In a recent draft I was in, Danny Amendola was drafted before Hakeem Nicks went off the board. Fantasy Football Calculator ADP has Amendola exactly one spot above Nicks, and while I am certainly a fan of Amendola and have him higher than Expert Consensus Rank on FantasyPros, in no scenario can I imagine valuing Amendola higher than Nicks in a standard format.
The reason for Amendola’s rise is pretty simple. The last time we saw him was in weeks 15-17 of 2012 where he received 12, 7 and 9 targets. The fact that Amendola was likely a waiver wire pickup that produced last year endeared him to fantasy owners, and the inevitable Wes Welker comparisons began when he signed with the Patriots. Obviously, he will fill the heavy-target void left by Wes Welker’s departure to the Bronco’s. Fantasy owners have a downright case of the feel goods for Amendola and that feeling is reflected in his Average Draft Position. However, that Welker role has never produced double digit touchdowns, and Amendola is no touchdown maker. He didn’t fulfill that role at Texas Tech (14% and 27% RZ TD rates while receiving meaningful targets, i.e more than 45 his sophomore season) and as a Ram, Amendola converted 44 redzone targets over 4 seasons into 7 touchdowns (15.7%).
Hakeem Nicks, on the other hand, makes a fantasy living off of touchdowns. Nicks boasted a 43% RZ TD rate his senior year of college, and as a Giant, has converted 52 redzone targets into 14 touchdowns (28%).
It’s clear that the hobbled Nicks of 2012 is stuck in everyone’s mind. Despite 100 targets, he finished as fantasy’s number 54 overall wide receiver. However, Amendola was also injured, also received 100 targets, and finished WR56. The backstories for these players are remarkably similar. Amendola has played 12 games the last 2 seasons; clearly, Amendola’s lighter frame is a little susceptible to injury. Nicks has been hampered by lower body injuries for basically his entire professional career, yet has finishes as WR8 in only 13 games and WR12 in 15. The fact that both players were injured in 2012 is clearly impacting Nicks’ ADP relative to ceiling more than it is Amendola, however.
We are seeing a scenario where fantasy drafters are not evaluating a player correctly. If healthy, Nicks is a true fantasy WR1. The type that has the potential to post a 200 yard, 2 touchdown performance. In fact, he doesn’t even have to be healthy, just playing. Even while banged up, Nicks has performed admirably. Amendola, on the other hand, has a dramatically lower ceiling. Using the Rotoviz WR Similarity Score App, I generated these two tables to demonstrate the potential of the 2 players in 2013.
This is Amendola’s N+1 Comp graph, with all games included.
And this is his projection without the crazy 16 target, 12 catch performance against the Redskins.
Granted, the app doesn’t know that Amendola upgraded from Bradford to Brady, but I’m not sure that makes him a better fantasy option than Nicks. Amendola was the clear top dog in the Rams passing game while healthy. Ideally, Amendola will function behind Rob Gronkowski in a very run heavy offense. His targets per game will remain ideal, and he will probably still have a pretty shallow aDOT (7.9 last year, .3 higher than Welker). WR18 is around Amendola’s upside, because he won’t score a crazy amount of touchdowns.
On the other hand, Nicks, who has more of a perceived injury risk than Amendola, despite missing fewer games, has much better prospects. This is the chart most representative of Nicks’ 2012, and is his N+1 projection.
Nicks’ best case scenario is better than Amendola’s. It’s that simple. In a PPR format, it is possible that Amendola ends up out-earning Nicks through sheer volume, but Nicks easily has a 12 touchdown season in his range (something he almost accomplished in 2012) and in his down fantasy year, scored as many touchdowns as Amendola has in his 4 year career. I get the allure, I do. Nicks is a pain to own; you always have to monitor his injury status, and Amendola is the new toy for Brady and Belichick to unleash upon unsuspecting defenses. Fantasy football isn’t a game played just for fun however, and winning at it isn’t easy (thank you, Mr. CD Carter. Read his book How To Think Like A Fantasy Football Winner to learn why that is (Even if you don’t want to read it, buy it, unless you hate Denny’s Child (But seriously, you should read it))), and best project-able selection is easily Nicks over Amendola.