Suppose you have two slot receivers, but you only need one. The first is one of a handful of NFL receivers to start his career with three seasons of over 800 yards receiving. He has an above-average catch percentage and runs solid routes. On top of that, he is a fan favorite and a popular guy in the locker room.
Then you have another slot receiver, a former first-round pick. In his first two seasons, he has more pass drops than touchdowns. His 59 receptions and 648 career yards are less than the other guy has in any season. His catch percentage is barely 50% and your fan base can’t say his name without attaching an expletive. Which one do you trade?
Apparently, if you want a top-notch defensive back like Ronald Darby, you trade the first guy, Jordan Matthews. Then you tell your team and fans that Nelson Agholor is your starting slot receiver.
It’s worked out pretty nicely for the Philadelphia Eagles. Agholor leads all slot receivers with four touchdowns and his 321 yards is 2nd best in the league. He is only seeing slightly more targets (5.0 vs 4.6) per game but has improved his catch percentage to 67%, resulting in more touchdowns through Week 6 than he had in his first two seasons.
But is it enough to make him a must-start in anyone’s NFL fantasy league? Let’s look at some more facts.
How is he doing it?
Agholor has two long touchdown receptions of 72 and 58 yards. Everyone sees plays like that in the game breaks of their own games. Those plays account for 47% of his yardage total. It is easy to call him a big-play-dependent or even touchdown-dependent receiver and keep him on waivers. In fact, that is what I recommended earlier this year.
But he is catching three-to-four passes per game and none are too shabby. eight have gone for seven-to-14 yards and all but one other are between 15 and 24 yards. That amounts to an impressive 16.1 yards per catch or about 53 yards per game. He has a touchdown in four different games, including the last two. It is enough to make Agholor the WR-11 through Week 6.
There are no gimmicks. He is not tacking on end arounds or throwing passes. He just runs superb routes and has an above-average speed that helps provide lots of yards after the catch. His five targets per game are third on the team, behind Zach Ertz and Alshon Jeffery. When Carson Wentz throws to Agholor, he does so to the tune of a 149.0 passer rating, the best indicator of how efficient Agholor’s work has been.
Can he keep doing it?
There is no reason to think Agholor’s numbers will regress as the season goes on. He fixed his biggest problem, which was drops. That increased his catch percentage enough to make him a premier receiver for the team without getting more targets. I would not expect him to suddenly forget how to catch although Philadelphia will see bad-weather games before long.
But overall, Agholor is doing nothing different from what he has done in past years. Agholor is simply catching the ball better. That is the only difference between last season and 2017. He always was a good route runner and his speed only helps.
So then… is he a must-start?
My only hesitation is that without a touchdown, what does he offer? Are five points enough to make him a must-start in NFL fantasy? Yes, it is. That is a pretty good floor for a wide receiver this year. Four touchdowns in six games is a good percentage, too. His big-play potential offers a great ceiling.
The other factor is his quarterback. The young Carson Wentz calls Ertz his safety valve. He calls Jeffery his main guy. Wentz is already targeting Agholor regularly. He’ll be calling his slot receiver something soon and that will only add to the receiver’s potential.
So I will call Nelson Agholor a must-start regardless of the opponent with expectations that his stock will only rise as the season goes on.
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