It’s easy to dismiss Devin Funchess as being a lost cause for fantasy football purposes. After being forced into action as a rookie — performing as well as could be expected — he also flashed in his sophomore NFL season, scoring four times on just 23 receptions, and Funchess doubled his touchdown count in his first year as a full-time player. In 2018, though, he lost two games due to injury and saw his points-per-reception average fall from 12.2 points per game to 8.8.
A move to the Indianapolis Colts may be the perfect prescription to cure his ails of mediocrity. He has the opportunity to play with a better pure passer in Andrew Luck, and Funchess won’t have as much pressure to perform in an offense featuring T.Y. Hilton and Eric Ebron, among others.
Getting back to the ease of dismissing Funchess: He’s still only 25 years old with four NFL seasons under his belt. The former Michigan man was used more as a tight end than receiver. Tight end was his natural position coming out of high school and for his first two seasons with the Wolverines. At 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, Funchess is a tweener — sure, he could play a “tight end” role in today’s spread NFL, but he would be purely a scheme-based, situational player. Inline blocking tight ends at 230 pounds rarely hold the point of attack and anchor in pass protection. It’s less common for them to be able to drive block in the running game.
Ignoring Funchess has played wide receiver on a full-time basis for a little over four years does a disservice to his fantasy prognostication. In his 2014 collegiate season, he was making the transition but also playing some tight end. In his rookie NFL season the next year, Funchess’ head was swimming as he was thrust into the offense after an injury to Kelvin Benjamin. It was more or less baptism by fire at that point than getting the chance to learn intricacies. Then there was an offensive coordinator change from Mike Shula — Funchess’ OC for the first three years in the NFL — to Norv Turner in 2018. Now he has to learn yet another system.
The personnel situation in Indianapolis may offer more targets and better chances for Funchess to succeed. In 2019, he enters a West Coast-based offense that features far more creativity than anything he experienced under Shula and Turner. There will be plenty of short-area passing, and Funchess could see an expanded role in the red zone. He’ll have to fight for touches in this area of the field, which could lead to inconsistency in scoring. Carolina utilized him roughly 13 percent of the time in the slot over the past two seasons, suggesting an imaginative mind like Frank Reich could test those mismatch-inducing waters, as well.
The offensive line is among the best in football, and Indy’s running game is on the upswing. This implies there may not be as much of a need for Funchess to be held in to block (he ran routes on slightly more than two-thirds of his snaps in 2018).
Fantasy football outlook
While not a knock on Cam Newton (shoulder), Luck is a more polished passer and offers Funchess a fresh start. The pair needs to get on the same page and build chemistry.
As mentioned, it won’t be all roses for Funchess in a new city, with a different quarterback and his third offense to digest in as many summers. However, with Parris Campbell at the disadvantage of being a rookie and having not done any of that before in the NFL, Funchess’ competition for playing time is mostly himself and situational football.
Purely anecdotal, we saw Ebron salvage his flailing career in this offense last year — different player and position, but it illustrates the potential.
His average draft position is 144, or the turn of Rounds 12 and 13. Funchess is a rock-solid value at that point in a PPR draft. If he can carve out a regular role inside the 20, or Ebron gets hurt, look for greater value in standard scoring. For now, though, Funchess is a sound WR4 target in PPR and should fare better in reception-rewarding systems.