Keenan Allen Has Sneaky Fantasy Football Upside This Year

For large chunks of the 2020 offseason, Keenan Allen of the Los Angeles Chargers appeared to be a player fantasy football managers had soured on.

His July average draft position of WR24, per BestBall10s, was one that we would expect for a player with serious question marks, not a guy who has been among the most productive at his position for many years.

But circumstances have changed of late -- namely an injury to Mike Williams -- and suddenly Allen is a little more appealing. His ADP has risen a bit, up to WR22 in BestBall10 drafts that have taken place over the last seven days, but Allen appears to be a steal even at his rising price. Let's break it down.

Among the Elite

Allen has been a great fantasy wide receiver in recent years. Well, he’s been a great wide receiver -- period. After injuries limited him to just nine total games in the 2015 and 2016 seasons, he has played all 48 games since. During this time, his numbers stand up very well at the position.

Stat Total 17-19 Positional Rank
Targets 446 5th
Receptions 303 3rd
Receiving Yds 3788 4th
Touchdowns 18 15th
PPR Points 801.8 4th

Allen has been productive and efficient, a delicious mix that makes for fantasy success. In 2017 and 2018, he was among the league's best in per-play efficiency based on our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric.

Even last year, when his output dipped by our numbers, he was still performing at a league-average rate as he commanded the fifth-most targets among all wide receivers. The table below looks at his ranks among the wide receivers who saw at least 100 targets.

Season Target NEP per Target Rank
2017 0.47 5th of 27
2018 0.52 8th of 28
2019 0.35 14th of 30

A New Look Under Center

Following the 2019 season, Philip Rivers took his skills to the Indianapolis Colts, and it seemed that fantasy managers felt that he took Allen’s playmaking skills with him. After finishing as the WR3, WR12, and WR6 in PPR formats the last three seasons, until recently fantasy managers were waiting until 23 other wide receivers had been taken before calling Allen’s name.

As well as losing the quarterback who had accounted for 760 of Allen’s 766 career targets, drafters may have also been concerned about the future relationship between Allen and Rivers's replacement, Tyrod Taylor.

Taylor's stint as a starter with the Buffalo Bills between 2015 and 2017 seemed to suggest that another Chargers wide receiver would benefit more from Taylor’s style of play.

In Buffalo, Taylor averaged 10.97 adjusted yards per attempt when targeting Sammy Watkins, a speedy downfield option, whilst averaging only 7.25 yards per throw when looking at an underneath option in Robert Woods. The Chargers have Mike Williams, a player who averaged a position-best 17.4-yard average depth of target last season, to play the Watkins role. This left Allen to play similar to Woods' style, a role that saw Woods finish no higher than the PPR WR33 in any of his three seasons with Tyrod.

A Recent Change in Value

But then Williams suffered a shoulder injury in camp, an injury that the most optimistic Chargers observers feel will hamper Williams going into the season. This leaves Allen firmly atop the Chargers' wide receiver target totem pole -- with the other receivers on the roster boasting a total of just 29 career receptions. Darius Jennings has 27 of them.

The Chargers probably won’t be as pass-happy as they were when Rivers was at quarterback, nor will they likely lead the league in offensive plays. The Chargers ran the eighth-fewest plays in neutral game situations last year. But when forced to pass, it’s hard to see any Charger other than Allen dominating targets.

2020 Outlook

At present, we have Allen projected to finish as the WR19 in PPR (WR25 in standard). But our numbers account for Williams playing a full season, something that looks iffy as of now.

Allen, playing in a contract year, should find himself with a workload much more akin to that of a high-end WR2 -- if not a top-12 option on volume alone.

As you approach drafts in the coming days, you would be well served not to dismiss Allen, who should once again be solid producer, particularly in PPR formats.