Jarvis Landry: The Path to WR1 Fantasy Season
Editor’s Note – Check out The Path to a WR1 Fantasy Season: Series Guide to see how our writers compile their projections and the methodology behind this series.
When writing Path to WR1 articles, we look for guys being drafted outside of the current top 12 WRs and break down what it might take for them to have a top 12 season in 2018. Normally, you’re looking at guys that finished just outside of the WR1 ranks last year or, for some unforeseen reason, had a very disappointing previous season. It almost feels like cheating that I get to write about a guy who finished in the top 5.
Jarvis Landry led the league in receptions and had a great fantasy season. The Dolphins repaid him by trading him to the rebuilt Cleveland Browns. So while it seems like his Path to a WR1 season should be as simple as “play 16 games”, his ADP tells a very different story. What’s the lowest you’d expect to be able to land last year’s overall WR4? I’m going to go out on a limb and guess you didn’t say in the late 5th round as the 25th overall WR. Let’s dig into what it might take to make Jarvis a WR1 again in 2018 and maybe the best value in the entire draft.
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The narrative around Jarvis Landry’s 2017 is best summed up with “if you need 5 yards, he’ll get you 10. If you need 15 yards, he’ll get you 10.” With Ryan Tannehill going down in the preseason and Jay Cutler playing like a guy who looked like he really wanted to be retired, Landry’s production was even more impressive considering his circumstances. He did whatever he could to help his team and that meant staying very close to the line of scrimmage. Landry totaled 112 receptions last season but failed to break 1000 yards receiving. He caught almost 70% of the balls thrown his way, proving to have some of the most reliable hands in the NFL, and found the end zone 9 times. His value definitely seems tied to PPR. In Baller’s preferred scoring, he finished the year as the overall WR4.
The Path for 2018
Landry kicked off the offseason by being traded to the Cleveland Browns. While this is not usually a phrase meant to inspire hope in a fantasy player, with the additions of Tyrod Taylor, Carlos Hyde, and Josh Gordon, the Browns offense looks like it should hold it’s own in 2018. Here’s what it’s going to take for Landry to remain a WR1 in Cleveland.
Target Share– Starting off on a sour note…there is no way Landry will see the target share he did in Miami, where he was targeted on 27% of his team’s attempts last year. Cleveland’s leading WR last season, Ricardo Louis (let that sink in for a second), only held 12.72% of the target share. But I reiterate, this is not the same Cleveland offense. Landry’s primary competition for targets will come from Josh Gordon and Duke Johnson. Johnson was actually the Browns’ best receiver last year, catching 74 balls from the RB spot. So the question is: will there be enough targets?
Cleveland has finished in the top 10 in passing attempts in each year that Hugh Jackson has been their coach. It is a fair bet that the Browns will again throw the ball more than 500 times in 2018. The addition of new offensive coordinator Todd Haley could increase this number to the 550 range based on his recent history in Pittsburgh. Even in Landry fell to a much more manageable 20% target share, that still sends 110 targets his way. I think it’s more likely that he sees 25% and here’s my logic. Tyrod Taylor is not a great deep ball thrower and he notoriously holds the ball for too long. If I know this and you know this, Hugh Jackson and Todd Haley know this. They are going to encourage him to move the ball quickly, and a slot receiver with excellent hands will be his favorite target. On the high end of their outcomes, I think Gordon and Landry could take 50% of all targets and the rest of the team will split the remaining 50%. Landry could see as many as 125-135 targets in 2018.
Catch Rate– No need for much research here. Landry caught 70% of his balls last year, just as he has for 3 of 4 seasons in the league. His career catch % is (wait for it) 70%. I think it’s safe to say he will catch at least 70% of the balls thrown his way.
Receptions– If the above numbers hold true, Jarvis Landry could catch between 77-95 balls in 2018. There is a big range of outcomes here but I think early training camp reports provide some optimism. While playing with Tyrod Taylor in simulated 2-minute drills, Landry was paprika’d with targets, often being the only WR targeted in the entire series. Taylor already knows who his go-to guy is and has been very accurate. It is within the range of outcomes that Landry converts 75% of his targets (his career high % for a season) and ends on the high end of that target spectrum. That would put 100 catches in play, a huge step towards him becoming a fantasy WR1.
Yards– This will be the biggest hurdle to climb for a WR1 finish. If Landry is the safety blanket for a QB who needs to get rid of the ball fast, there is no reason to think that he will improve much on the 9 yards per reception he had last season. His career average is only 10 YPR. It is likely that he again ends up under the 1,000-yard benchmark. With a range between 750 and 950 being within possibility, landing on the high end of that previous target spectrum will be very important to his bid to remain a WR1.
aDot & Air Yards– These advanced metrics do not tell a kind story for much yardage improvement for Landry. His average target depth has pretty much been locked in at 6.5, worst among WR1 in 2016 and 2017, and his air yards are lowest among his WR1 colleagues. Unless we see a major change in his usage with the Browns, he is almost certainly going to be a 10 yards per reception guy with little room for improvement.
TDs– So when you’re dealing with a guy who is going to catch between 80-90 balls for 800-900 yards, touchdowns will be the determination of whether or not he finishes as a WR1. Based on those catch and yardage numbers, it would take 10 TDs for Landry to have a shot at WR1. The Browns haven’t thrown more than 15 passing TDs under Hugh Jackson. While Todd Haley should provide an uptick in that category, I don’t think we’ll even see the 26 team passing TDs per year that we saw while Landry was with the Dolphins. It should also be noted that Tyrod Taylor only averages 17 passing TDs per season as a starter.
Even if the Browns jump up to 20 passing TDs, Landry is going to need 8-10 of those to keep himself in this discussion. The long and short of it is this: 8 TDs is the high-end possibility for Landry and he’s going to need to finish on the high end of the spectrum in both receptions and yards to make that number work.
WR1 Possibility: Low Chance (15%)
When I polled the writing staff on Landry’s chances at finishing in the top 12 again, they came back with a 10% chance on average. I pulled that number up with my optimism, I think it’s more of coin flip based on how many TDs Landry reels in. He has been and seemingly always will be a volume guy who is going to lose volume with this change of scenery so I understand the lack of others’ optimism, even the Ballers have him ranked outside of the top 30.
The path is going to be tough, but you have a WR with great hands, that specializes in quick routes and a QB that needs to move the ball quickly. Landry seems like the perfect fit to be the safety blanket that Tyrod Taylor will need. Yes, Josh Gordon, Duke Johnson, Corey Coleman, and David Njoku represent more and better competition for targets than he ever had to deal with in Miami but is there much question that Landry is the best and most reliable among them? Talent wins out and Landry should have no problem outperforming his ADP and has a very real chance at finishing in the top 12. Seeing him ranked and drafted outside of the top 25 WRs makes me feel like he is 2018’s definition of low risk/high reward.