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Is there a WR1 hidden in Golden Tate's stats?

What else does Golden Tate need to do for his name to start popping up in WR1 discussions for PPR leagues? One of the most underrated assets in PPR leagues, Tate continues to be the gold standard of consistency and yet, his name is not one that typically enters the conversation of those top-tier wide receivers. Well, I think it’s about time we start doing that.

Since joining the Detroit Lions in 2014, Tate has averaged 93 receptions for 1,056 yards per season. During that same time, he has racked up the sixth most receptions in the NFL with 372. Only Larry Fitzgerald, Demaryius Thomas, Jarvis Landry, Julio Jones and Antonio Brown have more. Those numbers have been good enough for one WR1 and three WR2 finishes.

So what does Tate need to do to climb into WR1 territory more consistently and is it even possible for him to do it?

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Tate's Best Comparison

When looking to compare Tate to another receiver in PPR leagues, your closest bet is Landry. Some of the numbers on these two are much closer than you may realize, which is great because it goes to show how undervalued Tate is, because Landry himself is mostly undervalued as well. Over the past three seasons, Tate has had a higher ADP than Landry only once, and that was headed into the 2017 season. During the 2015 and 2016 seasons, Tate had an average ADP of 43.55 and Landry had an average ADP of 31.75.

Landry has cemented himself as one of the receivers most assisted by PPR settings. That is a well-earned title because Landry has racked up an average of 100 receptions per season since 2014. Right behind him is Tate with an average of 93 receptions per season. Even though DeAndre Hopkins has greatly outperformed Tate in other areas, most notably touchdowns, he has only averaged 90.25 receptions since 2014. Tate also has a much higher catch rate than Hopkins at 70.6% compared to 56.1%. Don’t take this as me saying Tate is comparable to Hopkins, because Hopkins is much better, but the numbers are interesting to note since Hopkins is one of the top three receivers to come off the board in dynasty or redraft settings right now, whereas Tate isn’t even being considered within the top 12 receivers.

The more times a player has the ball in his hands, the more opportunities he has to make plays. Tate has had the ball in his hands an awful lot since joining the Lions. Not only has he had the ball a lot, but he has been one of the best at creating yards after the catch. Last season Tate had 639 yards after the catch, which ranked first in the league. While he had the lowest depth of target of all receivers with 50 receptions or more, at only six yards, his ability to turn a little into a lot is eye opening.

Targets play a big role as well. I see a lot of fantasy owners speak to the amount of targets Landry received while in Miami but devalue Tate because he plays with Marvin Jones or did play with Calvin Johnson. Those players would take targets away from Tate, right? Since 2014, Landry has averaged 146 targets per season while Tate has averaged 135.25 targets per season. Landry really hasn’t had that great of a supporting cast during his time in Miami, but Tate has been right behind him in targets while being lined up in the same offense as Johnson or Jones.

 

What Holds Him Back?

The area that has held both players back from true WR1 rankings is touchdowns. Since 2014, Tate is tied for 15th with only 19 touchdowns while Landry is tied for 12th with only 22 touchdowns. The biggest factor to Landry becoming a WR1 finally this season was not only the receptions, but the career high nine touchdowns. Tate’s highest total during the same time frame was only six, back in 2015.

Touchdowns can be a fluky stat. I don’t buy based on them, but I will sell based on them if another owner is willing to overvalue them. Tate has been able to put together borderline WR1 seasons without the touchdowns so far, but what if the touchdowns finally come? If Tate had secured just one more touchdown last season, he would have finished as the WR10. If Tate had secured three extra touchdowns in 2016, then he would have finished as the WR12

 

What Will He Be In 2018?

Let’s go back to our original question. What does Tate need to do to become a WR1? A lot will depend on the players immediately around him. Who will fall outside that territory and who will climb back in? Now that Odell Beckham Jr is back from injury, he should be in there. Davante Adams and Mike Evans fell just outside WR1 territory last season and will make a run to the top in 2018. Candidates to fall outside the top 12 are the previously mentioned Landry, who will have much more competition for targets and Larry Fitzgerald who will have a new quarterback. Tyreek Hill could also be falling down the ranks playing with a young quarterback getting his first chance at starting full time and having the addition of Sammy Watkins across from him. Tate’s teammate Jones could also be a regression candidate.

If Tate can put together another consistent season in 2018, he should be right back up to fringe WR1 status. He has always gotten the receptions and yards since joining the Lions, and that is typically all he has needed to stay productive. In 2017, Eric Ebron and Darren Fells combined for seven touchdowns, but are both gone now. Jones led the team with nine touchdowns, but as I mentioned earlier, it’s hard to count on high touchdown totals unless you are one of the elite players in the league. The Lions improved running game should also steal some of those touchdowns. Remember tough, one extra touchdown in 2017 would have pushed Tate into WR1 company. I think his touchdown total increases in 2018 and because of that, Tate will find himself as a WR1. If you buy into contract status for a player as well, Tate will be a free agent after the end of the season. He wants to get paid, so a little extra motivation can only be good for fantasy owners. Tate will end the 2018 season as one of the biggest draft day bargains this year. Now we just need the Lions to re-sign him or have him land in a good situation for 2019. We don’t have to worry about that until later though.

 

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