Is Josh Huff Worth a Late-Round Flier in Fantasy Football Drafts?
We all have our favorites at the end of fantasy football drafts: those players that we want to fill out the back end of our rosters who have the upside, or the potential to accumulate that upside, as the final building blocks on our fantasy football teams.
One player who may be overlooked in some leagues is Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Josh Huff.
Huff enters a unique situation in 2015 as he finds himself in one of the most voluminous offenses -- the Eagles led the league running over 70 plays per game last year -- yet Huff was unable to find himself the beneficiary of any of it. An early shoulder injury slowed his rookie season, yet in 210 offensive snaps he was only able to garner eight receptions.
Can Huff's former college and now professional coach, find a way to maximize the most out of him and subsequently turn him into a late-round fantasy asset?
A Not So Hot Start
Last year's third-round rookie from Oregon started the season on the wrong note. An acromioclavicular (AC) sprain in his shoulder from an early preseason game forced the rookie to miss most of preseason and kept him sidelined until Week 5.
Upon return, Huff's rookie season was a mixed bag of really low moments and some incredible jump-off-your-couch-in-excitement ones as well. He had a habit of making costly mistakes at some of the most inopportune times -- he had a number of big drops or miscues in key situations -- but was also able to rip off highlight-reel special teams returns.
His receiving game, however, left a lot to be desired. Out of the 183 wide receivers last year to catch a ball, Huff's Reception Net Expected Points (NEP) ranked 155th. His catch rate of 44.44% ranked 163rd. His Reception NEP per target ranked an abysmal 172nd. Of course, the sample size was small, but by all accounts, there's room for significant improvement entering year two.
There were some positives though, indicating that investing a third round pick in Huff wasn't a waste. Last year he broke six tackles on his eight receptions, only two fewer than Jeremy Maclin did on his 85. Huff's quickness was on display even in a limited sample size, and it's that play after the catch that makes him an intriguing player -- and an intriguing fantasy asset -- as he enters his second season in the NFL.
Too Hot to Trot?
What Huff has going for him more than most late-round wide receivers is a direct path to playing time. Huff has been featured in the starting lineup during all of training camp according to reporters as an outside receiver along with Riley Cooper and Jordan Matthews manning the slot.
While Kelly has stated that he'll rotate his receivers regularly, Huff getting the starting nod should certainly be seen as a positive reflection of his progress from last season. Increased snap counts will inarguably lead to more opportunities as the Eagles continue to set the pace for the NFL in their offense with limited substitutions on drives.
Over the past two years, Kelly's offenses have sustained two top-36 wide receivers in PPR scoring. As the Eagles continue to acclimate rookie Nelson Agholor to NFL speed, Huff may stand to benefit early in the season, as Kelly's WR2s have averaged 12 fantasy points per game over the last two years.
The problem for Huff is if he's unable to take over that WR2 spot, as we currently have Agholor projected to claim that role -- and the projected 800-plus receiving yards that accompany it -- he'd fall into that no man's land WR3 column. At that point, you'd be better off gambling with another receiver, as recent history in the table above hasn't been too kind to that role in Kelly's offense.
As Agholor continues to be a work in progress, Huff has blown an incredible opportunity to distance himself from the rookie. Through two preseason games, Agholor has led the Eagles with seven receptions for 106 yards and a touchdown. Huff has been held to one reception for 12 yards on limited snaps. It's important to keep in mind it's just preseason, but you'd like to see more out of Huff.
With a soft schedule to begin the season, Huff could still find some fantasy relevance. Four of the first five games are against opposing defenses that finished in the bottom half of fantasy points allowed to wide receivers last year. If Kelly decides to ease Agholor in to the offense -- like he did with Matthews last year -- Huff could stand to benefit in the short term. If he doesn't stand out then and make an impression, it's safe to cut bait.
Huff would then likely be slotted in the rotation among receivers that was previously mentioned. Over the past two years, Kelly's wide receivers have received 61.9% of the completions, the running backs at 21.9%, and the tight ends at 16.2%. With the top-two receivers (WR1 and WR2) from the last two years composing of 71.5% of the entire receiving corp's production, the numbers aren't in Huff's favor of producing anything of fantasy relevance as Chip Kelly's WR3.
Basically, Huff's fantasy success is contingent on Agholor's progress in the NFL.
Being drafted after the likes of Cordarrelle Patterson and Terrelle Pryor according to FantasyFootballCalculator.com, I'd still rather gamble on a player like Josh Huff who has the potential to become a viable fantasy asset in Chip Kelly's offense -- even if it's just for a limited number of games. Agholor is still the best bet to take over that WR2 role, but Huff could surprise early on in the season and provide owners some usable fantasy weeks in the process.
As a late-round lottery pick, why not take a shot on someone who could have some top-36 weeks or better with one of your last few draft picks?