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Nelson Agholor labeled a fantasy “bust” by PFF

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The Nelson Also Rises? PFF says not so fast..

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Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Not many stories can top Nelson Agholor’s breakout campaign in 2017. The embattled wide receiver overcame poor play and mental road blocks to shed the bust label in a truly inspiring performance. Kicking inside to a slot role, investing in his mental health via sports psychology, and eliminating troubling drops all contributed to his path to becoming a darling of the fan base that once loathed him.

Doubters still remain however, one of which resides on the the polarizing Pro Football Focus staff. In a fantasy focused article that conveniently places the “bust” label on Agholor, Tyler Buecher took the emerging star wide receiver to task.

“Propelled to fantasy stardom after shifting into the slot, Agholor turned around his career in 2017 with a fantasy WR22 finish. Much of that scoring from Agholor came via touchdown receptions. In fact, Agholor’s eight touchdowns accounted for 25.5 percent of his fantasy value last year. Only 15 wide receivers had a higher rate. Stemming from a career-year from Carson Wentz with his 7.5 percent touchdown rate, it’s safe to project that rate lowering in 2018 back toward the league average.”

We’ve talked about the potential for a Wentz regression regarding his wild touchdown rate before. I’ve also argued that a factor in that downturn could be a positive regression to the mean in the goalline running game. That gives Buecher’s take some merit, but there’s a counterargument in Agholor’s red zone statistics.

Much has been made about Zach Ertz’s production inside the defenses’ 20-yard line, but Agholor received a heavier share of work. He led the team with 18 targets and 13 receptions. While only 4 of those went for touchdowns compared to Ertz’s 8 scores, Agholor trended up as the season progressed. From Weeks 9-17, his 12 targets and 10 receptions and 2 touchdowns made up the bulk of his red area production.

As teams focused in and applied bracket coverage to Ertz, Agholor thrived. This should allow Agholor to either maintain or exceed his touchdown rate from last year as long as the projected, improved goalline run game doesn’t eat too many of his opportunities.

Ultimately, Agholor is a key piece of this offense on money downs, in the red zone, and in the overall scheme. If he struggles to recreate his fantasy success from 2017 and it comes at the expense of better production from upgrading Torrey Smith with Mike Wallace, so be it. Either way, perhaps we should be careful using the “bust” term with Agholor. It’s proven to be a cold take once already.