Robby Anderson Muddies the Waters for the Carolina Panthers in Fantasy Football
Bridgewater may not be the world's best or most aggressive quarterback, but he's not Kyle Allen. That in itself increases the team's touchdown expectation, which benefits everybody involved. It solidified Christian McCaffrey and DJ Moore where they were going and made Ian Thomas and Curtis Samuel attractive in the later rounds.
Those good vibes were fun while they lasted.
Former Jets’ WR Robby Anderson is signing a two-year, $20 million deal including $12 million in year one with the Carolina Panthers, per source.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 24, 2020
Adding another quality player in Robby Anderson is a good thing for the Panthers as a team. But in fantasy, it threatens to make them a headache.
Let's go through the ripple effects of this move and try to figure out what it does to the fantasy outlook of everybody involved. It's certainly not a death sentence, but Anderson's signing makes things foggier.
Increased Expectations for the Offense
Before we dive into the individuals here, it's important to discuss the impact this has on the Panthers as a team. Team strength is a key for fantasy because so much of the scoring revolves around touchdowns, and this move is a boon for the Panthers in that department.
With Anderson, Samuel, Moore, McCaffrey, and Thomas in the fold, the Panthers are going to be absolute burners. Here's the 40 time each guy ran coming out of college.
In three-receiver sets, Moore will be the slowest wideout on the field, and his 4.42 40 is in the 89th percentile among receivers, according to the Player Profiler. Good luck with that.
This forces us to re-evaluate our previous assessment of Bridgewater for fantasy. Initially, I said he wouldn't have single-quarterback appeal because he wasn't a runner or someone who would chuck it deep. This signing challenges the latter part of that sentiment.
By bringing in Anderson, the Panthers now have a handful of pass-catching options who can torch you downfield. You don't do that if you plan to run a dink-and-dunk type of offense.
You may question whether Bridgewater is willing and able to take advantage of those downfield weapons, and that's a fair question after he had the lowest average depth of target in football last year with the New Orleans Saints. But that's not the type of quarterback Bridgewater was earlier in his career.
Here's Bridgewater's deep rate by season, with a "deep" throw being one that travels at least 16 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. For context, the league-wide mark last year was 18.4%.
We should almost always give preference to more recent stats, especially when there's a three-season gap between that and the previous data. For Bridgewater, that may not be the best plan of attack.
It's important to remember that Bridgewater wasn't the only Saints quarterback who kept things close to the line of scrimmage. Drew Brees was 39th in deep rate out of 42 quarterbacks with at least 100 total attempts. The offense they ran revolved around high-percentage throws to Michael Thomas.
Tre'Quan Smith also missed time when Bridgewater was a starter, meaning the third receiver in the offense was Austin Carr. The team didn't have another deep threat outside of Ted Ginn Jr., so it's easier to understand why Sean Payton would run this type of scheme.
Having Moore, Samuel, and Anderson at his disposal does not mean Bridgewater will suddenly turn into Jameis Winston and chuck it into triple coverage for funsies. But we have seen Bridgewater have a league-average deep rate in the past, and we shouldn't assume he won't do that again just because of a 196-attempt sample in a different offense.
Because of that, Bridgewater is someone who deserves to be on our radar in single-quarterback leagues, and he'll likely be a tad undervalued in superflex leagues. That wasn't the case before, so this is a boost for his value.
The rest of the team is a bigger question mark.
Lots of Mouths to Feed
Last year, we got a two-game glimpse at the Panthers' offense with its current personnel in place, minus Anderson. That was when Greg Olsen missed Weeks 14 and 15 and launched Thomas into a larger role.
It's just a two-game sample, so we shouldn't overreact to it, but this is the target distribution in those games.
|Weeks 14 and 15||Overall Targets||Deep Targets|
McCaffrey was chasing records, so we can lower his projection from there. This also means Moore should be fine, especially with all the deep targets going his way.
Samuel, though, was in a bit of trouble there. Even his full-season target share at 17.7% -- including the time before they sold out to try to get McCaffrey records -- leaves a bit to be desired. Now there's extra competition for looks.
This isn't to say that Anderson's going to come in and become a target monster in the offense. He did surge down the stretch (again) last year, but if we look from Week 6 on (after Sam Darnold returned from mono), Anderson had 20.1% of the New York Jets' overall targets. That's why we can still have optimism around Moore and McCaffrey. It just puts a dent in the late-round appeal of Samuel.
We can see the impacts of this on both Anderson and Samuel by looking at projections by numberFire's JJ Zachariason.
Clearly, Moore's still in line to go nuts, sitting ninth in targets among all receivers, based on Zachariason's numbers. It's possible he gets a slight downgrade with more viable targets in the fold, but we can still remain relatively high on him entering the year.
Samuel and Anderson are more even to each other. Samuel, especially, is projected to take a step back from 2019.
Based on Zachariason's projections, Samuel is slotted for 18 fewer targets than he had last year while Anderson's projected for only one less. Moving to an offense that's not sluggish and run by Adam Gase can be a win for a lot of people, Anderson included. It helps offset the presence of viable pieces around him.
Although we should expect the efficiency to go up for both Samuel and Anderson (even when healthy, Darnold's metrics were poor last year), volume tops efficiency in fantasy football. The volume here is shaky at best.
Samuel can still be targeted in the later rounds, assuming that his cost does decline. He's in a new offense this year, and it's possible that Matt Rhule and Joe Brady cook up ways to get the ball in the speedster's hands. This move seems to indicate that they don't view Samuel as a legit No. 2 receiver threat, and we should take that sentiment into account. But as long as Samuel remains cheap, it's not a terrible idea to grab shares and hope something deviates from our expectations.
Even with the decent projection for Anderson, it's fair to remain pessimistic. With so many of his targets being downfield, he's naturally a volatile player for fantasy. If his targets go down even a bit -- or if Bridgewater does revert to his short-tossing Saints ways -- Anderson's weekly floor will be a goose egg.
This means Anderson's outlook ultimately depends on where he winds up going in re-draft leagues. If people view this situation as the same as what he would have had on the Jets, we should likely back off. It's tougher to see him getting 20% of the targets here than it would have been there, so this is a definite downgrade. The tune would change if people were to completely jump ship on him, but we should wait and see on that first before reacting.
With McCaffrey, we should have been expecting fewer targets in 2020 to begin with. He set the running back record for targets last year, and you should never bank on a player duplicating an outlier. This move solidifies that.
It doesn't really matter, though. Few backs in fantasy have the projected workload of McCaffrey, and his touchdown projection may get a boost with better weapons in the offense. He's still the top fantasy option available for 2020.
Thomas is a lot like Anderson in that his appeal depends on his cost. Early drafts at Fantasy Football Calculator have Thomas as the 25th tight end off the board. If he sticks there, we can gamble on an athletic tight end in what could be a lively offense. If he starts to generate hype with Olsen gone, though, the lack of available targets in the offense should prevent us from diving in.
Overall, the only true winner of this move is Bridgewater. It increases the odds that he opens things up, and the touchdown expectation for the offense gets a boost, as well. Even with P.J. Walker in town, Bridgewater's stock is on the rise.
Moore, McCaffrey, and Thomas all remain relatively even. We can downgrade the target projections for them a bit, but with Moore's and McCaffrey's roles being elite and Thomas' cost being non-existent, they remain appealing.
Both Anderson and Samuel get a kick down due to the move. This isn't to say that we need to cross them off our lists because they're both talented players who can pay off in a hurry. However, the weekly target projection is going to be low, meaning these two guys are going to be frustrating. Unless this move significantly alters the cost tied to them, we should be skeptical of dabbling in their waters any time soon.