Something I haven’t been able to wrap my head around this offseason is the lack of #takes speculating Watkins as Kansas City’s WR1 ahead of Tyreek Hill. For something like fantasy football that’s literally based on projections/speculation/opinion, I’ve only heard a handful of analysts mutter Watkins over Hill. I’m here to try to advance that narrative. To do this, I watched all their targets across five games from their best seasons (Hill 2017, Watkins 2015), to see how they were used and where they succeeded. Also, I ran through Andy Reid’s offenses as HC since he’s often credited for being able to adapt to his teams’ talent. If you don’t want to read my love letter, or you’re a Sammy hater, I suggest you stop now.
One of the hype pieces we got last year was that Tyreek Hill was expanding his route tree and developing beyond the deep game. Across the five games I watched, I only counted 11 intermediate routes (Curl, Comeback, etc) out of his 45 targets, meaning over 75% of his targets were on short and deep passes. That doesn’t seem very diverse to me. In fact, nearly 36% of his routes were screen/swing passes and Go Routes. While being the unquestioned WR1 in the Kansas City offense, he wasn’t used as varyingly as we would expect in that role. There’s no denying Hill is electric in the open-field, but the news that he was showing more than a downfield threat didn’t show up through the games I watched.
Sammy Watkins, on the other hand, showed it all. He can run the full route tree and attack every level of the field. In his 2015 tape, he ran screens, quick slants, digs, comebacks, deep crossers, posts, curls, corners, you name it. His routes in terms of short/intermediate/deep were almost equally divided, with them accounting for 32%/32%/36%, respectively. He showed the ability to beat press coverage on a regular basis, which bodes well with Coach Reid saying he’ll be their X receiver. In case you forgot, Watkins is no slouch when it comes to athleticism either, posting a 4.43 40 at nearly 6’1” and 211lbs. Across his four seasons, he’s never had an aDOT below 13.3, where Tyreek hasn’t surpassed 12, according to airyards.com.
Now for Coach Reid. Since becoming a HC in 1999, Reid's passing offenses have ranked in the top-13 twelve times. I found some examples of past offenses that could be viewed similarly to what the Chiefs currently have. Check the table below for possible target distributions, with targets noted beside the player’s name.
|2009||DJax (117)||Maclin (91)||Celek (112)||McCoy/Westbrook (89)||75%|
|2010||Maclin (115)||DJax (95)||Celek (79)||McCoy (91)||69%|
|2011||DJax (104)||Maclin (96 – 13 games)||Celek (98)||McCoy (69)||67%|
|2012||Maclin (122)||Djax (87 – 11 games)||Celek (88)||McCoy (67 – 12 games)||61%|
I can see something similar playing out with the Chiefs this year between Sammy/Tyreek/Kelce/Hunt. If you want view Tyreek as DJax and Sammy as Maclin, it’s split 2 seasons to 2 as far as target leaders. The percentages are important here (other than 2009), because it shows room for growth for those questioning where Sammy’s targets would come from. Something else that bodes well for increased targets for Watkins current offense is the Kansas City defense, which figures to be a weak point of their team, which would potentially lead to negative gamescripts.
Watkins won’t see 140+ targets and make Hill an afterthought, but there’s a real chance he leads KC in targets this year. Think about what defenses are going to have to deal with this year. Tyreek will have coverage rolled his way, but you can’t vacate the middle of the field because of Kelce, and you can’t have “light” boxes because of Hunt. Watkins is going to get his. The Chiefs didn’t give Sammy the sixth highest amount of guaranteed money amongst receivers to use him like the Rams did last year. Brett Veach, Chiefs GM, came out after he was signed and said they went after Sammy last year prior to the Rams trade, but were obviously unable to get it done. The fact that nobody is seeing the possibility of Watkins being KC's WR1, I had to put it out there. People are sleeping on Sammy because of his limited role last year, and his previously injured seasons. Throw out some feelers to your leaguemates to see if they’re truthers (probably not moving him), or if they’ve soured on him.