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Golden Tate Can Lead The League In Targets

This article is part of a series about wide receivers that could lead the league in targets.

The big three wide receivers this year, and first off the board in any format, are almost universally Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, and Odell Beckham. However, there are several other receivers with a legitimate chance to lead the league in targets this season. With his new opportunity, Golden Tate is a dark horse candidate to lead the league in targets.

New Opportunity

First, let’s start off with the obvious reason that targets could be coming Tate’s way. Matthew Stafford’s favorite target, Calvin Johnson is gone. And with him go the following target opportunities:

SeasonPlayerGamesTargetsNFL Rank
2015Calvin Johnson1614110
2014Calvin Johnson1312416
2013Calvin Johnson141489
2012Calvin Johnson161991
2011Calvin Johnson161513
2010Calvin Johnson151319
2009Calvin Johnson141319

With Stafford under center, the Lions have produced one NFL target leader and five additional top ten finishes in targets. In 2015, Golden Tate received 121 targets, an average of 7.56 targets per game. With the exit, of Johnson, Tate would need to absorb an additional 3.1 targets per game to eclipse the minimum 170 targets needed to lead the league.

Detriot Offense

The Detroit offense may not be among the top scoring offenses in the NFL (12th in points per drive in 2015, according the the NFL Drive Scoring App), but they were third in pass attempts during the 2015 season.

And in the few opportunities that Tate had without Johnson in the lineup since joining the Lions in 2014, he has thrived, third in yards and fourth in fantasy points over those weeks, and found himself heavily targeted

GoldenTateSplit

And while it has to be accepted that this small sample size does not guarantee Tate 13+ targets per week, it does show a rapport between quarterback and wide receiver. And the 13.33 target/game pace from the three game sample would equate to 213 targets over 16 games, significantly higher than the 2015 target leader (193 targets) and the base 170 targets.

Projecting the 2016 Offense

Our Projection Machine initially works off of three factors: average scoring margin per play, pass tendency, and pace tendency. The Lions, as mentioned above, are among the league leaders in pass tendency and are above average in pace tendency.

 Average Scoring Margin Per PlayPass TendencyPace Tendency
2015 Lions(2.6) points+7.4%+0.42 plays/gm
2015 League Median(1.4)(1.0%)+0.75
75th Percentile 2015 LM+1.1+2.0%(1.0)
25th Percentile 2015 LM(4.0)(4.0%)(2.75)
2016 Lions (Projected)(3.0)+7.0%+1.0

When projecting the offense, I initially looked at the 2011 and 2012 market shares for the Lions passing offense because the offense is in a similar position. Despite the signing of Marvin Jones, the Lions WR corps continues to lack depth (Theo Riddick was third in team targets in 2015). And while Jones is more talented than the 2011 and 2012 secondary receivers, he’s not Calvin Johnson and he’s never been targeted more than 93 times in a season. He doesn’t stand to command a significantly higher market share during his first year with the offense. And while he will likely maintain a prominent role in the passing offense, Riddick is unlikely to maintain his 90+ targets. And while Ameer Abdullah had moments during his rookie season, his fumbling issues and inconsistent production often forced the offense to focus more on the passing game.

PlayerTargetsReceptionsReceiving YardsReceiving TouchdownsReceiving Fantasy Points
Golden Tate17811713379304.7
Marvin Jones108678664177.6
T.J. Jones5132284272.4
Eric Ebron71485476138.7
Ameer Abdullah3925187149.7
Theo Riddick64484212102.1

Conclusion

The Lions are likely to pass the ball a lot this season and that’s going to open the door wide for the team’s top WR. Golden Tate is not Calvin Johnson, but that doesn’t mean that he’s not in line for more targets. Tate’s less efficient play could actually create more opportunity through more attempts per drive to score. With his current ADP of 33 overall and WR17, Tate is a viable WR1 (or more likely high end WR2) with his new opportunity.

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