Sleeper Alert: Packers WR Jarrett Boykin
Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are both going in the top 10 at their position and have ADPs in the first two or three rounds, depending on the format. That’s great. I like both players at their respective costs as the two major cogs in the Green Bay passing game. Eddie Lacy is getting his due as the #5 running in the 1st round, while Aaron Rodgers is going in the 3rd round even though most fantasy analysts are recommending a “wait on QB” strategy to their followers.
Lost in all of this is Jarrett Boykin.
Once Cobb broke his leg in Week 6 against the Ravens, Boykin stepped into starter’s snaps alongside Nelson and the now departed James Jones. Let’s take a look at his game log from last year.
The A.C.I. row shows his stats “After Cobb’s Injury,” while his averages over that span are in the final row. For perspective, he was the #25 WR over the final 12 weeks of the season. Yep. His averages extrapolate to 65 catches for 908 yards and four touchdowns, which equates to around 115 fantasy points, or what Rod Streater scored as the #33 receiver in standard formats.
So why is Boykin currently the #53 WR off the board?
Randall Cobb is back!
Yes, he is. And he is a target hog. He averaged 10.2 targets in four full games in 2013 after averaging a healthy 6.9 T/G in 2012. He’s a real threat to lead the league in catches if he plays a full season.
However, this doesn’t really bother me because while Cobb is back, perennial WR3 James Jones is now an Oakland Raider, opening up starter-type snaps and targets for Boykin since the Packers rely heavily on three-WR sets.
The Packers drafted Davante Adams!
Yes, they did. And while I like Adams long-term prospects in Green Bay, rookie wideouts don’t usually play a big role for the Packers. Cobb posted 25-375-1 as a rookie in 2011 playing on 27% of the team’s snaps. Those snaps were fifth on the team behind Nelson, Jones, Greg Jennings and Donald Driver. Nelson posted 33-366-2 as a rookie in 2008 playing 49% of the snaps, third on the team behind Jennings and Driver. Jones was in his second season that year and hadn’t yet established himself, so the team leaned a bit on Nelson, but he still didn’t post fantasy relevant numbers.
I believe that Boykin proved last year that he’s the man for the team’s WR3 job, but don’t take my word for it:
Via NFL.com, HC Mike McCarthy (3/26): "I can't say enough about Boykin. The young man is a heck of a player, he's done it the right way, special teams, he's performed every opportunity he's given."
ESPN’s Rob Demovsky (6/3): “Boykin has been working as the No. 3 receiver despite the arrival of Adams and fellow draft picks Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Janis.”
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (7/9): “Jarrett Boykin improved as much as any player on the roster last season. Boykin caught 49 passes for 681 yards and will be hard to dislodge at No. 3.”
I'm not one to ignore reports to the contrary, and there was this from Rob Demovsky:
ESPN (8/5): "Adams got off to a slow start in the offseason practices, making Jarrett Boykin look like a lock for the No. 3 spot. But with every training camp practice, it looks more like Adams will push and perhaps overtake Boykin, who has had an ordinary camp."
While I do believe that Adams will have a role, likely as the team’s WR4 and WR3 fill-in if/when there’s an injury ahead of him on the depth chart, Boykin should be the team’s third receiver.
What’s His Upside?
For reference, let’s look at Jones’s numbers the last three years. He finished as the #38 WR in 2011, #16 in 2012 and #41 last year in standard formats as the team’s third receiver. I consider Jones’s 2011 and 2013 seasons to be Boykin’s floor and his 2012 season to be his ceiling. Not bad for an 11th round pick.
How did I come to this conclusion? Let’s take another look at that game log. What I didn’t mention in our first go-around is that Boykin’s averages include Week 6 and Week 17, two games in which Cobb played significant snaps (i.e. the Packers had three healthy receivers ahead of Boykin). If those two games are removed, his averages jump to 4.6-63-.30, or about what Mike Wallace scored as the #25 WR last season.
That included a couple of games that both Cobb and Jones missed. In those games, Boykin posted 8-103-1 against the Browns in Week 7 and followed that up with 5-89 against the Vikings in Week 8. He was the #12 receiver in fantasy in that two-game span. Yes, it’s a very small sample size, but it shows what Boykin is capable of with Rodgers throwing to him in a WR2 role. (Don’t forget that A-Rod was out from Week 9 through Week 16, so most of Boykin’s production came with Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzien under center. If his touchdowns look a little light, that’s why.)
Did I mention that the Packers are without a trustworthy tight end? I expect someone will step up, but it’s likely that Boykin will enjoy a few extra targets as the team tries to sort the position out.
Where Should He Be Drafted?
I have Boykin ranked #46 in standard and #45 in PPR. That's conservative, I think. Receivers in that range typically go in the 10th round, ands that’s where I’m targeting him, a full round ahead of his ADP. I’d even draft him in the 9th if I needed a wideout or didn’t like my other options, but most of the time he will still be around in the 10th round.
Owners who draft Nelson or Cobb early should target Boykin later on. Not only does he offer standalone WR3 value, but the pick also offers insurance if either Nelson or Cobb miss time with an injury. And if you miss out on Boykin as insurance, pick up Adams in the final rounds. He won’t offer the standalone production that Boykin will, but if there’s an injury, he’ll likely step into the WR3 role.