The Path to a WR1 Season: Terry McLaurin
The goal of our Path to a WR1 Season series is to give you a range of outcomes. We take guys currently ranked outside of The Fantasy Footballers top-12 and try to show what it would take for them to finish as a WR1. There are many #1 WRs around that league that are projected the miss the fantasy top-12 in 2020 and we’ve covered the Paths for Odell Beckham Jr, D.J. Chark, and A.J. Brown, to name a few.
Terry “F1” McLaurin fits nicely into the mold created by those previous guys. He should be Washington’s WR1 by a wide margin and he already has a very established rapport with his QB, seeing as they played together in college as well. Most wouldn’t argue that Washington is expected to be a pretty bad team in 2020, so they should be throwing the ball a lot too. However, while the previous guys all find themselves ranked in the Ballers top-20, McLaurin is outside of the top-30. His Path might be a tougher trek than others, but WR1 is within the realm of possibility.
2019 Season Recap
McLaurin comes into 2020 having just the 5th highest ADP of the sophomore WRs, despite the fact that he ended 2019 with the 2nd best fantasy season among the rookie WRs. McLaurin finished the season as the WR27 and put up a more than respectable stat line while playing in just 14 games.
While he finished 2nd or 3rd in every major receiving statistic among his rookie counterparts, there is one thing that every other high-ranking rookie had that McLaurin didn’t: competent QB play. McLaurin’s 2019 was capped by the mediocre play of Case Keenum and fellow rookie Dwayne Haskins. Keenum was the QB38 on fantasy points-per-game basis and Haskins was QB42. The QBs split time pretty much the entire season, but for simplicity’s sake, we will say that Weeks 1-8 belonged to Keenum and 9-16 to Haskins. Keenum played Week 17, but McLaurin did not, so it was inconsequential.
Each QB played seven games with McLaurin. In the seven with Keenum, McLaurin was targeted 46 times, reeling in 28 balls for 458 yards and five TDs. With Haskins it was 47 targets, leading to a 30/461/2 stat line. Essentially, both QBs got the same production from McLaurin, with the clear exception of TDs. Because of those TDs, McLaurin was the WR17 with Keenum, compared to the WR37 with Haskins. Haskins will (should) be the full-time QB for Washington heading into 2020 so that may be a hill to climb for McLaurin, though we should see TD improvement from the QB in his second season.
The Path for 2020
As previously mentioned, it is going to be tough for McLaurin to finish as a WR1, but not impossible. He will need to improve in a few categories and he will need Haskins to improve as well. Here’s a snapshot of what his sophomore season might look like.
Target Share- While McLaurin finished the year with a 19% target share in 14 games, one nice thing about the pre-established trust between Haskins and McLaurin was his end of season target share. With Haskins, McLaurin saw his target share jump to over 24%. This led to more targets, receptions, and yards, despite Washington throwing the ball fewer times with Haskins. With new head coach Ron Rivera and new offensive coordinator Scott Turner, there is plenty of hope for more passing volume in 2020. Last year, while in Carolina, Rivera’s Panthers threw ball 154 more times than the Redskins. That’s almost 10 more times per game, while the Carolina won two more games than Washington. It is just about guaranteed that the Redskins will throw more in 2020 and while Washington added a few rookie pass-catchers in the draft, namely Antonio Gibson and Antonio Gandy-Golden, it is unlikely that McLaurin’s target share drop much, if at all.
Catch Rate- Another stat we saw improve with Haskins. McLaurin finished the year with a 62% catch rate but during his seven games with Haskins, that number jumped to almost 64%. Regardless, for a guy who finished with more than 15 yards-per-reception, 62-64% is more than enough to launch him into WR1 territory if the passing volume does go up. If you look at the top-20 fantasy WRs from 2019, seven had a YPR over 15. Of those seven, only two had a catch rate better than 62% (Chris Godwin and Amari Cooper). McLaurin put up elite-like numbers but didn’t have the volume to capitalize last season. It is likely we see either his yards or catch rate drop a bit, but a small drop in either won’t kill him.
Receptions- This is where the range of possibilities really starts to kick in. McLaurin finished with 58 receptions on a team that barely threw the ball 500 times. While the Redskins were near the bottom of the league in passing attempts, Rivera’s Panthers were near the top. Judging by his last two seasons in Carolina, it is a very real possibility that Washington throws the ball 550+ times this year under Rivera/Turner. At his 24% target share, this could mean 132 targets and 79 receptions. If he stays at 19%, that plummets to 104 targets and only 62 receptions. While either would be an improvement on his 2019, the top of that range virtually assures a WR1 season.
Yards- McLaurin finished the year with 919 yards and hit more than 60 yards in eight of his 14 games. He is going to be a 1000-yard receiver if he plays 16 games. That is easily his floor. Hitting his ceiling here is a must to attain fantasy WR1 status. At the top of his reception projection, he would finish with 79 catches. At his 2019 number of 15.8 yards-per-reception, he would be looking at 1250 yards. That would place him 4th among all WRs last season, only beaten by Michael Thomas, Julio Jones, and Chris Godwin. Even if he drops to a more manageable 14 YPR, we could still be looking at 1100 yards from McLaurin, a solid improvement on his rookie year.
TDs- Normally, this paragraph starts with how unpredictable TDs are and how it will make or break a guy’s WR1 season. With McLaurin, or rather with Ron Rivera, I am going to buck this trend. Terry McLaurin will score at least five TDs in 2020. The primary outside WR on a Ron Rivera team hasn’t failed to score five TDs since 2012. That same system saw eight and nine TDs from guys like Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess. I truly believe that TDs will not be an issue for Mr. F1.
WR1 Possibility: Not Good (Less Than 10%)
This percentage was calculated by polling the Fantasy Footballers Staff on what they thought McLaurins’s chances would be to finish as a WR1 in 2020. The range of outcomes was as low as 4% up to 18%. I am far more optimistic and would place his chances around 25% but I understand the doubt. McLaurin came virtually out of nowhere last season as a 3rd round selection in the NFL Draft and he’s tied to a potentially bad QB situation. His game-to-game consistency puts him firmly in the “boom or bust” category that most would like to avoid in fantasy football.
I might be crazy but I love Terry McLaurin at his floor and adore him at his ceiling in 2020. My optimism lies in his overall situation. He finds himself in the very advantageous position of being the undisputed top target on a team that will likely throw the ball a lot. At his worst, assuming he plays all 16 games, he should see an uptick in targets with this coaching staff and safely finish with a 62/1000/5 stat line. That should tuck him in right around WR27, where he finished last year and about seven spots ahead of his current ADP. But at his ceiling, we could see a 79/1250/9 stat line and that would firmly make him a fantasy WR1.