The Path to a WR1 Fantasy Football Season: Terry McLaurin
In this next installment of our “Path to a WR1 Season” series, I will discuss the recently re-signed Washington Commanders‘ star wide receiver, Terry McLaurin. The talented receiver has consistently had hype since his rookie year breakout but has yet to get near the top-12 wide receivers. McLaurin will now play with Wentz, who is an upgrade over any quarterback the Commanders have had in the last three years. In this article, I will dive into what Wentz may mean for McLaurin and what may need to happen for him to finish in the top-12 among wide receivers in 2022.
2021 Season Recap
The expectations for Terry McLaurin in 2021 were very high, as many expected a breakout season for the star wide receiver. According to FantasyFootballCalculator.com, McLaurin was drafted as a back-end WR1 as the 10th wide receiver off the board. Unfortunately, the breakout did not happen, and McLaurin finished as the WR25 in half-point PPR scoring (WR34 in PPG) without missing a game. Lousy quarterback play was a factor in McLaurin’s disappointing season, which unfortunately has been a common occurrence throughout his short career.
2022 Path to a WR1 Season
Targets and Target Share
Per PlayerProfiler, McLaurin had a 24.5% target share in 2021, finishing 19th among wide receivers. He had 130 targets, 13th in the NFL. McLaurin is getting solid volume, but it would help to see these numbers increase slightly in 2022. McLaurin has been the focal point for the Commanders’ offense over the last few years, and that should not change, although the Commanders did choose Jahan Dotson with the 16th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Per 4 for 4, the Commanders rank 19th in vacated targets with 160. Jahan Dotson will likely eat into those vacated targets, and if Curtis Samuel is healthy, he likely will too. Although Washington isn’t a high-volume passing team (21st in team passing attempts in 2021), there should be enough targets to go around for the Washington pass-catchers without taking away from McLaurin’s target share. McLaurin received 130 or more targets over the last two seasons and has at least a 23% target share in his first three years in the league. I expect that trend to continue and possibly improve in 2022.
Catch Rate and Receptions
Per PlayerProfiler, McLaurin had a 58.8% catch rate, 69th among receivers in 2021. He was also 70th in catchable target rate and 18th in average depth of target, which played a major factor in his low catch rate for 2021. Wide receivers frequently targeted down the field naturally have a lower catch rate, and McLaurin was second in deep targets (31).
In 2021, McLaurin had 77 receptions, ranking 21st in the NFL among wide receivers. McLaurin regressed in this area from 2020 when he caught 87 passes in two fewer games. It’s entirely possible that McLaurin can get back to around 87 receptions in 2022. Mike Williams was the WR10 in half-point PPR in 2021 and had one less reception than McLaurin did (76). Of course, there are other factors as to why Williams finished as the WR10, but it just goes to show that McLaurin should be well within range in this area, even if he doesn’t catch more passes in 2022.
Yards and Air Yards
McLaurin had 1,053 receiving yards in 2021, ranking 18th among wide receivers. He was heavily used as a downfield threat and had 1,656 air yards, which was fourth in the league. As previously mentioned, McLaurin was second in the league in deep targets and third in unrealized air yards (914). There is plenty of room for improvement for efficiency down the field, and this is where Carson Wentz pairing with McLaurin might make a ton of sense.
Considering all his faults, Wentz was actually an excellent deep-ball passer in 2021. Per PlayerProfiler, Wentz was sixth in deep-ball completion percentage (43.3%) and fourth in deep-ball accuracy rating. Also, NFL Next Gen Stats ranked Carson Wentz as the seventh-best deep-ball passer in 2021. Last year was the best season that Wentz had throwing down the field, so hopefully, it carries over into Washington. If that does happen, and Wentz is roughly a top-12 quarterback in deep passing, and the Commanders continue to use McLaurin frequently down the field, this could be huge for McLaurin in fantasy.
While touchdowns are hard to predict and can be fluky, they definitely help for end-of-season finishes. If McLaurin can increase his touchdowns in 2022 to seven or eight, he will significantly increase his odds of being a top-12 wide receiver. He had seven touchdowns as a rookie and has regressed since then, but he has shown that he can do it.
The Washington Commanders‘ offense ranked towards the bottom of the NFL in team passing touchdowns over the last three seasons finishing 24th in 2021, 29th in 2020, and 30th in 2019. Wentz threw 27 touchdown passes last year, and while that number may not translate to Washington due to fewer pass attempts in the RedZone, it’ll be interesting to see if Wentz changes the playcalling a bit. Regardless, the upgrade of Wentz should help improve the Commanders’ touchdown opportunities resulting in more scoring opportunities for McLaurin.
We know that talent isn’t why McLaurin has yet to reach a top-12 wide receiver finish. The talent is there, and we hope several other key factors fall in line this season to get McLaurin into the top-12 for the first time. Wentz may get a lot of criticism, most of it deserved, but he did perform well enough in 2021 and played a part in Michael Pittman‘s WR15 overall finish. I would argue that McLaurin is the better receiver between the two. If Michael Pittman can finish as the WR15 and be 12.2 points away from finishing in the top-12 in a low passing volume offense, McLaurin has the potential to be there as well.