By Joe Pollock
As we at The Fantasy Takeaway wrap up our 2017 reviews and turn our attention entirely to prep for the 2018 season, one question has been on the minds of our community more than any other this offseason. What in the heck should we do with Jarvis Landry?
A Star Stuck in Cleveland
2017’s fifth-ranked PPR wide receiver has been giving the fantasy community fits since the conclusion of the NFL’s 52nd season. First, it was the news that Miami would slap the franchise tag on the young wideout. Then it was the trade to the Cleveland Browns. Now it’s a pairing with the troubled but talented Josh Gordon on a Browns team that’s ranked in the bottom ten in total offense in each of the last four seasons and the inevitable 5-Year, $75.5 million extension that came along with it.
Landry is talented. There’s no arguing that. He’s the first receiver in NFL history to rack up 400 catches in his first four seasons, ranks 4th all-time in career receptions before the age of 26, and he did it all with Ryan Tannehill, Matt Moore, and Jay Cutler throwing him the football. Truly one of the best slot receivers currently lining up to catch passes in today’s NFL.
What then, do we do with a guy holding this much upside in his hands on a team who struggled their way to a combined winning percentage of .031 over the last two seasons? How do we project for such a precision wide receiver on an offense that’s failed to earn even the title of mediocre over the course of the last half-decade? For me, it all comes down to who is going to be playing the role of front-man for the team that plays its home games in the city of the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame.
There’s a lot we analysts have had to unpack since the trade that sent Bills’ QB Tyrod Taylor south to Cleveland. So rare it is to see a signal-caller go from the playoffs to the trading block in the quarterback-starved National Football League. Tim Tebow’s departure from the 2011 Denver Broncos comes to mind, and though hyperbolic, the comparison rings at least a little bit true. Much like Tebow, Taylor is a quarterback that’s struggled to get past that first read without defaulting to his legs. The 28-year-old Taylor has never accrued more than 3,035 yards or 20 touchdowns in his seven years in the NFL (three as a starter). He’s never thrown more than 436 passes in a single season or 96 to a single receiver. His career passer rating of 92.5 makes him the poster child for NFL mediocrity. While these numbers are far from Tebow-esque, they hardly instill a sense of confidence in dynasty owners.
While Taylor has had a statistically underwhelming career, it must be noted that he’s not been given much to work with by way of Talent during his time in Buffalo. Both Sammy Watkins and later Kelvin Benjamin spent what seems like most of their Buffalo careers on the training table, and supporting casts made up of names like Robert Woods, Charles Clay, Percy Harvin, and Marquise Goodwin strike fear in the hearts of, well, nobody. Goodwin and Woods, though, have experienced at least moderate success in other offenses since moving on from Buffalo–a sign that the Bills passing game woes may have had more to do with the guy throwing the football than many would like to admit.
It’s tough to say Tyrod Taylor will assuredly be worse for Jarvis Landry than Ryan Tannehill, Matt Moore, and Jay Cutler. That said, it’s hard to see how he won’t be. Jarvis Landry has averaged 142.5 targets per season in his first four years in the league. That’s 46.5 more targets than Taylor has ever given a wide receiver in his entire career. If Landry were to see only 96 targets at his current NFL catch rate of right around 70% and his yards per reception of 10.1, he’d be lucky to hit 70 receptions for 700 yards. Even if those numbers see a small uptick, Landry would have to fall out of the sixth round in a 12 team league for me to consider making him a part of my 2018 redraft rosters. At his current Fantasy Football Calculator ADP at the back of the third? No thanks. I’ll pass.
In fact, with PPR ADPs separated by just 4 spots on Fantasy Football Calculator, I don’t want to own Jarvis Landry, or the guy lining up across from him in Josh Gordon. I’m not even touching Corey Coleman in the 10th. For me, the pass catchers with value in Cleveland in 2018 will play the tight end and running back positions.
What About Dynasty?
Thankfully I’m not tasked this season with making decisions regarding Jarvis Landry on any of my dynasty teams. With all the questions I’ve been getting it’s obvious he’s put his owners in quite the spot. My best advice? Hold.
Tyrod Taylor isn’t the long-term solution in Cleveland. While it looks like Josh Allen will be the heir apparent, anything could happen on draft day. Based on the tape I’ve watched from Allen I don’t think the fit is great. Allen is going to have to fix his mechanics so his accuracy is better on intermediate throws, or this could be a match made in hell. The other options–Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, and Baker Mayfield–do provide more of a glimmer of hope for Jarvis Landry owners. They all have good if not excellent skills when it comes to intermediate passing. Landry would be a great option with any of the three based on what I’ve seen out of them in the NCAA.
If you can get value based on Landry’s 2017 performance, I say take it. It was an outlier season regarding touchdown production. While I do think there’s a strong chance of progression in yardage, it likely won’t be enough to make up for the reduced target share and touchdown efficiency he’s headed for in 2018. If I were a Landry owner, I’d be looking to package him for an upgrade to Odell Beckham Jr. Heck, I’d even be willing to trade him straight up for Davante Adams, but that’s a conversation for another day.
If you can’t get good value, keep him. He’ll still be a good option in 2018, and he may be elite if the cards fall right in 2019 and beyond. Even if the guy for Cleveland’s future is Josh Allen, he may improve his mechanics and midrange accuracy, and Landry might be okay. My advice, as always, is to remain calm. In the words of Aaron Rodgers, R-E-L-A-X. Landry isn’t turning into a pumpkin. You might have to wait out this impending rough patch while he adjusts to his new surroundings, but he’s still a talented wide receiver in his mid-20s.