With the dust settled on the first wave of NFL free agency, a group of our staffers got together to discuss the most pressing topics. In this first installment, they tackle Terrelle Pryor's 2017 fantasy value as a member of Washington.
Terrelle Pryor, fresh off an unlikely 1,000 yard receiving season (and PPR WR21 finish), signed a one-year, $6 million contract with Washington. Is the move a positive or negative for Pryor’s fantasy value?
Devin Knotts: I am not excited for Terrelle Pryor this season, and based on the contract he received, it doesn’t appear NFL teams are excited either. There was no bidding war for Pryor and the Browns elected to go with Kenny Britt over him at a more expensive price. The reason Pryor was so good on the Browns last season had everything to do with his 140 targets. He was also the only Cleveland wide receiver taller than 6'0'' to record more than 20 receptions. While Washington lost Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson, they return Jamison Crowder and Josh Doctson both of whom will eat into Pryor's targets. I also expect Washington to take a wide receiver at some point in this year’s draft. Pryor just does not possess the overall talent you want considering where he’s likely to be drafted based off last year’s numbers.
Phil Alexander: I've got to step in and take Devin's bait on the assertion Pryor is a middling talent. Any discussion on Pryor's talent level should begin with the fact he was once the country's top football recruit coming out of high school and conclude with what he was able to accomplish last season in his second year playing wide receiver in the NFL. I'm in no way suggesting Pryor has great hands or a mastery of the route tree. But at 6'5'', 230 lbs., with 4.4 wheels, and a reported 37-inch vertical leap, he clearly didn't need traditional wide receiver skills to fill box scores in 2016. And isn't it too soon to assume a player with Pryor's physical abilities and competitive streak won't improve as a technician as he continues to learn the nuances of the position?
Chad Parsons: I am typically skeptical of positional converts. As a result, I have been pessimistic about Pryor every step of the way. After the 2016 season, where Pryor was the clear lead receiver for Cleveland, I went back and watched each one of his targets. He looked every bit the part of an impactful NFL receiver. Pryor was explosive, smooth, and a general mismatch. His athleticism is overt and if a football fan was dropped into the NFL landscape today - with no knowledge of Pryor's path to the 2016 season - the takeaway would be he is one of the 15-20 best receivers in the NFL.
Jason Wood: While I hear you guys that Pryor's ability to transition from college quarterback to 1,000-yard receiver is admirable, the fantasy gods don't care about a player's path to success. A middling receiver is a middling receiver. Washington stands a chance of being woeful this year; losing Shanahan and their GM under mysterious circumstances, with reports that Cousins wants out. I think Pryor will be miscast in Washington and I also don't see him matching last year's target volume.
Alessandro Miglio: I agree with Jason that Washington appears headed in the wrong direction, but it's inarguable Kirk Cousins is a big upgrade for Pryor. That means the quality of his targets should, in theory, go up. Granted, Cousins is no Aaron Rodgers, but at least he’s not Cody Kessler.
Sigmund Bloom: The move has to be considered a positive. Washington passes more, completes more passes, and for more yards and touchdowns per attempt than the Browns.
David Dodds: Pryor could be the best wide receiver in Washington this season (especially in PPR formats), but I am not excited by his prospects to improve on his 2016 numbers. Jordan Reed still projects for a large role, while Jamison Crowder and Josh Doctson should see plenty of targets as well. Pryor's transition from quarterback to wide receiver went well in Cleveland, but as Devin pointed out, the Browns literally had no other options.
Sigmund Bloom: This characterization of Pryor as a mediocre talent who simply got fat in fantasy terms because he was the top target on a losing team doesn’t sit well with me. If we took the stink of Cleveland and his failure as a quarterback off of him, we would have the profile of a #1 receiver who in physical terms can match the likes of Julio Jones and AJ Green. He is new to the position and displayed surprisingly advanced ball skills, route running and toughness at the catch point last year. He also has speed to threaten deep and size to be difficult to defend on deep balls, but he barely had any time with a quarterback that could effectively throw the deep ball last year. It's hard to imagine Pryor's development as a receiver leveling off in only his third year playing the position turning 28, which means he is in his physical prime.
Andy Hicks: Then why did he only get a one-year deal on the open market? There were a lot of very nasty comments made about Pryor by his peers (Janoris Jenkins and Adam Jones, in particular), rumors of infighting, and savage criticism from the press and former players. Most of these issues seem to stem from Pryor’s over the top trash talking, but the biggest indictment comes from the fact Hue Jackson was unwilling to take him back.
Jackson was the head coach in Oakland when the Raiders took Pryor in the supplemental draft. Pryor joined Jackson for a short while with the Bengals, and then once Jackson joined the the Browns, he turned Pryor into a 1,000 yard receiver. You would think Jackson would like to reap the rewards of his project becoming successful. The fact he thought Kenny Britt was a better investment speaks volumes. To me, Pryor looks like the type of splashy signing Dan Snyder loves to make and while he may live up to his billing, the downside is frankly horrific.
Will Grant: I'd be excited about Pryor going to Washington if he had more of a track record. As Andy points out, the Browns finally figured out what to do with a journeyman player and their first response is to let him go in free agency for another guy who has bounced around with limited success and no track record.
Steve Haynes: Pryor’s limited time playing wide receiver, combined with Washington’s offensive coordinator change could also spell trouble. The changes Washington makes on offense could impact Pryor even more.
Phil Alexander: I don’t buy Pryor being impacted by an offensive coordinator, Steve. The man can divide by zero, believe it’s not butter, and pinpoint the exact location of Carmen San Diego. Need I remind you he once did this?
Justin Howe: I have to get on board with Phil, Chad, and Sigmund here. It's kind of baffling that Pryor just upgraded his quarterback, offense, and overall team projection, yet he's widely expected to semi-flop in 2017.
It's not as though he'll now compete with more outside talent. I like Josh Doctson and his outlook, but he's wholly unproven and isn't exactly a flawless prospect. Consider that Pryor out-targeted Corey Coleman, Doctson's 2016 draft mate, by an 82-72 count over their 10 games together. And while scouting is subjective, it's not as though Pryor is a poor receiver by any measure. He was moderately efficient in his first full year as a receiver (and in the midst of a QB carousel), and his deep-ball chops have clearly developed nicely.
It seems the crew is about evenly split on Pryor as a talent, but we all know talent is only part of the equation in fantasy football. The topic of Pryor’s target share in Washington has been raised a few times so far. How do you see Pryor’s targets shaking out in his new landing spot?
Phil Alexander: Devin and David both pointed out Pryor is likely to see a dip in target volume, but as Sigmund and Alex alluded to, the quality of those targets has to be considered here. I would argue targets from Josh McCown, Robert Griffin III III, and Cody Kessler should count for about 25% less than a standard Kirk Cousins target.
The big question is whether or not an increase in efficiency, thanks to playing with Cousins, will be enough to offset any decrease in Pryor's targets. In the last two seasons with Cousins at the helm, no Washington receiver eclipsed a 20.5% target market share. But with Garcon and Jackson on new teams, over 36% of Washington's 2016 targets are gone. Jamison Crowder's role in the offense is cemented, as is Jordan's Reed's, but I'm not assuming Josh Doctson is ready to command even half of those vacated targets coming off a lost rookie season. He exists only in theory at this point, the same as Kevin White and Breshad Perriman did at this time last year. I believe a reasonable baseline for Pryor is about 120 targets next year, which would be enough for him to at least match last year’s reception and yardage numbers.
Sigmund Bloom: Pryor could easily equal or surpass his large target share in Cleveland because two of his three main competitors for targets (Josh Doctson and Jordan Reed) have big durability questions. Doctson and Reed could be more prominent in the red zone, but Pryor is the best deep threat on the team and he should also be a strong third down target.
Jason Wood: That’s an unfairly optimistic characterization, Bloom. First of all, Washington is in turmoil. Their play-caller is gone and the QB wants out. While he's likely stuck there for the season, I'm not fond of banking on a situation where the cornerstone of the team is unhappy and they lost their talented offensive coach. As if that weren't enough, I can't grok with Bloom's idea that Pryor's targets could increase in Washington. The kid had 140 targets last year on a team that threw 567 times. DeSean Jackson led Washington last year with 114 targets on 607 passing attempts. And that was with Reed missing nearly half the season.
Sigmund Bloom: Washington threw for 10 more scores than Cleveland last year and they threw for almost 80 more passing yards per game than Cleveland. Even if we project a healthy regression due to the loss of McVay, Jackson, and Garcon, Washington's passing game is surely going to be more productive than Cleveland's, and Pryor should be the most productive outside receiver with Doctson basically in his rookie year.
Whether or not we think Pryor is a good investment, then we should be targeting SOMEONE in the Washington passing game at ADP. We can project an increase to 120-130 targets for Jamison Crowder and we still have room for one of: Jordan Reed stays healthy, Doctson hits the ground running and stays healthy, or Pryor gets a similar target load to one that he got last year, but in a much more efficient passing game. The other possibility is that Washington's passing game goes so far in the tank that it becomes Cleveland-like in terms of efficiency, because they should remain among the top 10 in pass attempts in any event due to their weak running game.
Alessandro Miglio. Sigmund touches on something interesting there. The bottom line in whether or not Pryor can improve on last year’s numbers may hinge on his touchdown total, and those can be finicky for wide receivers. Remember that season where Calvin Johnson seemed to get tackled inside the five-yard line every game?
Phil Alexander: I see Pryor as a near-lock to improve on last year’s four touchdowns. Garcon and Jackson leave behind about a third of Washington's red zone targets. Neither player was able to crack a 10% touchdown conversion rate on those looks, while Pryor converted his red zone chances at a 31% clip last season.
Justin Howe: If the worry is his opportunity share, then I'd pump the brakes. It's early, but let's apply some baseline projections to 2017. Last year, across 12 games with a healthy Jordan Reed, Washington threw 467 passes. Reed and Jamison Crowder (constants) drew 35.3% of those targets, and running backs drew 15.0%. Even if that holds, another 600-attempt Kirk Cousins season would send nearly 300 targets to Pryor, Doctson, and the backups. Based on last year's distribution, that would mean 253 targets to divvy between Pryor and Doctson. And by that measure, both would be massive steals regardless of who dominates those 253. One would almost certainly draw 130 or so at a minimum, and this early in the process, I have to assume that would be Pryor. He's the only one with an NFL track record, after all. I honestly see a floor of around 65 catches of fairly high impact - as Sigmund and Phil pointed out, he'll now see touchdown opportunity he didn't dream of while rotting in Cleveland.
Chad Parsons: I would certainly not assume Washington will have the same passing prowess this year in aggregate.
Justin Howe: It's a jumping-off point, and no, not the same level of effectiveness. But in terms of volume, I think it's a fair bet. This will not be a winning team in 2017, nor is it likely to boast much of a workhorse in the run game.
Jason Wood: I think many of you are being too grounded in last year. There's an excellent chance the Washington offense is significantly worse in 2017. Lost their offensive guru. Unhappy quarterback. Lost their top two receivers. Rather than hoping Pryor rises into the Washington equation from last year, I would argue his role will pull the entire offense down.
We’ve gotten some great takes on Pryor’s talent and the opportunity he’ll receive in Washington. But as always in fantasy, it comes down to cost-benefit analysis. Pryor has typically been drafted in the fourth round of MFL10 (best ball) leagues conducted since February 1st. If his ADP holds steady into August, are you comfortable taking him there?
Devin Knotts: In one less game played, Kenny Britt had five less yards and one more touchdown than Pryor did last year. Just take Britt four or five rounds later.
Jason Wood: Drafting Pryor in the fourth round is an easy way to cede a playoff spot in your league. In fact, Pryor in the fourth round is easily one of the worst ideas we're seeing from early ADP results. He's an EASY fade at that point in drafts. Run away. Run far, far away.
Alessandro Miglio: It's still way early in the offseason, and we don't know where he will be drafted on average come August. Let’s wait and see.
David Dodds: Pryor is being drafted ahead of all of these wide receivers at present: Michael Crabtree, Devante Parker, Golden Tate, Julian Edelman, Emmanuel Sanders, and Randall Cobb. That is a nice sweet spot of receivers with considerably better floors than Pryor. I suggest passing on Pryor at his current ADP.
Chad Parsons: The biggest moving piece for Pryor and his upside in 2017 is Kirk Cousins. There is still a possibility Cousins is not the starter for Week 1 as all signs point to a 'lame duck' quarterback on a franchise tag and little hope to be there beyond 2017. I went back and watched Colt McCoy over the past few seasons and the offense would be constricted from its Cousins-led construction if McCoy were the starter. Josh Doctson is a wild card with his health and Jamison Crowder and Jordan Reed project to be heavily involved. Pryor's upside is in the WR18-30 range, which at current prices, I would want more top-end profit potential for the investment. Doctson's health and Cousins' status are two remaining puzzle pieces with tangible impact to Pryor's season projection.
Andy Hicks: It is hard to get a full read on how Pryor will fit into the Washington offense this year. Will there be further free agent or draft pick additions? What is happening with the running game? Why is Washington reluctant to given Kirk Cousins a long term deal? At the price of a fourth rounder there is no way I would touch Pryor. The departure of Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson is significant, but how much it actually benefits Pryor is unknown.
Will Grant: I'm sure Pryor will be overdrafted because everyone will expect him to step in and become this great wide receiver in Washington. Maybe he will. But there are a lot more guys who transfer teams and wash out than become superstars. I think I'll let someone else take the bait.
Chris Feery: I’ll pass on Pryor at his current ADP. As Will pointed out, the list of wide receivers who have flamed out after shifting teams is long. While I think Pryor should be able to fit in seamlessly with Washington, I’m not willing to overpay for him based on a maybe. Add in the turmoil surrounding the franchise Jason mentioned, and I’m not getting the warm and fuzzies here.
Solid production or similar numbers to what he put up in 2016 is not out of the question, but that’s not worth a fourth round price tag to me. Alessandro made an excellent point as well: let’s wait and see where Pryor winds up in August. I’ll be passing if he’s still hovering around the fourth round, but I will likely pounce if he falls to a reasonable spot.
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