In my previous article on contract year running backs, I highlighted several reasons motivating an athlete to play at their absolute peak. Competing against someone that they have looked up to for many years or playing against a divisional rival, an athlete’s motivation to succeed can come from many places. For NFL players, financial security will likely be near the top of the list considering the league’s high turnover rate.
In the graph above, we can see that a player is never guaranteed to reach that second contract. Too many players experience a short career in the NFL due to injuries or being cut by their team. Therefore, if a wide receiver or running back is finally eligible for that next contract, they will be highly motivated to exceed expectations. Below I will highlight three wide receivers approaching the last year of their contract and what to expect from them going into the 2020 season.
Allen Robinson, CHI WR
Contract Situation: Allen Robinson is approaching the last year of his three-year $42 million contract with the Bears, which he signed back in 2018. His cap value for 2020 will be $15,000,000, making him the 8th highest paid WR in the league this coming year.
Fantasy Outlook: Allen Robinson has been one of the most underrated wide receivers since entering the league. Since being drafted in 2014, he ranks among all WRs with at least 300 targets:
- 12th in Targets Per Game (8.78)
- 20th in Receptions Per Game (4.93)
- 18th in Yards Per Game (65.96)
- 13th in Rec TDs (33)
From a fantasy standpoint, Allen Robinson is:
- 23rd in total PPR points (1031)
- 17th in PPR points per game (14.32)
You might look at those numbers and be slightly unimpressed. After all, he ranks as a WR2 in all of those categories except for targets per game. To put his achievements into perspective, Allen Robinson has played with two of the most inefficient QBs over his six-year career – Blake Bortles and Mitchell Trubisky. Let’s use the statistic Completion Percentage Over Expectation (CPOE) to evaluate those two QBs. CPOE adjusts for the probability of pass completion based on the difficulty of the throw and situation.
Simply put, easier throws should be converted at a higher rate, while difficult throws will have a lower expected completion rate. Per RBSDM, among 38 qualifying QBs, Robinson’s two starting QBs rank 28th (Trubisky, -0.9 percentage points) and 38th (Blake Bortles, -6.3 percentage points) in CPOE since 2014. Below is a chart that plots all 38 qualifying QBs based on CPOE and Expected Points Added (EPA). Both Trubisky and Bortles are located in the bottom left quadrant of the chart.
Coming off an ACL tear in 2017, Robinson would sign his current three-year contract with the Chicago Bears. One year removed from suffering the injury, he would finish his first season with the Bears as the WR34 in PPR points per game (11.8). A disappointing season likely explains why his ADP dropped from WR13 in August 2018 to WR28 in August 2019 (per DLF’s ADP tool). However, Allen Robinson would bounce back significantly the following season.
In 2019, he finished as the WR9 in PPR leagues, averaging about 15.9 PPR points per game (11th among WRs). As you can see in the chart above, he finished as a WR2 or better in 62.5% of his games; also, he finished as a WR1 in 31.3% of his weeks. Per PlayerProfiler, Robinson had an impressive dominator rating of 33.6% (10th among WRs), while also finishing 6th in completed air yards (908) and 9th in red zone receptions (11). He was a very productive lead WR for the Bears despite playing with Trubisky, who was ranked as the 26th best QB in CPOE for 2019. He now approaches a contract year with a potential QB change; should you buy or sell Allen Robinson?
Buy or Sell? (Twitter Poll Results)
- Playoff Contender
- Buy: 86.1%
- Sell: 13.9%
- Buy: 61.6%
- Sell: 38.4%
June 2020 Dynasty ADP: WR14 or 35th overall (3.11 – 12 team format)
If we take a look at the poll results above, the majority of the fantasy community agrees that Allen Robinson remains a “buy candidate” regardless of their team’s fantasy situation. We do, however, see that Robinson is less appealing to rebuilding teams. This could be due to his injury history, or maybe his age (turning 27 in August). However, I would argue that Allen Robinson is still in the prime of his career.
According to a study conducted by Mike Braude from Apex Fantasy Leagues, out of a sample size of 291 players, the peak years for a WR are generally between the ages of 25 and 29 (54.6% of the sample size). This would indicate that Allen Robinson has at least two more years to reach his peak and produce at a high level. Also, he may receive a QB upgrade after Nick Foles (22nd in CPOE since 2014) was acquired by Chicago this offseason. Even if I were a rebuilding team, I would hold on to Allen Robinson unless I truly believe that my rebuilding window will last longer than two or three years.
Marvin Jones Jr, DET WR
Contract Situation: Marvin Jones Jr signed a five year $40 million contract with the Detroit Lions in March 2016. His cap hit will be $9,183,334, which makes him the 26th highest paid WR in the league. He will be an unrestricted free agent after 2020.
Fantasy Outlook: On March 8, 2016, legendary Lions WR Calvin Johnson announced his retirement from the NFL, finishing as one of the most accomplished WRs the league had ever seen. A day later, Marvin Jones Jr signed his five year deal with the Lions. No pressure!
Unfortunately, his first season with the Lions left much to be desired, finishing as the WR45 with 11.5 PPR points per game. His second season with the team, however, would finally be Jones’ breakout season. He recorded his first 1000+ yard season, finishing as the WR15 in PPR points per game (14.1). He was also 1st in the league in yards per reception among WRs with at least 50 targets, averaging 18 YPR. In addition, per FantasyData, Jones finished the season with the 4th most completed air yards (915), 6th most end zone targets (15), and 3rd most receiving TDs (9) among WRs. 2017 was a true breakout season for Marvin Jones.
In 2018, however, Jones would take a backseat with the emergence of Kenny Golladay. He would average 12.9 PPR points per game while pacing as the WR27 before suffering a season-ending knee injury in week 10. After several seasons of injuries and inconsistent production, fantasy players were understandably apprehensive about drafting Jones going into 2019. However, last season would provide a glimpse of the player we saw back in 2017.
Above you will find the scoring breakdown of Jones’ 2019 season. Interestingly, he never finished a week as a WR2 but would finish four times as a WR1 (30.8% of his games). Considering he was drafted by many as a WR4 in dynasty, if you played him in your flex during those four weeks, he likely helped you win your matchup. Despite only playing 13 games, according to PlayerProfiler, Jones would finish 9th in red zone receptions (11) and tied for 3rd in TDs (9) among all WRs in 2019. In addition, Jones would also average the 16th most air yards per game with 52.6 (per FantasyData).
While Jones can be highly productive, it is worth noting that he and Golladay rarely finished together in the top 24 on a week to week basis. As you can see in the graph below, they would either finish outside of the top 24 or alternate finishing inside that range. The exception was week 9, which would be Stafford’s highest yardage in a game (406 yards) since week 8 of 2017. Golladay would finish as the WR9, while Jones would slot in as the WR4 that week. There is no guarantee that this trend will continue, but their inconsistency is something that fantasy players should be aware of. Though inconsistent, Jones would finish as the WR20 in PPR points per game (14.9) among all WRs (minimum one game played). So where do dynasty players go from here? After several solid seasons riddled with injuries, should you be buying or selling Jones?
Buy or Sell? (Twitter Poll Results)
- Playoff Contender
- Buy: 79.3%
- Sell: 20.7%
- Buy: 18.6%
- Sell: 81.4%
June 2020 Dynasty ADP: WR56 or 118th overall (10.10 – 12 team format)
Approaching a contract year, the fantasy community agrees that Jones is an ideal buy candidate for a contender. Considering he was a WR2 in points per game last season, he can help a WR needy playoff team. However, because of his inconsistent weekly output, he is likely better served as your flex WR that can swing games in your favor when and if he has his explosive weeks.
The DLF trade analyzer has Jones currently valued equal to the 2020 19th overall rookie pick, a price I will gladly pay as a contender. To no surprise, as a rebuilding team, the fantasy community would prefer to sell Jones. He is already 30 years old, and per Mike Braude’s research on Apex Fantasy Leagues, he is likely already past his peak. Coupled with the fact that he’s missed ten games over the last two seasons, he is unlikely to return much value for rebuilding teams. Ideally, if you can pair Jones with a minor asset to move into the early 2nd round of your rookie drafts, I would target a young replacement like Bryan Edwards or Michael Pittman Jr.
Chris Godwin, TB WR
Contract Situation: Chris Godwin’s cap hit will be $2,331,041 in 2019, which ranks him 61st in salary among all WRs. If he is unable to sign an extension, he will be an unrestricted free agent in 2020.
Fantasy Outlook: Chris Godwin would declare for the NFL Draft in 2017, forgoing his final year of eligibility at Penn State. In addition to his exceptional athletic profile, he also had a productive three-year career in college. Per PlayerProfiler, he had a college dominator rating of 34.9% (67th percentile) and an impressive college career target share of 29.2% (82nd percentile). The Buccaneers would then draft Godwin with the 20th pick in the 3rd round.
Godwin would not begin his career as a full-time starter. He averaged about 55.2% of the offensive snaps over the first two years of his career. In his rookie season, he would play behind Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Adam Humphries, and Cameron Brate, contributing both on offense and special teams. He would finish the 2017 season with 525 receiving yards, equating to an 11.4% team receiving yards market share.
Godwin would assume a more prominent role in his sophomore season. Starting the year out very well, he scored a TD in four of Tampa’s first five games. Despite his increased involvement early on, he averaged only 59% of the offensive snaps for the first 11 games. DeSean Jackson suffered a hand sprain in week 12, which would open the door for Godwin to assume the WR2 role. He would play in about 81.4% of the snaps the rest of the season, averaging 11.9 PPR points per game. Godwin was very inconsistent, finishing outside of the top 24 in three of the last five games. However, in weeks 13 and 17, he would showcase some of his massive upside finishing as the WR8 and WR1, respectively. He accumulated 25.5% of his receiving yards in those two games alone, concluding the season with an improved 15.7% team receiving yards market share.
Godwin would finally break out in 2019, finishing as a top 24 WR 57.1% of the time. He would also rank as a top 12 WR in 35.7% of his games, finishing as the overall WR1 twice. He was 3rd in total yards (1333) among all WRs, leading the league in yards after the catch with 574 yards. Godwin would prove to be a consistent and reliable target for Jameis Winston, finishing 6th in true catch rate (91.5%) and 9th in yards per pass route (2.61), per PlayerProfiler. He would conclude the season only playing 14 games while finishing as the WR2 in PPR leagues with 19.7 points per game. It was a tremendous breakout season for Godwin, leading the Bucs in receiving and accounting for 25.9% of their total receiving yards. Now approaching a contract year, should you buy or sell Godwin at his current price and ADP?
Buy or Sell? (Twitter Poll Results)
- Playoff Contender
- Buy: 82.1%
- Sell: 17.9%
- Buy: 67.3%
- Sell: 32.7%
June 2020 Dynasty ADP: WR5 or 16th overall (2.04 – 12 team format)
After a stellar year in 2019, Godwin’s price has reached an all-time high as the WR5 in dynasty. Despite the increased value, 82.1% of the fantasy community would buy Godwin at his current price as a contending team. I echo these sentiments since Godwin possesses week-winning upside in a high-powered Arians led offense. He does enter the 2020 season with some uncertainty. Jameis Winston has signed with the Saints, and Godwin will now be playing with arguably the most accomplished QB in league history – Tom Brady. However, is that truly an upgrade from Winston?
If we once again use CPOE as an evaluator, it would suggest that Winston has been the better QB over the last two seasons. Since 2018, among QBs with a minimum of 500 plays, Brady ranks 26th with a -1.4 percentage point differential, while Winston has been the 12th best QB with a +1.6 percentage point differential. Godwin could also be facing additional competition for targets with Rob Gronkowski and Ke’Shawn Vaughn joining the team.
With some uncertainty surrounding the Buccaneers, it is understandable why only 67.3% of rebuilding teams would buy or hold Godwin through the 2020 season. I am always a proponent of buying low and selling high. If you were able to buy low on Godwin in 2018, now might be the time to sell high, especially if you can acquire multiple young receivers in a deep 2020 rookie class. Hold on to Godwin, but do not be afraid to sell if the right offer comes along!
Conclusion – When to Buy or Sell?
There are plenty of WRs approaching contract years in 2020, which could lead to a very star-studded WR free agency class next offseason. Hopefully, you found the three receivers in this article particularly intriguing, considering how different they are in career production, situation, and price/ADP.
Based on the information above, when should you be buying or selling contract year WRs?
- When contending, buy contract year WRs that can immediately produce. Capitalize on the price discount for veteran WRs
- When rebuilding, only acquire contract year WRs that have shown top 24 upside and are likely still approaching their peak in production (~ age 25 to 29)
- If a WR is likely past their peak once you are done rebuilding, sell them now
- As always, buy low and sell high. If the price is equitable, do not hesitate to buy or sell regardless of your team’s situation
Hopefully, you found this article helpful as you prepare for the 2020 season. A big thank you goes out to everyone that voted in my buy/sell polls on Twitter! Follow @FF_MarvinE for more articles, and @DynastyNerds for more dynasty and fantasy content all year round. Thank you for reading!
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