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Is this Wideout the Fantasy Steal of the 2019 Season?

Gary Davenport puts the cherry on top of your 2019 fantasy football draft prep with a look at the receiver he thinks could be the fantasy steal of the season.

With the first game of the 2019 NFL regular season just one short week away, fantasy draft season is winding down. There’s just one more big weekend of drafts between now and the season opener in Chicago between the Bears and Green Bay Packers.

If you’re one of the patient (and wise, given what we just saw happen with Houston Texans tailback Lamar Miller and the entire Indianapolis Colts offense after Andrew Luck hung them up) drafters who have waited until now to build a team, then you’ve no doubt done a lot of research. You’ve perused countless lists of value picks and sleepers to target and busts to avoid.

I’m not going to hit you with another list of players here. No, this article is about a single wide receiver. A player I’ve been beating the drum for as much as anyone at the position this summer. A young receiver on the verge of a breakout season who could potentially be the biggest fantasy steal of 2019 at the wideout spot. The type of value that can win you a league—especially if you’re looking for value at receiver after hitting the running back position early.

This final preseason article of mine here at FantraxHQ in 2019 is about Robby Anderson of the New York Jets.

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Is Robby Anderson the Fantasy Steal of 2019 Fantasy Football?

Big Goals in 2019

After hauling in 63 passes for 941 yards and seven scores in 2017, more than a few fantasy pundits were predicting that Anderson would break out last year and emerge as Sam Darnold’s No. 1 weapon in the passing game. Instead, Anderson’s numbers dropped across the board. After posting a 50/752/6 stat line in 2018 that equated to a WR37 finish in PPR formats, Anderson admitted to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News that he wasn’t happy about how his third season ended—and he intended to do something about it.

“That was a down year for me,” Anderson said. “I know my capabilities. I know what I want to become… and that’s the best receiver in the NFL.”

If training camp and the preseason are any indication, Anderson wasn’t just blowing smoke. There have been numerous reports in the offseason that Anderson has dedicated himself to becoming a more complete receiver, and per Olivia Landis of the team’s website Jets WR coach Shawn Jefferson has been impressed by what he’s seen.

“He’s come a long way. A guy like Robby is known throughout the NFL as a speed guy, so in this offense he will not be known as just a speed guy,” said Jefferson. “He’s going to run all types of routes: short, intermediate, and deep routes. He’s going to run the whole gamut. In this offense, we don’t put stigmas on guys like he’s just a deep guy. He’ll run the whole gamut here and he’s been doing a good job at it.”

Head coach Adam Gase echoed that refrain.

“He really has challenged himself to do things that he has not done before,” Gase said. “I saw him get a couple of catches and run some routes that I’ve never really seen him finish the play on. I could tell that he was excited that he made some plays on some different routes. When you have a guy and you see him start having a little success like that, that hunger grows and then he’s like, ‘More, I want more.’”

For his part, Anderson said he’s seen a change in himself as a player in 2019.

“I see the growth in myself as a player day in and day out, just finding something new to emphasize and something new to get better at,” Anderson said. “I think consistency and running my routes, trying to make them all look the same so they can’t pick up on things, understanding the progression of the plays and where I need to be at.”

A Fantasy Steal

Fantasy drafters appear to be forecasting a modest improvement from Anderson in 2019. According to the PPR ADP data at Fantrax, Anderson’s coming off draft boards in the seventh round of 12-team drafts as the 31st wide receiver. He’s being selected just after Josh Gordon of the Patriots and just before Sammy Watkins of the Chiefs.

That’s felony larceny, folks.

For starters, while Anderson’s numbers for the season in 2018 aren’t especially impressive, his finish to the year most assuredly was. Over a three-week stretch from Week 14 to Week 16 (otherwise known as the fantasy playoffs), Anderson exploded for 20 receptions (on 31 targets) for 312 yards and three touchdowns. Over that span, only DeAndre Hopkins of the Houston Texans had more PPR fantasy points among receivers.

That rapport with Sam Darnold appears to have carried over into 2019. In limited action, Anderson was still targeted five times by Darnold. He caught all five of those targets for 92 yards.

The Jets have the makings of a vastly improved offensive team in 2019. There’s a new offensive-minded head coach in town in Gase. An improved offensive line. And new veteran skill-position players like slot receiver Jamison Crowder and tailback Le’Veon Bell.

Yet despite those new faces, Anderson still looks to be Darnold’s favorite target in the passing game. Nicholas Gerli of Fantasy Pros believes an increased target share and more well-rounded game sets the stage for a massive season from Anderson.

“The evolution already began last year, with Anderson commanding 8.1 targets/game from week nine onwards,” Gerli said. “That target rate ranked 15th among NFL wideouts in that span, ahead of names like Brandin Cooks and Mike Evans. Anderson is the Jets’ number-one receiving option and thus has a solid production floor. He totaled 60 catches, 900 yards, and seven TDs in 2017 and was close to those thresholds on a pro-rated basis last year. Based on increased and more diverse deployment, in addition to the progression of second-year QB Sam Darnold, Anderson’s upside for 2019 is sky-high.”

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

There’s been a recent development with Anderson that may scare some drafters off—and depress Anderson’s ADP that much more.

According to Greg Joyce of the New York Post, Anderson has missed practice time this week with a calf injury—a development that Gase allowed isn’t ideal.

“I don’t know if it’s concerning,” Gase said. “Any time you have a soft tissue [injury], it’s an unknown. That’s why it’s day-to-day. He’ll keep working on that. Hopefully, we get him back for practices and get him a full week and he feels good and we’re ready to roll.”

Soft-tissue injuries can be tricky, and there’s always a measure of risk involved with drafting players who are already nicked up. But there’s been nothing to indicate Anderson’s more than a little sore. It’s entirely possible that the Jets are just playing it safe with a player they’re counting on to play a significant offensive role in 2019 and that after a little rest he’ll be ready to rock for Week 1.

If concern about this injury causes Anderson to fall in drafts, he’s just going to be that much bigger a steal.

The Verdict

With running backs being hit so hard so early in 2019 (the more things change, the more they stay the same), it’s become that much more important to identify mid-round receivers who are capable of significantly outperforming their ADP.

Anderson is absolutely one of those pass-catchers. There’s legitimate top-15 upside to be had with the fourth-year veteran. Maybe more.

Picture this. You’re one of the fortunate few who gets a pick at the top of Round 1. With your first few selections, you pick up a pair of running backs (including one of this year’s “Big 3”) and an elite tight end. By the time the front end of Round 7 rolls around, you’ve added a third tailback (and maybe even a fourth) and a wideout or two.

And sitting there, waiting to be plucked like a ripe, low-hanging apple on a brisk fall day, is a talented young receiver on the brink of a career season.

If that potential scenario doesn’t intrigue you, you might want to consider taking up bowling.

Fantasy football might not be the hobby for you.

Already drafted? Who was your biggest fantasy steal? For more great analysis check out the 2019 Fantrax Fantasy Football Draft Kit.

A member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and Pro Football Writers of America who resides in Columbus, Ohio, Gary Davenport has been featured on a number of fantasy websites and in nationally circulated publications, including the USA Today Fantasy Football Preview and the magazines distributed by Fantasy Sports Publications Inc., for whom Gary is both a contributing author and associate editor. Gary is an eight-time FSWA Award finalist and two-time winner who has been a finalist for that organization’s Fantasy Football Writer of the Year award each of the last three years. He won the honor in 2017. Gary also appears regularly on Sirius XM Radio (including live from Radio Row at Super Bowl XLIX) and over-the-air stations across the country. He knows football. Or so he’s heard.

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