Mecole Hardman, Byron Pringle, More Fantasy Outlook After Sammy Watkins' Injury

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorOctober 7, 2019

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman, left, tries to evade Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Herb Miller during NFL football training camp Monday, July 29, 2019, in St. Joseph, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

The Kansas City Chiefs announced that wide receiver Sammy Watkins suffered a hamstring injury against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday Night Football.

The 26-year-old has 23 catches on 38 targets for 365 receiving yards and three touchdowns for the first-place Chiefs. He opened the year on fire with a nine-catch, 198-yard, three-touchdown performance at the Jacksonville Jaguars.

In his first campaign with Kansas City, the ex-Clemson star caught 40 passes for 519 yards in just nine-plus games. He also earned a career-best 72.7 percent catch rate during a year where the Chiefs had the No. 1 scoring offense.

Hopefully, Watkins returns at 100 percent health soon. If he's forced to miss time, however, the Chiefs have some pass-catchers ready to step up.

That group may also include wideout Tyreek Hill, who has a "realistic" chance of returning Sunday versus the Houston Texans after suffering a collarbone injury in Week 1, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Here's a look at where they all stand from a fantasy perspective, provided Hill returns to the mix.

            

WR Mecole Hardman

The Chiefs' second-round pick drew rave reviews during the preseason, with a scout telling Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman that Hardman reminded him of Philadelphia Eagles wideout DeSean Jackson.

A career similar to Jackson's would put Hardman in good company, as the 12-year vet has five 1,000-yard seasons and three Pro Bowls under his belt. He's also averaged 17.4 yards per reception.

Hardman was an excellent deep threat and playmaker at Georgia, averaging 16 yards per reception and scoring 13 touchdowns (two rushing) during the 2017 and 2018 seasons.

He found himself in the right spot in Kansas City, as there's no one on the planet better at throwing the deep ball than 2018 NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes.

The Mahomes-Hardman connection could blossom with Hardman receiving more snaps, although from a fantasy perspective, he may be a bit feast or famine.

Expect Hill and tight end Travis Kelce to still assume the bulk of the targets, with LeSean McCoy and Damien Williams receiving some looks out of the backfield as well.

Hardman could produce a respectable fantasy score based on one play alone given his ability to break off a big one, but his floor is low given his competition for touches. Hardman is a viable replacement if you need to fill a bye spot, but he's not there yet as far as being a dependable fantasy starter week after week.

                    

WR Tyreek Hill

Hill caught 29 passes for 490 yards and three touchdowns in Watkins' absence last year. He also rushed for 90 yards on 10 carries for one more score.

Hill saw 8.8 targets per game during that stretch and 8.4 per game with Watkins on the field. The stretch of games sans Watkins featured an odd outlier against the Oakland Raiders, when Hill saw just six targets and caught one ball for 13 yards.

Ultimately, Watkins' injury shouldn't have much of an impact on Hill. Season-long fantasy teams should lock Hill into a starting spot on a weekly basis regardless of the opponent or his teammates' statuses.

            

TE Travis Kelce

Kelce saw 9.4 targets per game with Watkins on the field and 9.3 otherwise. He was productive either way, notably catching 42 passes for 468 yards and three touchdowns on 56 targets with Watkins off the field.

Like Hill, Kelce shouldn't be impacted much here, and he's a must-start every week at tight end in season-long formats and a consistent top option in daily games.

    

WR Byron Pringle

It remains to be seen how many snaps Byron Pringle will see after a breakout performance against the Colts in which he snagged six passes for 103 yards and a touchdown.

Pringle was undoubtedly exceptional, but he didn't get much playing time before Sunday. The wideout only played in two games before Sunday, amassing two receptions. He played just three offensive snaps against the Detroit Lions in Week 4, per Pro Football Reference.

A wait-and-see approach may be best before picking up Pringle off the waiver wire.

                 

WR Demarcus Robinson

Robinson amassed 14 catches (on 20 targets) for 223 yards and three touchdowns during the six full games Watkins didn't play last year. Those numbers are inflated because of an 89-yard touchdown catch in his final regular-season matchup.

However, the pass-catcher showed what he's capable of doing in Week 2 against the Oakland Raiders when he snagged six passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns.

Still, Watkins' injury will not give Robinson a significant enough uptick in targets to become a fantasy option. As it stands, he's the Chiefs' fourth offensive option at best behind Hill, Kelce and McCoy.

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