Fantasy Football: Terry McLaurin Has Immense Upside Despite a Suspect Washington Offense
Perhaps no 2019 breakout came as a bigger surprise than that of Terry McLaurin.
While McLaurin was relatively unremarkable as a member of the Ohio State Buckeyes, "Scary Terry" -- as he and 78% of the world's Terry population is called -- burst onto the NFL scene. He put up 919 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns in 14 games, meaning his 16-game pace exceeded 1,000 yards.
McLaurin not only produced at this level with subpar quarterback play, but he was efficient in doing so -- or at least as efficient as a member of the maligned Washington football team can be. In spite of this, many ask if he can reach the same heights or even extend past them in 2020.
The answer? McLaurin is just getting started.
Despite having one of the league's worst quarterback situations, McLaurin had a remarkably efficient season as a rookie.
In terms of simple stats, McLaurin posted an elite 9.9 yards per target. Getting more advanced, he posted 0.62 Reception Net Expected Points (NEP) per target, which was technically below the league average of 0.70 but by far the highest mark for DC's team. McLaurin added to that with an excellent 1.48 Reception NEP per reception, well above the league average figure of 1.15 in a well below-average situation.
Using a stat that takes poor environments into account, he also posted an 11th-best production premium, according to Player Profiler.
One unfortunate side effect of this efficiency is likely regression. Our projections put McLaurin at 8.7 yards per target in 2020, stemming from 120 targets, 74 receptions, 1049 yards, 5 touchdowns. That's still a quality number but is obviously a hit from his 9.9 mark a year ago, a level that is typically unsustainable regardless of quarterback.
That doesn't necessarily spell a dip in McLaurin's overall production and fantasy value, though. His volume is a good bet to increase, and we project an uptick from 93 targets to 120.
This starts with a full 16-game season as opposed to his 14 games in 2019. Another possibility is McLaurin also taking on a larger target share. The former Buckeye faces little in the way of competition, with fellow (less productive) sophomores Steven Sims and Kelvin Harmon being the most likely to join McLaurin in the starting lineup. Washington also added Antonio Gandy-Golden in the draft's fourth round, but this likely doesn't offset the losses of Chris Thompson and Paul Richardson in terms of targets.
Taking into account that McLaurin is far and away the best receiver on the team, and it's easy to paint a picture where he is among the league's leaders in target share.
McLaurin could have had an even better debut season had Washington attempted more than the very low total of 479 team pass attempts, which was fifth-lowest in the NFL. In 2020, it's very likely that number does change. Out with the coaching staff that passed 479 times with a bad quarterback, in with the coaching staff that let Kyle Allen and the other Carolina quarterbacks throw 633 times.
Bad quarterbacks being unable to keep the offense on the field can limit opportunities, but that isn't the whole story, either. According to Football Outsiders, the current Washington coaching staff ran plays every 25.1 seconds, a league high when they were with Carolina. Conversely, Washington was 26th, running a play every 28.6 seconds. This will sneak a handful of extra plays into every game, and a higher share of those plays will be passing plays, according to Sharp Football Stats, as Carolina threw 63% of the time in one score games versus Washington's 54% rate.
Our projections trend towards caution with 503 team attempts, but a bigger number is very possible. McLaurin's upside is essentially a measure of how high this number can possibly go. A bigger pie to share from means more targets for him.
Can Haskins Be Good (Or Even Average?)
After tossing 50 touchdown passes at Ohio State, expectations were high for Dwayne Haskins, but he severely underperformed in 2019.
Can that change? Well, that's unlikely. At -0.11 Passing NEP per drop back, Haskins made even Case Keenum look like Joe Montana, who comparatively had a 0.07 Passing NEP per drop back that was still below the 0.10 league average. Unless Haskins sees a Jared Goff-like sophomore turnaround, he's unlikely to be an actual good quarterback (as much as Goff can be called good).
A move to average or even below average as opposed to horrendous is more likely. While this isn't ideal for McLaurin, it remains just another source of upside for him, as his quarterback play can really only get better.
One strange narrative often heard regarding Haskins and McLaurin is their chemistry carrying over from college. Maybe they are close friends, but it never showed on an Ohio State football field, as McLaurin never achieved even the 20% of a team's receiving production necessary for registering a coveted college breakout age.
To be clear, this doesn't mean anything negative for McLaurin. It just means it's better to view them as a young quarterback and his ultra-talented wide receiver. They possess no magical connection.
Draft Terry McLaurin
Described above is a player who possesses a safe-ish floor and a limitless ceiling, yet he's going 55th overall as WR24 in 12-team Bestball10s this month.
McLaurin is an excellent WR2 and even a passable enough WR1 in running-back-heavy drafts. If there's one mid-round player to not leave drafts without, it's McLaurin. It's surreal that a receiver with this much ability and upside is available this late in drafts, especially after proving himself as a rookie.
If all that doesn't convince you, just remember he ran a 4.35 forty at 6'0", 210 pounds. In addition to everything else that's been mentioned, he's a supreme athlete to boot.