranks across the league, with some impressive names projected ahead of him. Below is a list of the eight “slots” projected ahead of Amendola with some games played numbers and target averages for the last three years.

Fantasy Points ProjectedAvg. Games Played/SeasonTargets/Game PlayedAvg. Total NEP
Randall Cobb184.5712.05.0356.82
Wes Welker174.8815.010.20114.95
Victor Cruz163.4015.38.63105.53
Julian Edelman158.2112.65.0333.68
Percy Harvin156.728.77.3649.97
Kendall Wright153.6115.57.8164.91
Marques Colston149.2215.07.73104.00
Anquan Boldin113.7415.07.7191.67
Danny Amendola110.818.07.9235.75

While injuries certainly skew some of the numbers, you can see how Percy Harvin and Amendola have a hard time staying on the field and that Welker’s definitely still the poster boy of slots. But this is generally where Amendola fits in: barely in the top 10 slots in the league.

Amendola’s not alone in his injury woes, but they remain the single most significant factor in his fantasy value.

Give It to Me Straight

So, where’s that leave us? Caution level: Orange. Amendola will get targets and has the hands to bring them in and put up modest yardage, but he doesn’t find the end zone and is likely to miss significant time.

Sure, Tom Brady could make a mountain out of him, especially if by some twist of fate Edelman goes down, Amendola stays healthy and becomes the primary option underneath vertical Gronk routes.

That being said, all things considered, you’re looking at an iffy mid-to-late round pickup, a high-risk, moderate-reward pass catcher to fill out your receiving corps. He's not someone to be relied upon to consistently win you matchups.

That is, unless you feel like rolling the dice. Hell, New England’s doing it, and they’ve proven us all wrong once or twice before.