Andrew Hawkins Deserves More Fantasy Football Love

Through three games, Andrew Hawkins is making fantasy owners who grabbed him in the later rounds look smart. Will it continue?

Sometimes choosing your fantasy football squad is like choosing which game you play if you visit the casino. Not only do you, as a fantasy football owner, have to decide how much to spend on a player, but you also have to calculate your expected payout in terms of fantasy points.

You do that based on odds, predicting your floor and maximizing upside, both at the casino and managing your fantasy football lineup on a weekly basis. With that in mind, and through three weeks, you may want to consider playing the now low stakes game of nickel slots, which has been paying out handsomely.

That nickel slot machine is actually Cleveland Browns slot wide receiver Andrew Hawkins, who may be diminutive in stature, but is putting up big numbers thus far in the 2014 season.

Through three weeks of the 2014 NFL season, Hawkins already has 21 receptions for 244 yards on 32 targets, almost half of his career high output in receiving yards. Is it a fluke? How does Hawkins stack up in terms of our Net Expected Points (NEP) metrics against some of the slot and smaller wide receivers in the league with similar targets?

Hawkins vs. the Field

Below is a chart showing wide receivers who are under 6'0'' with 20 targets through three weeks of the season. The columns consist of their advanced metrics, as well as their ranking within the metric among all 20-plus target receivers.

PlayerHeightReception NEPTarget NEPRec NEP/TargetSuccess Rate
E. Sanders5'11"22.59 (9th)18.08 (3rd)0.68 (16th)84.0% (24th)
A. Hawkins5'7"19.46 (12th)11.53 (11th)0.61 (23rd)81.0% (26th)
S. Smith5'9"25.02 (5th)13.75 (8th)0.78 (9th)100.0% (1st)
A. Brown5'10"26.54 (3rd)16.80 (5th)0.95 (2nd)77.3% (30th)
T. Hilton5'9"15.68 (17th)4.21 (27th)0.56 (28th)87.5% (16th)
J. Edelman5'10"23.03 (8th)17.99 (4th)0.82 (7th)81.8% (24th)
B. Cooks5'10"12.66 (32nd)4.65 (26th)0.53 (30th)66.7% (39th)
J. Kerley5'9"13.11 (31st)1.13 (34th)0.55 (29th)73.3% (35th)
E. Royal5'10"14.18 (26th)2.04 (31st)0.64 (22nd)83.3% (23rd)
D. Jackson5'10"15.06 (19th)9.21 (15th)0.68 (17th)78.6% (29th)
D. Avery5'11"6.02 (40th)-5.52 (40th)0.27 (40th)83.3% (22nd)
K. Wright5'10"8.51 (37th)1.10 (36th)0.39 (37th)64.3% (41st)
R. Cobb5'10"15.88 (16th)9.57 (14th)0.76 (11th)92.9% (11th)
G.Tate5'10"14.02 (28th)9.19 (16th)0.67 (20th)81.3% (25th)
M. Wheaton5'11"14.36 (24th)11.38 (12th)0.72 (14th)80.0% (27th)

As you can see, Hawkins is more than holding his own, ranking fifth in overall targets with 32 and ranking 12th in Reception NEP among wide receivers with 20 or more targets through the first three weeks of 2014. Even on a per target basis, Hawkins has been more efficient than plenty of players on this "short wide receiver" list, meaning his Reception NEP isn't simply volume-driven. Considering that he didn't even get drafted in some fantasy leagues, that's incredibly solid production.

That, my friends, is a nickel slot machine that's paying off big time. Hawkins has a higher Reception NEP than receivers like Randall Cobb and T.Y. Hilton, despite being drafted over 10 rounds after those players.

Hawkins is showing that he's quarterback Brian Hoyer's favorite target and is taking advantage of Hoyer's quick release. Part of the reason for Hawkins' strong Reception NEP performance in spite of not finding the end zone thus far is that he is tied for sixth in the NFL with 14 first downs. As you can see from that list, Hawkins is in pretty select company.

Hawkins is the perfect PPR wideout who should continue to see touches in the Browns offense. As it stands today, our projections see him catching more than 60 passes this year.