Don’t Focus on the Lamborghini: The Moncrief/Crowder Collision Course


Would you rather have a Lamborghini or a Ford Focus? No, really, this isn’t rhetorical; come up with an answer, which one do you want?

You took the Lambo, didn’t you? We all would. The power, the speed, the sex appeal dripping off of every line and curve; a Lamborghini lends itself to the imagination. We’d all take the supercar, until we were being practical. We are dreamers by nature. We have cast our lot into dynasty fantasy football, a game that lives off being able to accurately paint the future of hundreds of elite athletes. Practicality is hard to come by here.

Plus, it’s so damn easy to dream on Donte Moncrief:

Andrew Luck hard counts, sizing up the mike-linebacker and barking instructions. The receiver split out to the right turns his head, almost imperceptibly, and you know they have both seen a weak spot in the defensive armor. In the instant before the snap, all the pieces are there: the elite young quarterback, the lanky wideout with 4.4 wheels, that connection- a redzone sympatico- that makes the duo virtually impossible to stop.

At 6’2” and 221 pounds, the almost 24 year old Moncrief has the ability to outmaneuver smaller corners, but it’s really his 97th percentile speed score that ignites the fantasy. How easy would it be for Moncrief to surpass T.Y. Hilton as the favorite target in that high powered Colts offense? How unbelievable would it be to add volume to a player whose last 25 games have been punctuated by 16 catches on 22 redzone targets and thirteen touchdowns? How can a player this good still be available forty picks into your startup?!

The short answer is: he can’t be. Or perhaps more accurately: Moncrief the player falls far short of Moncrief the projection.

Moncrief is not a deep threat, despite being able to run forty yards faster than nine out of ten players at his position. In fact, his yards per catch has dropped each year he has been in the league (from 13.9 to 11.5 to 10.2 ypr.) In spite of working closer to the line of scrimmage, Moncrief’s career 5.1 targets per game are more than three fewer than counterpart T.Y. Hilton sees. For reference, TE Jack Doyle saw just one fewer target per game than Moncrief did in 2016. (Doyle did, however, make the most out of his catches, gaining 3.3 yards after catch to Moncrief’s 1.1 yac.)

There is no doubt that Moncrief is a redzone machine (he posted a league best %12.9 td/target rate,) but his upside is severely limited by his lack of volume, his paltry depth of targets, and his inability to create after making a reception. With the offensive trends continuing in Indianapolis, I could see Moncrief putting up respectable numbers like 55 catches on 96 targets for 675 yards and 11 tds. For this reason, especially in ppr formats, I’m giving up the massive dreams of Moncrief and thinking small with my 4th round startup pick.

Enter the Ford Focus. You’re going to have to squint a little to see the beauty here, but Washington’s diminutive dynamo Jamison Crowder would be my pick in lieu of Moncrief- (Crowder is currently being drafted six spots later.) What Crowder lacks in size (5’8” 180 pounds,) he makes up for with his ability to get open, make catches, and squeeze extra yardage out of every play.

The first hurdle to overcome is the dreaded label of “slot receiver.” Among much of the dynasty community, this tag immediately puts a player somewhere between dryer lint and a week old dirty diaper.

 

They are wrong; or at least half wrong. There are two types of slot receivers: the first, a low volume/low upside player ala an Eli Rogers in Pittsburgh. Nice little player, but Rogers is never going to produce enough to elevate your dynasty team. The second type of slot receiver is a high volume target like Jarvis Landry. While the touchdown upside of slot receivers is usually capped, their floor is elevated by the number of receptions and yards after catch (despite often being “subpar athletes.”) Crowder is the second kind.

Last season, in a pass offense that featured an elite tight end in Jordan Reed, DeSean Jackson’s field stretching ability, and very solid possession receiver in Pierre Garçon, Crowder still managed to see 99 targets. But it’s not just the targets that make Crowder an undervalued option, it’s what he did with them. Crowder caugh 67 balls for 847 yards and perhaps most surprising, 7 touchdowns. Crowder not only has the ability to take a screen 60 yards to the house, but he also saw 17 redzone targets, a number that speaks of his ability to get open in tight areas of the field. As a result, Crowder posted a respectable 12 fantasy points per game in 2016.

Even if you believe that Crowder’s role will be confined by Jordan Reed’s return to heath, the emergence of injury-bitten sophomore Josh Doctson, and the addition of big play threat Terrelle Pryor, it’s easy to see Crowder repeating his impressive 2016 season. I’m a little more optimistic about the idea of the 24 year old Crowder ascending to the number two target for Kirk Cousins in 2017; the idea of 125 targets being directed toward the slot is not out of the realm of possibility. And if that happens, Crowder ought to be somewhere close to 1000 yards on 84 catches and 8 tds. That’s a year that piques my interest.

It’s easy to get caught up in the narrative that has been building behind Moncrief for three years now. Sure, he’s big and fast and the sexy pick, but I’m sure Moncrief gets terrible gas mileage. And just think of the repair bills! I’m convinced that the real “next big thing,” is actually Jamison Crowder, a slight, reliable slot receiver in Washington. Sometimes, practicality wins.

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