by Nick Ercolano
July 16, 2018
You know how we do it homies and hommettes. It's Monday, so we're diving in the muck, comparing two players that you're likely going to have to choose between in at least one of your 2018 fantasy football drafts. Today, we're dissecting the enigma that is the wide receiver group for the Detroit Lions. Marvin Jones and Golden Tate, who is the wide receiver you want in 2018 fantasy football, and why?
These guys were the only receiving duo on the same team to hit that 1,000-yard receiving mark in the NFL in 2017. to Les jump in.
People like to peg Tate as the king of consistency. They look at 90+ catches in four straight years and that's really it. It's a helluva feat for surely. He's been with Detroit since 2014, and he has gone over 90 catches in all four seasons, 120+ targets in all four seasons, he hasn't missed a game for the Lions, he's gone over 1,000 yards in 3-of-4 seasons and has averaged 1,056 yards in those four years. However, when you dive a little deeper, I'm not sure it's all gravy with Tate. In those four szns, he's never eclipsed 6 touchdowns, doing it once, scoring 5 last year, and 4 times in the other two szns. So, you're not getting much scoring upside here. He will be turning 30 in August, which doesn't concern me much, considering slot WRs (ran 79% of his routes from the slot in 2017) can play longer into their careers usually, but the 120 target-total was the lowest of the four seasons by almost 10, and was a 15-target drop-off from 2016 to 2017. We saw his target market share drop from 23% in 2016 down to 21% in 2017.
Tate finished as WR15 on the year overall, but WR19 on a FPPG basis (> 12 games). I don't have to state the obvious that he's a much better PPR play, but his inconsistency in yardage totals kind of scares me. This is something that we've seen YoYoYoYoY. A crazy stat I actually just found while writing this sentence: In any game last year where Tate saw 6 or fewer targets (5-of-16), he finished with 33 receiving yards or fewer. He didn't score in any of them. So, five absolute dud games. He finished with 58 or fewer receiving yards in 8-of-16 games last year, so half his games. In 2016, that number was 9. Wow, I actually just looked back at the last three years, and in games that Tate has seen 6 or fewer targets (17 games, including 1 playoff game) he has never eclipsed 60 receiving yards. ZAMN.
"Tate saw an anemic 6.7-yard aDOT last season, 116th out of 120 qualifiers. Think about that for a second. Every target Tate saw was almost 10 yards less than Jones. So before a catch has even been made, Jones has a one-fantasy-point advantage." (PFF's Michael Moore Player Showdown: Golden Tate or Marvin Jones)
Think about that. Pretty crazy.
Yeah, I've been shitting on Tate pretty good, but let's move onto Marvin Jones.
Jones found his groove in 2017 for the Lions, catching 61-of-107 targets for just over 1,100 yards and 9 touchdowns. This is following back-to-back 4 TD szns, but don't forget back in 2013 when Jones scored 10 times while he was playing in Cincinnati. There are reasons to be both optimistic and cautious with Jones' 2018 fantasy outlooks.
I'll lay out BIG FACTS ONLY and y'all can decide.
Jones was a beast last year, no way around it. He ranked number one in the NFL, racking up 18.0 yards per reception. Number 1. He was first in air yards, his 9 TDs were tied for the 3rd most in the NFL, his 1,101 yards were 9th in the NFL, he ranked 5th in yards per target (10.5) and he finished as WR9 overall in fantasy, WR11 on a PPG basis (WRs > 12 games).
He developed into one of the elite deep threats in the NFL and him and Stafford started developing a really good chemistry after an initial slow start. If you remember, Jones failed to go top 55 receiving yards in any of their first five games in 2017, and saw over 6 targets just one time. One time, one time. Shoutout dem Jamaican dun doddas. But following their Week 5 loss to Carolina, Jones became a big part of their game plan. He would go for over 60 receiving yards and/or a touchdown in 9 of their last 11 games, including 6 games with 15 or more fantasy points.
AND although Tate out-targeted him on the year, after those first five weeks, from Week 6 on, Marvin Jones averaged more targets/game than Tate did. Going back to the stat I mentioned before from PFF guys, he's averaging 10 yards more per target, so before the catch, it's a one-point advantage for Jones. If he's going to come even close to the same number of targets, it's Jones by a mile.
The concerns are there for Jones, however. He was super efficient last year. Like I said, 3rd in tuddys, 9th in yards, despite being the 21st most-targeted WR. Chasing efficiency in redraft leagues usually isn't a good idea, unless you're sure that the player will make it up in volume, which it's hard to say that's the case for Jones in 2018. Similar to Kamara, whose efficiency was unreal in 2017, but in 2018 he should see a heavy volume increase. It's the reason I'm down on Tyreek Hill. His efficiency was insane in 2017, but with Watkins coming in, it's almost impossible to see him not have a volume decrease.
I do expect Jones' volume to stay relatively the same, however. While Tate's target share dropped from 23% to 21% YoY, Jones has stayed consistently at the 19% mark. He's seen 103 and 107 targets over the last two years. Over those last 11 games, as I mentioned, he was averaging 7.36 targets/game which paces out to 118 on the year.
My concern for Jones, other than his efficiency dropping, and that TD mark coming down to 6 or 7, is Kenny Golladay. Golladay is the truth, a true outside threat who is just waiting on his time to become an every-down wideout. He's still firmly behind Jones and Tate in the pecking order, and nothing about his usage during his rookie szn in 2017, even down the stretch or anything like that suggests he's creeping up the depth chart, but Jones' numbers were pretty drastic with Golladay on the field, versus without him:
The right side of this is the 5 games in which Golladay did not play. I expect Golladay to have the WR3 role completely to himself. The Lions ran the 4th most plays in the NFL last year out of 3-WR sets, meaning, Golladay will be playing in all 16 games, barring an injury.
Meanwhile, we look at Tate's numbers:
Virtually unaffected by Golladay's field time, which makes sense because Golladay is an outside guy, like Jones.
But, as we always do here at BDGE, we wanted to dive in further WE STILL EATIN.
There are other factors at play. The backfield is one of them. They bring in LeGarrette Blount as well as trading up in the 2nd round of the draft to grab the former University of Auburn and SEC offensive player of the year, Kerryon tha Gawd Johnson. Love that guy. What we're seeing is Detroit wanting to establish the run game. It makes sense, given the offensive line they've quietly put together. It'll be the best line they've had in Detroit probably in Stafford's 10-year tenure. They drafted Frank Ragnow the Center from Arkansas with their first-round pick, dude's a bully af, terrific run blocker. PFF just dropped their new 2018 offensive line ranking going into the summer, and Detroit is all the way at #8. Stafford's been a top-10 QB in terms of pass attempts in every year since 2011, averaging the 4th most attempts during that span.
But, I noticed an interesting trend, down by the end zone. First off, we look at the RZ and 10Z targets for both Tate and Jones over the last two years:
So you see Marvin Jones volume stayed identical YoY, Tate's fell off in 2017 dramatically.
I wanted to see what their game plan was down, and see why Tate's numbers fell off. What I found was that, YoY from 2016 to 2017, Stafford's RZ attempts dropped by 11% and his 10Z attempts dropped by 14%. And at first I was thinking, maybe the overall volume in that part of the field fell and that's why. But that wasn't the case.
From a rushing side of things, their RZ carries increased 20% YoY and their 10Z carries increased by 23% YoY. So the drop in passing volume came due to a concerted effort in running the ball more there. Which is what I expect to see more of with Kerryon Johnson and Blount.
The good thing here for Jones, at least, is that even with the dip in overall volume, Jones' targets stayed exactly the same YoY, so it's not an area of the field that I'm concerned with for Jones falling off.
Ebron is gone, which leaves 81 targets, 12 in the RZ, 7 in the 10Z up for grabs, but Idt much if any goes to Tate or Marvin Jones. It'll likely be split between Golladay and their new TE Luke Wilson. Don't sleep on Wilson man.
He could lowkey be a fantasy factor this year. Wilson is a superb athlete, tested out extremely well. But besides the point, just not a lot of extra passing opportunity to build on for either Jones or Tate.
An interesting tidbit I did find that I tweeted out last week:
Tbh, I'm not really sure what it means, other than both are big play guys. And maybe Jones' involvement, while nice to see, isn't as important as we might think.
I think the improved offensive line, while it says more running and less volume in the passing game, it also means more time in the pocket for Stafford, and more time to get downfield for his primary deep threat Marvin Jones. I think Jones will continue to see the deep throws. Which I guess goes back to the last tweet I posted, that Jones scores from outside of the RZ a ton, which is a good ting for what's happening in Detroit.
At the end of the day, I just don't want Tate to be honest. If I'm in a full PPR league, okay, I'd consider it, but I'm going to side with Marvin Jones in all formats. However, I'm not reaching for him Marvin Jones. He is a guy that I would like on my team if I go, and I plan too, running back heavy early in the draft. Jones, who you can get in the 5th/6th round is a perfect WR2 option. Again, going back to last year, Tate was the WR19 in fantasy points per game, Jones the WR11. Tate is being drafted as WR22, so there's very little room to return value. And there isn't really a good reason to assume Tate builds on his numbers from last year. I think best case scenario, looking at how the offense is set up, you're looking at another typical year of 90-1,000-5. Worst case, the run game gets better, takes away pass attempts and that hurts Tate more than Jones because he relies so heavily on volume for his fantasy production. And as I showed with that 6 or fewer targets stat, if he's not getting volume, Tate isn't a fantasy producer. The most likely scenario is that his results are somewhere in between there, and if that's the case, he catches 75-85 passes, instead of the 90-95, and hits 850-900 yards, Tate really isn't a good fantasy option. Jones, on the other hand, finished as WR11, but is drafted at WR24. There is both ceiling and floor baked into this ADP.
by Noah Pires
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