Golden Opportunity – Can Golden Tate Assume Calvin Johnson’s Fantasy Mantle?

With Calvin Johnson’s status for 2016 still somewhat open to debate, it is hard to fully appreciate what the Lions will be able to do offensively in the coming season. With the team finally making the move to ask Joique Bell to prosper elsewhere (in polite terms), it appears that ground responsibilities should fall to Ameer Abdullah and Zach Zenner. But if Megatron truly does make good of his threat to go the Barry Sanders route and leave at five-to rather than five-past, can the receiving slack be picked up by those left behind, particularly Golden Tate? Let’s take a look.


As the charts below, taken from the Rotoviz Game Splits App shows, Tate has been firmly in the shadow of Johnson since he arrived in the Motor City in 2014.



Tate has been a decent complement to Johnson, without seriously impinging on his production. But, as we can see, WITHOUT Johnson Tate has been a more than competent wide receiver, particularly in fantasy terms. So with Megatron out of the way, we should all jump aboard the Tate bandwagon as quickly as possible, right? Erm…based on a three game sample size, I would think not. But does that mean ignore him entirely? No.

Since Jim Bob Cooter assumed the duties of offensive coordinator, he was successful in making Matt Stafford fantasy relevant again,1 he did so by making life seem shorter for his quarterback. According to Pro Football Focus, only two quarterbacks had a shorter average depth of target from Week 10 onwards than Stafford’s 6.6 yards. Even Alex Smith looked further downfield than Stafford as the season came to a close. This had a huge impact on Tate, who saw his aDOT drop from a pedestrian 7.1 yards to 4.2. Four running backs were targeted further down field more often than Tate during this span. He did register the fifth most receptions of all wide receivers though. This put him into WR1 territory in PPR formats, and placed him 20th in standard scoring from Week 10 onwards, despite a lower aDOT than any of the other top 20.


The above information would seem to indicate that Tate can be a productive target monster outside of Megatron’s shadow, especially in PPR leagues. But he doesn’t seem to be kicking up waves of enthusiasm amongst fantasy owners yet.  At least he isn’t being draft commensurate with the opportunity in front of him. While owners may be far from convinced that this is really it for Megatron, I would have few qualms going at least a round earlier for Tate. Just don’t bank on that 1,861 yard, 11 touchdown season occurring just yet. There is fantasy football, and then there is Cloud Cuckoo Land ball.

  1. From Week 10 onwards, Stafford’s 1,937 passing yards was the third most in the league, his 17 touchdown passes the third most, and his single interception was tied for first.  (back)

Neil Dutton

Lead Writer, soft spot for the tight end position. Will never stop loving Duke Johnson.
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