Will Fuller 2021 Fantasy Outlook Takes Hit with Miami Dolphins - Roto Street Journal
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Will Fuller 2021 Fantasy Outlook Takes Hit with Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins and Will Fuller have agreed to a one-year deal worth $10.6 million with an additional $3 million available in incentives. Fuller is the exact type of game-breaker that the Dolphins need for Tua Tagovailoa and the whole offense to take the next step. Could Miami reciprocate the love and be a spot that propels Fuller to his highest fantasy ceiling? Or should we downgrade fantasy expectations for him in his new home?

2020 Recap: Fuller Confirmed Alpha WR1 Abilities

Yes, in a disturbing yearly tradition, the 27-year-old wideout missed the final five games of 2020. Instead of hamstrings, this culprit was performance-enhancing drugs, which will also cost him the first game of 2021. 

Even still, Fuller is coming off of a career year in 2020. He posted career highs across in yards (879), receptions (53), and TDs (8), finishing as the WR8 in FPPG.

More than just the impressive stats, Fuller emerged as a true Alpha in his first year without  DeAndre Hopkins. The analytics are impressive (via Travis Wingfield):

  • His 11.7 yards per target led the NFL
  • QBs had a passer rating of 132.5 when targeting Fuller.
  • Among players with at least 10 targets of 20+ yards, Fuller’s 20.93 yards per route run ranked 3rd in the NFL
  • His average depth of target was 13.3, and nobody higher had a better catch percantage than Fuller’s 70.7

Matt Harmon‘s film-based Reception Perception similar confirms what the analytics emphasized: Fuller was a dominant Alpha:

Due to his 99th percentile, 4.32 40-yard dash, Fuller is often labeled a one-trick, deep-ball pony. Clearly, Fuller proved this wrong when finally asked to shoulder more. He lined up all over the field, can change direction within a blink, and is stronger off the press than people give him credit for.

Despite all this praise, Fuller is still yet to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark for a season. The risk can’t be ignored, and ultimately, we’re likely to be off Fuller in 2021 for the following reasons:

1. Will Fuller’s Injury History 

If the best ability was truly availability, Fuller would flat-out blow. Over his first 5 seasons, Fuller has constantly been in and out of the lineup due to injury, missing at least 5 games over each of the past four seasons. 

Plus, in his only healthy season, Fuller just happened to be taking PEDs. Coincidence? Maybe. Probably not.

Take a look at the injuries he sustained over the years, per playerprofiler.com:

His injury history is strike one, but you probably already knew that. Why else should you be out on Fuller?

2. Fuller’s Fit in Miami and the QB Downgrade

Strike two for me on Fuller is his initial fit in this Miami offense.

Last season, it didn’t look like Flores had any trust in rookie QB Tua Tagovailoa. Tua finished the season with fewer completed air yards than guys like Nick Mullens (1198), Sam Darnold (1053), and Mitchell Trubisky (1052). In fact, despite playing double the games, Tua finished with just 2 more complete air yards than Dak Prescott.

This isn’t an anti-Tua post. I think Tua still has the potential to be special and can throw a solid deep ball. Whether the playcalling or rookie hesitancy, the offense never felt like it had supreme confidence in their QB. Take a look at these numbers of Tua’s target depth and location from last season: 


Of course, an elite field-stretcher could and should open up the entire offense. Still, it would be foolish to expect Tua to even approach Deshaun Watson‘s level, especially on deep passes where Watson ranks near or at the top in every meaningful stat.

Plus, the Dolphins could boast one of the better defenses in the league – certainly better than Houston’s patchwork unit that constantly led to Watson chucking prayers to keep games semi-close.

In a more ground-controlled offense, with a lesser QB, both the quality and amount of Fuller’s looks seem bound to drop.

3. WRs First Year with New Organization Typically = Regression

Lastly, the track record of free-agent receivers in their first year with a new organization isn’t kind. Wolf has a tweet  that sums this up for me pretty well:

 

Yes, four WRs bucked the trend last year. Fuller could have the talent to do the same. Still, in a worse offense, with a worse QB, and a high injury risk, Fuller seems far likelier to maintain history than reverse it. 

The Final Verdict: Look Elsewhere for your Midround WR Upside

Fuller, one of the league’s supreme boom or bust players, finally found consistency last season and showed he could be a true Alpha. 

Of course, this comes with an asterisk given Fuller was on PEDs.

As Miami’s WR1 (on paper at least), the volume could remain there for Fuller this season. If Fuller stays healthy and if Tua takes a bit of a leap, Fuller would be a lock for his first 1,000 yard season. 

Those are two enormous ifs, and neither we have much confidence in. Fuller’s always been tough to trust, and now he’s getting a QB downgrade, a likely dip in overall passing volume, and is part of a trend that screams regression.

As tantalizing as the talent is, as impressive as his 2020 performance was, don’t be sucked in unless the ADP properly reflects the risks. Someone in your fantasy league will likely take Fuller far sooner than I would, and I advise it to not be you.

Check out The Wolf’s latest 2021 Fantasy Football Big Board & Rankings to see where all these players and more fall after 2021 NFL Free Agency!

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  • Fantasy football enthusiast & writer for Roto Street Journal. Graduate of Saint Joseph's University Class of 2019.

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