Terry McLaurin fans rejoiced when Washington signed quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick this off-season. Fitzpatrick would be the best quarterback he’s had so far in his career and is known for locking onto his top receiver while taking aggressive shots down the field. Unfortunately, Fitzpatrick went down with a severe hip injury in the season opener and will be out indefinitely. The next man up is, Taylor Heinicke who has attempted more than 20 passes in just one season coming into 2021.
Unsure of how McLaurin would perform with Heinicke, our minds were eased in Week 2 after Terry was targeted 14 times and finished as the third-best fantasy wideout for the week. Week 3 was a down week, but Buffalo has been shutting down everyone number one receiver they have faced. The 61 receiving yards by McLaurin is actually one of the better performances we’ve seen against the Bills. The real explosion came last week: 13 targets, 123 yards, and two scores for McLaurin against Atlanta. Even though the Falcons are a cupcake defensive matchup, we should be extremely excited about McLaurin’s 31.1% target share through the first four weeks (seventh-highest among wide receivers). Should we expect this level of production going forward?
Is Terry McLaurin a legit fantasy WR1?
I wrote about McLaurin being a top-10 receiver this season back in April, you can read it here, so I’m not as surprised as some others might be by his start. The most significant difference in his game from previous seasons is the usage down the field. He is averaging career-highs of 102.5 air yards and 1.8 deep targets (20+ yards) per game, credit: PlayerProfiler. The return of Curtis Samuel should open things up even more for McLaurin, now that defenses have another legit receiving threat to account for on the field. “Scary Terry” is here to stay in the elite wide receiver tier, so don’t hesitate to be aggressive in trades and “buy high” on him before he genuinely establishes himself as one of the best wideouts in the NFL.
Most unrealized air yards in Week 4 (PFF)
1. Odell Beckham (160 air yards – 27 receiving yards = 133 unrealized air yards)
2. Courtland Sutton (121)
3. Calvin Ridley (116)
4. Terry McLaurin (108)
5. Robby Anderson (95)
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) October 6, 2021
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Trending Up – Michael Pittman Jr.
The 2020 rookie class has already produced an abundance of fantasy stars, but there is even more potential for second-year breakouts. One of my top candidates to step up during their sophomore season is Michael Pittman Jr. The former USC Trojan was drafted by the Colts in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft and has already risen to become the clear alpha in Indianapolis.
After a mediocre rookie campaign, where he dealt with a severe leg injury, Pittman has emerged as a solid flex receiver. He’s averaging nine targets per game, and his 279 receiving yards rank him 20th among wideouts this season. The only thing holding him back from being a fantasy WR2 is the lack of touchdowns. I expect those to come soon, though, as he is currently tied for the seventh-most red-zone targets in the NFL (6). He’s also seeing more targets down the field compared to his rookie season. Pittman’s aDOT (Average depth of target) has increased from 8.4 to 10.7 yards which is a significant jump. With a bit of positive touchdown regression, Pittman could easily find himself as a top-20 wide receiver.
Yikes RT @HaydenWinks: Michael Pittman is the WR43 per game on WR12 fantasy usage. Just running bad on TDs with 0-of-5 red zone targets going for a score for no fault of his own. 25% targets and 39% air yards shares for the Colts. pic.twitter.com/4UQOICHbNu
— Ron Mexico (@JohnV23) October 6, 2021
Trending Down – Jonnu Smith
Bill Belichick has been known to talk up Jonnu Smith in the past, so when New England signed the free-agent tight end this off-season, expectations for his role in the offense were high. Apparently, Belichick forgot how big of a fan he is of Smith. Jonnu has played over 50-percent of snaps just once, which was week 1. His snap counts have declined in each of the first three weeks of the season, along with his role in the offense.
There were plenty of reasons to believe that Smith would be the lead tight end over Hunter Henry, who was also signed by New England this spring. However, Smith’s deal got done first, and he also signed the bigger contract with $31.25 million in guarantees versus $24 million guaranteed for Henry. Even though Smith has three more targets than Henry on the season, Henry has played more snaps and is being used in a more receiver-friendly role. Most of Smith’s targets have been near the line of scrimmage (aDOT: 3.7 yards), while Henry is running routes further downfield (aDOT: 7.4 yards). It is still very early in the season, so there is time for him to turn things around, but this has been a poor start for the former Tennessee Titan.
Rookie Talk: Michael Carter
Check out Drew’s last article about the 2019 Rookie RB Class.
Other than Najee Harris, the 2021 rookie running back class has yet to produce a consistent fantasy starter. Some guys like Javonte Williams, Trey Sermon, Kenneth Gainwell, and Chuba Hubbard have flashed, but they each have depth chart competition that prevents us from fully trusting them right now. One back hasn’t gotten much buzz lately but is slowly taking over the backfield, and it’s Michael Carter.
Yes, I know he plays for the Jets. For the most part, that roster is a fantasy wasteland through the start of 2021. We have to remember this is a rookie quarterback with multiple new pieces on the offensive line, so give them time to gel. Going into Week 5, we should consider Carter as the lead running back:
|Week||Snap %||Opportunities (Carries + Targets)|
Tevin Coleman and Ty Johnson have shown nothing impressive, and Carter has already surpassed them to lead the team in both carries and running back targets. In Week 5, the Jets will face Atlanta, which has allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to running backs. So this might be the last time to acquire Carter before he vaults himself into fantasy relevance.
I wouldn’t send anything more than a second-round rookie pick + a throw-in player since I don’t see an RB1 ceiling for him. The Jets could very well decide to upgrade the position in a future rookie draft or free agency next year, so don’t spend up too much.
Jets backfield update:
Michael Carter: 40.7% snaps + 48% opportunity share
Ty Johnson: 45.3% snaps + 32% opportunity share
Tevin Coleman: 18.9% snaps + 25% opportunity share (1/2)
— Sam Erman (@FFBallAllDay) October 6, 2021