Fantasy

Ja’Marr Chase, Kenneth Walker III and More Players the Fantasy Football Community Got Wrong

Kenneth Walker

Since we’re almost halfway through the season, now is a good time to reflect on the players who’ve either outperformed or underperformed expectations. This will allow us to evaluate our processes as fantasy football drafters and managers with the benefit of hindsight.

Importantly, just because Browns RB Nick Chubb has excelled doesn’t mean we should have drafted him as the RB2. Just because Panthers WR D.J. Moore is borderline droppable doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have drafted him next to receivers like Michael Pittman Jr. and Jaylen Waddle. However, assessing our mistakes is vital to improving our processes moving forward.

Seahawks RB Kenneth Walker III

The namesake of the article is a fascinating case of a player who I think made a lot of sense at where he was being drafted before the season. In the 33rd team’s pre-draft fantasy rankings, we had Walker as the 111th player off the board with the following blurb:

“​​Similar to Penny, Walker will offer little in the receiving game and still has to deal with the archaic tendencies of Pete Carroll. This offense should be anemic, and even a Rashaad Penny injury wouldn’t result in elite fantasy production for Walker. While the rookie ran in the 4.3s at the combine, the offensive line of Seattle is weak, and there should be precious few goal-line carries to go around for this team. On top of everything listed, he’s already questionable for week one with a hernia injury.” 

Josh Larky’s description and analysis is spot on, Walker had no history of catching passes in college with only a 5.4% target share at Michigan State. He was also behind Rashaad Penny, who had proven to be an extremely competent runner, averaging 6.3 yards per carry during the back half of last season.

However, almost every fantasy (and football) analyst failed to predict how good the Seahawks’ offense would be. They are currently averaging the 12th-most yards per game and the ninth-most points per game this season. QB Geno Smith’s ascension was far from a foreseeable event. Therefore, I believe Walker was priced appropriately heading into drafts. The fantasy community failed not in their pre-draft valuation of Kenneth Walker III but in not aggressively picking him up off waivers as soon as the Seahawks’ offense was competent.

The Seahawks being competent changed Walker from a mediocre fantasy asset if Penny got injured to an elite one. Walker should have been recommended on waiver shows and articles as early as Weeks 3 and 4. 

Patriots WR Jakobi Meyers

Meyers is one of the clearest misses by the fantasy football community during draft season. He was a player I was high on pre-draft, which I detail here. Meyers earned 126 targets last season, and entering Mac Jones’ second year, there was plenty of space for the Patriots’ offense to elevate and grow.

We were scared off of Meyers because of DeVante Parker, an admittedly talented eight-year journeyman, who has only earned more than 100 targets once in 2018.

The notion of Meyers as a high-floor, low-ceiling player didn’t really make sense at his ADP (right next to players like Jarvis Landry and Chase Claypool), where players with both lower floors and lower ceilings were going. A WR1 on an NFL team always has a respectable ceiling. When they’re not an offense that is truly anemic, there is no excuse for this type of mispricing. 

Bengals WR Ja’Marr Chase and Bills WR Stefon Diggs

I admit I was caught up in the hype. The best rookie WR of recent years stunned in the fantasy playoffs. It looked like it was time for Chase to ascend into the top of fantasy rankings for 2022. But in a tier of Cooper Kupp, Justin Jefferson and Chase, one of these didn’t look like the other.

Kupp was coming off the triple crown and one of the greatest fantasy football seasons of all time. Jefferson had just received Kupp’s offensive coordinator after coming off a 167-target season.

Meanwhile, Chase had only two more targets than Meyers last year. His WR5 finish in PPR leagues was propped up by touchdowns and efficiency. Chase caught a touchdown every six passes last year. Efficiency-wise, he completely dwarfed Kupp’s 16-touchdown season since he only scored a touchdown every nine passes. 

This year, the consensus fourth WR off the board was Diggs. He went a few picks after Chase for no apparent reason besides Chase’s inordinate hype. Diggs’ only real competition for targets comes from Gabriel Davis, while Chase’s is the ultra-talented Tee Higgins (whose stats in games with both him and Chase over the past nine games actually exceed Chase’s).

We were betting the offensive line improvement for the Bengals would significantly help Chase. Unfortunately, this hasn’t quite panned out. We didn’t need any variables to change for Diggs to produce. A down touchdown year in 2021 suppressed his price while his peripherals were frankly just better than Chase’s. Despite Chase’s rookie season, I think Diggs is the stronger player, and at the very least, it’s a toss-up. 

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