Going deep on Kenny Stills' breakout potential

Drew Brees showed a lot of faith in Kenny Stills as a rookie. (USATSI)
Drew Brees showed a lot of faith in Kenny Stills as a rookie. (USATSI)

It's been a nice offseason for Kenny Stills' Fantasy prospects.

The Saints didn't re-sign Lance Moore, clearing the way for Stills to be the unquestioned No. 2 receiver. They traded Darren Sproles, who ranked third on the team with 89 targets. Between Sproles and Moore, there are 143 more targets to go around. Marques Colston turns 31 in June.

All the evidence suggests Stills will capitalize. He played 798 snaps as a rookie, or 61 percent of the offensive plays, as coaches trusted him to play more than Moore.

He was an exceptional deep threat. Of his 50 targets, 15 came at least 20 yards downfield, per Pro Football Focus. Stills caught six of those for a whopping 340 yards and five touchdowns. His average depth of target, 16.9 yards, ranked among the league's best.

Stills showed he could be more than a deep threat. He dropped one pass all year and caught 29 of 35 throws targeted inside 20 yards.

"It's hard as a rookie to say that that was our plan to begin with,” coach Sean Payton told ESPN.com after the season. “But to his credit, he came in right away in the rookie camps and training camp and very quickly picked up what we were doing. 

"He's somebody that studies and picks the game up very quickly. He can run exceptionally well, and we just have to keep looking for ways to get him the football."

Dave Richard notes Stills wasn't consistent last year, producing four games with 10-plus Fantasy points and 11 with four points or fewer. "To put it simply, he only helped Fantasy owners when he was able to score – he never had enough work to get by on his receptions and yardage alone. That has to change, and according to many observers in New Orleans it will change. Stills will be given the opportunity to play more often, run new routes and be a bigger contributor for the Saints. That puts him in the breakout category, making him a potential No. 3 Fantasy WR worth a middle-to late- round pick this summer."

Jamey Eisenberg pegs Stills as one of his early sleepers, saying "you want receivers who have the chance to play with outstanding quarterbacks. Stills is someone to target with a late-round pick, and his value (for now) is better in standard leagues than PPR formats."

Richard and Eisenberg currently rank Stills in the high 40s among wideouts. He's being selected on average in the 12th round (53rd WR) in early drafts on myfantasyleague.com.

There is tremendous value here. The Saints are expected to draft a receiver, but not in the first round. Robert Meachem returns but mainly as a blocker.

If Colston breaks down and misses time, which is not far-fetched, Stills would vie with Pierre Thomas to be Drew Brees' favorite target behind Jimmy Graham. That would be a Fantasy bonanza.

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