Welcome to the second edition of “Undervalued & overvalued dynasty players 2020”, where I look at players who fantasy owners should be trading for, trading away, or whose average draft position (ADP) varies from where I would be taking them in dynasty start-ups. Last week, I advised that Ryan Tannehill was being undervalued in dynasty leagues, while David Johnson is overvalued. This week, I look at a pair of wide receivers whose fantasy reputations are impacting their perceived value far more than they should be.
Undervalued: Hunter Renfrow is the ultimate fantasy sleeper
Hunter Renfrow might not be a player you’ve heard too much about since his last-second touchdown reception from Deshaun Watson in the College Football Playoff National Championship game lifted Clemson past Alabama. The former Burlsworth Trophy winner, given to the best college football player who started his career as a walk-on, is quietly becoming one of Derek Carr’s favorite players, though. The fifth-round rookie returned from a rib injury to post back-to-back 100-yard receiving games to end the season and will enter the 2020 season looking to maintain that consistency.
Renfrow finished the season as the WR55 in standard scoring. I know. Contain your excitement. That said, he finished the season much stronger than he started, as you would expect from a rookie. He earned snaps, then he earned targets, and the chemistry between him and Carr is clear to see. From Week 8 onward, Renfrow was the WR36, outscoring the likes of Stefon Diggs, Christian Kirk, and DJ Chark during that time despite playing fewer games. In fact, on a per-game basis, he was the WR20 during that stretch.
Of all the players on the Oakland Raiders, only Darren Waller, the breakout tight end, had more targets and receptions than Renfrow. At the same time, his four receiving touchdowns trailed only Tyrell Williams and Foster Moreau. If Renfrow had played all 16 games, as opposed to the 13 that he managed, his on-pace projections would have been 87 targets, 60 catches, 744 yards, and five touchdowns.
In his first six games of the season, he had 26 targets, 14 catches, 114 yards, and no touchdowns. He had one game where he reached 30 receiving yards. In his final seven games of the season, he had 45 targets, 35 catches, 490 yards, and four touchdowns. He had two games under 50 receiving yards. Dynasty owners will be hoping that they get Renfrow from the second half of the season.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Renfrow, however, is how impressive his PFN Offensive Share Metric (OSM) grade is. Across the season, Renfrow earned the top grade. You read that correctly. WR1. For context, only eight of his 13 games qualified for grading due to volume (minimum five targets needed), but five of those games received a top 10 wide receiver grade for the week. He was putting in strong performances, and he earned a spot on our OSM All-Pro First Team.
Renfrow’s OSM grade and rookie season make him the perfect buy-low candidate. His draft stock and lack of highlight-reel plays have meant that he’s been able to slip under the radar. Players are swayed specifically by splash plays when deciding who is undervalued and overvalued for their dynasty leagues heading into 2020. Still, the OSM grade points to consistent involvement for Renfrow.
I’d rather have Renfrow on my dynasty roster than Marquez Valdes-Scantling or Tre’Quan Smith, who has been going higher than him in drafts. Slot receivers are more valuable than ever in the NFL, with Adam Thielen, Tyler Boyd, Julian Edelman, and Juju Smith-Schuster having thrived in recent years. While they’re all in the upper echelon at the position, we’ve also seen the value that Cole Beasley, Adam Humphries, and Randall Cobb have had to their offenses in supporting roles.
Overvalued: Brandin Cooks’ injury history means he’s boom or bust
Long-time readers will remember that I was hyping up Brandin Cooks in the preseason for his streak of four consecutive 1000 yard seasons, even though he played for three different teams during that time. Unfortunately, that streak came to an end this season for the Los Angeles Rams in concerning fashion, with Cooks’ 10 games yielding just 550 receiving yards.
Now, as is often the case with Cooks, some disclaimers should be added here. He missed time with a concussion. The issue is that he has now suffered five concussions in the last six seasons. Getting a brain injury five times isn’t good. With the extra precautions that have surrounded concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in recent years, we realize it’s no longer a case of playing through it.
The hope is that he avoids any further injuries. But those who have had concussions are far more likely to have another. Brandin Cooks dynasty owners will have to prepare for the possibility that his career may, unfortunately, end prematurely.
Cooks is unquestionably a talented player, and, at 26, there’s no reason to suggest that he won’t still be capable of being one of the premier deep threats in the league when he plays. There are, however, questions surrounding his usage and the direction of the LA Rams offense.
The 2019 Rams weren’t the high-powered passing offense that their predecessors were. While they increased their number of passes per game, quarterback Jared Goff’s average time to throw and his average intended air yards both decreased per NFL’s Next Gen Stats. A player like Cooks needs the time for the play to develop. He also requires the willingness of the quarterback to push the ball downfield. Their move to feature tight ends more in the passing game as the season progressed saw Cooper Kupp’s productivity and usage nosedive. While Cooks spends the vast majority of the time lined up on the outside and should still see the field, it’s a clear indication of a change in philosophy.
When it comes to OSM, Cooks’ grade of 31.61 made him the WR58 on the season. While that’s a respectable score, it falls some way behind players with similar skillsets. Will Fuller was WR15, Kenny Stills was WR2, and A.J. Brown was WR32. On the flip side, the fact that he performed so much better than Robby Anderson (WR88), Curtis Samuel (WR87), and Mike Williams (WR91) encourage that when given the opportunities, he can still perform.
The question marks around Cooks begin with his health. He’s always been a boom or bust proposition, but he now carries increased risk given his concussion history. He’ll be available at a discount, but you need to factor in risk. He’s fallen behind teammates Cooper Kupp, and Robert Woods, who were valued similarly pre-season, and a player like Christian Kirk carries far less risk moving forward. I genuinely wish the best for Cooks and hope that he plays for another decade without spending any time on the injury report, but at his current value, you’re still gambling on the upside, and history suggests that’s a risk.
Come back next week for the third installment of the overvalued and undervalued dynasty players in 2020 by Andy Gallagher.