How High Can Breshad Perriman's Fantasy Football Ceiling Really Be With the Jets?
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' passing offense was set to be something drastically different in 2020 than it has been in quite some time. As you undoubtedly know by now, they brought in Tom Brady to run the offense.
How well can he fill that void?
Perriman's Outlier-ish 2019
Despite being a first-round pick by the Baltimore Ravens in 2015 (26th overall), Perriman took a while to post a big NFL season. He churned out 499 yards in his first season, 2016, on 66 targets and 33 catches. Then he had just 35 targets the following year for 77 yards. That 2.2 yards per target mark was -- wait for it -- second-lowest of any player with at least 30 targets since target tracking came along in 1992.
Perriman then headed to the Cleveland Browns in 2017, a season in which he saw just 25 targets in 10 games with 340 yards. Those 13.6 yards per target were fifth-highest among players with at least 25 targets since 1992.
Sure, those are both small samples, but that speaks to the volatility that Perriman's downfield archetype can bring with it.
Then everything clicked in 2019 with Jameis Winston and the Bucs. He saw a career-best 69 targets for 645 yards, good for 9.3 yards per target despite catching only 52.2% of the passes thrown his way.
Were the early-career woes all Perriman's fault? Eh, probably not.
We should know by now that receivers can only do so much relative to their quarterbacks, and if your targets aren't catchable, you're out of luck. That's not to take all of the blame away from receivers -- but just check out Perriman's catch rate and catchable target rate via SportsInfoSolutions. (I know the target data doesn't match what is cited above, but that's common when we swap between stats providers.)
Note how drastically different his catchable target rates were in 2016 and 2017 compared to 2018 and 2019.
In seasons in which Perriman had decent targets thrown his way, he put up good numbers: 18.9 yards per catch and 10.5 yards per target the past two years over 95 targets.
Now comes the obvious question.
Can Sam Darnold Connect With Perriman?
Perriman's average target depths since 2016 have been 14.2, 14.2, 17.8, and 16.0 yards downfield, via SIS. Those are basically top-10 rates among high-volume receivers. Most recently, in 2019, Perriman ranked third in average target depth among 80 receivers with at least 50 targets, via FantasyADHD.
Jameis Winston ranked second in the league in average target depth in 2019 (10.6) and has been top-five in every year of his career. Perriman's new passer, Sam Darnold, ranked 20th among 42 passers in 2019 with at least 100 attempts in average target depth (8.2). In 2018, however, Darnold (9.4) ranked fourth.
Target depth is nice and all, but it doesn't fully account for how many splash play attempts a player really gets, so let's look at that data.
Last year, Winston attempted 144 passes at least 16 yards downfield. Darnold had 91 in 13 games. Winston threw downfield on 23.0% of his attempts in 2019, the third-highest rate in the NFL. Darnold threw deep on 20.6% of his passes, 14th-highest. It's a small gap, all things considered, and both passers are top-10 if we spin back to 2018 in combined downfield rate.
Darnold can and will sling it deep.
In terms of efficiency, however. Among 42 qualified quarterbacks, Winston ranks 20th in adjusted yards per attempt on downfield passes since 2018. Darnold is 33rd.
Winston's completion rate on such passes (45.3%) ranks him 14th in that sample. Darnold's 38.5% ranks 28th. Is Winston the league's best deep-ball passer? No, but he's always slinging it deep. Is Darnold the league's worst deep-ball passer? Nope, and he still chucks it deep quite often.
However, this easily can be considered a downgrade for Perriman from where he was last year, and furthermore, elite fantasy seasons from receivers who change teams are rare. Perriman is very likely going to be a frustrating fantasy performer in 2020 unless he and Darnold develop an insane connection from the start.
The Bottom Line
Perriman's NFL career has actually been not that awful when we look at quarterback play. He hasn't lived up to the hype of a first-round pick by any means, but when the targets and health have been decent, we've seen strong efficiency numbers from Perriman over the past two years.
Perriman will benefit from a clear gap in the offense with Robby Anderson gone, so we don't have to worry about the market share as much as we would have if he were sharing the field with Anderson.
But with the new team and downfield dependency, history suggests that Perriman will be a highly-volatile player whose ceiling may not be as high as we would like for a fantasy receiver.
numberFire's editor-in-chief, JJ Zachariason, projects Perriman for 93 targets, 52 receptions, 746 yards, and 4.1 touchdowns in his first year with the Jets.