2018 Fantasy Football Free Agency: Can Sammy Watkins' stats come back with the Chiefs?

Chiefs coach Andy Reid told reporters this week that his offense would change to fit the talents of new quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Evidence of that came in a seemingly meaningless Week 17 game last season when Mahomes ran plays in a spread formation on 26 of 45 snaps at Denver. Reid was the play-caller that day. The game was a dress rehearsal for 2018.

And so in an effort to improve the potential of their (frequent) spread offense, which Mahomes mastered in college, the squad signed Sammy Watkins to a rich three-year deal. He joins Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Kareem Hunt and who knows who else in a system that should make defensive coordinators regret their career choices.

You might feel the same way about your decision to play Fantasy Football if you draft Watkins.

He's become a curious case after entering the NFL with the Bills in 2014. Between up-and-down quarterback play and a bunch of injuries, namely one to his foot, Watkins has seemingly become less of a deep threat and more of a mid-range type of wideout.

Want proof? In 2015, only one of his nine touchdowns came in the red zone. With the Rams in 2017, only one of his eight touchdowns didn't come in the red zone. His percentage of deep targets has declined over each of his past three seasons, and he struggled with a 24 percent catch rate on deep targets last year.

This might not discourage the Chiefs as to how they'll unleash Watkins, but if the Chiefs already have Hill, do they really need Watkins' deep speed as much as, say, the Bills did? And if the Chiefs already have Kelce, who has caught 17 of his 22 career touchdowns from 20 yards or closer, do they really need Watkins as a red-zone specialist as much as, say, the Rams did?

Mahomes tried 35 pass attempts in that Week 17 game, and he played just over three quarters. The Chiefs are going to pass, that's for sure, but that still doesn't guarantee Watkins to get over 100 targets. Not with Hill and Kelce sure to get triple digits themselves. Watkins would need 6.3 targets per game to get to the century mark, and that's if he plays 16 games.

Watkins has averaged 5.3 targets per game over his last two seasons. It wouldn't be surprising if that average rises a little bit with the Chiefs. A safe expectation? 5.6 per game over 14 games, which would mean 78 targets. Eww.

Watkins has caught less than 56 percent of his targets in three of four seasons. With a second-year quarterback, that rate's about as good as it's gonna get, which would mean 44 catches. Eww.

Fortunately, Watkins has put up at least 15.1 yards per catch in each season and should have several big plays to mesh with the 10-plus-yard receptions he lands. Sixteen yards per catch is a bit generous but we'll go there given the scheme he's in, which would mean 704 yards.

And given his touchdown production last year and in 2015, there's at least some redeeming value. We'd guesstimate seven.

Early projection for Sammy Watkins: 44 catches, 704 yards, seven touchdowns. Those numbers would have been good enough to finish as the 29th-ranked Fantasy receiver in 2017 non-PPR leagues, and 35th in full PPR.

If that doesn't sink your stomach, then this will: The ultimate fear is that Watkins ends up in that no-man's-land where one week he erupts for 100 yards and a touchdown, and the next he gets 27 yards on two catches ... and you'll never know which Watkins you'll get. However, we do know that Watkins has posted back-to-back games with 10-plus Fantasy points five times in four seasons, so starting him in back-to-back weeks is statistically a terrible idea.

Be smart and draft Watkins as no better than a boom-or-bust No. 3 receiver, and don't do it until late Round 6 at the absolute earliest. He also wouldn't be a bad receiver to target if you spend a second-round pick on Hill since he'd have an elevated role in case Hill missed playing time.

Senior Fantasy Writer

Dave Richard has spent nearly his entire career covering the National Football League. Beginning with NFL.com at the boom of the Internet, Richard was that site's first Fantasy Football writer before transitioning... Full Bio

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