Fantasy football owners got a fair amount out of Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins in 2015, as he had 60 receptions for 1,047 yards and nine touchdowns on his way to finishing as the 16th-highest scoring receiver in ESPN standard leagues (152 points). When taking into account he missed three games, Watkins would have been a WR1 with a fully healthy 16-game slate.
A strong finish boosted Watkins’ fantasy finish last year, as he averaged 113.2 yards per game (four 100-yard games) with six touchdowns over the final six games. With news on Monday he has had surgery on a broken foot, Watkins’ availability for Week 1 this year is now in question. But what impact does the injury have on his fantasy outlook for 2016?
The Buffalo News first reported Watkins’ broken foot, along with a report he had surgery about a month ago. Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports reported a 6-8 week recovery timetable for Watkins, which would put him well in line to be ready for training camp, but the nature of foot injuries invites questions about the third-year receiver’s ability to be at full strength come Week 1.
Dez Bryant, Julio Jones, Julian Edelman, Marvin Jones, Brandon LaFell and DeVante Parker are among a group of wide receivers that have struggled with foot injuries recently, and that makes Watkins’ recovery something for fantasy owners to monitor closely. There will surely only be positive news coming from the team, but reported, unbiased observations of Watkins’ progress will be telling during training camp.
Via Fantasy Pros.com, Watkins is currently the No. 12 wide receiver in terms of average draft position. That makes him a low-end WR1 for 12-team leagues, but the inherent risk now attached makes it a certainty we see Watkins’ ADP start to drop soon.
It’s fair to expect Watkins to start the regular season slowly this year, much as he did in 2015 after offseason hip surgery and with three missed games in the first seven contests. A run-oriented Bills’ offense is also cause for concern, but Watkins sees plenty of targets (7.7 per game over his first two seasons) as the team’s No. 1 option in the passing game.
Assuming no significant setbacks with his foot over the next couple months, I see Watkins as a fringe WR1/WR2 in standard scoring leagues this year. The likelihood of a falling ADP puts him in line to become a substantial value in drafts and auctions, if you’re willing to tolerate a possible slow start in exchange for a payoff when it counts late in the season.