Devin Funchess moved from the Panthers to the Colts, and will earn up to $13 million dollars for his trouble. Now, before we look at the fantasy football implications of this, let’s get the jokes out of the way:
$13 million, yikes, that’s a lot for a tight end.
What is that, $1 per drop?
$13 million for his long, illustrious career of being “Not Kelvin Benjamin”
Okay, now that we’ve done that, let’s look at this signing for fantasy football! I do not think Devin Funchess is good, and I’ve made that abundantly clear. He’s not great downfield, he’s not great at getting open, and he’s not great at everything except getting big. Fortunately for Funchess, being good is not a prerequisite for fantasy football production in Indianapolis (see also: Moncrief, Donte). For years, players have moved up fantasy football draft boards for having tremendous innate qualities, like “playing with Andrew Luck.”
Donte Moncrief, Eric Ebron, and Coby Fleener have all had career years with Luck. Merely playing with Luck gives a player a fantasy football value boost over a generic NFL quarterback. Why? Touchdowns. Andrew Luck throws the ball more than almost anyone (38 attempts per game over his career), and his 5.2% touchdown rate is #6 among active quarterbacks (min. 3,000 passes) since he’s entered the league. This leads to Luck being one of four active quarterbacks to average two passing touchdowns per game, and that means lots of touchdowns. I like that a lot for Funchess in 2019.
Ultimately, however, Funchess will top out at 750 yards, maybe. This will cut the legs out from under any week-to-week usefulness for Funchess. He’s mostly going to be a matchup-based streamer, as he won’t sustain production that will allow you to justify him hanging around on your roster outside of deeper leagues. He has limited upside, but he will have a multi-game stretch among the top-24 at wide receiver, mostly because he will haul in touchdowns.
What kills me about this is what it means for my big, beautiful boy. Eric Ebron was a force of nature on the Colts last year, filling the role of “big guy in the end zone.” His 110 targets were second on the team, just ten behind T.Y. Hilton. That will most-certainly plummet with Devin Funchess’s arrival, and what that means is an absolute cratering of his 2019 fantasy football potential. The Jack Doyle surgery (and complete inability to stay healthy) meant that Ebron was likely in for another huge volume in 2019, a year after he had 110 targets (second most on the team). Instead, he’ll likely drop down significantly, garnering maybe 70 targets this season. That isn’t enough to maintain quality fantasy football production. Unless he drops into double-digit rounds, I am staying far away from an Eric Ebron splitting targets with another large, hulking man.
Devin Funchess moving on from Carolina signals a change in their offensive philosophy that could be seen towards the end of last season. Gone are the large, hulking receivers like Funchess and Kelvin Benjamin, and in are the speedsters like D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel. We saw the changing of the guard last season when Funchess returned from injury to see his career 16% target share crater to less than 8% in the last four games after his week 12 injury. The big beneficiary of this was Curtis Samuel. D.J. Moore had already emerged at that point, but Samuel had a quality end to the season. Samuel had more targets than Moore in three of the last four games of the year, and he was a top-thirty six wide receiver in five of his last seven games.
Curtis Samuel is the biggest beneficiary of Devin Funchess moving on from the Panthers, and he is the cheaper of the two WR options in Carolina. Because of this, he presents a good upside pick in 2019 and is likely to end up ahead of Funchess in the end-of-season ranks.