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The Real Corey Davis Has Arrived

The fifth overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, Corey Davis has shown us just a small dosage of what he is capable of during his time in the league. His production thus far since being drafted had not been anything to get excited about, especially considering the price the Tennessee Titans paid to get him.

Considering the hamstring issues for Davis dating back to his rookie year which have carried into this year, in addition to Marcus Mariota playing at less than 100%, it is worth wondering if we will ever see his full potential. Both have not yet proven they can actually play a full season healthy.

But last week, Davis posted what could be considered his breakout game with nine catches for 161 yards and a touchdown, all on 15 targets. With a season-ending injury to Delanie Walker and the release of Rishard Matthews, opportunity is better than ever for Davis to be a focal point in 2018. Does this mean the real Corey Davis has arrived?

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Meet Corey Davis, Target Hog

Through four weeks, Davis’ 32.26% target share ranks ninth among qualified wide receivers, and his Total Target Distance Share also ranks among the top 15 NFL receivers. Tennessee’s run-heavy scheme has limited Davis’ targets and Air Yards along with an improved defense. By comparison, in the red zone he is receiving 37.50% of the targets. As we can see his red zone target share compared to his overall target share through four games is consistent. What makes all this more impressive is the fact that he has produced these numbers while having no red zone targets in the game against the Texans and only three overall targets against the Jaguars' elite defense.

As it stands, the Titans have run the ball on average 30 times per game (sixth in the league), and are averaging 31 passing attempts per game which ranks 27th in the league.  The Titans have always been a run-heavy team, but they still passed on 51.4-percent of plays in 2016 and 52.8-percent of plays in 2017. That might not seem like much of a difference, but that’s an extra 3.9 passes per game if they passed at the same rate as 2017 (they are on pace for a similar amount of total plays as last year). Granted that is not much volume compared to other teams and their WR1s but as long as the percentage of targets are distributed to Davis at the current rate, that should not be a worry for fantasy owners.

To put the Titans balance of play-calling into perspective, through four weeks, teams in the NFL have rushed the ball 3181 times and attempted a pass 4587 times. It's a passing league, folks.

At Corey Davis's current target share rate, that’s an extra 18.7 targets for the season. From a fantasy perspective up until his Week 4 performance we characterized his fantasy season as a disappointment. With the breakout game against the Eagles, if we also throw in the fact that out of all of the Titans offensive passing snaps, 41 have resulted in first downs, and out of those 41 completions for first downs, 16 pass attempts or 39% of them were accounted for by Corey Davis. Another reason to believe Corey Davis' breakout is a sign of things to come, the separation he creates per route run (3.5 yards) is tied with Odell Beckham Jr., and better than Golden Tate, Adam Thielen, Juju Smith-Schuster, Davante Adams, Stefon Diggs and Michael Thomas just to name a few. Clearly, Davis is creating space with his efficient route running and speed

Considering the injury to Marcus Mariota, a common narrative would be that he is not throwing far enough for Corey Davis to build on his breakout performance since Davis is best utilized deep down the field. Derek Carr, Andrew Luck, Alex Smith, Kirk Cousins, Drew Brees, and Cam Newton (just to name a few) are averaging fewer air yards per pass attempt than Mariota (7.4 yards per attempt) while he is tied with Ben Roethlisberger (very surprising) with 4.5 yards per completed attempt.

Through four games here is the list of receivers who control over 30% of their teams target share (minimum 40 targets)

The Titans will likely start passing more as Marcus Mariota health improves, though an improved defense (allowing 18.2 points a game, which is ranked sixth in the league) may put a little cog in that train of thought.

In 2017, every fantasy WR1 achieved over 20% of their team's target share. Furthermore, only two receivers had a 30% target share (Antonio Brown and DeAndre Hopkins), and each scored greater than 20 fantasy points per game last season. As long as Mariota and Davis both can stay healthy, this is only the beginning for Corey Davis - not just in redraft, but in dynasty as well.

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