Courtland Sutton has no shortage of fans at Pro Football Network. He has appeared in three dynasty articles, including one by myself, since November of last year. I believe Sutton has taken the next step, Eric Frosbutter has him as a Pro Bowl player to trade for, and Andy Gallagher installed him in his Undervalued and Overvalued series. In addition to exploring his dynasty outlook in 2020 and beyond, I’ll be making the case as to why you need to place particular bets on him at DraftKings Sportsbook.
Courtland Sutton’s 2020 bets profile only features him in an over/under receiving yards player total of 1100.5 yards. Currently, the over is at +100, and boy oh boy do I like those odds.
I’ve been thinking a lot about when I started writing about fantasy football. I was fresh out of college and looking to keep my writing sharp, emulating Matthew Berry as best I could. I won’t take super long for the intro here as there’s a lot of reading ahead, but I’ll digress briefly in an effort to get back to personal essays, which were a massive reason I started writing in the first place.
I don’t have many keepsakes from college, a notebook from a math class I took as a freshman where I took detailed notes, a sheet from a writing course taught by one of my favorite professors, and the standard college keepsake: my diploma which I never framed and still sits in the envelope I received it in.
It’s the writing sheet that I found digging through some old papers that stuck with me. Professor Langley taught a very simple Intro-to-Writing class that I thoroughly enjoyed. He took us through the various types of writing we would have to produce over the years. The sheet I still have was a guideline for an argument essay, also known as a persuasive essay. Ultimately, every single-player piece a dynasty analyst writes is an argument essay and it never hurts to review fundamentals.
Choose your position, analyze your audience, research your topic, structure your argument, test your thesis, disprove your opposing argument, support your position with evidence. We can get fancy with a lot of things, but if an analyst isn’t checking all those boxes, they’re not completing their service.
In an effort to always be better, I went back to fundamentals. Not solely trying to argue how I see things, but to acknowledge that there’s a counter-argument, and do my best to bring it up and smack it down. To cover things as completely as I can, we’re talking Sutton, his coach, his competition, and his QB.
Courtland Sutton’s 2020 Bets and Dynasty Outlook
The man himself
Sutton displayed last season that he is a dynasty WR1. Our own Tommy Garrett currently has him ranked at WR11, and with Odell Beckham Jr., D.J. Moore, and Amari Cooper as the next three above him, there is a chance he can climb further. It is my opinion that Sutton’s 2020 dynasty value will rise as far as WR8. A strong season by himself and the new supporting cast could see him flirt with potential top 5 status.
The links at the beginning of my piece say a whole lot about Sutton from various voices here, so finding new meat on the bone means looking at how Sutton operates from a few spots we have not covered.
Once his current QB Drew Lock took over, Sutton received a 25.6% target share (40/156), which was an increase from Joe Flacco, where he posted a 22.9% target share (60/262). Brandon Allen leaned heaviest on Sutton, targeting him 29.7% of the time (25/84) during his three starts.
Sutton’s end of the year target share of 25% tied him for sixth in the NFL along with Julio Jones, Keenan Allen, Julian Edelman, and OBJ. His weighted opportunity rating of .65 was fifth in the NFL (data courtesy of airyards.com).
Last year, 20 players crossed 1,100 yards receiving, of which Sutton was one. The fewest number of attempts thrown by a team with a player that recorded over 1,100 yards was the Minnesota Vikings with 466 (third-fewest in the league) where Stefon Diggs crossed the mark. At WR24, Diggs was also the WR to finish lowest in PPR fantasy scoring among those who recorded over 1,100 receiving yards.
So we know that if Sutton hits this yardage prop, he is better than flex consideration in 2020 dynasty leagues, regardless of lineup structure. At 16 games played, Sutton needs to average 69 yards per game, for 14 games, that number is 79, and at 12 games, that number jumps to 92 yards. That last number is incredibly unlikely as, since 1950, there have only been 11 occurrences of a player recording that many yards in that few games. If OBJ hadn’t done so in 2014, the last year that feat would have been accomplished would HAVE been in 1964 by Lance Alworth.
Sutton played every game in his first two seasons, and while we cannot say he won’t miss time, he’ll likely need to log 15 games, since last year only three of 20 players to go over 1,100 yards did so in fewer than 15 games. They were Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, and Michael Gallup.
Using the 69 yards per game threshold, it’s good to take a look at how many times Sutton fell short of that mark. After all, big games are nice, but they could be considered a fluke if his production depends on it. Last year, there were seven games where Sutton finished with fewer yards. That’s a little higher than we’d like, and four of those instances had him record fewer than 50 yards. Still, Sutton enjoyed more good days than bad. Hopefully, a new offensive coordinator in mile-high will help.
Former New York Giants Head Coach Pat Shurmur comes in as the new Denver Broncos offensive coordinator after the team parted ways with former offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello. This will be Sutton’s third OC in as many years, having also worked with Bill Musgrave during his rookie season. Shurmur’s tenure with the Giants may not have been the brightest, but that by no means points to him suddenly being a bad coordinator.
I often reflect on Green Bay Packers’ defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and a particular quote he has about being a head coach, “I always made the comparison of going from being the teacher to now you’re the principal. As a coordinator [you’re] 90 percent football and 10 percent administrative stuff. That essentially flipped and I didn’t like it.”
With regrettable stints as the top man for the Cleveland Browns and Giants, Shurmur has been a better teacher than principal. In terms of how he impacts his wide receivers, Shurmur hasn’t displayed much consistency, but context tells a better story. His first stint as an OC with the then St. Louis Rams in 2009 and 2010 seasons saw no WR surpass 1,100 receiving yards.
The 2009 season saw the mixture of Marc Bulger, Kyle Boller, and Keith Null start at QB. Finishing the year 16th in pass attempts, but 28th in yards, and 29th in passing TDs, suggests that a young Danny Amendola with Donnie Avery was not enough to lead the WR corps. With number one overall pick Sam Bradford installed a year later, the Rams were fifth in passing attempts, 21st in yards, and 25th in touchdowns. Still, with few changes to the WR room, the receiver results were essentially the same. Two years in and no 1,100-yard receivers.
After a forgettable couple of seasons with the Browns, Shurmur walked into the Chip Kelly led Philadelphia Eagles as OC. This may be my favorite set of stats here. With Nick Foles throwing absolute lasers all over the field, the Eagles were 27th in passing attempts, yet came in ninth in passing yards and fifth in touchdowns. DeSean Jackson turned 126 targets into 82 receptions for 1,332 yards. In 2014, after the puzzling release of Jackson, it was Jeremy Maclin reeling in 143 targets for 85 receptions and 1,318 yards. Shurmur is now 2-4 as OC getting WRs up over the 1,100-yard mark.
With Chip Kelly’s power-hungry behavior upsetting to management, Shurmur took over with one game remaining in 2015, so it is fair to consider him the coordinator for that year as well. With Maclin leaving in free agency, Jordan Matthews was unable to keep the streak alive, securing 85 of 126 targets for only 997 yards.
In 2016 with the Minnesota Vikings, tensions between Head Coach Mike Zimmer and then offensive coordinator Norv Turner was the likely result of Turner’s resignation before Week 8 with the Vikings sitting at 5-2. Shurmur was the TE position coach and was promoted to interim offensive coordinator, where he was coordinating an offense led by Sam Bradford in their third meeting in different cities. Still, the flux likely caused the ascendant pair of Diggs and Adam Thielen to fail to hit the 1,100-yard standard.
In 2017, his final year as OC, Shurmur helped take that Vikings team to the NFC Championship Game with Case Keenum. Thielen recorded 1,276 yards that season, pushing Shurmur’s history of getting his number one WR over 1,100 receiving yards at 42%.
If we work backward, his successes were with Thielen in 2017, Maclin in 2014, and Jackson in 2013. He failed with Avery in 2009, Amendola in 2010, Matthews in 2015, and Thielen in 2016 with something of an asterisk on it.
The takeaway here is that Shurmur when provided with a truly talented number one WR, aims to get the ball in their hands. Even at this point in his career, Sutton is a superior player to everyone who did not record 1,100 receiving yards with his new OC, save maybe for Thielen, who he could surpass in 2020.
All of this was a lengthy examination that Shurmur and his game plan will not get in the way of Sutton doubling people’s money. He likely serves as an encouragement for anyone holding 2020 bets or dynasty shares of Sutton.
Last year, the Browns saw Jarvis Landry finish with over 1,100 receiving yards while Beckham finished just under that mark at 1,035. They were in the bottom half of passing attempts in the NFL at 539, ranking 19th. Assuming an offense with two viable receiving threats and an accomplished running game to go with a young QB is a fair comparison to the 2020 Broncos. In the seven seasons we’re counting Shurmur’s OC totals, he only threw fewer times than that twice: in 2013 with the Eagles and 2017 with the Vikings. Still, both seasons produced receivers that passed 1,100 yards.