You may have heard about the guy who commanded 10.54 targets per game leaving the Giants for the Browns because when one gets the chance to dump a potential Hall of Famer in his prime, one has to do it.
Odell Beckham, during his 59-game run with Big Blue, posted a seasonal pace of 168.7 targets, also known as almost more opportunity than any NFL wideout might see in a given year. Forget the almost 5,500 yards he piled up for New York, forget the 390 receptions, forget the 44 touchdowns. OBJ’s departure from New York leaves a target vacuum only slightly smaller than the nightmarish black hole that stared us all in the face a few weeks back.
Obviously, no one pass catcher is going to absorb Beckham’s double-digit per-game targets. Standout tight end Evan Engram, who will cost you a fifth-round pick in redraft leagues, will take some of that former OBJ action, as will Sterling Shepard, who’s going in the ninth round. Shepard in 2018 saw a decent increase in opportunity when OBJ missed time with various injuries, taking in 7.75 looks in those games, compared to 6.2 targets when Beckham suited up. Shepard’s target pace without OBJ would mean 124 targets over a full season, which would’ve been the 14th most among wide receivers in 2018. Engram, meanwhile, went from 4.7 targets per game with Beckham in the Giants’ lineup to 7.7 targets with Beckham out.
Whatever you make of the Giants’ offensive situation—however ugly or dire—there will be opportunity for someone besides Engram and Shepard. Enter Golden Tate.
Sure, he’s 31 years old, he’s going to be catching passes from the zombie of Eli Manning and/or throwing tight end Daniel Jones, and he seems redundant on a team that already has Shepard as a slot guy, but Tate’s redraft price is right and it wouldn’t take much for the veteran to fall into consistent opportunity. Tate, just two years removed from a season in which he saw the 12th-most targets in the NFL, has been something close to a target hog everywhere he’s gone, except last year during his eight-game run in Philadelphia. Even then, being used as a part-time player, he drew 5.63 targets per game.
Tate, who’s being drafted in the eighth round as the 35th receiver off the board, has posted solid to fantastic target shares since he first emerged with Seattle in 2013. Last year, before Tate was traded to the Eagles, he was drawing 26% of the Lions’ targets. See below for a comprehensive look at Tate’s target share history.
Golden Tate's Historical Target Share
If the Giants are indeed a desolate wasteland in 2019—and oddsmakers sure expect as much—they’re going to throw a lot. Not even the Giants’ undying commitment to establishing the run can avoid inevitable high pass volume in a lost season. Last year, New York’s offense averaged 40.2 passes in 11 losses, a cool dozen more attempts than they averaged in their five wins. The team’s 583 pass attempts last season tied with Kansas City for ninth most in the NFL, though it was nowhere close to Pittsburgh’s 689 attempts. Surely the plan wasn’t to approach 600 passes with an offense headed by the most washed-up quarterback in recent history, but large deficits can force the hand of even the most conservative offenses.
It would seem quite generous to project the Giants for a significant drop in pass attempts in 2019, unless one believes the team will truly improve without OBJ roasting defenses with six-yard Eli slants. Four of Big Blue’s five 2018 victories, after all, came with Beckham in the starting lineup.
Let’s assume the Giants are once again a total disaster, with their offense facing perpetual negative game script that makes it near impossible to achieve the mythical balanced approach NFL coaches obsess about. Below is what I’d consider a reasonable range of outcomes for the sort of opportunity Tate will see as a Giants’ pass catcher in 2019.
Golden Tate's Range of Potential 2019 Outcomes
This is a rough estimate of what sort of target share Tate could see in 2019. I’m not sure you could convince me he’ll see anything less than 15%, and even that seems low for an offense that’s not exactly bursting with great pass-catching options outside Engram. Tate sees more than 100 targets (6.25 targets per game) in six of these nine scenarios, and his projected opportunity tops out at 132 targets, which would have been the 12th most among wideouts in 2018.
The problem, of course, could be Tate’s usage in New York’s offense. The Giants in 2018 were 29th in targets to slot receivers, as Manning once again preferred his outside options. There’s quite a bit of uncertainty about how Tate and Shepard will be used, with some conjecture that Tate’s role might include some action as an outside receiver. So long as his redraft ADP remains depressed, though, I’m bullish on taking him as my fourth or fifth receiver and waiting to see if he commands a healthy chunk of what could (should) be a pass-heavy approach. If he doesn’t—or if the Giants passing offense becomes a horror show—it’ll hardly be devastating for a well-constructed fantasy football team.
It’s not likely you’re going to find another receiver drafted in the eighth or ninth round who could end up with as much opportunity as Tate should enjoy. And in fantasy football, opportunity is indeed king.