Kevin Walsh | July 27th, 2019
Welcome to the wonderful world of Fantasy Battles! We are going to evaluate two players with similar average draft positions in 12-team PPR scoring. Our challengers today are Chris Godwin and Sony Michel. Both players are currently being selected around the 4/5 turn according to Fantasy Football Calculator, making a compelling argument for which one we would rather roster at this price.
Currently, Godwin is being taken at 5.01 as WR21 off the board, while Michel is going at 5.05, the RB26 off the board. For this battle, we will ignore any roster construction considerations and assume we have made balanced picks up until this point in the draft. Obviously, if you started running back heavy, your lean would be towards a receiver, and vice-versa. Let’s get down to business.
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Chris Godwin, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Let’s start with the numbers. Godwin had 59 receptions for 842 yards and seven touchdowns, making him the WR27 with 185.2 fantasy points. He also had 16 red-zone targets, more than anyone on the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay finished with the fourth-most passing plays, sixth-highest passing play percentage, and led the league in passing yards.
There is a lot to like here. Bruce Arians steps in after a year away from the game, bringing Byron Leftwich in to be his offensive coordinator. Arians has always had a deep-passing attack philosophy, and he has a much better offensive line for that playbook than he ever had in Arizona. You also have to like what he has done with his slot receivers in the past. Look at what he squeezed out of Hines Ward, Reggie Wayne, and Larry Fitzgerald all in their 30+ year-old seasons. Our imaginations are running wild with what he could do with a talented 23-year-old in the slot.
The other obvious slice of upside here is the absence of DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries. With both of these players moving on to greener pastures, their void leaves 179 vacated targets from last year. While you may expect targets to be spread out across the board, Mike Evans already had 139 targets last year, and probably can’t see too much more than 150 this season. That leaves a lot to spread out between Godwin, O.J. Howard, and whoever becomes the other starter on the outside, whether that’s Breshad Perriman or the rookie Scott Miller.
The reason Tampa threw the ball so much last year stemmed mostly from their defensive struggles. The defense did not improve, with Gerald McCoy and Kwon Alexander leaving town, though they did add Ndamukong Suh and Devin White to fill in those gaps. Though Todd Bowles will likely be a decent defensive coordinator, his personnel suggests that this defense will not improve a ton, so I would expect Tampa to still end up in the top five in passing plays again this season.
It’s tough to find too much bad to say about Godwin. Much of his success did stem from the team being behind and getting some opportunity due to some injuries during the year. The major wart on Godwin is that he has hardly proven himself. Much of his strong finishes to both his rookie and last season were in low-pressure spots, as the team was well out of playoff contention.
You also have to swallow the pill that Jameis Winston is tied to Godwin’s production this season. While many believe that he is going to have a resurgence under Arians, and will be untethered from the bonds of Dirk Koetter, you still have to be okay with Winston to feel good about Godwin this early in the draft.
Sony Michel, RB, New England Patriots
The Patriots really ran the wheels off of Michel to close out the season and throughout the playoffs. He finished the season with 209 carries for 931 yards and six touchdowns while adding seven receptions for 50 yards receiving in just 13 games, cementing him as the RB35 with 141.1 fantasy points. His 42 carries in the red-zone were sixth-most among all players. He added 71 more carries and an insane six touchdowns in the playoffs. Bill Belichick certainly trusts him with the rock, and that is going to be important for his production for the 2019 season.
New England is one of the few teams left that still run the ball into the ground in this pass-heavy landscape. They ran the third most run plays of any team and finished fifth in total rushing yards. They always zig when other teams zag, and that’s always been their modus operandi. Their offensive line took a hit with Jared Veldheer retiring, but they have good, young offensive linemen (like always) and have probably the best offensive line coach in the league in Dante Scarnecchia, so there should be no issue as far as finding running lanes.
With the retirement of Rob Gronkowski, Josh McDaniels is expected to run more 21 personnel, which will lend itself to Michel sharing the field with James White. When you consider that the alternative is that he isn’t on the field at all, it’s a win for Michel. The more he is on the field, the better chance he gets some touches. It’s as simple as that sometimes. As much as the Patriots disallow opposing defenses from substituting by running plays quickly (and not subbing out guys of their own), this means once Michel comes on the field, he is likely going to stay there for a good part of the drive. Confusion has always been part of the Patriots’ offense, and it’s encouraging for Michel’s usage with the existence of White on this team.
Unfortunately, the Patriots running back situation is always a murky one. Clearly White gets all the passing work (hell, he led the team in targets and receptions last season), and on top of that, they spent a high pick on Damien Harris. Much of that could be New England just hedging their bets against Michel’s knee problems that stem back to his days at Georgia, but it is also a condition of how they build their rosters. The Patriots run these younger players into the ground, and then cut them loose when it’s time to pay them. That sounds like a good thing for Michel’s production, but if they think his knees won’t hold up, he may be gone sooner than later.
Clearly, the team was right in their concern with Michel’s health, because Michel was placed on PUP (Physically Unable to Perform), which means he is not cleared yet by the doctors to even work out or do anything in training camp. While he can come off of PUP before the season starts, it still puts his conditioning in jeopardy, as well as his week one availability. This recent news is a big red flag, and it will likely tank Michel’s ADP.
Lastly, Michel is going to take a hit in general due to the fact that he doesn’t have much involvement in the passing game. Runners like Michel tend to be touchdown dependent in PPR scoring, which adds to his general risk at this price.
While it appears that Godwin should see an increase in workload and has upside for days, Michel is going to be very touchdown-reliant, if he can even stay on the field. For me, this is not much of a challenge. The ever-confusing depth situation in New England, as well as Michel’s health, make it impossible for me to want him ahead of Godwin.
At 5.01, I like Godwin’s price, though I fear it will continue to rise into the early fourth round by end of August, and that price may be steeper than I like. For now, the market is pricing him accordingly as far as I am concerned. Michel is going to see a market adjustment in the next couple of weeks after his PUP news, but even without it, I can’t imagine taking that big of a risk at 5.05. I am betting he falls into the seventh or eighth round when it’s all said and done.
I will take Godwin over Michel all day, and there isn’t any particular circumstance that is going to change that for me. The hype train for Godwin is getting to be a bit out of control, but between him and Michel, the choice is crystal clear.
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