Fantasy owners should always be in win-now mode.
A recent pet peeve of mine has been hearing owners talk about going all in and selling future assets to try to win a title. On the other hand, some owners speak about playing the long game of rebuilding by selling studs to acquire future capital.
Yes, both can work. Sometimes your roster is limited by injuries, or maybe you inherited a slumping team. However, in my opinion, you should be structuring your team, your trades, and your future outlook around remaining in win-now mode for as long as you can.
Kenny Golladay, while being a bit older for a wide receiver with only three years of professional experience, is the perfect target for win-now rosters.
Year In Review
Golladay technically broke out in 2018 when he just cracked the 200 point barrier in PPR formats. This year, he crushed his total fantasy output, but did so in a unique way. Let’s take a closer look.
In 2019, Golladay was targeted three fewer times, had five fewer receptions, and only 127 more receiving yards, all while playing in one more game compared to 2018. The big difference was in the touchdown category, where he jumped from five to 11.
Another area where Golladay grew as a receiver in his third year was his down-field ability. His yards-per-target and yards-per-reception increased by almost two and over three yards, respectively. Check out his air yards this past season.
He finished as the WR4 in total air yards this season coming in behind Julio Jones, DeVante Parker, and Mike Evans.
Golladay was also efficient as a down-field threat this season.
While taking a look at the top 10 wide receivers from this past season, there are a few exciting pieces of data to note about Golladay’s stats. He had the fewest targets and receptions of any wideout in the top 10 but offset that with 11 touchdowns.
The big topic from this last season was how well Golladay performed even after quarterback Matthew Stafford was lost due to injury. However, for as productive as he was without Stafford, the numbers show that fantasy owners should be excited about Stafford returning in 2020.
Golladay had a tumultuous yet productive college career. He ended up at Northern Illinois and entered the NFL as a 24-year-old rookie. That put a significant damper on him from a historical and analytical perspective, but he has shown tremendous growth during his three years in the league.
His age 24 rookie comps were not exciting to research, but here they are. For perspective, he finished as the WR69 in PPR formats.
His age 25 second-year comps got significantly better, but the pool of comparable, successful players was small. He finished that breakout season as the WR21.
By the time he entered his age 26 season, his historical comps had started looking like something worth noting. He finished this past season as the WR9 (WR3 in standard).
As you’ll see below, his late entrance into the league is something he’ll always have hanging over him. There are other wideouts with twice the experience who are the same age. While it’s not the only viable factor, it’s something fantasy owners need to keep in mind.
The Matthew Stafford Effect
The Lions never won another game after Stafford went down. His impact on the offense cannot be overstated. Before this season, he had played eight full seasons since his last missed game. Take a look at the drop in Detroit’s production in the games post-Stafford.
- Eight more points/game
- 100 more passing yards/game
- 1,600 more passing yards/season
While there have been a handful of circulating trade rumors surrounding Stafford, they were recently put to rest by the Lions general manager. Aside from having no in-house option to turn to, and likely not wanting to address the quarterback position via draft, the Lions would also take a $32 million cap hit if they were to trade him.
With Stafford in the lineup, his adjusted yards per attempt were the highest when targeting Golladay by over a full two yards. The connection they had resulted in efficient, consistent fantasy production.
Golladay, and the Lions offense as a whole, will significantly benefit from the return of Stafford.
Heading into Year 4, Golladay will not be sneaking up on anyone. After back-to-back top-24 seasons, one year as a back-end WR2, and one year as a back-end WR1, fantasy owners will be targeting him heavily in upcoming drafts.
His current ADP shows that he will not be cheap. He’s being drafted as the WR8 right between Mike Evans (WR7) and D.J. Moore (WR9).
At that price and in that range, I would prefer both Evans and Moore over Golladay. Evans is the same age as Golladay but has six years under his belt, whereas Golladay only has three. Despite the potential uncertainty at quarterback in Tampa Bay, I would take Evans. As for Moore, his youth and analytic profile lead me to take him in that range in a dynasty startup.
With those comparable wideouts in a similar price range, I will likely not own much Golladay. I don’t dislike his situation, athleticism, and opportunity, but his older age combined with the upside of the other wide receivers directly around him lead me to look elsewhere.
Golladay has had tremendous success in this offense and will likely have success for as long as he’s part of the current system in Detroit. If you don’t currently roster him but are one piece away from truly competing, I would not mind paying up for Golladay (likely a high first). If you do own him, enjoy the ride!