Keenan Allen 1a

Split Personality: Keenan Allen

By Dan Heins & Jeff Melbostad (@Dan_DFW/@Jeff_DFW)
Dynasty Football Warehouse Owners & Senior Writers

One of the most interesting and fun things about fantasy football is that there are many times when we, as owners, disagree. We disagree on player values, on rule sets, on participation levels and many other topics. Those disagreements are the crux of our Split Personality series here at DFW. Whenever there’s a topic that two or more of us feel strongly about, and a disagreement ensues, we’ll capture our thoughts for the rest of you to share.

Often times the best way to learn more about something is to argue for or against it. Sure, it doesn’t always change one’s mind. But it serves to educate us all on both sides of an opinion, and makes each of us aware of the others point of view. The more points of view and angles you have in fantasy football, the more situations and opponents you can exploit to your advantage.

Next up in the series is the San Diego Chargers’ sophomore wide receiver star, Keenan Allen. As you can see in the DFW Dynasty WR Rankings, Jeff Melbostad (a.k.a. Shamrock) is pretty high on the young wideout (ranked 15th) and Dan Heins (a.k.a. Burgandy) is much less so (ranked 23rd).

Two owners who definitely aren’t strangers to a good argument should make for some entertaining debate. So let’s get to it!

 


 

BURGANDY: The honeymoon is over Keenan. Sorry to say. I admit that I underestimated your immediate impact at this level, and kudos to one of the finest rookie seasons since A.J. Green… or Mike Williams one might more accurately state (formerly “Tampa Bay Mike Williams” or “TBMW,” and now “Buffalo Mike Williams” or “MUFF”). That’s right. Pump the brakes kids. Keenan is no A.J. Green. This is a perfect situation where we will see the league adjust to a very “solid” wide receiver. And we will see him struggle to get statistical improvement.

Keenan found himself in the perfect situation last season. And while he is most certainly a talented player, he is not the next elite wide receiver that his fortunate drafters believe him to be this year.

Mike Williams is a 6’2”, 212-pound receiver that was selected in the early 4th-round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He came out his rookie year and surprised defenses with a stat line of 65 receptions, 964 yards, and 11 touchdowns. Does that sound familiar?

Allen is a 6’2”, 211-pound receiver drafted in the early 3rd-round last year by the San Diego Chargers. He too was also able to take NFL defenses by surprise by putting together a rookie stat line (71 receptions, 1046 yards, and 8 touchdowns) similar to that of Williams.

Everyone got really excited about Tampa Mike’s breakout rookie year. Like Allen, he was a player going in the 2nd-and-3rd-round of most dynasty startups in 2011 (his second season). Then something happened. And it’s something that happens very, very often  the league adjusts.

Unfortunately for Keenan, the San Diego Chargers did not upgrade their wide receivers at all this off-season and he is now “officially”  not secretly the main receiving threat for their offense. Defenses will spend the week game planning against him through the use of double teams, triple teams, or the dreaded “bracket coverage.” Defenses will be allowed to focus in on Allen. They will be able to more effectively neutralize him and shut him down without a true receiving threat on the opposite side of the field. Keenan has already realized his potential. It’s the rest of the league that will be catching up from here on out.

SHAMROCK: Slow your roll there, Ms. Burgandy. Keenan Allen put up big numbers in his rookie season. People are legitimately excited about this fact. What’s wrong with that? Surely we aren’t saying that every receiver who breaks out in his rookie season is doomed to be a bust, are we?

Comparing players is always a dangerous exercise since situations, personalities, and everything else about a person varies so much. Still, based on your argument we could just as easily compare my man Keenan Allen to Anquan Boldin, who came into the league at 6’1”, 216 lbs and continued with great success after a huge rookie season. Sure he was drafted before Keenan, but within the same number of picks that Mike Williams was.

I happen to think his successful rookie campaign is a good indicator of future performance. Keenan maintains the same solid QB-play in Philip Rivers and gets back Malcolm Floyd, who was lost for the season in 2013, as his counterpart. Sure he’ll be more of a focal point for defenses in 2014, but he’s got the talent to deal with that.

Allen was highly touted coming into the NFL Draft but slipped to the 3rd-round amid failed drug test concerns and recovery from a knee injury. Prior to those circumstances he was thought of as one of the top wide receivers in the entire draft, so I think his success is an indicator of that. The future will tell, but I happen to think Keenan’s future is very, very bright indeed.

BURGANDY: “Think” and “bright” are two words you should never use in a sentence. I am all for letting Keenan believers feel warm and squishy. I am all for letting my competition draft a solid talent at the same time I can draft an elite talent like Cordarrelle Patterson, who actually has the ability to play above the league.

Don’t get me wrong, I think Keenan is a fine WR2. He’s a solid guy that will produce year-in and year-out. The mistake with his current situation is the belief that he is capable of reaching that next level, which would make him one of the most prized possessions in all of dynasty  the “Elite Wide Receiver.” And that’s what we are talking about here. After Dez, DT, Bmarsh, Calvin… etc, there rests a tier of “hopefuls.” My argument is that Keenan has little to no hope of ever reaching that tier. He may vacation in it one year if everything goes right, but it’s time to get comfortable with him as a solid WR2. Think Torrey Smith numbers from the last 3 years… and there are still some holding out hope for him too (sigh).

Herein lies the problem for me. I would rather draft guys that truly have an elite skill set, with an actual chance to take the next step. Players such as Alshon Jeffery, Cordarrelle Patterson, Sammy Watkins, and Mike Evans to name a few. Even a guy like Justin Blackmon has a much better chance of reaching the elite tier (hypothetically speaking of course, since he never plays).

So don’t make the mistake of thinking I’m a Keenan Allen hater. I merely see what he truly is, which is a talented player who is capable of producing solid numbers for years to come. But expecting him to reach that next level is simply a mistake. I am however, starting to slowly realize (through my argument) why you like him so much. He’s the very definition of stable, predictable, or safe.

My conservative and mildly disturbed friend, I am all for having some predictability and safety on my rosters, but you sir are the missionary position of fantasy owners. Give me the gimp and safe word any day of the week.

SHAMROCK: Leave it to low-blow Burgandy to take things to a personal level. I start winning the argument and you resort to insulting my risk tolerance level. You’re a childish, petty man and I will crush you now.

There’s no doubt in my mind you’re selling Keenan short. He has the tools and talent to be a WR1, and he showed as much in 2013. He outplayed Patterson in every facet of the game in their rookie years and I’ll be surprised if Watkins or Evans match his rookie production considering that his 71/1046/8 stat line was one of the best of all-time from a rookie wide receiver. I agree with you on Alshon Jeffery, but seeing as his ADP on DFW currently sits at 10th overall while Keenan’s is 23rd, I don’t really think it’s a fair comparison.

I get the argument that Keenan’s upside doesn’t match what those guys present. He doesn’t have overly impressive size or freakish athleticism, but he does everything right and the NFL is littered with players who succeed with lesser physical gifts than their counterparts. Likewise, it’s littered with physical freaks who disappoint compared to their potential.

Allen doesn’t need to do much more to improve on his rookie season stats. He’s in a solid situation and will be targeted early and often by Rivers. He’s already running good routes, showing soft hands and putting up big numbers. He’ll be the focal point of the Chargers passing game for years and years to come. Don’t let his lack of freakish speed or size fool you into thinking he can’t improve his game and become one of the top 12 best wide receivers in the league.

Even if he tops out at WR2 numbers, he won’t bust and isn’t much of a gamble to be a solid, young cornerstone of a dynasty franchise. His ceiling can be argued, but I don’t think his floor can. I happen to believe he can be a WR1, so that would make you wrong, my friend.

BURGANDY: Everything you just mentioned is a reason why he won’t improve. He was ready last year. Defenses weren’t. He’s already doing it. Keenan has peaked. It may seem funny to say that after his rookie year, but what we have here is an NFL-ready receiver that came into the league and jumped right in. At this point his growth will be slower than everyone else’s and a regression to the mean is inevitable.

The last part of the season told a deceptive story. If you just look at his points they were alright with a fair amount of inconsistency. The last 4 weeks of the season, while the Chargers were competing for a playoff spot, Keenan posted PPR totals of 20.9, 16.9, 9.6, and 13.9 points. Not bad overall, but if you dig a little deeper I believe it shows a trend of what is going to happen more often in 2014. To summarize, Keenan was saved by the touchdown.

Keenan had a total of 23 targets the last four weeks of the regular season. An average of just under 6 per game, which was down from his previous 8 weeks worth of just under 9 targets per game. Of those 23 targets he only caught 13 (including a 3-for-3 effort in Week 14), putting him just over a 2:1 target-to-reception ratio. At that rate his 104 targets from last year would result in 59 receptions vs. the 71 he ended up with. Assuming his targets increase, he is likely to end up right back in that 70-75 reception area.

During that same four game stretch he had 5 of his season total 8 touchdowns. Some would point to this as a good trend, myself not so much. These numbers tell me that defenses started to figure him out, and as he started receiving more and more attention his efficiency started tailing off significantly. Both in the amount of times Rivers targeted him (due to him not being open) and in his ability to bring in those targets as a reception (again due to him not being open). If it wasn’t for a couple of amazing TD receptions, which I will give him full credit for, those last 4 weeks would be agonizingly bland.

Trends are not everything, and this also shows that he has versatility in his scoring opportunities, but most importantly it shows he can and has been taken out of games between the 20s. Elite WR1’s cannot be taken out of games like he was. Maybe for quarters, but not for a quarter of the season. San Diego did nothing to improve their offense this year. Saying Malcom Floyd helps is like saying you are good at fantasy football. It simply isn’t true.

Owners that expect more of the same from Keenan will be happy. Those expecting more than that will be consistently disappointed. Much like I am with our friendship.

SHAMROCK: Ha-ha! That last part about our friendship made me giggle, but the rest is just short-sighted. Sure Keenan had periods of inconsistency in his rookie season. Nearly every rookie wide receiver does. If we were to dissect the rookie seasons of other players taken at or around his ADP I think you’d find far less consistency and far more disturbing trends.

To think that a rookie receiver has maxed out on his talent, or already met his ceiling is crazy in my opinion. Players get better with experience and that’s exactly what I expect Allen to do.

His targets will go up in 2014 and it sounds like we both agree on that point. Sure defenses will be paying him more mind, but Rivers and Allen, and the Chargers coaching staff also know that. He’ll adapt, get better, and improve his game like all players do. It’s not like the defensive side of the ball is the only one that can make corrections.

There’s no question that Keenan Allen has gotten us all excited with a fantastic rookie season. There’s no reason to think he won’t build on that and continue to advance in his career just because “defenses are game planning for him.”

To end this argument on the winning side I’ll modify your end-all-be-all statement just a bit to better suit my liking: “Owners who expect more of the same from Keenan will be content. Those expecting more than that will be consistently rewarded.” I really believe that Allen will improve his game in 2014. And if the worst happens and he “only” gives me what he did in 2013, then so be it.

While my good friend Shamrock continues to settle for less, Keenan Allen is being targeted in the early rounds of startups as we speak. It is up to you to determine which side of this debate you see playing out. It is clear that we both agree Keenan is going to be a solid player for years to come, the question remains… “What is his upside from here? Will he take the next step? Will defenses and unrealized talent adjust at a faster rate and prevent his growth?”

These are just a few of many questions that have to be answered on the field. But until then, why don’t you chime in and let us know where you stand on this debate.