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Kenny Golladay is Fantasy Football's Sleeping Giant

Kenny Golladay is in line to make a leap in year three.

Only 14 receivers saw more targets in 2018 than Kenny Golladay, only 15 receivers outscored Golladay, and the third-year receiver's touchdown rate could be primed for a bounce back in 2019. Yet, Golladay—Babytron, if you will—is being drafted in the same neighborhood as some teams' No. 2 wideouts. Golladay's late fourth-round average draft position strikes me as the best bargain for a potentially top-end fantasy producer who could (should) be a higher priority in the Detroit offense than receivers being drafted just before and after him. And whatever you think of Babytron, whose nickname has driven the haters insane, his best-case 2019 scenario is clearly not baked into his current ADP. There's plenty of reason to believe you're drafting him at or near his redraft floor. 

Golladay, after seeing more than three targets in just six games during his 2017 rookie campaign, finished 2018 with 119 targets, drawing a healthy 21.25% of the Lions' total looks. He saw at least eight targets in nine of his 15 games. No other Detroit pass catcher was particularly close in the pecking order, with Theo Riddick finishing 2018 with 74 targets, second most on the team. To be fair, Marvin Jones had 62 in nine games, missing the other seven due to injury.

One doesn't have to ingest coachspeak to believe Golladay can eclipse his 2018 target mark. One can simply look to what happened before and after Detroit traded away Golden Tate to the Eagles. Golladay, before the Tate trade, was notching a not-fantastic six targets per game, which translates to a 96-target seasonal pace. It was after the Lions dumped Tate that Babytron turned into a ball hog in Detroit's relatively conservative offense, piling up 71 targets in his final seven contests, six of which Jones missed. That's a season-long pace of 162.3 targets, a nice tidy number that would have put Golladay among the three most-targeted receivers in the NFL last season. 

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This isn't to say we should pencil in Golladay for more than 160 targets. The Lions' undying commitment to establishing the run at any cost means Detroit's offense, if things go according to plan, won't be in the top half in 2019 passing volume (Detroit was 11th in pass attempts last year, when things did not go according to plan). That caps Golladay's top-end opportunity a bit. It would be an upset, however, if Golladay didn't surpass his 2018 targets by a decent amount.

Golladay's 2018 target splits in Detroit wins and losses was hardly dramatic, as he saw 8.2 targets in Lions losses and 7.2 in victories. In slightly more simple terms, Babytron doesn't profile as the sort of wideout who will require nonstop negative game script to see inflated opportunity. If the Lions are indeed bad—and they very well could be—all the better for the 17th wideout off the fantasy draft board. If they’re somehow good, his target total shouldn’t suffer much, if at all.

I don't think Golladay's 2018 touchdown rate of 7.1%—about 3.5 percentage points lower than his 2017 rate—is the main reason to target the receiver in your 2019 drafts, but it's worth noting, especially if you buy into the narrative that Golladay has emerged as the Lions' unquestioned No. 1 pass-catching option. It's presumptuous to think Golladay will be a threat near the paint in 2018; he saw 16 red-zone targets in 2018—the same as Zay Jones and two fewer than Adam Humphries—along with a measly six targets inside the 10-yard line. You know who else had six targets inside the 10-yard line in 2018? Someone named Kendrick Bourne. Suffice it to say Babytron's role would have to change dramatically for him to cash in on close-in touchdowns. 

Golladay is being drafted today right after Brandin Cooks, arguably the Rams' No. 2 receiver, and right before Calvin Ridley, Atlanta's (very) distant second receiver in a typical draft. No. 2 options Jarvis Landry and Chris Godwin are also being taken in the Golladay range. While it's not egregious to take these receivers over Golladay—though Ridley might be the exception—such a move would ignore Golladay's role and the volume he could see in the 2019 season. And with a little luck—variance, we'll call it—Detroit's No. 1 guy could end up in the end zone a few more times and finish well above his redraft price point. 

Golladay seems like an ideal selection for a team that uses at least one of its first two picks on running back, leaving him as the squad's WR2, assuming you snagged a receiver in the second or third round. He could also be a key to fantasy managers committed to a zero-RB approach in 2019; you could end up with Golladay as your WR4, and in fantasy leagues that start up to four receivers, that's more luxurious than wide lanes on the highway.