The staff members at Footballguys are full of opinions. In a Faceoff, we allow two members to voice their opinions on a specific player. One picked the high side, and the other took the low side.
High Side by Chad Parsons
Golden Tate has been an underrated talent throughout his career. Tate was a strong metric prospect exiting Notre Dame and simmered with tepid usage in Seattle until his fourth NFL season. Detroit has ramped up his role with 144 and 128 targets the past two years – No.11 in the NFL in passing usage over that span. While not a high touchdown scorer (career high of seven touchdowns in a season, 7% rate in career), Tate is one of the best after-the-catch receivers in the league and plays bigger than his 5'10” frame.
The retirement of Calvin Johnson, leaves a gaping hole of 150 targets from 2015 and the overt lead receiver role wide open. Golden Tate has had three games in Detroit without Calvin Johnson in the lineup, averaging more than 23 PPR PPG in those contests. The Lions added Marvin Jones of note in free agency, but Tate is the incumbent likely to ramp up in targets beyond the 128 a year ago. The Detroit passing game is thin with aging Anquan Boldin as the third receiver. Unproven T.J. Jones and Jeremy Kerley battle for the fourth option. Eric Ebron enters a critical third year at tight end.
Tate's price is WR23 in ADP, a level of minimal downside risk considering his target floor. If Tate's 2015 volume of 125-130 is his floor in 2016, he is a sturdy investment. 70% of receivers to see that level of targets or more finished above Tate's WR23 price a year ago. If Tate approaches 150 targets, Jarvis Landry at WR17 in PPG was the lowest PPR finish last season. Tate is an ideal WR2/3 in cost with WR1 upside with a small boost in touchdown rate or should any of the projected main targets in Detroit falter.
Low Side by Andy Hicks
It would be easy to presume that the retirement of Calvin Johnson moves Golden Tate up one in the pecking order in Detroit, get more targets and therefore jump up the fantasy rankings. That would be a mistake. Those looking at his numbers from the 2014 season and assuming that he can get close to them in 2016 will regret their decision. Tate is an excellent complementary receiver for the Detroit Lions and the team does have other options for Matthew Stafford such as Marvin Jones, Anquan Boldin, Jeremy Kerley, Eric Ebron, and Theo Riddick. Expecting him to live up to the fantasy ranking of a WR2 is bound to end up in disappointment.
First of all let's briefly examine his career, both in Seattle and Detroit. One thing that is crystal clear is the lack of touchdowns. In the last five years he has averaged five, for both teams. Not bad for a late WR3, but not good enough for those expecting WR2 stats. Next we look at his yards per catch. He caught roughly the same amount of receptions last year as his first in Detroit, but due to catching more ball on short passing routes, the yards per catch plummeted by more than 4 yards a catch. His yards per catch has actually declined in each of the last four years dropping to 9 yards a catch in 2015. To put it into perspective that is the worst out of ANY of the top 100 receivers last year and one of the worst totals for players with over 50 receptions in a year ever. Only a gadget player in Tavon Austin from the Rams came close last year and only two have a worse yards per catch when exceeding 600 yards in the last 50 years. The reception totals make him very valuable in PPR leagues and he has such a decent floor that it won't be the worst draft pick you make. Unless there is drastic improvement however, you will not get the yardage or touchdowns required for a WR2 and therefore be overpaying for your draft pick.
Tate has a reasonable floor, but his ceiling is also clearly limited. The signing of Marvin Jones, Jeremy Kerley and more recently Anquan Boldin all indicate the Lions want to have options for Matthew Stafford. Eric Ebron should be poised for a break out year at tight end and Theo Riddick recorded the second most receptions for a running back last year with 80. Now Tate will get his share, but how the Lions use Tate will be important for his value this year. If it is similar to last year when Jones, Kerley and Boldin weren't around, then we can expect similar numbers when he finished as the 3third ranked receiver. If they move him around a lot more or use other receivers then we are in for a very different outcome. Maybe for the worse.
Finally we need to look at how Mathew Stafford will adapt to the lack of the number one target he's had for his entire career. Without Calvin Johnson in the past, Stafford has struggled. He has only seven touchdowns from five games and 25 yards less passing per game. We can appreciate how good Johnson was as his talent was clear, but how good is Stafford without him? It is within the realms of possibility that Calvin Johnson made Matthew Stafford a better quarterback and his absence will affect Stafford and his ability to play to previous levels. A drop in quality from Stafford is going to affect the Lions offense significantly including Golden Tate.