The Debate Series of the SI/4for4 Fantasy Football Draft Kit will pit two top minds in the fantasy industry against one another. They will take opposing sides of a decision many fantasy owners will face during their drafts, and make the case for their guy. In this installment, 4for4’s T.J. Hernandez and SI’s Michael Beller debate Terrelle Pryor vs. Davante Adams.
Terrelle Pryor, WR, Redskins (ADP: 44)
Michael Beller makes the case for Pryor over Adams…
The 2016 NFL regular season ended about seven months ago, and I still can’t believe it. It’s really quite remarkable if you let yourself think about it for more than a few seconds. It’s so remarkable, in fact, that it seems too many in the fantasy community aren’t giving themselves those few precious seconds. How else would you explain the relative lack of love for my guy in this debate.
Terrelle Pryor, a quarterback-turned-receiver who resisted making the positional change for as long as possible, caught 77 passes for 1,007 yards and four touchdowns while playing on a Browns offense that ranked 30th in the league in yards and 31st in scoring. That should be near impossible for Antonio Brown or Julio Jones, let alone someone still learning the position. Pryor was the 21st-ranked receiver in both standard and PPR formats, despite playing for a team that averaged 311 yards and 16.5 points per game. The guy deserved a medal for his performance in 2016.
Guess what? He got that medal in the form of a one-year, $8 million contract with the Redskins. Pryor leaves behind one of the worst offensive environments in the league for one of the best, particularly through the air. In two seasons with Kirk Cousins under center, the Redskins have averaged 4,426.5 passing yards per year and 24.2 points per game. The Browns, meanwhile, totaled 3,264 yards through the air last season, and scored 16.5 points per game. Things don’t work out this cleanly in real life, but that’s an extra 1,200 passing yards per season, and an additional touchdown per game. The environment upgrade for Pryor cannot be overstated.
The only quarterbacks to throw for more yards than Cousins the last two seasons are Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Philip Rivers. Only Ryan, Russell Wilson and Ben Roethlisberger have thrown for more yards per attempt than Cousins (Dak Prescott, too, but he played just one of those seasons). Neither explosiveness, nor efficiency, nor volume will be a problem in Washington, and that’s important to keep in mind. Pryor isn’t going to enjoy the same target share with the Redskins he did with the Browns, not when he has to fight for targets with Jordan Reed, Jamison Crowder and Josh Doctson. The overall performance of Cousins and the passing attack, however, will more than make up for Pryor’s expected decrease in targets.
Then, of course, there’s the player himself. Pryor’s 2016 season was one of the most impressive across the entire league. Before last year, he had caught all of two passes in his NFL career. He hadn’t enjoyed significant playing time since 2013, when he was still trying to make it as a quarterback with the Raiders. The way in which he completely remade himself as not only a receiver, but a dangerous one, was one of last season’s best stories.
Pryor flashed an ability to do everything a team asks of a No. 1 receiver. He had 11 receptions of at least 20 yards, even though he played for one of the worst deep-ball offenses in the league. He had just 13 red-zone targets, yet another function of the terrible Browns offense, but managed to turn four of them into touchdowns, including three of the four he had on plays that started inside the 10-yard line. Now 28 years old and entering his second full season as a receiver, there’s good reason to believe Pryor can make the leap from great story to truly great receiver.
Adams is, without question, a great fantasy receiver. He isn’t as physically gifted as Pryor, but he plays with the league’s best quarterback in one of the few offenses with a chance to be even pass-friendlier than Washington’s. Both are great picks at their ADPs, which place them in the middle of the fourth round of a 12-team draft. Pryor, however, has the ceiling, and his floor isn’t that much lower. With a quarterback and offense that will be a tailwind, unlike the headwinds he dealt with last season, Pryor is set for take off.
Davante Adams, WR, Packers (ADP: 46.25)
T.J. Hernandez makes the case for Adams over Pryor…
Davante Adams is going to be worse in 2017 than he was in 2016, and I still want him over Terrelle Pryor.
Last season, Adams scored on 9.9% of his targets, a touchdown rate that ranks 12th out of 434 players to see at least 100 targets over the last 10 years. History shows that touchdown rates tend to revert back to average, but pass-catchers in an Aaron Rodgers offense are going to have higher averages than most. Rodgers has thrown a touchdown on 6.4% of his career attempts; the rest of the league has thrown a touchdown on 4.4% of theirs.
Because of his exceptional efficiency, Rodgers never has a problem propping up multiple fantasy-relevant wide receivers in the same season. Since Rodgers became Green Bay’s starter in 2009, the team has had two receivers finish in the top 24 five times—including Adams and Jordy Nelson last year—and each of those receivers have finished as the WR20 or better. Only Denver has featured two top-24 receivers as many times as Green Bay during that span, while no other team has done so more than three times.
Even with his team’s addition of tight end Martellus Bennett in the offseason, Adams should be able to maintain the same role he had last year, when he saw 121 targets. The Packers targeted the tight end position 102 times in 2016, so it’s reasonable to expect that most of Bennett’s targets will be siphoned from that pool, rather than from targets that would otherwise be allocated to Adams. Randall Cobb has seen his numbers drop precipitously for two straight seasons, and if Bennett steals targets from any pass-catcher, it will likely be Cobb, as the two generally command the same type of short and over-the-middle targets.
Yes, Adams is unlikely to score 12 touchdowns again. But don’t expect his volume to fall off much, if at all.
The same can’t be said for Terrelle Pryor.
In 2016, Pryor was the clear No. 1 receiver on a Browns offense that had no other formidable pass-catching weapons to speak of, yet he only saw just 20 more targets than Adams. Sure, the Packers were more pass-heavy than the Browns last year, but the Packers threw the ball only 55 more times than the Browns.
In 2017, Pryor now finds himself on a Redskins offense where he will have to compete with Reed, Crowder and maybe even Doctson for targets. Pryor’s likely drop in volume will offset his upgraded situation to at least some degree, and should leave him somewhere in the 120 to 130 target range.
What we’re left with is two players that will likely see similar target volume—but one has Aaron Rodgers as his quarterback, the other has Kirk Cousins.
Seen through that lens, my choice is clear.