Last season’s coming-out party
What a year 2016 was for Kenny Stills. Stills spent the 2016 season leaving defensive backs embarrassed and fans in awe, as he was Miami’s go-to option for the long bomb. Stills shocked the world last season with nine touchdown receptions, whereas his previous high was five. His breakout year led to a total of 126.6 fantasy points, but can these numbers be replicated in 2017?
What does history tell us?
Unfortunately for Dolphins fans, it is unlikely that Stills will be able to top last year, at least in the touchdown receptions department. Historical data shows that Stills nearly tripled his average touchdown receptions per season in 2016. He had 11 total touchdowns over his previous three seasons, compared to nine last season alone. This evidence suggests that last season was an outlier of sorts in the touchdown receptions department.
However, observing his touchdown statistics alone doesn’t tell the entire story. Another main reason why Stills’ production could be reduced is because of the addition of tight end Julius Thomas, along with the expected emergence of fellow wideout DeVante Parker.
Quarterback Jay Cutler has shown some favoritism towards Parker already. This has had fantasy owners worried about a reduction in wide receiver Jarvis Landry’s production as well. This is because Cutler does not throw to slot receivers often. Cutler typically favors bigger, more physical wideouts such as Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey. This category fits Parker best, as he is listed at 6’3” and 210lbs.
In addition, head coach Adam Gase has publicly stated that he would like for running back Jay Ajayi to tote the note over 350 times this upcoming season. Every carry for Ajayi means one less shot downfield for Stills.
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So, how does Stills fit into the equation?
There is an abundance of talent on Miami’s offense and only one football to go around. The only silver lining for Stills is the fact that Cutler likes to favor targets and locks onto his most reliable receiver often.
Stills has a chance to be that receiver, as he is always a deep-threat. He keeps opposing defenses honest with his sub-4.4 40-yard dash time and explosiveness. He also isn’t small by any means at 6’1” 196lbs. So, he doesn’t quite fit the mold of the receivers that Cutler typically looks past.
However, things aren’t looking good for Stills in that competition, as he has had a quiet preseason due to issues with his hamstring. This preseason time is crucial in regards to the development of chemistry with Cutler. As of right now, Parker is clearly winning that competition.
Stills is worth a late-round flier, as he hauled in 42 receptions for 726 yards and nine touchdowns in his first year in Gase’s offense. The touchdown receptions are likely to be reduced. However, those would still be solid stats for a borderline WR3 or bench WR to stash as a security blanket during bye weeks for regular starters.
He can be a low-floor, high-ceiling type of player on a game-by-game basis. However, he is a relatively solid option over the course of a season. It is also worth noting that Stills does not miss games very often. His durability is a plus for those looking for a solid plug-in with boom-potential when a WR1 or WR2 is on a bye week.
Stills should be avoided in PPR leagues, as his average reception has been around 17 yards over the past two seasons. Also, he only catches about 47 percent of balls thrown his way. Owners would be better off drafting a sure-handed slot receiver who specializes in screens, slants and other high-percentage throws for a PPR league.