Danny Amendola Should See a Nice Boost for Fantasy Football Owners
There's zero doubt the injury to wide receiver Julian Edelman is a blow to the New England Patriots. Edelman led the team in targets, yards, and was behind only spike master tight end Rob Gronkowski for team lead in receiving touchdowns.
In the past, when it had seemed wide receiver Danny Amendola was ready to take the leap into a higher tier of wide receivers, an untimely injury would befall him. He missed 22 of 64 games in the first four seasons of his career with the St. Louis Rams.
When he signed with New England in 2013, after Wes Welker bolted for Denver, Amendola was expected to take over the role Welker left behind. Instead, that role went to Edelman. But now, Edelman's absence leaves almost 10 targets per game available for another pass-catcher in one of the league’s best offenses. Is it time for Danny Amendola to shine?
Can Amendola Step Up?
The Patriots offense has the passing yardage totals and efficiency numbers for someone to step into a prime offensive role. Based on our advanced metrics, the Patriots have the top Adjusted (for strength of schedule) Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) total, and top overall offense in the league.
As always under head coach Bill Belichick, the Patriots aren’t afraid to keep passing even with a late lead -- New England has dialed up a pass on 65% of plays through 10 weeks, giving them the fifth highest pass-to-run ratio in football. When the options are Tom Brady’s arm or LeGarrette Blount’s legs, that makes for a fairly simple decision.
But what does all of this mean for Danny Amendola?
So far this season, Amendola hasn’t been asked to do much, but has been productive when given the chances. He's been targeted just 48 times, but has turned those limited looks into 40 catches for 403 yards and 2 touchdowns. Edelman’s 88 targets on the year put him in the top 10 in targets on the season, whereas Amendola's 48 place him tied for 67th.
Out of 95 players with at least 40 targets on the season, Amendola’s Reception NEP per target ranks 24th at 0.76. Edelman ranks 31st in this same scenario, with a 0.73 average. In other words, Amendola has been slightly more efficient, which partially has to do with less volume, but it should give the Patriots and fans some optimism moving forward.
Prior to this season, Edelman’s career catch percentage was 68%, while Amendola’s was 66%. Keep in mind that Edelman has been catching passes from Brady his entire career, whereas Amendola was the recipient of passes from the likes of Sam Bradford, Kellen Clemens, A.J. Feeley, Kyle Boller, and Keith Null while in St. Louis. Again, this is a good sign of Amendola's ability as a receiver.
We know Danny Amendola is a pretty good wide receiver who stacks up analytically to Julian Edelman. And we saw, just last week, what his role could look like without Edelman in the offense -- after Edelman’s injury, Amendola finished the game catching 10 of 11 targets for 79 yards. It would seem only reasonable that his volume is going to increase given this and the information above.
For fantasy purposes, our projections have Amendola as the 27th best wide receiver from here on out. But in PPR leagues, he should be treated as a fairly strong WR2.