In my continuing quest to contribute to your draft-day domination, I will compose a series of blogs over the next few weeks that focus on players that are sure to create some hardship for fantasy owners: players on the same team who play the same position that will likely have a significant fantasy impact. For those of you who regularly read and contribute to the FF Today Forums, consider this short series a distant relative to “Look-Alike Players”. My goal is to create a compelling case for and against each player before handing down a final decision. Let’s get started:
The setup: Full-point PPR; 10 rushing/receiving yards equal one fantasy point; all touchdowns are worth six fantasy points.
Current ADP (courtesy of Fantasy Football Calculator): White – 3.07 Jones – 3.04
What’s at stake: Grabbing the better fantasy WR1 of the two the Atlanta Falcons have to offer.
The case for White: Proven consistency. Fantasy owners often chase the shiny new toy when it becomes clear everybody else wants that same toy, often forgetting how much they enjoyed their last favorite toy. White has secured at least 149 targets in each of the four seasons he has played with QB Matt Ryan, finishing first in the NFL in that category each of the last two years after a second-place finish in 2009. While it probably isn’t the worst thing in the world for White or the Falcons if they reduce their reliance on him and place more on Jones’ plate, the high-target total also tells us that Ryan obviously has a strong level of trust with White, something that tends to win out over talent in the short term – or at least until the point where the talent of one receiver is undeniably better than the other receiver.
The case against White: A reduced role and – let’s face it – Jones is just more explosive at this point of their careers. Not that he cares one way or the other about his fantasy stock, but White surprised many when he personally announced that his role would be reduced in new OC Dirk Koetter’s offense. It’s not exactly as if prognosticators didn’t see this eventual passing of the torch coming, but for the player himself to announce it was happening created even more buzz for Jones. White will also turn 31 during the season, meaning he will be a year or two past his athletic prime. Since Jones has already asserted his dominance as a big-play deep threat, does White begin to get boxed into the possession-receiver role of this offense even more?
The case for Jones: Can fantasy owners help but be impressed by how dominant Jones was down the stretch last season? Jones was the second-most productive receiver in PPR leagues during Weeks 14-16 – the fantasy playoffs – last season, which started just two weeks after he returned from his second hamstring-related absence. Consider for a minute the rookie averaged five catches for 98.25 yards and 1.5 touchdowns over the final four games of the regular season and it is no wonder why owners are drooling over him. Jones has reportedly been very impressive during the off-season and the early part of training camp, doing nothing to dispel the notion that he will be anything less than elite in 2012. HC Mike Smith has even went so far to suggest that Jones is a faster version of Terrell Owens, which must be music to his keeper and dynasty league owners since he has been anything but a distraction his entire career.
The case against Jones: Durability. Lost in the meteoric rise of Jones as a top-five fantasy WR is the fact that he hasn’t been a model of health in recent years. Just in the past year-plus, he needed foot surgery during the 2011 off-season and battled hamstring issues for much of his rookie season. During his college days at Alabama, he broke a bone in his hand in 2010 and battled through a knee injury and sports hernia surgery in 2009. Granted, it is a bit nit picky to be downgrading a young receiver for legitimate injuries suffered while playing in a physical, ball-control offense in college and his rookie year in the NFL, but White has yet to miss a game in his seven-year pro career. All the talent and run-after-catch ability in the world isn’t going to help fantasy owners if he can only bring his A-game for half a season.
The verdict: In general, I will always lean toward the more durable and proven commodity in situations like this simply because owners need consistent weekly production from their high draft choices and White has provided that over the years. So while Ryan is obviously comfortable with Jones, it will take a while for that combination to approach the rapport Ryan and White have. However, the line between these two receivers in fantasy is so razor-thin that choosing between them depends on the format. For example, if your league uses non-PPR scoring and/or rewards big plays, then I give the advantage to Jones. In PPR leagues, I would opt for White.