Now that free agency, the NFL Draft, and the schedule release have all passed, we have our initial layout in place in team depth charts and strength of schedule. With that, we want to take a look at some players across the fantasy landscape that are either polarizing, over or undervalued, or just interesting topics of discussion and walk through some pros and cons of where those players are regarded in fantasy circles.
So far we have explored players such as Kenyan Drake, Austin Ekeler, Marquise Brown, Tyler Higbee, Mecole Hardman, Nick Chubb and the trio of DeVante Parker, Preston Williams, and Mike Gesicki. For this installment, we are digging into 2019 breakout wide receiver D.J. Chark.
Week 1 Age: 23.9
Contract: Signed through 2021
Using the Dynasty ADP app available at RotoViz, we can see what Chark’s ascendance in 2019 did for his fantasy stock. An afterthought in each of his two offseasons in the league, Chark has jumped up to a locked-in top-50 pick and top-24 option at his position.
There are breakouts and there are real breakouts. Chark is the in the latter company because not only did he break out in 2019, catching 73-of-118 targets for 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns, he did so after doing little as a rookie, when he caught just 14-of-32 targets for 174 yards and zero scores. It is not uncommon to have a wideout breakout in year two, but breaking out in your sophomore campaign after doing next to nothing as a rookie is a rarer feat.
From 2000-2018, there were 619 wide receivers selected in the draft. Of those players, Chark’s year two yardage increase of 834 yards over his rookie season is the eighth-largest year two bump among those players. Just for grins, here are the top-25 from that group of drafted wideouts.
Largest Year Two Yardage Increases from drafted Wide Receivers 2000-2018
|Player||Draft||Y1 ReYd||Y2 ReYd||Y2 Spike|
|Steve Smith (NYG)||51||63||872||809|
|Steve Smith (CAR)||74||154||872||718|
This is a strong list of wide receivers that went on to have multiple relevant seasons in the league. Given the exception of Steve Breaston and the troubled Josh Gordon, the other names ahead of Chark here on this list are extremely strong company to keep.
Not just was Chark’s yardage increase impressive for a breakout in year two, as mentioned, doing so coming off a light rookie season was even rarer. Of the 43 drafted year two wideouts to hit 1,000 yards in their second NFL season since 2000, Chark was one of just nine to do so after having fewer than 500 receiving yards as a rookie and one of just seven to have fewer than 400 yards as a rookie, and one of just four to have fewer than 300 yards in their first season. The only players to do so with fewer yards than Chark had as a rookie were Breaston and Antonio Brown.
2019 Game Log
|Week||Snap%||Opp||Tgt||Tgt%||Air Yd%||Rec||Yds||TD||PPR||WR Rank|
As great as Chark’s breakout was in totality, in-season his performance carried some volatility and weight in specific pockets. Early season touchdown regression caught up to him quickly. After finding the end zone five times through five weeks, Chark scored just three more times over his final 10 games played. Through eight games, Chark had turned in five top-20 scoring weeks with four as a top-13 scorer. He was the WR5 overall over that span for fantasy in PPR formats while accounting for 23% of the Jacksonville targets, 37% of the team air yards, and carried a 0.60 weighted opportunity rating per AirYards.com, which ranked 13th among all NFL wideouts over that span.
From Week 9 on, the season went much differently for Chark. He turned in just two more top-20 scoring weeks and was the WR47 in fantasy from Weeks 9-17. Over that span, he hit 50 yards receiving in just two games and had dips across the board in team involvement, dropping down to 20% of the team targets and 29% of the team air yards counting only the weeks in which he played. His weighted opportunity dropped to 0.50, which checked in at WR33 over those weeks in which he was active.
It is not uncommon to see uneven weekly wide receiver play that comes in spike fashion, but we at least have to pose the question of if the front half of the season version of Chark is something we can frequently tap into. As an objective prospect, Chark is a mixed bag. He was a three-star recruit out of high school who had as many rushing and return touchdowns (six) as he did receiving touchdowns at LSU. He did not catch a pass there until his junior season before a late breakout in his 40-874-3 senior season. As a non-early declare, he has already beaten some tough odds of fantasy relevancy. But attached to some questionable quarterback play in a pre-Joe Burrow/Joe Brady LSU offense, Chark impressed at the Senior Bowl with a 5-160-1 line and won co-MVP. He then ran a 4.34 at the NFL Combine and was selected with second-round draft capital, which definitely helped his cause in year two opportunity after a down rookie campaign.
All of Dede Westbrook, Keelan Cole, and Chris Conley are entering the final years of their contract this season, so Chark still has team investment in his corner to go along with his 2019 breakout. The Jaguars did also draft Laviska Shenault at No. 42 overall in this past draft to add target competition. That said, Chark’s end of season opportunity does have the feeling of being something close to his floor in terms of usage. New offensive coordinator Jay Gruden has also recently expressed interest in deploying Chark in a more versatile fashion this season by getting him in the slot more often. We will see how true those words rings in season, but a year ago, Chark caught 13-of-20 targets for 205 yards and four touchdowns from the slot, despite running just 24.0% of his routes there.
The last piece of the current puzzle for Chark is figuring out if he has an immediate quarterback problem. Here is what Chark and the Jaguars were working with last season from Nick Foles and Gardner Minshew using the completion percentage tool available at Sharp Football Stats.
Not great, Bob. Minshew completed 60.6% of his passes while his expected completion percentage was 65.8% per NFL Next Gen Stats. That -5.2% mark trailed only David Blough for all passers a year ago. The ray of sunshine for Chark is that Minshew was at least up to par on targets 30-plus yards downfield. Per Pro Football Focus and their adjusted completion percentage, Minshew checked in at 30th in the league, right below Josh Allen and right above Mitchell Trubisky.
We are nearly locked into Chark having full season attachment to Minshew for 2020 and then Chark will enter a contract year in 2021 with potentially a new quarterback. Chark’s spike weeks still came with that attachment to this quarterback situation, but this situation invites some of that previous volatility covered earlier.
Given Chark’s historic company mentioned to open, his current dynasty cost is definitely worth exploring and has room to rise despite the end of season decline in usage and his current quarterback situation — especially if the cost is a later first-round pick in your rookie drafts for someone selling. In current dynasty rankings, I only have CeeDee Lamb and Jerry Jeudy as rookie wideouts I would prefer to roster.
As usual in closing here, in dynasty, every player has potential to be both a buy and sell at the same time. You just have to find the proper context in your league on which he is valued per owner. Startup ADP and cost is not going to be an exact market for you with team context a driving force in established leagues, but here are the buy and sell point suggestions using that as guideline pending which side you fall on.
2020 Rookie Pick Value: Back-Middle First (1.07-1.09)
RB Value Targets: Kenyan Drake, Leonard Fournette, Todd Gurley, Devin Singletary
WR Value Targets: Keenan Allen, Stefon Diggs, Terry McLaurin
TE Value Targets: Mark Andrews, Evan Engram