Terry McLaurin Is Priced at His Floor Heading Into 2020
The former third-round selection had a strong start and finish to his 2019 campaign, but McLaurin struggled in the middle part of the year. Those mid-year struggles resulted in him finishing as the WR29 in PPR formats.
Coming off the board as WR26 (61st overall), according to 12-team BestBall10's May ADP, McLaurin looks like an appealing player at that price. Let's break down McLaurin's rookie season and dig into why he's a solid mid-round buy.
His 2019 By the Numbers
First of all, Washington was one of the more tumultuous teams in 2019. Not only did they win only three games, there was a coaching change and a quarterback carousel for most of the season. Jay Gruden was fired after Week 5, and Washington's offense struggled mightily as a result.
After a Week 6 win against the winless Miami Dolphins, a game in which McLaurin had 100 yards and 2 touchdowns, the Washington offense failed to score 20 points again until a Week 13 victory against the Carolina Panthers. On top of that, McLaurin had three different quarterbacks throwing to him over the course of the season, with Case Keenum and Colt McCoy starting early until Dwayne Haskins took the controls from Week 9 on.
McLaurin was underwhelming between Weeks 7 and 13. However, his first six games, along with Weeks 14 through 16, tell a completely different story. Shown below is the difference in production over these three separate stretches. This does not include Weeks 4 and 17, which he missed due to injury, and Week 10, which was Washington's bye. We'll also get into McLaurin's Net Expected Points (NEP) numbers. NEP is our in-house metric, and you can read more about it in our glossary.
|Stat||Weeks 1-6||Weeks 7-13||Weeks 14-16|
|Targets Per Game||7.6||6.0||7.0|
|Receptions Per Game||4.6||3.0||5.0|
|Yards Per Game||81.6||40.0||91.0|
|Yards Per Reception||17.74||13.0||18.2|
|Reception NEP Per Catch||1.96||1.0||1.57|
|Target NEP Per Target||0.91||0.20||0.90|
|Touchdowns Per Game||1.0||0.0||0.67|
One of the first things you notice in these numbers is the decrease in volume over the middle of the year. McLaurin was averaging two fewer targets, 41 fewer yards per game, and five fewer yards per reception during his mid-season slump. After Week 6, he did not score another touchdown until Week 14.
Eventually, these numbers corrected themselves over the final three games, saving McLaurin's fantasy season.
Nonetheless, McLaurin ended the season with a solid stat line. He recorded 919 yards and 58 receptions on 93 targets. But his value is reflected most in the advanced metrics. Among wideouts who saw at least 50 targets, he ranked 6th overall in Target NEP per target, 10th in Reception NEP per target, and 13th in Reception Success Rate. (Success Rate is the percentage of his catches that resulted in positive NEP.) Also, according to PlayerProfiler, he had a 2nd-ranked target premium (37.4%), a 10th-ranked QBR (115.9), and a top-ranked contested catch percentage (68.4%).
McLaurin is clearly a very good football player. Had he not missed two games and had the situation around him been more stable last year, it is likely he would have finished ranked higher in terms of fantasy output. But Washington and stability don't usually go hand in hand. Will that be different in 2020?
Washington in 2020
The addition of Ron Rivera as head coach could be the culture change Washington needs, and he could help stabilize the offense in the nation's capital. Even in a down year in Carolina last year -- with arguably less talented quarterback play -- Rivera’s offense was slightly more efficient than Washington’s (-0.02 schedule-adjusted Passing NEP per drop back for Carolina, compared to -0.03 for Washington), though both were among the league's worst.
Maybe most noteworthy as far as McLaurin is concerned is that Carolina -- even with Kyle Allen starting for much of the campaign -- had the fourth-highest pass-to-run ratio at 1.79. Washington was at 1.48 last year despite seeing so many negative game scripts, so McLaurin could get a volume boost in 2020.
In addition to a coaching change, the Redskins addressed their offensive line and defensive issues. Not only has Washington been able to build a more formidable defense in only one offseason, they added four new offensive lineman and retained Brandon Scherff for another year. They drafted Antonio Gandy-Golden and Antonio Gibson, the latter of whom has a skillset which should thrive in the passing game. And lastly, Washington is getting Derrius Guice and Bryce Love back from season ending injuries in 2019.
The offense should have more weapons than they did in 2019, and a better offense only helps McLaurin, potentially giving him more scoring opportunities as well as helping pull away the attention of opposing defense.
But so much of McLaurin making a jump in 2020 is tied to Haskins. The biggest stumbling block for McLaurin as a rookie was Washington's poor quarterback play. According to PlayerProfiler, McLaurin ranked 85th in accuracy of targets and had a catchable target percentage of just 79.6%, which checked in 40th. Not ideal.
The eventual promotion of Haskins to full-time starter benefitted Washington toward the end of the season. Once Haskins went through game reps consistently, he performed his best in Weeks 15 and 16, recording single-game QBRs of 121.3 and 143.2, respectively, in those weeks.
However, those games came against the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants, two pass defenses that struggled in 2019, and when we look at Haskins' overall numbers, he was pretty bad, posting -0.11 Passing NEP per drop back, which tied for the third-worst mark among passers with at least 100 drop backs a year ago.
But it's not unrealistic to expect Haskins -- or McLaurin, for that matter -- to improve in Year 2, and if Carolina's pass-happy ways from 2019 follow Rivera to Washington, McLaurin could see more volume and also be more efficient this coming fall.
Our models at numberFire pretty much agree with McLaurin's pricing (remember: he's 61st overall and WR26), projecting him to record 71 receptions (on 117 targets), 1,017 yards and 5.2 touchdowns. We rank him as the WR27, a high-end WR3.
But there's upside here which isn't really accounted for in those numbers -- output that is roughly in line with McLaurin's per-game production from 2019. If Rivera can help stabilize the offense or if Haskins makes a leap in Year 2, McLaurin could truly bust out.
We know McLaurin is good at football; his rookie-year advanced metrics were superb. If the situation around him improves, McLaurin could outperform his ADP, and even if Haskins struggles again, we've seen McLaurin produce with bad quarterback play, so our projection could be more like his floor.
All in all, McLaurin is a safe pick with upside at his current cost.