The Case Against Martavis Bryant

By Asher Molk - @AsherMolk
martav-672x372
Aug
3
2015

Upside, upside, upside. It is arguably the most over-used word in fantasy football (I will admit, I am often guilty of this as well). But who can blame us?

We seek players whose ceilings are capable of winning us championships. But we often forget fantasy football is also about risk management. When drafting, especially in the early rounds, we must take a player’s floor into account as well as their ceiling. Downside is absolutely a variable in a player’s value. While we marvel at Martavis Bryant’s athletic prowess, size and  opportunity on an explosive Steelers offense, we may miss the fact that he’s an unproven commodity.

The unknown player with promise is always more exciting, but some players simply cannot translate that small sample size into consistent dominance. For every Julio Jones, Le’Veon Bell and AJ Green who make the leap, there is always a David Wilson, Montee Ball or Michael Floyd who end up as draft busts.

What can we glean about Martavis Bryant’s downside to get a clearer picture about his 2015 prospects? Could he be this year’s Cordarrelle Patterson? Let’s find out.

Other Receivers At His ADP

According to FantasyFootballCalculator, Martavis Bryant’s ADP is 5.01 as the WR22, with plenty of anecdotes proving he can oftentimes go in the 4th. What other receivers are going around him?

ADPPlayer
4.04Andre Johnson
4.04Julian Edelman
4.10Keenan Allen
4.12Golden Tate
5.1Martavis Bryant
5.2Amari Cooper
5.6Brandon Marshall
5.7Jarvis Landry
5.12Sammy Watkins
6.02Allen Robinson
6.05DeSean Jackson
6.05Jeremy Maclin

By my count, 8 of those 12 wide receivers are probably going to finish as the target leaders on their team. Johnson, Jackson, and Tate are the clear number twos on their team with (save for Tate) a chance to lead their team in targets. The only one left is Martavis Bryant, who is currently the third option in that passing game.

It’s one hell of a passing game (2nd in the NFL in passing yards), but the early 5th round is a high price to pay for a third option. Targets are an excellent measure for floor and ceiling, and we are asking for a huge leap in volume from someone so unproven.

Are There Targets To Go Around?

Although the Steelers finished as a passing juggernaut, it’s quite clear who carries them through the air: Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, two all-world fantasy producers. Bryant came into the Steelers’ offense around midseason, did he siphon targets away from Brown and Bell?

antvsmartDefinitely not from Brown. His targets actually increased when Bryant was in the lineup. Seeing how incredible Brown was last year, its tough to imagine the Steelers taking much off of his plate. But what about Bell?

levvsmart

His passing game volume and production also went up quite a bit when Bryant entered the lineup. Same as Brown, his usage may be pretty similar to last year’s considering his resounding success.

It is very clear that Pittsburgh is better when Bryant plays (Roethlisberger averaged 26.9 fantasy points per game with Bryant, only 19.3 without), but can Bryant even handle being a featured weapon? Constantly behind Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins at Clemson, we never really got a chance to figure that out. But maybe there was a reason he never got more targets…maybe Bryant is just a deep threat and red-zone weapon. With only 61 career receptions in college, it is a very fair hypothesis that Bryant simply isn’t a volume guy.

Wheaton vs Bryant

I want to begin this by saying I would absolutely rather have Bryant than Wheaton on my fantasy team, and I believe most fantasy footballers would agree with that. Bryant is better than Wheaton, but is he that much better? With Big Ben publicly saying Wheaton is going to be their number two receiver and breakout player, let’s look at their measurables courtesy of PlayerProfiler.com:

MeasureWheaton (Percentile)Bryant (Percentile)
Height5'116'4"
Weight189211
Age24.523.6
Draft Pick3.154.18
40 Time77th87th
Height-Adjusted Speed Score45th94th
Burst Score57th83rd
Agility Score88th32nd
Catch Radius80th93rd
College Dominator Rating65th16th
Breakout Age72ndN/A
SPARQ Score95th90th

One thing is for certain: Bryant is faster and bigger. His 40 time is only slightly better, while his height adjusted speed score is obviously going to be much higher due to his size-speed combination. But besides for his burst score, Bryant is even with or inferior to Wheaton. That’s because Wheaton had a prolific college career at Oregon State, while Bryant was a complimentary deep/red-zone threat his entire career.

How heavy you take college success into account is up to you. Bryant didn’t have a breakout age because he never had the volume in college to meet the criteria for it. I am NOT saying you should love or even draft Wheaton, but just so it’s abundantly clear: Wheaton has a history of being a volume receiver. Bryant doesn’t.

Conclusion

While Bryant is certainly an incredibly gifted athlete and red-zone threat (8 TDs last year), he has NEVER been a volume guy. Touchdowns can also be fickle, and counting on a guy who relied on touchdowns for nearly 37% of his fantasy production is a risky proposition. Wide receivers around his ADP are almost certainly going to out-target him by a significant amount, and he hasn’t even been guaranteed as just the third option on his team in the passing game (although I do think Bryant will eventually lock up the number two WR job on Pittsburgh).

There is absolutely plenty of upside to Martavis Bryant, but his very palpable downside simply isn’t worth the draft capital it requires to get him. Maybe Big Ben publicly endorsing Wheaton, who himself had a great offseason, will start to put a dent in Bryant’s ADP. But until round 6 of the fantasy draft comes and goes, I wouldn’t consider Bryant. He probably won’t be on any of my teams this year.

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