Sleeper Alert: Kenny Stills

Sleeper Alert: Kenny Stills

By John Paulsen (Senior Editor), last updated May 5, 2014

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John was named the Most Accurate Fantasy Football Expert by FantasyPros for the 2010 and 2014 seasons, finished as runner-up in 2011 and 4th in both 2012 and 2015 for a total of five Top 5 seasons in the last six years. Cumulatively, John was the most accurate expert from 2010-15 while also winning the 2011 Fantasy Sports Trade Association award for the most accurate draft rankings. 

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The average fantasy owner probably considers it insane to spend time scouring Average Draft Position (ADP) data in April or May, but this is my job and that’s what I do. I was enjoying my morning coffee the other day and nearly did a spit take when I saw that Kenny Stills is currently going in the 13th round of MFL Public League Drafts. Granted, his ADP probably hasn’t reacted fully to the departure of Lance Moore (to Pittsburgh) and Darren Sproles (to Philadelphia), but even so, Stills is a screaming value at that point in the draft. Here’s why:


1. He was extremely efficient last year.
Sure, as a rookie, he finished as the #47 WR with 94.1 fantasy points in standard formats, but he did that work (32-641-5) on just 50 targets, which made him the 88th-most targeted receiver in 2013. His FP/target (1.88) was the highest in the league and it’s an indicator of the good rapport he has with QB Drew Brees. His Catch % (Catch/Targets) of 64.0% was the highest of any wideout with a YPC of 17.0 or greater. Stills averaged 20.0 YPC, which was the highest of any receivers with at least 20 catches on the year.

To sum up, he was mind-boggingly productive in the targets he saw during his first season.


2. He’s going to see more targets in 2014.
Stills was targeted 7.8% of the time in his rookie year. Lance Moore (8.4%) and Darren Sproles (13.8%) are both gone, and that represents 22.2% of the Saints’ targets from a year ago. Over the last three years, Moore has averaged 5.5 targets per game as the team’s WR2, a role that Stills is expected to fill this season. That represents a 77% increase over the 3.1 T/G Stills saw as a rookie.

Given 5.5 targets per game, if Stills is only able to post the 1.34 FP/T that Moore did over the last three seasons — a top 25 number in that category, but a far cry from Stills’ elite levels in 2013 — he would score 118 fantasy points. That’s about what Harry Douglas scored as fantasy football’s #33 WR. This seems to be a good floor for Stills, provided the Saints don’t bring in another big time receiver this year.

Keep in mind that the loss of Sproles is uncharted territory for the Saints. He averaged 6.9 T/G over the last three seasons, and while Pierre Thomas and Travaris Cadet can pick up some of the slack, Thomas was already targeted heavily in 2013 (5.2 T/G) and it’s not clear if Cadet is ready for a big role in the offense. (Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson haven’t shown much in the passing game.) Sproles’s targets could be distributed throughout the offense, which means Stills could get more than the 5.5 T/G that Moore saw over the last three seasons.


3. He should get better in his second year.
While Stills is not likely to increase his production on a per target basis, he should improve his play with a full season under his belt. His route running and understanding of the offense should both be better than they were a year ago. And he now has a full year of experience with one of the best quarterbacks in the game. So while I’m expecting a drop in his FP/T with a larger workload, his rookie-to-sophomore improvement may help to ensure that the decline isn’t severe.

The table below shows how Stills might fare with varying workload (targets) and production (FP/T):


Drop in FP/T 78 Targets 88 Targets 98 Targets 108 Targets
10% (1.69) 132 (WR25) 149 (WR18) 166 (WR14) 183 (WR11)
20% (1.50) 117 (WR33) 132 (WR25) 147 (WR18) 162 (WR15)
Lance Moore (1.34) 105 (WR38) 118 (WR33) 131 (WR25) 145 (WR18)
League Avg (1.05) 82 (WR56) 92 (WR50) 103 (WR41) 113 (WR34)


I believe that 88 targets and 1.34 FP/T (Lance Moore’s numbers for the last three years) are a perfectly reasonable expectation for Stills in his second year, and I think he has some upside from there. Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston are entrenched as the top two targets in New Orleans, but Brees may lean on Stills more than a typical Saints WR2 to account for the loss of Sproles. If that's the case, he could produce low-end WR2 numbers in the #20-#24 range. Considering Stills is currently the #54 WR off the board in the 13th round, he should be going five or six rounds earlier. I hope that I can grab him in the 8th/9th range when draft season is in full swing.

Filed Under: Preseason, 2014

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