Ready the lifeboats. Women and children first. Time is running out for dynasty owners to abandon ship and sell Jarvis Landry.
Landry has been a reliable and productive slot receiver for Ryan Tannehill during his time with the Dolphins over the last four years. After being traded for a couple of late round draft picks in 2018 and 2019, the Browns made him the fifth-highest paid wide receiver in the league with a five-year, $75 million contract. In addition to his on-field production, Landry has been a consistent fantasy producer as well, finishing last season as the fantasy WR5 in PPR formats. In fact, I’d argue that up until last season, he was a player that was being undervalued by the majority of the fantasy community.
So why now is it time to sell? Well, it has everything to do with Cleveland, but not necessarily for the reasons that one might think. It doesn’t matter that the Browns have been a dumpster fire of a team for decades. Teams with bad records can still produce fine fantasy assets. Just look at players like A.J. Green in Cincinnati or Mike Evans in Tampa Bay. Really, this has more to do with Landry’s role in Todd Haley’s offense and uncertainty at the quarterback position.
Let’s take a look at Haley’s track record in Pittsburgh. During his tenure with the Steelers, Haley’s offense was aggressive and usually productive. How much of that success is due to having superstars like Antonio Brown and LeVeon Bell for nearly his entire stint with the team is up for debate, but at the very least Haley was a competent coordinator whose offense often paced the league in scoring, which is more than we could say about Jeff Fisher despite having a superstar talent like Todd Gurley.
Over the last five years, Brown has led the Steelers in targets, averaging 29.2% of the target share since 2013. Over the last four years, Landry has similarly led the Dolphins in targets, averaging 25.6% of the target share since 2014. This makes sense, given that NFL coaches should be utilizing their most talented players, and Brown and Landry were both the best receivers for their respective teams. The problem is that I’m not so sure that Landry is going to be the best receiver on his new team; that title likely belongs to Josh Gordon.
With his freakish athleticism and rapidly-improving route-running skills, Gordon has immense potential as the WR1 in Haley’s offense. It’s possible that we’re far too low on Gordon’s dynasty valuation due to his suspension history, but that’s an article for another day. Using the assumption that Landry will be the second-most targeted receiver behind Gordon in this new offense, what can we expect? Here are the receivers that had the second-highest target share behind Brown in Pittsburgh over the last five seasons.
Well, that doesn’t really help, does it? It’s no surprise that Bell has generally had the most targets behind Brown each year. That whole “get the ball into your best players’ hands” approach is generally a good one. This also sets up the fact that we may be far too low on Duke Johnson as well, but again, perhaps we’ll touch on Johnson another time. Let’s see the revised chart for the second-most targeted receiver in Haley’s offense, excluding running backs.
Those numbers are even lower when we exclude Bell from the mix. All in all, it’s pretty discouraging for when we project for Landry’s 2018 stats. Including Bell, Haley’s second-most target receivers averaged 17.4% of the team’s total targets. Excluding Bell, they averaged just 15.2% of the team’s total targets. Both of these numbers are far lower than Landry’s four-year average of 25.6% in Miami.
Here are my 2018 projections for Landry. As talented as Gordon is, he’s not nearly as dominant as Brown has been, so we’ll be generous and assume a 20% target share for Landry as the secondary receiver. Last year, Cleveland’s quarterbacks combined for 574 passing attempts. Given that Cleveland’s defense hasn’t added or lost any significant players and the fact that Haley’s offense has averaged 587 passing attempts per year since 2013, we’ll split the difference and assume 580 passing attempts from Cleveland quarterbacks in 2018, and 20% of that total would equate to 116 targets for Landry. Using Landry’s career averages of a 70.2% catch rate, 10.1 yards per reception, and 5.5% scoring rate as a baseline, his 2018 totals are projected to be 81 receptions for 822 yards and four touchdowns. That’s 193 fantasy points in PPR, which would’ve made Landry the WR23 last year.
Even these numbers are optimistic due to the fact that this will be the first year for Tyrod Taylor playing in Haley’s system. Ben Roethlisberger has his share of ups and downs, and his home-road splits are something awful, but he usually manages to feed his receivers for fantasy purposes even during his bad games. It’s uncertain as to how quickly Taylor will become comfortable with Haley and how effective the offense will be with Taylor under center. Another concern is if and when Baker Mayfield will be given the reins to the offense, as a midseason quarterback transition could further disrupt the progression of Cleveland’s offense as a whole. Despite my optimism for Mayfield’s eventual success in the league, it’s far from a certainty that he fully grasp and execute Haley’s offense and be able to support Landry’s fantasy production as a rookie.
Landry’s dynasty value is far too high given the risks involved. His current startup ADP is hovering around the late-third or early-fourth round, and his valuation is generally an early to mid-first round rookie pick. Considering that I am projecting Landry to be just a perennial PPR WR2 or WR3 in Cleveland, that’s far too high. I’d argue that Landry should be valued closer to wide receivers like Devin Funchess and Cooper Kupp, both of whom are usually being drafted in the fifth or sixth rounds of dynasty startup drafts and being value as late-first or early-second round rookie picks. The only thing separating Landry from those receivers is his name value. Don’t pay a premium based on past success. I’d advise selling Landry if league mates are still valuing him as an early-first round rookie pick and expecting another WR1 finish this year. While possible, those results seem highly unlikely.
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