Fantasy Football: Keenan Allen Is Losing Valuable Targets to Mike Williams
In 2018, Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen checked in as the 14th highest scoring receiver in fantasy football, based on standard scoring. If you were an Allen owner in 2018, however, you may have been slightly disappointed in the production compared to the previous year when he ranked number 3 behind only DeAndre Hopkins and Antonio Brown.
So what should we expect from Allen in 2019? Can he regain his form as an elite number one fantasy receiver? Will he remain a fringe number one weapon? Or will his regression continue to drive down his value this year?
Since there are no injury or age concerns with the 27-year-old Allen, there's no reason to expect his skill level to be dropping off just yet. As a result, his fantasy performance will likely be tied directly to his role in the offense and how targets are split between himself, third-year receiver Mike Williams and others.
Allen Dominates Overall Targets
There's no question who Philip Rivers' go-to receiver was in 2018. Allen was the recipient of 136 total targets, more than double any one else on the Chargers' roster (Williams and Melvin Gordon tied for second with 66).
It's also worth noting the Chargers lost Tyrell Williams (65 targets in 2018) and did not make any significant moves to replace him. So there could potentially be even more opportunities if some of Williams' targets get redirected at Allen.
Assuming Allen remains on the receiving end of the bulk of Rivers' targets, he's going to be a strong fantasy option in 2019. In other words, a significant regression from his 2018 stats is unlikely. But a closer look at his targets calls into question his ability to regain his elite 2017 value.
Most Valuable Targets Are Going to Williams
A high volume of targets can make anyone a fantasy-relevant receiver, but not all targets are created equal. Players who see a higher volume of targets in the red zone or in the downfield passing game have a greater opportunity to rack up the fantasy points.
Based on data from Sports Info Solutions, let's throw some numbers out to highlight how different types of targets led to different expected fantasy scoring in 2018:
|Target Type||PPR Points Per Tgt|
|21+ Yards Downfield||2.24|
|All Other Targets||1.51|
Predictably, downfield targets and red zone targets produce the most points. So from a fantasy football perspective we shouldn't focus strictly on players with a high volume of targets but, more specifically, on players who see a high volume of these types of targets.
To simplify things moving forward, let's group downfield targets and red zone targets together. We'll refer to them as high-yield targets (HYT) from this point forward. High-yield targets generated 2.4 points per target compared to 1.5 for all other targets in 2018.
Looking at the distribution of high-yield targets in the Chargers offense helps explain how Williams was able to put a significant dent in Allen's fantasy value despite Allen dominating the overall target share:
|WR||HYT||HYT Share||Overall Target Share|
While Williams accounted for just 13.1 percent of the Chargers overall target share, he led the way with a 21.5 percent high-yield target share. As a result, Williams was able to finish as the 20th-ranked receiver in standard scoring, just six slots behind Allen.
Allen is An Outlier... in a Bad Way
These high-yield targets are clearly valuable from a fantasy perspective, but they're also valuable in the actual games. As a result, we'd normally expect to see teams target their best receiver in these most valuable situations. In most cases, this often leads to a team's number one receiver seeing an even higher high-yield target share than their overall target share. For example, Davante Adams had a 27.5 percent target share overall, but saw 36.6 percent of the Green Bay Packers' high-yield targets last season.
In Los Angeles, however, Allen's target share decreased from 27 percent overall to 18 percent on high-yield targets, making one of only three receivers with at least 115 total targets to have a lower high-yield target share than his overall rate.
Allen's high-yield target share of 19 percent was also the lowest among the 17 receivers with at least 115 total targets in 2018:
Does the Loss of Tyrell Williams Help?
With Tyrell Williams now a member of the Oakland Raiders, there are some valuable targets up for grabs in Los Angeles. Williams was on the receiving end of 22 high-yield targets in 2018, the same number as Allen.
If we go back to the 2017 season, when the Chargers were without Mike Williams for a portion of the year, we can gain some insight into how these targets might be spread around. Here's a breakdown of Allen's target share from that 2017 season compared to 2018 when the full receiving corps was healthy.
|Season||HYT Share||Overall Target Share|
Allen's high-yield target share was higher in 2017, when the Chargers were without Mike Williams. However, it still sat below his overall target rate. As we already established, this is unusual for a team's top receiver.
The reason for this appears to be due to Allen's lack of usage on the deep ball. Even with Mike Williams playing a small role in the offense, Allen saw just six targets longer than 20 yards downfield in 2017. In the absence of Mike Williams, the Chargers elected to lean more heavily on Travis Benjamin to replace Williams' role in the deep passing game.
So even though Tyrell Williams' departure opens up some high-yield targets in the Chargers offense, their recent distribution indicates Allen will only be considered an option to pick up some slack in the red zone. Unfortunately, Williams wasn't much of a threat there. Of Tyrell Williams' 22 high-yield targets, only seven were in the red zone. That probably won't create enough extra opportunities to make a difference in Allen's output.
Expectations for Allen's 2019 Season
As previously mentioned, a high volume of targets can make any receiver a valuable weapon in fantasy football. And we don't have any reason to expect Allen's overall target share to decrease significantly this fall. As a result, we can probably expect another strong season from Allen with numbers comparable to his 2018 campaign.
Unfortunately, we've also established the Chargers' tendency to lean on Mike Williams rather than Allen on the most valuable targets, which puts his ceiling much lower than any other high-volume receiver in the league. As a result, you're probably better off targeting Allen as a number two wide receiver on your fantasy squad. His high volume of targets makes him a low-risk fantasy option, but his lack of valuable targets makes another dominant 2017 stat line unlikely to be repeated.