Can Jarvis Landry Improve His Touchdown Scoring in 2015?
Take one look at 5' 11", 205-pound Miami Dolphins slot receiver Jarvis Landry and tell me the first thing that comes to mind. I'll bet you it wasn't "red zone threat."
Yet, despite his small stature, less than explosive game, and in limited playing time, the numbers tell us that Landry was one of the Dolphins most efficient receivers in the red zone last year.
But with the overhaul of the Miami offense by the front office this offseason -- making big acquisitions through trades, free agency, and in the draft -- the question now is whether or not Jarvis can build off his strong rookie year to improve his performance in the scoring department in 2015.
A Promising Rookie Year
Jarvis Landry quickly became a reliable target for Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill his rookie year, catching three out of every four of his 112 targets for 758 yards and 5 touchdowns.
His 84 receptions last season actually ranked 14th amongst all wideouts, and despite averaging just 9.0 yards per reception, Landry came through in the clutch multiple times for Miami. Indeed, his Reception Net Expected Points (NEP) of 63.29 placed him as the sixth most productive rookie receiver in the league. (NEP is our signature metric which measures player performance relative to expectation. To learn more about it check out our glossary.)
But Landry served as more than just an easy, underneath-route receiver. Jarvis was also surprisingly efficient in the red zone last year as well.
On paper Landry seems to be at a physical disadvantage when it comes to operating in the red zone. At 5' 11", he's a bit undersized, and with a 28.5" vertical and 110" broad jump, he also isn't a particularly big leaper. By no means is he the most explosive player on the field.
Yet Landry still managed to be one of the Dolphins' most efficient player in this part of the field last season, catching nearly 80% of his targets within the opponent's 20-yard line and converting on just over one-third of these targets into touchdowns.
He accomplished all this by once again maximizing the skills at his disposal, making subtle, well-timed moves to slip past defenders such as on this play, and by attacking the ball with perfect timing to snatch it away from opposing defenders as seen here.
Landry's effectiveness on the field as the Dolphins' slot receiver was rewarded over the season with increased playing time as the rookie's snap count rose from about 30% at the beginning of the season all the way up to roughly 70% in the Miami's final games.
And there's no reason to believe this trend won't continue into the 2015 season. Indeed, Landry's strong rookie play and growth in Miami's offense likely played a part in the Dolphins' decision to let some key receivers from their 2014 roster land on other teams this offseason, including the once highly-coveted Mike Wallace and longtime Dolphin Brian Hartline.
The More Things Change...
During the 2014 season a large share of the red zone targets actually fell to three pass catchers no longer with the team in Mike Wallace, Charles Clay, and Brian Hartline.
These three players were targeted on 51 of Tannehill's 89 red zone attempts (57.3%) and came away with 13 of Tannehill's 24 touchdowns (54.2%) from this end of the field.
Meanwhile, Landry accounted for a decent proportion of Ryan Tannehill's touchdowns in the red zone, tallying five of the quarterback's 24 scores, while being targeted on just 14 out of his 89 pass attempts here.
It's evident that aside from Wallace -- who will be catching his passes from Teddy Bridgewater in Minnesota next season -- no one did more with less in the red zone for Miami than Landry last season.
Indeed, on this note, as was mentioned earlier, Landry had the highest catch rate amongst these four pass catchers within the opponent's 20-yard line. Using his pair of 10.25" mitts, Jarvis secured nearly 80% of the passes thrown his way and converted over one-third of these targets into touchdowns. Contrast this with now Buffalo Bill Charles Clay, who converted just 10% of his 20 red zone targets into scores last season.
With all this being said, Landry should easily inherit the lion's share of the red zone targets left behind by Mike Wallace and company, right?
Not so fast...
...The More They Stay the Same
While some important pieces of the Dolphins passing game from 2014 are no longer members of this team, the Dolphins made quick work of replacing them with upgrades at each respective position in the offseason.
At tight end, 6' 3" Charles Clay has been replaced by the physically-gifted and imposing 6' 5" Jordan Cameron. While Cameron missed much of 2014 due to injury, Cameron displayed his prowess in the red zone in 2013, catching 11 out of his 19 targets (58%) within the opponent's 20-yard line and converting on over one-third of these into touchdowns.
At wide receiver, speedster Mike Wallace has been replaced by the younger, faster Kenny Stills and Brian Hartline has been replaced by the explosive rookie out of Louisville, DeVante Parker.
DeVante in particular has always shown a nose for the end zone. As our own Graham Barfield found earlier this season, one out of every five of Parker's receptions in college went for touchdowns. And with an impressive catch radius provided by his 6' 3" frame, 36.5" vertical, and 125" broad jump, we can expect Parker to continue this success in this portion of the field as a pro as he provides Tannehill with another big target for to utilize inside the opponent's 20.
And Parker wasn't the only talented skill player the Dolphins were able to add to their passing offense in this year's draft. As I wrote earlier this offseason, Miami was able to steal tailback Jay Ajayi in the fifth round. A more than capable pass catcher out of the backfield -- Ajayi caught 50 passes in 2014, becoming the first player in FBS history to rush for at least 1,800 yards and catch another 500 in the same season -- the talented all-around back out of Boise State gives Tannehill just one more option in the passing game for the upcoming season.
The Bottom Line
Intrinsically, all the arrows are pointing upward for Jarvis in 2015. He has a year of NFL experience behind him, he's ready to build off the rapport he established with Tannehill in his rookie season, and with the consistent efficiency he delivered on the field for the Dolphins in 2014, his snaps and targets are sure to go up.
But when you take the entirety of his situation into account, the picture isn't quite as rosy. The competition for red zone targets just got stiffer as Mike Wallace and Charles Clay have been replaced with better red zone counterparts in rookie DeVante Parker and free agent Jordan Cameron.
Altogether I expect Jarvis Landry's touchdown opportunities to remain roughly the same. What this means for fantasy football purposes is that, while Jarvis should remain an excellent option in points-per-reception formats as he should improve on his 84 reception mark from his rookie year and make a decent run at 100 catches next season, the modest yardage totals and touchdowns that will result from his slot receiver role on the team should temper managers' expectations in standard leagues.