The former second-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks amassed a career high in receptions (64) and yards (898) in 2013. He acted as Russell Wilson’s favorite target on the outside, especially with Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice sidelined for the vast majority of the season.
Tate was targeted 93 times last season and caught a team high 68.8 percent of said targets. He also averaged a ridiculous 7.9 yards after the catch. One of the most important things to look at moving forward with the Lions in 2014 is that Tate will not be facing opposing top cornerbacks and won’t see double teams with Calvin Johnson lined up next to him.
In terms of fantasy football, Tate is a stud sleeper. He goes from a team that attempted a league-low 26.3 attempts per game to a team that was third in the NFL in that very same category at 39.6 attempts per game. Those additional 13.3 pass attempts per game have to go somewhere.
While Johnson saw a dramatic drop off in targets per game last year (9.9) compared to (12.4) in 2012, there is no reason to believe he will see more than 11 per outing in 2014. There is a reason why the Lions doled out $31 million to Tate — they need someone to complement Johnson in the passing game.
Based on the fact that Tate was targeted on 22 percent of Seattle’s pass attempts last season, we can expect a dramatic increase in fantasy production from him. While it is foolhardy to utilize target percentage simply because he’s not a No. 1 receiver in Detroit, you can connect the dots here.
The more important thing to look at is Tate’s catch percentage and the amount of yards he racked up after the catch last season. If teams are still going to rotate coverage over to Johnson’s side, and there is no reason to believe they won’t, Tate will have a whole lot of green field to work with in Detroit. There is no reason to believe that his 7.9 yards after the catch average from a season ago will go down. Again, looking at an increase in both receptions and targets, this indicates he’s primed to surprise in the fantasy football world.
Then you have something called level of competition. Tate had to go up against the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals a total of four times last season, both of whom ranked in the top five of the NFL in total defense. His level of competition will be dramatically downgraded for multiple reasons in 2014. As I mentioned before, Tate will not be lining up against the top defensive backs the NFC North has to offer. Second, defenses in his new division compare in no way to what he went up against in the NFC West.
If I had to make a guess based on natural progressions from one year to the next year and the current situation Tate finds himself in, I’d have to say he’s going to be a solid WR2 option in standard leagues. We can expect something in the range of 120 targets, 75 receptions and 1,000-plus yards. Depending on how many red-zone targets Tate accumulates, he could actually find himself near the top of the WR2 rankings.