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): Thomas – 5.05 Decker – 6.04
What’s at stake: Grabbing the better fantasy WR2 of the two the Denver Broncos have to offer.
The case for Thomas: Raw talent. When Thomas was healthy for the first time in his pro career, it showed. From Week 13 on, Thomas dwarfed all of his teammates in just about every receiving category with Tim Tebow as his quarterback, commanding over 37% of the targets (65 of 175) over the Broncos’ final seven games, including the postseason. New QB Peyton Manning has already admitted to the Denver Post that Thomas “is a guy we’re going to feature” and CB Champ Bailey told the team’s website the 6-3, 228-pound receiver is “on top of” his route running this season. In terms of the S-W-S model (size, weight and speed) the NFL likes to use, fellow Georgia Tech alum Calvin Johnson may be Thomas’ only peer at the receiver position.
The case against Thomas: While one could question the lack of durability tag that I placed on Julio Jones last week, Thomas has a significant injury track record. He has battled a number of injuries – most notably to his hand, head (concussion) and Achilles’– since the pre-draft process in 2010. His lack of durability certainly hasn’t helped his development as an all-around receiver, although Bailey’s comments above suggest that part of his game is coming around.
The case for Decker: Route-running and the Broncos’ plans for him, which include moving him around the formation. While Decker is the same height as Thomas and actually only gives up about 10 pounds, Decker simply knows how to get open – something that was on full display when Kyle Orton ran the team for the first month as he posted a 20-270-4 line to begin last season. While it is never good to put too much stock in early training-camp returns, the consensus seems to be that Manning and Decker have “clicked” and their off-season work together shows on the field. Since Decker seems to be the clear choice for slot duties and the potential exists that Manning may not have the same arm strength he used to – due to his neck surgeries – Decker could easily finish with upwards of 100 receptions given the history Manning has with using that position (Austin Collie, Brandon Stokley).
The case against Decker: Simply put, Decker isn’t all that flashy, which makes it hard for some fantasy owners to buy into him. The 2010 third-rounder also hasn’t exactly dodged the injury bug either over his two-year pro career, although he has missed just two games – both in 2010. And while Denver has big plans for Decker, he’ll have plenty of competition for slot duties with Stokley, Andre Caldwell and Jacob Tamme all likely to get some time there as well.
The verdict: First, let me just say that both players are incredible value at their current ADP. But given the PPR format, I would side with Decker. In non-PPR, it is probably a coin flip. Perhaps it is unfair to cite durability as the main reason to rank one player over another – just as I did last week – but sometimes the best ability is availability. Flash doesn’t always produce cash; fantasy owners must be willing to look at more factors than just talent when ranking players. Sometimes, quarterbacks bond with the unexciting options they can trust and that seems to be the case with Decker. With that said, owners should be thrilled to land either player as a WR2 in a Manning-led offense because there’s very little “bust” potential here. There’s also a very good chance that at least one – if not both – of these players will be considered a fantasy WR1 at this point next season.