Fantasy Football: Courtland Sutton the biggest winner of the Demaryius Thomas trade
The Texans' move to acquire the veteran receiver will have big reverberations for Fantasy players. Dave Richard breaks down the implications from both sides.
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Demaryius Thomas has a chance to prove he can still help an NFL offense, while Courtland Sutton gets his first crack at being a major contributor. Both have fresh Fantasy value after the Texans acquired Thomas from the Broncos in exchange for a fourth-round pick and a swap of seventh-round picks.
Once among the elite receivers in football, Thomas has steadily declined over the last five seasons, going from nearly seven catches and just over 100 yards per game in 2014 to 4.5 receptions and 50.3 yards per game this season. It's easy to see on film that he's just not quite as explosive as he used to be; Proof of that is in his explosive play count — he had 25 catches of 20-plus yards back in '14 and has seen the number dip to as low as 10 in '16. He has just five so far in '18.
Worse yet, Thomas also saw his target share dip in 2018, falling from 8.8 per outing last year to 7.0 this year. That's because Emmanuel Sanders stepped into the top role and the rookie Sutton began earning more looks in a role similar to Thomas'.
If we're being fair, it's also not like Thomas has been playing with great quarterbacks. You could easily argue that Case Keenum is the best quarterback he's hooked up with since Peyton Manning retired. Now we'll see Thomas on the other end of passes from Deshaun Watson, whose completion percentage is nominally better than Keenum's this season but plays in a more pass-friendly system and is more aggressive and successful attacking downfield.
The Texans also don't have a hot-shot rookie receiver breathing down Thomas' neck for playing time like Sutton was either. Sure, Keke Coutee will get on the field when his hamstring lets him — probably not in Week 9 — but he's set up to be the Texans' main slot receiver, not a dynamic outside receiver like Thomas. That will help Thomas' targets take off.
Let's also be clear: Thomas isn't as big of a downfield threat as recently-out-for-the-season Will Fuller was, but he's a hulk at 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds and can keep double-teams off of DeAndre Hopkins. That alone makes him a heck of a lot better than what Coutee or Vyncint Smith or whoever else the Texans had in-house as replacements. Houston could even sprinkle him into some slot concepts just to find favorable matchups if it wants — he's played in the slot for a third of his snaps this season.
The touchdown-dependent label won't fall off of Thomas now that he's in Houston — he'll still need to score in order to keep your Fantasy team hyped. But now he should earn more yardage because his target share will stabilize. Maybe the Texans won't throw as much as the Broncos, but Watson will throw a high concentration of passes in Hopkins and Thomas' direction. It cinches Thomas as a top-30 receiver for the rest of the season, sinking Coutee's potential, while keeping Watson in the top-12 quarterback ranks. Hopkins is still a lock-and-loaded Fantasy stud.
We now expect to see Sutton take Thomas' playing time as Denver's foremost outside receiver. In an offense that's averaging 36.1 pass attempts per game (13th best), that's not a bad thing.
Sutton has averaged a team-best 19.1 yards per catch. That's a very good thing.
Let's get this little bit of ugly out of the way: Sutton has a 46 percent catch rate. That's yucky, but it's partially because of how he was used when Thomas was there. There is no doubt he'll see more passes thrown his way (you already know Thomas had 7.0 per game) as soon as Week 9, and it's his speed and big-play ability that can make him better than Thomas was in Denver.
Fantasy fanatics will chase Sutton's upside immediately, even if he hasn't shown all the qualities it takes to be a start-worthy receiver. Adding him is a no-brainer; starting him might take a little more convincing, but he does have very good potential. He's worth the top waiver claim this week and at least 20 percent of your FAAB if you use auctions for adds and drops. His rise won't hurt any of his teammates' standing in Denver. It might open up more playing time for undrafted rookie Tim Patrick, who's an under-the-radar stash in deeper leagues.
So who should you sit and start? And what shocking QB could win you Week 9? Visit SportsLine now to get Fantasy football rankings for every single position, and see which shocking QB finishes in the top 10 this week, all from the model that out-performed experts big time last season.
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