Does Jarius Wright Have Fantasy Football Sleeper Potential?
Jarius Wright has had a quiet two seasons in the NFL. In 23 games played over his first two seasons, Wright recorded 48 catches for 5 touchdowns. His relative lack of production is two-fold. One, it’s hard for any young wideout to produce right away, especially when your a fourth-round pick like Wright. Second, the Vikings were one of the most run-heavy teams in the NFL thanks to Adrian Peterson, and the team has suffered through some severely mediocre quarterbacking the past two seasons.
While Wright has flashed impressive speed at various times in his career, he garnered virtually no fantasy interest entering the season. This was in large part due to the presence of Cordarrelle Patterson and Greg Jennings, who were mid-round and late-round selections in almost every fantasy draft this season. Meanwhile, Wright went undrafted in all but the deepest of leagues.
Through five weeks of the season, however, Wright has the second-most receiving yards (behind Jennings), and has seen an extremely similar number of targets to both of the receivers drafted ahead of him.
In Teddy Bridgewater’s first NFL start in Week 4, he looked Wright’s way early and often. As a result, Wright racked up 8 receptions on 10 targets for 132 yards. Bridgewater missed Week 5 with an injury, and Christian Ponder was unable to get anything going on the offensive side of the ball for the Vikings. Still, Wright had a team-high eight targets, and is ownership in ESPN leagues has begun to rise a bit, from 0.2% to 1.0%.
The question at hand is whether Wright is a relevant sleeper, ready to become the top receiving option in Minnesota, or if his big-game in Week 4 is better left ignored.
The Wright Way
When you are trying to identify whether or not a receiver will remain relevant in fantasy, it’s important to look at his playing time. Looking at the percentage of offensive snaps Wright has played on a weekly basis in 2014 may help paint a clearer picture of whether he is getting an increased role in the offense.
|Week||Snap Count %|
As you can see, Wright saw his greatest percentage of offense snaps played in Week 5, the week immediately following his big performance. While he failed to produce overly impressive numbers, it was raining in Lambeau Field and Ponder, who was filling in for Bridgewater, put together an erratic performance. Wright saw twice the number of targets as Patterson, and Week 5 was the first time this season Wright was on the field more than Patterson. No receiver had played a higher percentage of snaps on the Vikings than Patterson up until Week 5, but he was on the field for just over 50% of offensive plays last week. Considering Patterson had played at least 77% of snap every other week, it could be a sign the Vikings are unhappy with Patterson lack of production this season.
Either way, it's worth keeping an eye on whether Wright continues to play closer to the 78% of snaps he saw in Week 5, or closer to the 50% figure he’s been at this season.
Comparing the Vikings
None of the top three Vikings receivers have performed all that well by standard measures in 2014, with zero appearing amongst the top 50 in receptions or receiving yards. With that said, it’s worth looking at how each has performed using numberFire’s signature Net Expected Points (NEP) metric to see if Wright is keeping pace with the two receivers that cost their owners more than a waiver-wire pickup.
For those newer to numberFire, NEP is a measure of a player’s contribution to his team’s expected scoring output due to his on field performance (see more on NEP in our glossary). The three main NEP variants for wide receivers are Reception NEP, Target NEP, and Reception NEP per target. Let’s see how Wright, Patterson, and Jennings stack up to each other in 2014:
|Player||Reception NEP||Target NEP||Reception NEP per Target|
As you can see, Wright falls behind both Patterson and Jennings in Reception NEP and Reception NEP per target, but falls middle of the pack in Target NEP. For Reception NEP, the difference between him and Patterson is pretty negligible, but the difference in Target NEP is definitely notable. Target NEP measures the NEP for each receiver on all targets thrown their way, and what Patterson’s negative value means is that, on average, the Vikings are losing expected point when they throw the ball his way.
Wright is far from standout in these metrics, and compared to the rest of the league, even Jennings' numbers don't compare too well. That being said, Jennings has amassed 305 snaps and Patterson has played 273 compared to Wright’s 189 figure. Seeing as Wright saw a boost in playing time after a big week with Bridgewater at the helm, the divide in playing time to continue to shrink.
Wright may not be the savior your fantasy team needs, but he’s well worth a speculative add thanks to a potential increase in playing time and a potentially fortuitous relationship with Bridgewater.