Is Marquez Valdes-Scantling a Better Fantasy Football Value Than Geronimo Allison?
One of the hottest fantasy football debates of the summer revolves around which Green Bay Packers wide receiver will take over the role as the number-two option in the Packers' offense. The second wide receiver on the depth chart for the Packers is often a valuable fantasy football weapon thanks to the high-octane Aaron Rodgers.
Obviously, Davante Adams is the alpha in Green Bay's offense, but it's between Geronimo Allison and Marquez Valdes-Scantling to battle it out for second in command. Going into 2019, it was originally expected that Allison would fill the role since that's what his role was last year (when he was healthy). However, recent reports out of Titletown have highlighted Valdes-Scantling as the number-two option.
This sentiment is currently reflected in the average draft position of both players. Per Fantasy Football Calculator, Allison's average draft position in half-point per reception leagues has steadily hovered around the end of the eighth round (WR37). Conversely, since the beginning of June, Valdes-Scantling's ADP has shot up from being a late 14th-round pick to now being a late ninth-round pick (WR39). In the many drafts I have done, it seems as though one of Allison or MVS will be drafted, only to remind everyone else that the other one is still available and he gets taken shortly thereafter.
As mentioned, with Rodgers at the helm, the second wide receiver for the Packers has often provided tremendous value to fantasy owners. Since 2011, the number-two wideout in Green Bay's passing attack has finished, on average, as the WR22 in half-PPR formats. "Green Bay's WR2" had also never finished worse than 40th at the position until last year when Valdes-Scantling finished as the 65th wide receiver.
This year, expectations are high for the Packers yet again, but which of the two young receivers in Green Bay is worth your draft investment?
In the first four games of 2018, Allison was playing extremely well. He was WR27 until he suffered concussion, followed by a groin injury, ending his season. Had he stayed healthy and continued on the same pace, Allison would have finished with 76 receptions, 1156 receiving yards, and 8 touchdowns. This would have been enough to be the 14th ranked wide receiver in 2018. Obviously, that's a big if, however, and things aren't as simple as that.
Valdes-Scantling also had a stretch of the season from Week 5 through Week 9 when he was the 27th-ranked receiver (which impressively included Green Bay's bye week). Extrapolating Valdes-Scantling’s season to a 16-game pace using the 11 games that he started would put him at 46 catches, 755 yards, and 4 touchdowns, good enough to be the WR43.
Furthermore, Allison beat out Valdes-Scantling in nearly all of our efficiency metrics. Last year, both receivers posted a higher Reception Net Expected Pointset Expected Points (NEP) per reception than Adams, likely due to smaller samples, but Allison (1.26) slightly edged out Valdes-Scantling (1.23). Furthermore, Allison heavily outpaced Valdes-Scantling in Target NEP per target, posting a 0.61 number, compared to 0.18 for MVS. Finally, MVS posted the lowest catch rate on Green Bay by catching just over 50 percent of his targets, whereas Allison was near the top with a 67 percent catch rate.
In the four games he started, Allison averaged an 18% weekly target share. This was third on the team behind only Adams and Randall Cobb over that span. Similarly, in the games that Valdes-Scantling started, he was second on the team in weekly target share, but with only a 15% average.
With Cobb now in Dallas, there is a prime opportunity for one of either Allison or MVS to boost their target share as Cobb's departure opens up 61 targets. Cobb spent most of his time in Green Bay as the primary slot option, and both Allison and MVS are capable of filling that role while the other lines up outside.
Allison is expected to be the primary slot receiver, especially in three-wide-receiver sets. Through the first two seasons of his career, Allison has spent 46.4% of his snaps lined up in the slot, despite only playing from the slot in 13.1% of snaps in 2018.
Though he split his time fairly evenly between the slot and out wide in his rookie season, Valdes-Scantling performed slightly better out of the slot (per PFF) but still worse than Allison has in his first two years.
The potential for each receiver to fill in lined up from the slot is especially important because of the value that those targets garner relative to targets from lined up out wide. In a recent study done by Mike Tagliere, it was found that slot targets are worth 11.5% more than targets from out wide.
Adams stole the show in the red zone for the Packers last season by pacing the entire league with 31 targets in that area. Jimmy Graham was second on the team with only nine targets, followed by Valdes-Scantling with eight. Allison had only three red zone targets in the four complete games that he played. Subsequently, looking back at the 2017 season, Allison secured only five red zone targets over the entire year.
Unfortunately, Valdes-Scantling wasn't able to do much with his red zone looks as he posted a mediocre 48 percent catch rate inside the 20. Allison, contrarily, had a 67 percent catch rate in the red zone, tied for the best among all Green Bay wide receivers.
Fortunately for both receivers, the Packers were one of the most pass-heavy teams in the red zone last year. Per Sharp Football Stats, Green Bay was second in the league (behind only the Pittsburgh Steelers) in terms of pass rate in the red zone, at 64 percent. But that was under a different regime, and the Titans (new coach Matt LaFluer's old offense) passed the ball just 45 percent of the time in the red zone, the third-lowest rate in the league, though he wasn't working with Rodgers.
2019 Fantasy Outlook
It is well known that trust is a large factor into how Rodgers distributes his targets, and heading into last year, Allison had reportedly already earned his trust. On the other hand, after struggling to build trust with Rodgers through the 2018 season, Valdes-Scantling has made progress with an impressive spring and has generated a lot of buzz this summer.
Our models currently have Allison and Valdes-Scantling projected for nearly identical seasons. If it plays out that way, then neither of them may be worth their current ADP. Based on Allison's pedigree and word coming out of training camp, I'm personally leaning toward Allison to be Green Bay's number-two wideout. However, there's a chance they both fill the number-two role at certain times throughout the year, which would be a nightmare for fantasy owners.
If one of MVS and Allison emerges as Rodgers' clear number-two option, that player would be a smashing value at his current cost. It's just tough right now to predict which guy that might be, but the preseason games will give us plenty of good info.
A lot of this is yet to be determined, and the preseason has the potential to swing things in the favor of either receiver. Additionally, while he wasn't mentioned in this piece, keep an eye out for Equanimeous St. Brown, who has a small shot to shoot up the depth chart with a stunning preseason, though early reports have him buried behind Allison and MVS.