By: Jake Hinson (Twitter: @JakeHinson11)
Updated: 6/23/2017

Making the Case: Why Sammy Watkins Is A First Round Pick In Startups

Whenever I enter a draft, I hardly have a draft strategy that I strictly follow. If I go into a draft wanting a wide receiver, but a top tier running back falls to me, I always go with the running back. But one thing I always do in drafts is making my first round pick as safe as possible. This is especially true in dynasty, where your first pick might be on your team for years. A risky first round pick can destroy your team if your other picks fail to produce as well. If you pick a safe guy to begin, you have some leeway to counteract a risk-adverse player with someone who can win you the week with great boom potential. If he doesn’t give you that big game, at least you played it safe with your first pick and he stabilizes your squad.

So that is why Sammy Watkins should be in consideration for a first-round pick in dynasty drafts.

No matter how gross that sentence sounds, it has merit to it. While Sammy Watkins is known as a boom player, stats have shown that he can be consistent as well. Watkins is currently being selected at the 1.12 spot in dynasty drafts on Fantasy Football Calculator and is sandwiched between other wide receivers such as A.J. Green, T.Y. Hilton, Michael Thomas, and DeAndre Hopkins. In a dynasty league, Watkins is certainly deserving to be coupled with this group of receivers. Here is why he is among the elite dynasty receivers.

It is no secret that Watkins is one of the most talented receivers in the game of football today. When he plays, he is a man amongst boys. But the scariest thing about Watkins is that we have only seen the tip of the iceberg. He just turned 24 this month and is about to enter his prime. Despite the injury risks, Sammy Watkins has a legitimate chance to be a cog in dynasty lineups for years to come. Age alone has him as a high pick, but his explosiveness warrants him to be above the rest.

Explosive Games
Some fantasy football assets become valuable in totally different ways. Whether it is consistency or whether it is huge boom games, the points will show up somehow. Sammy Watkins has a knack for producing consistent huge games for fantasy. In his rookie season, he began five of the first eight games with either 80 yards or a touchdown. He struggled coming off the bye but ended the year strong with over 50 yards or a touchdown in three of the last four games.
In his sophomore season, where Watkins was riddled with injuries, he still managed to put up 1000 yards in 13 games by dominating opposing defenses. After entering the season injured, he missed four of the first seven games (but managed to score in two of three games played). But after the Week 8 bye, we saw an animal unleashed. In seven of nine games, we saw 80 yards or a touchdown. In those seven games, he also went over 100 yards five times and had two double-digit touchdown games. In 2015, Sammy Watkins carried fantasy players to championships.

2016 was a disappointing year for Watkins owners. After going down with a foot injury in the offseason, it never recovered properly and lingered for the entire season. Watkins sat out Week 3 through Week 11. He returned a shell of his former self, only going over 80 yards twice and scoring twice. This was a poor season, but reports from camp have said Sammy Watkins is on schedule for recovery and is being watched carefully by the Bills new staff. This entirely new regime that has come in Buffalo can help Sammy Watkins for 2017. But what about the future?

The Future
Sammy Watkins already warrants a high draft pick, but he might be one of the few guys going in the first couple of rounds that has potential to improve exponentially. Some superstars might be entering worse situations in the near future. Odell Beckham Jr. and Michael Thomas have aging quarterbacks, Julio Jones, T.Y. Hilton, and Antonio Brown are nearing 30, and DeAndre Hopkins and Allen Robinson have young quarterbacks who have major concerns. For Watkins, I see his stock going up.

The team recently let go of Rex Ryan and brought in Sean McDermott, a young coach who excelled in Carolina in prior years. Although a defensive coach, Rex Ryan-led offenses were known for running the ball heavily. Buffalo was dead last in pass attempts in 2016 and actually ran the ball more than they passed, something that is unheard of in today’s NFL. Sean McDermott hired Broncos offensive coordinator Rick Dennison to fill the void left by Anthony Lynn. While in Denver, Dennison threw the ball 570 times last year, almost 100 more passes than Buffalo did last year. Watkins no longer finds himself in an offense dedicated to the run and could see his volume increase. If this happens, we could see the true breakout of Sammy Watkins.

But there are rumors around that the Bills will not extend Watkins beyond 2017. If this happens, fantasy players should be happy.

Despite nobody having a clue about where Watkins could land in 2018, it is exciting to think about the possibilities. If Sammy Watkins were to go to a pass-heavy team with cap room in 2018, such as Detroit, Washington, or Indianapolis, the sky is the limit. While these are just pure speculations, it’s intriguing to wonder what could be in store for one of the league’s best pass catchers.

The Takeaway
Sammy Watkins deserves to be a top 12 pick in 2017 dynasty startup drafts. While he isn’t ahead of the elite tiers of running backs or wide receivers, I definitely believe he returns value in the later portion of the first round. A young running back, like Devonta Freeman or Jordan Howard, paired with Watkins can be a force for years to come. It is understandable, but surprising, to see the disdain coming from some people in the fantasy community from Sammy Watkins. He has missed a surprising amount of games in his first three years, but this new coaching staff is easing him back into the flow. I trust what this new regime is doing. Watkins could easily creep into the WR1 conversation with a full season played, which means you will be set for years to come.