The Path to a WR1 Fantasy Season: Robby Anderson
Editor’s Note: As outlined in the Path to WR1 Primer article, The Path to a WR1 Fantasy Season article series will showcase WRs who are currently ranked outside of the top-15 receivers in Andy, Mike, and Jason’s initial PPR rankings. We are identifying players that possibly have a shot at finishing the year as a WR1. We are NOT projecting a WR1 end of the year total but merely giving the high-end range of outcomes for players to show what type of ceiling is in the realm of possibilities.
In the recent “This or That” episode of The Fantasy Footballers Podcast, the 7th Round WR debate of Robby Anderson vs Allen Robinson was discussed (as was the fact that they are essentially fantasy football twins, I’ll let you decide which is the evil one). Anderson was the unanimous choice by Andy, Mike, and Jason, in large part due to more confidence in the growth of Sam Darnold and Anderson’s absolute fire finish to 2018.
Anderson has flashed WR1 ability in each of his three years in the NFL, but he is best described as a “Boom or Bust” type of WR. One week he will score every point you could hope for, the next you’re not even sure if he set foot on the field. Consistency will play a big part in his Path to a WR1 Season, and with a new head coach and offensive scheme, that may be an uphill battle in 2019. So what will it take to turn 2018’s WR35 into a top-12 threat in 2019? I’m glad you asked…
2018 Season Recap
Let me start by saying, Robby Anderson is a slow starter. Over his three year NFL career, he averages just 5.1 fantasy points per game over the season’s first four weeks. 2018 started with more of the same, as he was getting used to a rookie QB on a bad football team. The Jets started the season 1-3 and Anderson failed to do much after catching a 41-yard TD in their Week 1 victory. Then in Week 5, he got loose against the Broncos, going off for 123 yards and two TDs on just 3 receptions. The TD receptions exemplified who Anderson is as a player, a big play waiting to happen. He scored from 76 and 40 yards out, toasting former 1st Round pick Bradley Roby on both.
Unfortunately, Week 5 represented more fantasy points than he had scored in his previous four games and more than he’d score in his next four games. He was finally being targeted after the breakout, but could not reel in the balls thrown his way. As Darnold improved, so did Anderson and we saw glimpses of what the future may hold in the season’s last month. From Week 13 on, Anderson converted 46 targets into 27 receptions, 346 yards, and three TDs. While he finished the season as a low-end WR3, for those five weeks he was a top-10 WR.
The Path for 2019
Will 2019 be the season that Robby Anderson proves that he can play as well in September as he does in December? Here are the benchmarks he will need to hit in order to do so.
Target Share– It was a tale of two seasons for much of 2018 for Anderson and his target share numbers tell that tale very well. If you look at the season as a whole. Anderson received 93 targets in 2018, accounting for a dismal 17.8% target share. That is bad. However, over those last five weeks, when Darnold realized the weapon at his disposal, his target share jumped up to an unsustainable 37%. In 2017, before Darnold, he was at 22.3%. No WR1 in 2018 had fewer than 130 targets, so Anderson will need to find some middle ground to finish in the top-12.
For the last two seasons, Anderson has not had a lot of competition for targets. That changes in 2019 with the return of Quincy Enunwa and the additions of Jamison Crowder and Le’Veon Bell. The hiring of Adam Gase could mean even fewer pass attempts to go around; the Dolphins were in the bottom-3 of total pass attempts in two of Gase’s three seasons as head coach. Over his three seasons as a head coach, Gase averages just about 510 attempts per season so to hit that 130 target mark, Anderson will need to get about 25% of the total targets. Not impossible based on his 2017 and late 2018 numbers, but still big a step up of his career average as a starter.
Catch Rate– Anderson is a deep threat and those guys tend to have a lower target conversion, as shown by his career 54% catch rate. This is one of his few numbers to barely improve over his five-game super stretch when he still only reeled in 58% of his targets. He is never going to be the high-efficiency route guy, especially with the slot receivers already on this team in Enunwa and Crowder, so his production will have to come from elsewhere.
Receptions– Putting it simply, if Anderson were to hit the bare minimum of 130 targets and only catch 54% of those, he would be looking at 70 receptions and in Baller’s Preferred Scoring… that is not going to get him into WR1 status. This would also be seven more receptions than his current career season. Darnold only completed 57% of his passes last year, so there is a chance for improvement but his ceiling is lower than what is to be expected from your typical WR1. If he can improve to and sustain that 58% he flashed to end the season, his ceiling is still around 75 receptions.
Yards– So if you’re not going to get a lot of receptions, where will those fantasy points come from? In the least surprising turn of events ever, deep-threat WRs tend to average more yards per catch than their high-efficiency counterparts. Anderson averages 14.7 yards-per-catch over his career and was at 15 YPC in 2018. That is only about 2 yards fewer than what notorious deep-threats like Tyreek Hill and Brandin Cooks did in 2018. Anderson himself has pointed out that he needs to hit 1,000 yards in a season, a feat he is yet to accomplish in his young career. If Gase can use him properly and help Sam Darnold improve, then 2019 may be his year. If he were to improve to the 17-18 YPC numbers of other elite deep-play WRs, we could even see 1,100-1,200 yards, which would be essential to his ascension to WR1 status.
TDs– You’ve heard it time and again, TDs are the hardest thing to predict in fantasy football and for a guy like Anderson, they are a huge component of his WR1 potential. He has scored 13 TDs over the last 2 seasons, so 6-to-7 seems to be his floor but what about his ceiling? All 15 of his career TDs have been scored in 13 total games or about 1 TD in every 3 games. With his big-play ability and the fact that he has only ever scored two TDs before Week 5 in his entire career, there is definite room for improvement here. An 8-to-9 TD season is not out of the question but it would take a lot for him to hit double digits, a feat that no Adam Gase WR has pulled off since he left Denver.
WR1 Possibility: Low Chance (Less than 25%)
This % is based on a Twitter poll asking for Anderson’s chances to finish as a WR1. The 25% chance seems fitting, considering it was four games (25% of a season) that propelled him into the top-10 during those last weeks of 2018. Anderson is the epitome of boom or bust in fantasy football. His 2018 consisted of four weeks of 15+ fantasy points and 10 weeks where he didn’t hit double-digits. It will take a level of consistency he has yet to show for him to finish 2019 as a top-12 WR.
Robby Anderson certainly has the ability to outperform his 7th Round, WR31 ADP and seems likely to do so. The leap to WR1 territory appears to be one that he is not quite ready to make. He showed us in 2018 that it is not impossible, he just needs to be more consistent, which is a big ask for a player whose role is defined by inconsistency.
Be sure to check out all of our “Path to a WR1 Season” articles for 2019!