Robby Anderson is proving to be one of the most divisive figures in the fantasy football community leading into 2019. By the sounds of it, Anderson will either be the top breakout star of 2019, or he’ll fall far short of expectations. There is apparently no in between, and few people seem to agree on his outlook.
For example, on the same day in early August, two of fantasy football’s sharpest minds shared opposite new items regarding Anderson: Establish The Run’s Evan Silva highlighted some “promising observations” on Anderson’s training camp usage1, while Mike Clay of ESPN noted that Anderson is “set to face arguably the league’s toughest CB slate.”
On a podcast just days before, DraftKings’ Adam Levitan and The Action Network’s Sean Koerner debated Anderson’s DraftKings player prop lines. His line is set at over/under 950.5 receiving yards, and over/under 6.5 touchdowns. Levitan loved it. Koerner did not.
Some of the smartest people in the industry disagree on Anderson, so what gives? This article will attempt to make heads or tails of Robby Anderson and his 2019 fantasy outlook. Do you buy the hype, or listen to the detractors?
The Case for Anderson
Sam Darnold is going to make the Year 2 leap, and Anderson will reap the rewards!
Over the final four weeks of the season, when Darnold looked like a whole new quarterback, Anderson certainly saw a big boost in production:
RotoViz Lead Writer Neil Dutton wrote a tremendous piece on Robby Anderson this spring, and he already highlighted this final-month surge:
“To put that into some context, Anderson’s line in the last four games of 2018 was 23 receptions from 39 targets, with 336 receiving yards and three touchdowns. He commanded a whopping 32% of the Jets targets in the closing month of the season. This figure was exceeded by only two WRs in Weeks 14-17. DeAndre Hopkins commanded 35% of the Texans’ looks. Michael Thomas eked out a living with a 34% share in the Saints offense.
Anderson is no longer the only offensive threat in New York!
This is kind of an extension of the “Sam Darnold will make the Year 2 leap!” positive. Anderson was far and away the best playmaker in New York last year, even though he didn’t have a good season overall:
This offseason, the added Le’Veon Bell at RB and Jamison Crowder at WR. These additions, coupled with the expected leaps from Darnold and TE Chris Herndon, definitely make the offense more attractive leading into 2019.
Here’s Anderson’s take on the new-look offense:
“Well, they can’t double team me no more and they can’t stay over the top [in coverage], because if they do, they’re going to get loose [underneath], too.”
The Case against Anderson
WR bouncebacks are really rare
Anderson had his breakout season in 2017, snagging 63 balls for 941 yards and 7 touchdowns. Last year, he was down in all categories, producing a 50-752-6 line . . . and nearly half of his entire 2018 production came in the final month of the season. Some might see this as a harbinger of things to come; others will say it’s too small of a sample size.2
The problem? WR bouncebacks are really rare. “Even WRs entering their age-24 season bounce back at a rate of less than 30%,” noted RotoViz’s Blair Andrews. “By the time a WR reaches age 27, that rate is around 20%, and it hovers between 10 and 20% for basically the rest of the typical receiver’s career.”
Anderson is 26 this season. Based on historical averages, his bounce back chance is about 20-25%.
Better teammates means fewer opportunities for Anderson
As noted above, Anderson is not going to be the only relevant player on the Jets offense this season. Anderson, and others, certainly think that’s a positive. I’m not so sure.
Let’s not forget that Bell is a fantastic receiver, and routinely commanded around 100 targets per season in Pittsburgh. And Crowder is a possession receiver who will likely command 3-5 targets per game, too.
Adam Gase made hefty use of Jarvis Landry in his Miami days, and Crowder profiles more in Landry’s image than does Anderson.
And we do have a use case of how Gase might use Anderson, given that Kenny Stills is similar in terms of play style and production:
Robby Anderson 2019 fantasy outlook: The Verdict
Right now, the biggest cap in Anderson’s feather from a fantasy perspective is that he’s not expensive. In redraft PPR leagues, he’s being drafted as WR30 somewhere in the sixth or seventh round. That aligns neatly with our rankings.3 Given his cost, Anderson is a fine buy.
But I’m not convinced Anderson has a bounceback season. The pros are there — namely Darnold’s expected Year 2 leap — but with so many new mouths to feed in New York, coupled with the historical challenge WR bouncebacks, are enough for me to think Anderson is merely a flex option in 2019.
Our projections have Anderson slotted as the WR34 with 109 targets, 61 receptions, 915 yards, and 6 touchdowns — just under his DraftKings player prop lines.