Is Andre Holmes a Must-Have Wide Receiver Off the Waiver Wire?
With injuries to wide receivers beginning to pile up six weeks into the season, and with bye weeks beginning to loom large, fantasy owners are scrambling to fill rosters with players off the waiver wire. It's a fact of life in fantasy football but, unfortunately, one that's difficult to plan for.
Sometimes, as an owner, you have to take risks. You have to change streams mid-swim. You have to be willing to dig deep into the waiver pool, snagging players who may not be in the greatest of situations, but are talented enough to push through the clutter and become fantasy relevant.
One of those guys is Oakland Raiders' wideout Andre Holmes. One of the best wide receivers in the league down the stretch last year, Holmes exploded in Week 6 with 121 yards and 2 touchdowns. The question now is: Can Andre Holmes be a relevant fantasy starter moving forward?
Holmes in 2013
As I mentioned, Holmes quietly had a great stretch of games over the last five weeks of 2013. He mostly flew under the radar, since Week 13 is normally the last week of the regular season, and was probably too risky a play for any fantasy playoff teams in Weeks 14 to 16. In turn, his run ultimately went unnoticed.
During the five-game stretch from Week 13 to Week 17, Holmes had 366 yards and 1 touchdown - a pace which would have been good for nearly 1,200 yards and 4 touchdowns over an entire season. Though Holmes only had 25 receptions last year, he was a pretty good receiver for the number of targets. Per our Net Expected Points data - a cumulative stat measuring a player's total addition to his team's expected points - of all players with between 20 and 30 receptions in 2013, Holmes ranked 6th out of 47 in Reception NEP. Additionally, every player who ranked higher than Holmes appeared in more games than he did.
Per target, Holmes was also pretty good on the year. Of all players with between 50 and 75 targets (to attempt to compare Holmes to players similar to him in usage), Holmes ranked 17th out of 56 total players in Reception NEP per target - of similar players, throwing to Holmes was better for his team than around 70% of players with similar volume. It's not lighting the world on fire, but it certainly warrants some consideration - had Holmes' five-game run come in Weeks 1 through 6 last year, I think he would have been a very popular wideout to own, and would have probably started picking up more steam in the fantasy community.
Alas, Holmes' stretch happened at the wrong time last year, and as a result he has mostly been an afterthought - at least until his Week 6 performance.
Holmes in 2014
With Rod Streater sidelined, Holmes has taken a much more important role in the Raiders's offense. While the yards and touchdowns are nice (Nearly 200 yards and 3 touchdowns over the last two games), what's much more important to me is the targets. Holmes was targeted 20 times over the last two contests - that's more targets in any two-game stretch than Holmes had in all of 2013.
Holmes is also making good use of his targets - of all 112 players with at least 15 receptions this year, Holmes ranks 16th in Reception NEP per target, ahead of Steve Smith>, T.Y. Hilton, and Jordy Nelson. That's not to say Holmes is more valuable cumulatively in fantasy than any of those guys, but per target, Holmes helps the Raiders' offense more than any of those players.
To compare Holmes to players more in-line with his usage, he still ranks pretty well. Of all 53 players with between 25 and 35 targets so far (Holmes has 29, for the record), Holmes ranks 13th in Reception NEP, 20th in total Target NEP, 10th in Reception NEP per target, and 10th in Success Rate (percentage of receptions that add positively to the Raiders' expected point value). By pretty much among any metric, Holmes has been a very good wide receiver for Oakland. Plus, Oakland, though winless, has actually been good at protecting the quarterback - through five games Derek Carr has only been sacked three times on 170 total drop backs.
Additionally, if you're grabbing and stashing Holmes for the future, there might be quite a few opportunities to play him. Below is the rest of the Raiders' remaining schedule, along with each opponents rank in Adjusted Passing NEP per pass, which measures how good a team is at performing against the pass on a per drop back basis, adjusted for the strength of their opponent.
Outside of a few exceptions, the Raiders are mostly facing bottom-half passing defenses the rest of the year. Of course, these numbers will fluctuate and move as the year goes on, but looking forward with the information we have, there aren't many matchups that you really fear from a passing perspective. If Holmes continues to get opportunities, he's going to have fantasy relevance.
The question is whether or not you should add Andre Holmes. Though I can't see your roster, if you're struggling to fill wide receiver or flex spots, I see no reason why Holmes isn't worth an add. He's the best athlete in the Raiders offense, has been the most effective and is on a really nice two-game stretch. Chances are, he's available. And you should snag him.