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.
We continue this Path to WR1 series with Golden Tate, wide receiver for the Detroit Lions. Tate has not missed a game since joining the Lions in 2014. It’s obvious Matthew Stafford relies on Tate as he has at least 90 receptions and 120 targets every season with the Lions. One key to becoming a WR1 is to have at least 1,000 receiving yards. Tate has accomplished this in 75% of his seasons in Detroit. Eventually, the volume Golden Tate accumulates should positively impact his touchdown numbers, something that has been a pain point for Tate owners. He’s currently the consensus WR20 in the Ballers WR rankings, behind his own teammate, Marvin Jones.
Golden Tate already has the makings of a WR1. In fact, he finished the 2017 season as the WR12 in PPR formats. He has plenty of volume in targets, receptions, and enough yards each season to put him in the conversation. It’s only Tate’s lack of scoring that hinders his ability to be a WR1 on a consistent basis.
Let’s take a look at Tate’s 2017 campaign and dissect just how he can repeat as a WR1 for the 2018 season.
2017 Season Recap
The reason I have chosen to highlight Tate as a potential WR1 for 2018 is due to the fact that most analysts in the fantasy football industry do not view Golden Tate as a WR1. 2017 was Tate’s second time as a WR1 in PPR in 4 years. He was 7th best in receptions, had the 12th most receiving yards among WRs, and finished the season with just enough touchdowns to place him in WR1 status. His consistency at the position paid off last season.
The Path for 2018
As previously mentioned, Golden Tate has been very consistent as Matthew Stafford’s “go-to” guy. The one thing can really catapult Tate beyond the WR1 bubble is touchdowns. There are other factors that go into the complete WR1 package, however, so let’s explore.
Target Share– An area where Tate does not struggle is target volume. He drew 120 targets in 2017, tied for 13th best among WRs. His 21.1% target share in the Lions’ offense was the best on the team. As impressive as his 120 targets were last season, it was actually his lowest target number since 2013. He has 527 targets in the last 4 seasons, an average of 131.75 per year. We can expect Tate’s target volume to increase back to his normal workload in 2018, only increasing his odds of becoming a WR1.
Catch Rate– Golden Tate’s catch rate in 2017 was an impressive 76.7%. How impressive? It was the best catch percentage of any wide receiver with at least 70 targets last season. In fact, only 3 other WRs with 100+ targets had a 70% or better catch rate (Tyreek Hill – 105/71%, Michael Thomas – 149/70%, and Jarvis Landry – 161/70%). Tate has averaged a catch rate of 70.8% in the last 4 seasons with the Lions. If he gets the volume he normally does in this offense and can obtain his average of a 70% catch rate, then we are in for yet another productive season.
Receptions– Tate racked up 92 receptions in 2017. The 7th most receptions for wideouts last season. He had 24.6% of his team’s receptions in 2017 and does not have a season with under 90 receptions as a Detriot Lion. This guy just produces. He not only gets the volume, he converts the volume at a high rate and turns it into fantasy production. Since becoming a consistent starter in 2012, Tate has not had a season with fewer than 115 standard fantasy points. His high total of receptions per year help him in PPR formats, but what he does with those receptions every year, puts him as a potentially elite option in all fantasy football formats.
Yards– In 2017, Tate had his third career year with over 1,000 receiving yards. He had 1,003 yards to be exact, good enough for 12th best among WRs. Tate’s lowest yardage total as a Lion was in 2015 when he had 813 yards. Ironically, that was the season he totaled 6 TDs, the most he’s had in a season in Detroit. The receiving yards and TD totals have to meet up in the same season eventually, right? Even if we don’t see an increase in his TDs in 2018, Tate’s consistency in yards each year is plenty enough to place him in the WR1 realm.
aDOT & Air Yards– According to AirYards.com, Tate’s average depth of targets was 6 yards in 2017, pretty low if compared to the rest of the top WRs. This is no surprise as Tate is the type of receiver that produces with yards after the catch (YAC), making him a valuable quick pass asset for Matthew Stafford. Tate had 716 Air Yards, which is calculated by taking the total number of yards thrown in Tate’s direction on targeted plays. This includes both complete and incomplete plays. Again, this is a very low number for such a productive wideout.
To put this in perspective of how low it is, Adam Thielen had 1,506 air yards last year and teammate, Marvin Jones had 1,624. Keep in mind, air yards just shows the potential of receiving yards a player can have, it doesn’t always translate to production. For example, Marvin Jones did have more than double the amount of air yards but only ended the season with 98 more receiving yards than Tate.
TDs– Here’s another category that doesn’t do Golden Tate justice. The most TDs in a season for Tate came in 2012 with the Seattle Seahawks when he scored 7. That was back in the day when he did not even come close to the type of volume he sees today with the Lions. I’ll take the volume over just relying on TDs for fantasy production any day of the week. To be fair, you would think a guy with as many targets and receptions as Tate would average more than 4.75 TDs per season in the last 4 years. In 2017, Golden Tate scored on just 5% of his receptions while his teammate, Marvin Jones scored on nearly 15% of his receptions. Both numbers are extremes on either end. I’d expect both players to see some kind of regression to the mean in 2018. If he can increase his TDs, Tate becomes a bonafide candidate to reach WR1 status.
WR1 Possibility: Fair Chance (26.2%)
This percentage is based upon the combined average of the Fantasy Footballers writing staff. The NFL season is a marathon, not a sprint, so how fitting that Golden Tate’s combined average of becoming a WR1 in 2018 is set at 26.2%. I personally think that this is a fair assessment given the unpredictable climate of this game we all know and love. Basically, if you were to flip a coin on Tate’s WR1 status in 2018, that coin would land in Tate’s favor 1 out of every 4 flips. That’s better odds than the referees making the right call on what a catch is in 2018!
Golden Tate is seemingly undervalued every year in relation to his ADP. This year is no different. According to FantasyFootballCalculator.com, Tate isn’t being drafted until 5.01 or WR22. This classifies him as a low-end WR2 and would place him in his second to worst finish as a Detroit Lion. Due to his consistent volume and production, Golden Tate is a great value at his current cost and definitely in the WR1 conversation for 2018, especially in PPR formats.