How Should You Value Will Fuller in Fantasy Football This Season?
When playing in the NFL, being healthy is paramount to a player’s success. You could be the most talented person on the planet, but if you’re not healthy, you’re not going to be relevant in the league for very long.
Unfortunately, with football, it’s a grueling game that bears a lot of injuries. One NFL player who has been all too accustomed to those injuries is Houston Texans wide receiver Will Fuller. Entering his fourth season in the NFL, Fuller has had many ups and downs in his early journey of playing professional football. Through all of it, he’s shown signs of being a great receiver when he can stay on the field, flashing the potential to be one of the best number two wide receivers in the game.
But Fuller is coming off an ACL injury, a tough blow for any wideout. How should you be handling him this year in fantasy football?
Let's take a look.
He Puts Up Numbers
A six-foot receiver with blazing speed -- Fuller ran a 4.32 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine -- Fuller gets great separation for Deshaun Watson to throw him the ball. It also doesn’t hurt that Fuller’s counterpart at wide receiver, DeAndre Hopkins, is arguably the best wideout in the NFL today, which takes a lot of attention away from Fuller.
When Fuller has been on the field and healthy, he’s been a force to be reckoned with, particularly since Watson took over as the Texans quarterback. In Fuller’s 11 career games with Watson as his quarterback, he’s totaled 45 receptions, 782 yards and 11 touchdowns. Below is a breakdown of those 11 games, per Ian Hartitz of The Action Network.
Will Fuller in 11 career games with Deshaun Watson ...
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) August 12, 2019
That’s an average of 4.1 receptions, 71.1 yards and 1.0 touchdowns per game with Watson.
Fuller has also improved his catch rate on a year-by-year basis since entering the league. After a 51.1% catch rate as a rookie, he's posted catch rates of 56.0% and 71.1% the past two years.
This only adds to the line of thinking that Fuller has gotten better since Watson took over as the Texans' quarterback. While there is certainly still room for improvement with Fuller’s catch rate, he’s trending in the right direction -- especially considering that Fuller averaged 15.7 yards per reception in 2018, the 12th-highest clip among receivers, per Pro Football Reference.
When he's healthy and playing with Watson, Fuller has been a beast.
While Fuller’s statistics have been worth acknowledging in his young career, he’s also gone down a dark path with injuries.
He entered the league in 2016, and his rookie campaign ended up being the most games he’s played in a single year, suiting up for 14 of 16 games. His second and third years in the NFL were not as kind to him. In his three-year career, Fuller has accumulated a lengthy list of injuries, per Sports Injury Predictor.
|Oct 25, 2018||Knee ACL Tear Grade 3||Fourth quarter against the Dolphins and missed the rest of the season.|
|Aug 15, 2018||Thigh Hamstring Strain Grade 2||Sat out the whole preseason (coming off January knee surgery) and missed the regular-season opener.|
|Dec 31, 2017||Knee Strain Grade 1||Left Week 17 early.|
|Nov 12, 2017||Chest Rib Fracture||Left Week 10 in the second quarter and missed the next three games.|
|Aug 2, 2017||Shoulder Clavicle Fracture||Missed the entire preseason and first three games of the regular season.|
|Oct 30, 2016||Knee Strain Grade 1||Left Week 8 and missed the game after the Week 9 bye.|
|Oct 11, 2016||Thigh Hamstring Sprain/Pull Unspecified Grade 1||Missed one game.|
Fuller will enter the 2019 season coming off an ACL injury, one of the ugliest injuries in the game. With that, Sports Injury Predictor has Fuller missing 2.5 games this season and gives him a 55.4% chance of getting injured at some point and missing at least two quarters.
It’s worth noting that ACL injuries have been highly researched in terms of how it has impacted a player’s fantasy outlook the following season. Rich Hribar of Sharp Football Analysis broke down notable ACL injuries dating back to 2013, and he looked at how that impacted fantasy football numbers upon returning from the injury.
Notable ACL injuries/returns since 2013. Scoring dip on return for all but three players here, though many were slight. Most WRs here had full-year recoveries, but both Will Fuller and Cooper Kupp are coming off mid/late season tears in 2018. pic.twitter.com/mvozHFJkDF
— Rich Hribar (@LordReebs) May 23, 2019
You can see from his research that all but three players returning from an ACL injury had a decrease in fantasy football points per game. With that said, Fuller is only 25 years old and reportedly made a full recovery this off-season.
How to Value Him?
With Fuller having such a long list of injuries in his career, it’s easy to question where his value truly stands in fantasy football. Looking back on the past two seasons with Watson as his quarterback, there’s no doubt he possesses the potential to be a solid producer in fantasy football.
The biggest question is this -- can he play a full 16 games this season?
As Fuller returns from his ACL injury, he’s been able to practice without any limitations so far in training camp. With that in mind, we should be valuing Fuller based on his fantasy football potential, not his injury history.
We also need to keep in mind that Texans slot receiver Keke Coutee is entering his second year and could steal some targets away from Fuller. Newly acquired running back Duke Johnson will also see his fair share of targets in the Texans' offense. Neither of those players should make or break Fuller’s fantasy outlook in 2019, but they are worth noting.
Our models have Fuller listed as the WR34 and 103rd overall player, which is pretty much right in line with how the market values him as he's the WR33 in half-PPR formats, per Fantasy Football Calculator.
Of course this is a big "if," but if Fuller plays close to 16 games in 2019, he could be provide really nice value at his current price.