Fantasy impact of Calvin Johnson's retirement
In an offseason that has seen several perennial stars opt for retirement instead of continuing to play, perhaps no career ending will have as big of an on-field impact as Calvin Johnson’s will for the Detroit Lions.
In addition to the intangible aspects he brings to the table as a high-character individual that draws defensive coverage away from his teammates, Johnson leaves behind a massive statistical void, even in what was considered a “down” season for the potential Hall of Famer.
Johnson garnered 150 targets last season, catching 88 of them for 1,214 yards (13.8 YPR) and nine touchdowns, good enough for a top-12 season in both standard and PPR leagues. No one player is going to be able to take on all those targets, but it is clear that if there is an in-house beneficiary to this news, it is Golden Tate, who is entering his third year with Detroit.
I thought it would be useful to take a look at Tate’s production given varying levels of snap percentage from Johnson over the last two years to get a better idea of what his output might look like next year. I came into this statistical analysis not expecting to see much difference in efficiency based statistics, only volume. The averages below, however, paint a different picture.
|Johnson Plays >80% of Snaps (21 games)||86.2||7.0||5.38||51.5||9.6||0.33||5.9|
|Johnson Plays <80% of Snaps (11 games)||84.3||10.0||6.91||96.6||14.0||0.27||8.5|
|Johnson Plays <60% of Snaps (5 games)||83.3||11.2||7.80||119.8||15.4||0.60||9.5|
|Johnson Doesn’t Play (3 games)||86.5||12.3||8.00||116.3||14.5||0.67||10.3|
What is most striking to me when looking at these numbers are the spikes in yards per reception and average depth of target (aDOT). These numbers indicate that not only did the Lions have Tate run more downfield routes with Johnson limited or out, but that he was capitalizing those targets as well. He also roughly doubled his touchdown efficiency in the eight games in which Johnson played under 60 percent of the team’s snaps (or not at all).
The 2015 WR33 in standard and WR23 in PPR, Tate will have an opportunity to improve on that output based on volume alone. If increased efficiency follows — and the above numbers indicate they might — he is undervalued at the moment at his ADP, as many in the fantasy industry have advised selling him.
At the very least, he is a hold for me at current prices given the skepticism surrounding him. I would expect the Lions to address wide receiver either via free agency or the draft, and whomever they add to the roster will likely be a starter given the dearth of options behind Tate. However, Tate figures to be the primary target in Detroit.
Beyond Tate, there is the obvious negative impact that this development has for Matthew Stafford. It comes just after Stafford was a top-five fantasy quarterback over the final eight games of the season under new offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter.
He displayed improved efficiency and decision making in the season’s second half while finishing as the overall QB8. While this certainly isn’t good news for those who already own Stafford, based on the general sentiment that I’ve seen in the dynasty community, this news may create a nice buy-low window on a player who is only 28 and projects to still throw a high volume of passes. Stafford was being drafted as the QB18 in terms of February ADP, so he’s not all that expensive of a player to take a chance on.
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*It should be noted that these are averages of averages, but aDOT discrepancy is still significant
**Yards per reception is actual total yards/total receptions for the samples in question