Jason Avant - WR - Philadelphia Eagles
6'0" - 212 pounds
11% average ownership in Yahoo!
4.9% average ownership in ESPN
On pace for 70.6 catches - 942.1 yards - 2 to 3 TDs (career highs if attained)
Last week we discussed a potential long-term sleeper candidate in Chiefs receiver Jonathan Baldwin, so this week I decided to switch things up and focus on a receiver who should hold some fantastic sleeper value for the interim—Eagles receiver Jason Avant.
Jason Avant has always been one of those perpetual players who is never truly trusted each year in fantasy football, and to some degree, rightfully so. The truth is, however, knowing when to utilize a player—if the need is present, of course—helps the best managers get a leg up every single year.
Jason Avant I one of the players who can help you achieve this, but he is for everyone?
Well, let’s take a look at the data!
The Numbers and Trends:
Since 2008, Avant’s role has steadily increased within the Eagles offense, but his usage has been so significantly low that many owners simply looked away each week. Looking at the chart below, we can see the yearly increase, but we can also see a very low average output after three years of play:
[table id=111 /]
But what is interesting to take into consideration is the fact that Avant has been the slight victim of change since 2008, which has been part of the reason for his limited use.
- In 2008, the Eagles added their most explosive receiver, DeSean Jackson.
- In 2009, the Eagles added another explosive receiver who is also a high quality possession receiver in Jeremy Maclin.
- In 2010, the Eagles put solid emphasis on RB LeSean McCoy which allowed them to run the ball more eliminating the need for a slot receiver.
Now, this is all fine and good if we want to discuss Avant’s past, but what about how this information translates to the present?
Then and Now:
Another interesting aspect here is comparing then and now.
When teams face the explosive DeSean Jackson, they are keeping their safeties deeper than before, which forces Michael Vick to move his eyes to his number two receiver Jeremy Maclin, and while Maclin is having the better year over Jackson—slightly—he isn’t always open thanks to the ability to roll coverage his way, if the safeties take Jackson out of the equation.
That leaves to players: LeSean McCoy out of the backfield, and slot receiver Jason Avant—I realize I left out TE Brent Celek, and we’ll get to that in a minute.
McCoy has 23 receptions for 138 yards and two scores through the first half of the season, but you have to account for a certain amount of those receptions being intended plays, either way, those 23 catches average out to roughly 3 catches per game—meaning, McCoy is NOT always the next inline after the receivers in the check-down process.
Jason Avant, on the other hand, is averaging 4.4 catches a game for 58.1 yards, and averages 6.1 targets a game (stats, subject to change after Monday Night’s contest)—averages that are currently career highs.
The Moral of the Story?
Remember the omission of Brent Celek earlier? That was because Celek is still being used far more as a blocking TE instead of a passing option, which has also led to more opportunities for Avant.
Remember something, coach Andy Reid likes this guy, and figures he can be just as good as some of the top slot receivers in the league, and while that is left to be seen, what is apparent, is the fact that the confidence Reid has is showing in Avant’s increased usage.
So what’s the moral of this little story? We know that Avant is good for about 4 catches a game, 50 yards or so, but no TD value, but does that mean Avant is a sleeper?
At first glance, Avant seems like your average lame-duck waiver wire player, who many seemingly pass over year in and year out, but when you run the numbers on the Eagles next three opponents, we begin to see another story developing—kinda like forecasting the weather.
The Closing Argument:
The Eagles get a very favorable schedule over the next three weeks as they face Arizona, New York (Giants) and New England.
The Arizona Cardinals and New England Patriots are as bad as it gets in pass coverage, but more importantly—as highlighted in the Baldwin article—these two teams give up the most 20+ yard plays to receivers.
[table id=109 /]
Why is that important? Well it’s simple.
The Eagles pass design is a vertical stretch attack with Maclin and Jackson on the outside, and up until recently, it has remained as such. But as Avant continues to improve, and the Eagles continue to look his way, the offense now suddenly has a viable attack with their new “inside guy”.
And when a slot receiver faces two teams who are the worst at covering within 20 yards, what do you think happens?
The Cardinals and Pats are going to have their hands full with Maclin and Jackson, as well as, LeSean McCoy which means Avant is almost a dead ringer to be the “forgotten man” for the next three weeks.
The Giants are a little bit better at pass coverage (13th) but the strategy still applies, and it showed in their first meeting, when Avant caught four passes for 33 yards in limited action.
Avant is a great weekly plug-and-play guy in Yahoo! leagues, and a nice three week consideration in deeper formats, where teams may be hurting for a WR.
Like I said, at this point in the season, the term sleeper can take on multiple identities, and Avant should prove that true over the next three weeks…are ya down?