One of the most exciting and electric rookies last season in the NFL was Terry Mclaurin of the Washington Redskins. The third-round pick out of Ohio State impressed on the field with his mix of superior athleticism and route-running ability. McLaurin utilized these elite skills to finish the 2019 NFL campaign with 58 receptions, 919 receiving yards, and 7 touchdowns in just 14 games. Those statistics combined to rank McLaurin as WR29 last year.


Many projections have him making the jump into WR2 status for 2020. It’s very likely that Mclaurin finishes the 2020 season as a WR1. The case for Terry McLaurin to make the sophomore leap to elite NFL receiver may sound like a radical idea, but let’s examine the facts.


Terry McLaurin was the number one option on his offense already. 


McLaurin saw a 19.4% target share as a rookie. That’s an incredibly high number for a first-year player to achieve. For instance, AJ Green had 21.5% and Julio Jones had 15.3% target share as rookies respectively. McLaurin also accounted for 37.09% of Washington’s total air yards in 2019. That is sixth among all qualifying receivers last year and ahead of players such as Julio Jones, DeAndre Hopkins, and Kenny Golladay. Washington wanted to obviously get him involved from the beginning of the season. Don’t be surprised to see a target share increase in 2020.


Below is a list of notable players finishing below McLaurin in target share percentage for 2019:


Name

Team

Target Share%

Terry McLaurin

WAS

19.40%

Christian Kirk

ARI

19.30%

D.K. Metcalf

SEA

19.30%

Chris Godwin

TB

19%

A.J. Brown

TEN

18.80%

Michael Gallup

DAL

18.80%

Mike Evans

TB

18.70%



There will be more targets in Washington next season.


The Washington Redskins have a new coach in town. Ron Rivera comes over from the Carolina Panthers where he coached most of the last nine seasons. Last year, Carolina quarterbacks combined for 633 pass attempts, good for second most in the league. Not a large enough sample size? Ron Rivera coached teams averaged 622 passing attempts per season. Last year, the Washington Redskins - under previous head coach Jay Gruden - attempted only 479 pass attempts. The Redskins attempted over 24% fewer passes than the Panthers last year. It makes sense that Washington will increase their passing offense if the law of averages and historical data have anything to do with it.


Washington also lost Vernon Davis, Paul Richardson, and Chris Thompson. All combined, the Redskins have 135 vacated targets from 2019. Over 28% of all targets need someone new to catch them for the Washington Redskins. Not all of those will go to Terry McLaurin, but some of them are his for the taking. 


Let’s take the difference from the average number of pass attempts per season under Ron Rivera coached teams (622) and last year’s Washington pass attempts (479), and add the vacated targets from 2019 (135). We get a total of 278 new targets for the Washington Redskins’ offense as a whole. If McLaurin’s target share remains the same (23%), he would have 64 additional targets over a 16-game season. McLaurin’s catch rate for 2019 was 62.4%, which would result in 40 additional catches for the 2020 season. 


Washington didn’t invest heavily in wide receiver this offseason.


Washington tried to make a splash in free agency by offering Amari Cooper a “significantly more” lucrative contract this offseason than the Dallas Cowboys. However, Cooper accepted less total money, $100 million over five years, to remain with Dallas. While the net value of the contracts was reportedly in Washington’s favor, Cooper was offered $60 million guaranteed by Dallas and only $23 million guaranteed by Washington. 


Offering so much less guaranteed money speaks volumes about how much Washington was willing to invest in the 2019 free agent pool of wide receiver talent. Ameri Cooper was widely considered to be a major prize in free agency. 


The 2020 NFL draft provided “one of the best wide receiver groups we’ve seen in a couple decades,” said Todd McShay, an ESPN NFL Draft analyst for over 20 years. Even with such a deep draft class at receiver, Washington only drafted one player at the position and only in the fourth round. 


Antonio Gandy-Golden, Washington’s sole pick at wide receiver for 2020, is considered to be a developmental project. Gandy-Golden has good size at 6’4” and 220 pounds but comes from a smaller college program in Liberty University. He projects as a jump-ball specialist, and the difference in role means Gandy-Golden will not be stealing too many targets from McLaurin even if he earns playing time. There is a possibility that Gandy-Golden develops into a starting wide receiver, but his draft capital and need for additional coaching as a route runner won’t pressure the coaching staff into starting him early.


McLaurin produced one of the best fantasy rookie wide receiver seasons from the last five years.


Terry McLaurin is in an elite group of receivers. He averaged the same number of PPR fantasy points per game as JuJu Smith-Schuster in his rookie year. For reference, below is a twitter thread pulled from Frank Ammirante, a writer with Dynasty Happy Hour.



Frank Ammirante

@FAmmiranteTFJ

Rookie WR Analysis THREAD

 

Top 10 Rookie WRs PPR PPG

(2015-2019):

Michael Thomas 17.1

JuJu Smith-Schuster 13.7

Terry McLaurin 13.7

A.J. Brown 13.6

Amari Cooper 13.3

Calvin Ridley 12.9

Tyreek Hill 12.4

Darius Slayton 12.1

Cooper Kupp 11.8

D.K. Metcalf 11.7

#FantasyFootball


To follow more discussion on this thread click here.


Conclusion


Terry McLaurin is coming off a productive 2019 rookie season, and it stands to reason he’s the top receiver in Washington. The Redskins are also more likely to increase pass attempts with the new coaching staff. 


Washington wanted to add to its wide receiver position, but they weren't willing to overspend in guarantees to a top tier wide receiver or in draft capital to obtain a highly-touted prospect. The coaching staff could arguably have great confidence in the position group already as the reason the front office didn’t push harder. Terry McLaurin is the current leader of that group.  


With all of the data pointing to increased targets and an already efficient state of production, McLaurin should outperform the average draft position (ADP) for the 2020 NFL season. I rate him a strong buy even at the current price.


ADP: #64


Projections: 

86 receptions

1,360 receiving yards

8 touchdowns


2020 Fantasy Floor:

WR18

2020 Fantasy Ceiling:

WR4 overall


Follow me on twitter @CapitalJared or #WinningFantasy to join the conversation.