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Fantasy implications of Sammy Watkins’ shaky status with Chiefs

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The Kansas City Chiefs don’t expect Sammy Watkins to return at his current salary. We break down the fantasy football implications of his status.

Sammy Watkins #14 of the Kansas City Chiefs reacts in the first quarter in Super Bowl LIV against the San Francisco 49ers at Hard Rock Stadium on February 02, 2020 in Miami, Florida. Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Sammy Watkins hasn’t put together a full season since 2015 but continues to flash big upside on occasion. But, that upside hasn’t been enough to justify his big contract and Kansas City’s GM Brett Veach indicated the team wouldn’t bring him back at his current salary, per ESPN’s Adam Tiecher.

That news came out over a month ago, and we’re still waiting on some resolution. If Kansas City were to release Watkins, they’d take a $7 million cap hit, but also free up $7 million in cap space, which they need. A trade is likely one alternative, but finding a suitor for an overpriced wide receiver who has injury history, won’t be easy. The team could also restructure his contract.

Trading Watkins is likely out of the question unless the Chiefs eat a huge part of his contract. But, there must be interest, as Watkins does get the job done when healthy and called upon. In the playoffs last season, Watkins caught 14-of-18 passes for 288 yards and one touchdown, as he consistently helped the team in all three games. We also saw him go off for 198 yards and three touchdowns in Week 1 with Tyreek Hill leaving the game early, but even with Hill hurting for a few more games, Watkins didn’t surpass 64 yards or score a touchdown the rest of the regular season. He had some glorious bookends to his season, but you can’t hide those regular season numbers.

If Watkins does move on, Mecole Hardman will become a strong fantasy play in 2020, as he put up strong numbers on limited work last season behind Watkins and Hill. What the Chiefs do with Watkins will likely have a lot to do with how much they trust Hardman, Demarcus Robinson and Byron Pringle. They have Hill and Travis Kelce holding down the receiving game and good young receivers behind them, making Watkins expendable at his price.

It will be impossible to trust Watkins in fantasy this season, even if he ends up going to a spot he will see more work. His inconsistency and health are too volatile. But, if he does end up leaving Kansas City, Hardman will have better upside. He would be inconsistent with Hill and Kelce there, but would also have more opportunities from the best passer in the league.