In the third piece of this series we'll discuss wide receivers who at the very least aren't likely to repeat what they did last year. At least not in the way they did it. But this group is also a fine example of why saying someone is going to regress does not mean you think they're bad. There are multiple top-five receivers on this list. A few of my breakout picks as well. Just be careful what you expect.
We'll just start with a bang. Michael Thomas just made history, by a lot. His 85% catch rate was the highest on record for a wide receiver (minimum 80 targets). Second best was Wes Welker at 77.2%. Now Thomas is an elite receiver and he's playing with arguably the most accurate passer of all time. In his rookie season he caught 76% of his targets, which is good enough for the sixth best mark of all time. But he also caught just 69.8% of his targets in his second year. I've projected him for a 77% catch rate in 2019, which is his career average (and much higher than anyone else at his position). But it's also going to lop 11 catches and around 100 yards of last year's total.
Also Consider: Davante Adams didn't set any records last year, but he's right there with Thomas in terms of ranking, and I do worry he won't match last year's numbers. His catch rate was a career-best 65.7% and he averaged more targets than he ever had. With a new coaching staff, I wouldn't be surprised to see that target share dip for Adams, which would be a hug problem because he's averaged just 7.4 yards per target in his career. Adams may rely on another ridiculous touchdown rate again to be a top-eight receiver.
If you look at receivers who received at least four targets per game, you won't find a more efficient season than Tyler Lockett's 2018. He averaged 13.79 yards per target, the highest numbers since that metric was first measured in 1992. Jordy Nelson is the only receiver to ever average even 13 yards per target and only four others have ever been within 2 yards per target of Lockett. Oh yeah, he also scored 10 touchdowns on 70 targets. The one saving grace for Lockett could be an increase in targets with Doug Baldwin gone. Historically Russell Wilson has thrown around 23% of his passes to his No, 1 receiver. That could be enough of an increase to make Lockett a even with regression. But if he doesn't get the increase, he won't come close to last year's production.
Also Consider: Tyreek Hill and T.Y. Hilton were two other receivers to average at least 10.5 yards per target in 2018. For Hilton it was a career-high and nearly a yard and a half better than his career average. Hilton will need to maintain that efficiency with Devin Funchess and Parris Campbell coming for a share of his targets. I would anticipate he'll fall back closer to 9.5. Hill has actually averaged 10 yards per target for his career, so that may not be where the regression comes from. But I am a bit worried about his touchdowns. He scored 13 times on 109 touches last year. In 2017 he touched the ball 92 times and only reached the end zone seven times.
You'd be hard-pressed to find a better touchdown regression candidate than Mike Williams. He scored 10 touchdowns on just 66 targets. Because Tyrell Williams has left town there are a lot of people who believe Mike Williams is a breakout candidate but that's made more difficult by the return of Hunter Henry. Henry is an awesome red-zone target himself, and it's hard to see Mike Williams' target share exploding considering Keenan Allen is still there as the No. 1 receiver and how much the Chargers use their running backs. This is one breakout I'll be passing on.
Also Consider: There are certainly some similarities between Calvin Ridley and Williams. Ridley did get 92 targets last year, so he's at least closer to acceptable volume. I want to be clear that I don't expect Ridley will catch 10 touchdowns next year, but I do think there's a possibility he sees 110 targets and finishes as a top-25 receiver anyway. Anthony Miller and John Ross were largely irrelevant in Fantasy in 2018 but they scored seven touchdowns apiece. They could see their targets double next year, and I'm not sure I'd expect them to score as many touchdowns. But also, I don't think either of them are going to see their targets double.
JuJu Smith-Schuster scored seven touchdowns on 79 targets in 2017. One year later he received almost twice as many targets and scored...seven. How do we know which one is weird? Well we know how many touchdowns Antonio Brown has scored in this offense. Over the past five years he's scored once every 15 targets. We also know that the other five receivers with 110 catches last year scored a combined 50 touchdowns, and all of them scored more than Smith-Schuster. Now, maybe this will turn into a Julio Jones situation, but I'd bet against it. If Smith-Schuster scores like a normal No. 1 receiver in 2019, he may just be the best receiver in football.
Also Consider: One of these is clear, and the other not quite yet. Brandin Cooks had scored once every 15 targets over the past three seasons and scored five times on 117 targets in 2019 despite having his most efficient season ever (10.3 yards per target). Kenny Golladay only scored five times on 119 targets despite averaging 15.2 yards per reception. His skill set (and rookie production) suggests he'll score at a better rate moving forward.
So which Fantasy Football busts should you avoid in your draft? And which superstar QB isn't a trustworthy QB1 option? Visit SportsLine now to get Fantasy Football cheat sheets from the model that called Allen Robinson's disappointing season, and find out.