Can Marquez Valdes-Scantling Climb the Fantasy Ranks in 2019?
One of the trendier names this summer, Marquez Valdes-Scantling finds himself climbing up draft boards as a potential breakout candidate in Green Bay’s offense. Coming off an up-and-down rookie campaign, MVS finished as the WR65 in PPR leagues with 6.9 points per contest. Now entering his second season, the USF-product looks primed for a sophomore leap.
Heading into the 2019 season, Marquez Valdes-Scantling has supposedly worked as the Green Bay Packers’ WR2 throughout mini-camp. Coming off the board outside the top-100 picks in both best-ball and redraft leagues, the 24-year old looks like a cheap, yet productive, attachment to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ offense.
Here’s a look at Valdes-Scantling’s road to the NFL, what to expect this upcoming season, and why he remains a target in the later rounds of best-ball and redraft leagues.
College and Rookie Season
At USF, Valdes-Scantling failed to produce elite numbers, maxing out at 53 catches for 879 yards and six scores as a senior in college. However, this may have more to do with an offensive scheme that passed on only 37.5% of their plays in 2017. When called upon, MVS routinely made plays downfield, averaging 18.9 and 16.6 yards per reception in his junior and senior seasons, respectively.
What really put MVS on the NFL radar was his athletic profile. At 6-4, 206-pounds, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.37 seconds, showing the elite speed that allowed him to routinely make plays in the deep quadrant of the field in college. According to PlayerProfiler, his height-adjusted speed put him in the 97th percentile, a trait the Packers clearly coveted.
Looking to his rookie season, MVS produced above expectation for a fifth-round rookie, notching 38 catches, 581 receiving yards, and a pair of scores on 73 targets While his 52% catch rate leaves room for improvement, the USF-product averaged 15.3 yards per reception (16th in the NFL) and recorded an average depth of target of 12.3. More importantly, he out-produced fellow 2018 rookies Equanimeous St. Brown and J’Mon Moore, despite only playing a full complement of snaps in 11 weeks.
Opportunity Remains King
By the end of 2018, Valdes-Scantling actually finished third in most major receiving categories on the Packers, including targets, catches, and receiving yards behind Davante Adams and Jimmy Graham. While Adams will remain heavily involved in the Green Bay offense, MVS has a chance to usurp the 33-year old Graham and move into a full-time role as the Packers number two option.
Looking at the Packers as a whole, Green Bay lost 114 targets and 669 air yards with Randall Cobb and a few ancillary players leaving this offseason. Importantly, Randall Cobb’s departure opens additional opportunities from the slot. Last season, MVS played from the slot 41% of the time, but recorded 283 receiving yards (49-percent) and one of his touchdowns from the slot. After showing heightened efficiency in this area of the field and with Cobb out of the picture, MVS may have earned himself a longer look in the slot ahead of 2019.
Digging into Valdes-Scantling’s 11 games with full-time snap shares, the rookie averaged 6 targets, 3.1 catches, and 49.7 receiving yards per game. Deceptively, both the targets and the receiving yards per game ranked second on the Packers in this span. With the increased opportunity, Valdes-Scantling also delivered two 100-yard performances, including 101 receiving yards against the Patriots in Week 9. He also finished among the top 10 scoring wide receivers in Week 5 after recording 7 catches for 68 receiving yards and a touchdown.
Despite the up-and-down nature of his rookie campaign, MVS showed a number of positive indicators heading into his second year. Not only did he play in and out of the slot, but he showed an ability to make big plays when given increased playing time. The question remains, can MVS put it all together in year two?
What to Expect from Valdes-Scantling in Year Two
Some have voiced concerns regarding MVS and the Green Bay offense as a whole with a new head coach Matt LaFleur entering the picture. Coming over from Tennessee, others expect LaFleur to vitalize the Green Bay offense. Looking back to his only season calling plays with the Titans, Tennessee ranked 29th in plays per game and ran the ball at the second-highest rate in the league.
However, those numbers may relate directly to the health of Marcus Mariota after he played a majority of 2018 with nerve issues in his throwing elbow. The new look Packers’ offense is expected to use more motion, bunch formations, misdirection, and play-action. This type of play-calling should only help MVS get the ball in space.
While a new look offense can only help his chances, MVS showed a strong ability to create big plays on his own. According to PFF, he created separation at the third-highest rate in the NFL. While Aaron Rodgers’ 7.4 Yards per attempt in 2018 fell below his career average for the fourth straight season, his interception rate (0.3%), completion percentage (62.5%), and adjusted yards per pass attempt (8.1) all remained near his career average. Either way, creating larger windows of separation with Valdes-Scantling can only help Rodgers and the Green Bay offense as he continues to age.
Heading into the fantasy draft season, Valdes-Scantling currently comes off the board as WR47 in early PPR leagues and early best-ball leagues. Just inside the 12th round, MVS should produce close to WR2 numbers in fantasy leagues with a shot at a 50-catch season. Currently, 4for4’s projections slate MVS for 47 catches, 704 receiving yards, and 4.6 touchdowns, which equates to 144 fantasy points on the year. With upside for even more production, Valdes-Scantling remains a solid target in the 12th round of fantasy leagues.