The Path to a WR1 Fantasy Football Season: Robby Anderson
Anderson finished the 2020 season as WR24, playing all 16 games catching passes from Teddy Bridgewater. He was not the most consistent WR by any means – he was only a top-12 WR a mere 12.5% of the time, and he was outside of the top-36, 50% of the time. It was undoubtedly a gamble when it came to putting Anderson in your starting lineup. When he scored high, he scored high – like week one against the Raiders, where he was the WR5. But when he scored low, he scored low – he was WR84 in a late-season game against Green Bay. Anderson had a career-high 95 receptions and close to 1,100 yards, yet only three touchdowns in the 2020 season.
What needs to happen for Robby Anderson to take the next step and have a WR1 season in 2021?
For Robby Anderson to make that jump to WR1 territory, the high target quotient that Anderson established in the 2020 season needs to stay at least consistent, if not increase. In 2020, the Carolina Panthers had Teddy Bridgewater at the helm, and from his attempted 492 passes, 136 of them went in the direction of Anderson. According to pro-football-reference, Anderson had almost 20 more targets than DJ Moore – roughly 28% of passes went Anderson’s way. Losing Curtis Samuel to the Washington Football Team also frees up nearly 100 targets – Samuel was targeted by Bridgewater 97 times last season. Two big questions remain – where will those targets vacated by Samuel go to, and what happens with Christian McCaffrey?
As CMC owners from last year remember with sadness, McCaffrey only played three games – weeks one, two, and nine. This gives us at least some data to extrapolate potential target share for Anderson going into next season, assuming McCaffrey is on the field. In the chart below, I compared the three weeks Anderson and McCaffrey were on the field together regarding targets and receptions.
|RECEIVING TARGETS||RECEIVING YARDS||RECEIVING TDS|
On average, during these three games, McCaffrey was targeted 6.3 times with 5.7 receptions. When I looked at McCaffrey’s numbers from 2019, his last entire healthy season, I saw that his averages from that year were not that much higher than 2020. In 2019 he averaged 8.8 targets with 7.3 receptions. So, even if McCaffrey’s target share in 2021 is closer to the numbers from 2019, I believe there will still be enough targets out there for Anderson for him to have the potential to be a WR1.
Reunited & It Feels So Good
The ghost elephant in the room is the QB who is setting Robby Anderson up with those targets. With the departure of Teddy Bridgwater to Denver, Anderson is reunited with his New York Jets play-caller, Sam Darnold. Sans Adam Gage, thankfully. Let’s look backward to look forwards. The last time this duo was together was the 2019 season, where Darnold had 441 downfield attempts and connected for just over 3000 yards. Anderson was targeted the second-highest on the team that year; almost 22% of Darnold’s attempts went towards Anderson. A key factor to remember when looking at Darnold’s past performance is the “Adam Gase factor.” As the Ballers frequently say, most players blossom after they move on from Gase. I believe that Sam Darnold will be exponentially better without Adam Gase. The Jets in the 2019 season ranked 25th in both passing attempts and offensive passing yards – Gase and company simply were not a QB-friendly team to play for.
According to pro-football-reference, the Carolina Panthers were 20th in passing offensive yards in 2019 and then 18th in the same category in 2020. By no means am I saying that the Carolina Panthers will be a top ten passing powerhouse this season, but I believe in the coaching staff led by Matt “Ja” Rhule way more than I believed in Adam Gase. I think Rhule will do his best to set up Darnold for success, translating to more targets and receptions for Anderson.
After targets come touchdowns, they say, and for Anderson to be a WR1 this season, he will have to improve in that category. As mentioned previously, Anderson only scored three touchdowns last season. His reception total to touchdowns caught illustrates the vast room for improvement. Of the top 15 WRs in the number of receptions in 2020, he had the lowest number of touchdowns (tied with Cooper Kupp) yet was right in the middle of the pack with the total yards caught. To me, he has nowhere to go but up. With the “flashier” DJ Moore commanding more double coverage, I believe Darnold’s ghost whisperer Robby Anderson will find himself the recipient of more touchdown opportunities. Darnold has a touchdown history with Anderson from the Jets that is ripe for building on. While in New York – in 2018, Anderson had 6 TDs and in 2019 had 5 TDs. I think an increase can happen in 2021.
I realize that some people reading this will have a fair amount of doubt about Robby Anderson this year. Doubt in his ability, doubt in his QB – I get it. I am here to tell you that you could snag a massive value in your draft if you can look past that doubt. According to the UDK current consensus rankings, Anderson is going the 30th WR off the board in the seventh round. This is about three full rounds after the other Panthers receiver DJ Moore. With the potential upside in Anderson’s favor to have a WR1 season in 2021, I say he is a fantastic value at that draft spot.