Fantasy football should be a strictly logical process. Your own biases are only going to negatively affect your decision-making process. How often have you heard someone say, “I’m never drafting that player again”? Don’t let past disappointments stop you from making the correct decision in the present.

Let me provide you with a story from 2016 before I explain why you should buy low on Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Kyle Pitts this season.

A Young Wide Receiver

A dominant college player, Davante Adams was on my radar as soon as he was selected in the 2014 NFL Draft. Behind Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb on the depth chart, Adams didn’t break out as a rookie.

As a sophomore, before the season Jordy Nelson tore has ACL, forcing the Packers to rely heavily on the young player. His ADP skyrocketed. I wrote about Adams becoming the next Alshon Jeffery or Josh Gordon for RotoViz.

Unfortunately, Adams struggled mightily. He rolled his ankle in Week 3, missed multiple weeks, and it was a lost season, in which he averaged 5.1 yards per target.

The following season, before his third year, Adams was left for dead. He was ridiculed by fantasy analysts. At least one Green Bay Packers beat writer expected him to be cut. Per Fantasy Football Calculator’s ADP, Adams was not even being selected in 15-round one-year fantasy drafts.

Despite the negativity, in his third season, as a 24-year-old, Adams caught 12 touchdowns en route to a WR10 finish. It would be the start of a dominant stretch that Adams would catch double-digit touchdowns in six of seven consecutive seasons.

The moral of the story is to not give up on a prospect too early because he underperformed in the past. Adams was an impressive college player for a reason, and it’s not that those players don’t miss, but just because the player hasn’t broken out before turning 24 years old, doesn’t mean that they won’t. Third-year breakouts still happen, even when they’re listed as the WR3 on their depth chart to begin the season.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba

Many don’t like drafting players before they break out because they don’t know if it’ll happen. I prefer to draft players before their breakout, so I am not paying a premium after they hit. We want to set up as many “big win or small loss” scenarios as possible on our fantasy teams.

During his junior season, JSN outproduced two of the league’s rising stars at a younger age. Garrett Wilson has publicly said that JSN is the best player of the three former teammates.

PlayerAgeGRecYdsAvgTD
Jaxon Smith-Njigba19.81395160616.99
Garrett Wilson21.41170105815.112
Chris Olave21.5116593614.413

In a class with five rookie breakouts, Smith-Njigba was selected first. Just before his rookie season, he broke his wrist. He rushed back for Week 1 but missed valuable practice time and played the first few games with a cast on his wrist. Unfortunately, he had a disappointing first season while competing with DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett for targets. He was also miscast in a quick hitter/catch and run role, likely also due to his wrist injury.

Several scheme factors contributed to his lack of production. Per RotoViz’s NFL Pace Tool, the Seahawks finished 2023 with the second-fewest plays per 60 minutes. The Seahawks as a team finished with the fewest offensive plays in the NFL (995).

Enter new OC Ryan Grubb. His teams ranked 5th, 27th, and 20th out of 130 in plays per game from 2020-2022. His 2023 Washington team featured three wide receivers with heavy usage, averaging over 36 points per game. Rome Odunze, Jalen McMillan, and Ja’Lynn Polk all finished with dominator ratings of 23% or better. Grubb is a better fit to coax a breakout season from the young talent.

The reports from training camp are glowing to put things mildly:

JSN was selected as the WR36 last year, on average. This year he’s currently being drafted as WR47. Don’t refrain from drafting one of the NFL’s next star receivers because he underperformed as a rookie.

Kyle Pitts

In terms of frustrating fantasy owners, there is likely no one ahead of Kyle Pitts. It has almost certainly had an impact on his ADP.

Let’s go back to the beginning so we can include all the relevant information. Pitts had an excellent 20-year-old junior season, finishing with a 32% dominator rating. He was selected 4th overall in the NFL Draft, one spot ahead of Ja’Marr Chase.

Per RotoViz’s Box Score Scout, his most similar comparable player is now Brock Bowers. I recently wrote about how Bowers is the best tight end prospect ever.

SimPlayerSchoolDraftCReYdsMSCReTDMSFYReYdsMSFYReTDMSFortyWT
100Kyle PittsFlorida40.190.250.260.384.44245
21Brock BowersGeorgia130.220.290.220.3243
20Noah FantIowa200.180.320.190.294.5249
19T.J. HockensonIowa80.220.190.260.224.7251
18Eric EbronNorth Carolina100.210.120.270.114.6250
11Tyler EifertNotre Dame210.230.210.250.314.68250
10Evan EngramOle Miss230.190.180.270.324.42234
10Dalton KincaidUtah250.230.30.280.29246
7Treyton PickeringMontana State0.230.130.280.18
6David NjokuMiami290.170.220.210.314.64246
6Jermaine GreshamOklahoma210.160.250.190.274.66261

Pitts finished with the second-most receiving yards for a rookie tight end ever – behind only Mike Ditka. Since 2000, only three rookie tight ends have topped 800 receiving yards.

PlayerSeasonAgeTeamGGSTgtRecYdsY/RTDY/GCtch%Y/Tgt
Kyle Pitts202121ATL171511068102615.1160.461.89.3
Jeremy Shockey200222NYG15141287489412.1259.657.87
Sam LaPorta202322DET17141208688910.31052.371.77.4

Since his rookie season Pitts has struggled, poor quarterback play has affected him arguably worse than any other NFL player. In 2022, he finished last in the NFL with just 57% of his targets being catchable. That improved to 73% last season, which was still the lowest of tight ends with at least 50 targets. Atlanta finished 26th in Points Scored, 25th in pass plays, and 26th in passing touchdowns. Their neutral game script pass rate was 49%, the second lowest in the league.

Pitts also played the entire season after returning from PCL/MCL surgery, which was not reported before the season. PT Jeff Mueller confirmed on X that the recovery process is slow, but Pitts will be 100% in 2024.

Remove Arthur Smith, and enter Kirk Cousins, who passed for 18 touchdowns in just eight games last season. Prior to last year, Cousins had passed for an average of 30.6 touchdowns over his five seasons on the Vikings.

The Falcons are expected to be much better and more pass-heavy on offense with Cousins at quarterback. If Cousins is playing well and the Falcons are scoring points, Pitts will likely be scoring fantasy points.

When Cousins joined the team and asked Pitts if he could have his jersey number, Pitts asked for one thing, “I just want targets every game.”

Again, the prior disappointments have had an impact on Pitts’ ADP. On the cusp of becoming a generational talent, Pitts was being selected at pick 25.3 on average in 2022. This year, in Apex one-year drafts in the last 30 days, he is being drafted at pick 69.9.

Entering his fourth season, Pitts is still just 23 years old. At a very reasonable price, I’m happy to buy the dip on Pitts in his first season with good quarterback play since his rookie year with Cousins.