Win. Your. League.

Receive 3 Free Downloads More Details

Keenan Allen: The Stars Are Aligned for a Career-Year - Footballguys

A detailed look at Keenan Allen's fantasy prospects in 2018.

A Target Machine

Keenan Allen returned to fantasy prominence last year, as Phillip Rivers’ most trusted receiver and one of the NFL’s most targeted players (159 targets). As long as Allen is healthy, his role is secure, particularly with the Chargers tight end group decimated by Hunter Henry’s season-ending ACL tear. For the Chargers to function in the way we’re accustomed, Allen has to play a massive role. The only bad news is Allen’s ADP is now in-line with his value, for the first time in four seasons. However, in the first two or three rounds, the goal isn’t to find hidden value but to capture fair value. Allen is among the safest players at the position and could vie for No. 1 overall honors if he gets positive touchdown regression.

  • Finished as the No. 3 receiver in both points per reception (PPR) and non-PPR last year
  • Philip Rivers and Ken Whisenhunt remain in place; continuity it key
  • Hunter Henry tore his ACL in the preseason, leaving a massive target vacuum
  • Set a Chargers record (with Rivers at quarterback) with 159 targets
  • Remained healthy last year for the first time
  • Allen’s substantial role in the red zone belies his low career touchdown rate

Redemption

Finally. After a dazzling rookie season in 2013 (71 receptions for 1,046 yards and eight touchdowns), Keenan Allen struggled through three injury-plagued seasons. Over that span, he ranked no higher than 47th among fantasy receivers, averaged a pedestrian 10.5 yards per catch, and scored eight times. A torn ACL in 2016 relegated Allen to fantasy pariah status last offseason. As luck would have it, those who overlooked three years of injuries were handsomely rewarded; Allen played all 16 games, ranked 5th with 159 targets, and finished as the #3 fantasy receiver with 102 receptions for 1,393 yards and six touchdowns.

A Checkered Injury History, but Time Heals All Wounds

A year ago, Keenan Allen’s injury history was an albatross. For many, it may still be. There’s no doubt every fantasy league has a handful of owners that will avoid Allen regardless of circumstance. A quick review of his injury history justifies some concern:

  • 2012 – Grade 2 PCL strain cost Allen his final three college games at California
  • 2014 – Broken collarbone cost Allen the final two games of his second NFL season
  • 2015 – Lacerated kidney cost Allen the last eight games of his third NFL season
  • 2016 – Torn ACL in the first game cost Allen the rest of the season

In four seasons, Allen missed 26 games. He was slapped with the “injury prone” label even though two of his season-ending NFL injuries were flukey things. Fantasy owners were skeptical, and let Allen fall in drafts last year even though team doctors gave him a clean bill of health.

Fast forward a year and fantasy owners have all but forgotten Allen’s past travails. It’s incredible what a top-5 fantasy season will do to shake off skeptics. The question is whether Allen’s injury history should be ignored entirely (as it appears to be currently) or not? We’re of the belief he’s not significantly riskier than other top-tier players.

Allen Is Good In A Lot of Ways

Allen may not be the biggest receiver, or the strongest, or the fastest. He may not be the best open-field runner, or the most aggressive jump ball receiver. What makes Allen elite is that he's very good at every facet of the game. It's the combination of skills in one package that makes Allen a No. 1 fantasy producer.

Career Catch Rate, Active Players (Minimum: 200 Receptions)

Rank
Player
From
To
Team
Targets
Recs
Catch%
1
Michael Thomas
2016
2017
NOR
270
196
72.59%
2
Randall Cobb
2011
2017
GNB
614
432
70.36%
3
Jarvis Landry
2014
2017
MIA
570
400
70.18%
4
Cole Beasley
2012
2017
DAL
363
254
69.97%
5
Danny Amendola
2009
2017
TOT
620
426
68.71%
6
Stefon Diggs
2015
2017
MIN
291
200
68.73%
7
Doug Baldwin
2011
2017
SEA
649
443
68.26%
8
Golden Tate
2010
2017
TOT
791
537
67.89%
9
2013
2017
SDG
481
323
67.15%
10
Julian Edelman
2009
2016
NWE
641
425
66.30%
11
Antonio Brown
2010
2017
PIT
1107
733
66.21%
12
Jordy Nelson
2008
2017
GNB
836
550
65.79%
13
Jordan Matthews
2014
2017
TOT
382
250
65.45%
14
Brandin Cooks
2014
2017
TOT
429
280
65.27%
15
Mohamed Sanu
2012
2017
TOT
426
278
65.26%
16
Kendall Wright
2012
2017
TOT
529
339
64.08%
17
Julio Jones
2011
2017
ATL
925
585
63.24%
18
Odell Beckham
2014
2017
NYG
498
313
62.85%
19
Terrance Williams
2013
2017
DAL
372
230
61.83%
20
Eric Decker
2010
2017
TOT
713
439
61.57%

Allen's career 67% catch rate is the 9th best among active players with at least 200 career receptions. Most of the receivers ahead of Allen are possession receivers, whereas Allen is capable of making plays vertically, as well.

Career Yards per Target, Active Players (Minimum: 200 Targets)

Rank
Player
From
To
Team
Targets
Yards
Yds/Tgt
1
Julio Jones
2011
2017
ATL
925
9054
9.79
2
DeSean Jackson
2008
2017
TOT
983
9487
9.65
3
Adam Thielen
2014
2017
MIN
265
2524
9.52
4
Jordy Nelson
2008
2017
GNB
836
7848
9.39
5
Kenny Stills
2013
2017
TOT
382
3585
9.38
6
Brandin Cooks
2014
2017
TOT
429
3943
9.19
7
Doug Baldwin
2011
2017
SEA
649
5945
9.16
8
Terrance Williams
2013
2017
DAL
372
3359
9.03
9
T.Y. Hilton
2012
2017
CLT
758
6827
9.01
10
Josh Gordon
2012
2017
CLE
344
3089
8.98
11
Antonio Brown
2010
2017
PIT
1107
9910
8.95
12
Victor Cruz
2010
2016
NYG
509
4549
8.94
13
Odell Beckham
2014
2017
NYG
498
4424
8.88
14
Jarius Wright
2012
2017
MIN
230
2039
8.87
15
Marvin Jones
2012
2017
TOT
425
3760
8.85
16
Michael Thomas
2016
2017
NOR
270
2382
8.82
17
Sammy Watkins
2014
2017
TOT
346
3052
8.82
18
A.J. Green
2011
2017
CIN
949
8213
8.65
19
Mike Wallace
2009
2017
TOT
939
8072
8.6
20
Rishard Matthews
2012
2017
TOT
365
3136
8.59
21
Stefon Diggs
2015
2017
MIN
291
2472
8.49
22
Kenny Britt
2009
2017
TOT
609
5137
8.44
23
Randall Cobb
2011
2017
GNB
614
5141
8.37
24
2013
2017
SDG
481
4010
8.34
25
Demaryius Thomas
2010
2017
DEN
1039
8653
8.33

Allen ranks 24th in yards per target, which isn't particularly special on the surface. But it's good enough when you're targeted 10+ times per game, as Allen was last year, and is likely to be again.

Career Yards per Game, Active Players (Minimum: 2,000 Yards)

Rank
Player
From
To
Team
Games
Yards
Yds/Game
1
Julio Jones
2011
2017
ATL
95
9054
95.3
2
Odell Beckham
2014
2017
NYG
47
4424
94.1
3
Antonio Brown
2010
2017
PIT
115
9910
86.2
4
A.J. Green
2011
2017
CIN
102
8213
80.5
5
Josh Gordon
2012
2017
CLE
40
3089
77.2
6
Michael Thomas
2016
2017
NOR
31
2382
76.8
7
Mike Evans
2014
2017
TAM
61
4579
75.1
8
2013
2017
SDG
54
4010
74.3
9
DeAndre Hopkins
2013
2017
HTX
79
5865
74.2
10
Demaryius Thomas
2010
2017
DEN
117
8653
74
11
T.Y. Hilton
2012
2017
CLT
94
6827
72.6
12
Larry Fitzgerald
2004
2017
CRD
218
15545
71.3
13
Brandon Marshall
2006
2017
TOT
172
12215
71
14
Brandin Cooks
2014
2017
TOT
58
3943
68
15
Alshon Jeffery
2012
2017
TOT
79
5338
67.6
16
DeSean Jackson
2008
2017
TOT
141
9487
67.3
17
Allen Robinson
2014
2017
JAX
43
2848
66.2
18
Dez Bryant
2010
2017
DAL
113
7459
66
19
Victor Cruz
2010
2016
NYG
70
4549
65
20
Amari Cooper
2015
2017
RAI
46
2903
63.1

Allen is 8th among active receivers in yards per game -- most notably ahead of DeAndre Hopkins and Larry Fitzgerald.

About That Touchdown Rate...

Allen has 22 career touchdowns on 481 targets. Touchdowns have not been his strong suit. In fact, he doesn't rank in the Top 50 active receivers in scoring rate.

Career Touchdown Rate, Active Players (Minimum: 200 Targets)

Rank
Player
From
To
Team
Targets
TDs
TD%
1
Jordy Nelson
2008
2017
GNB
836
69
8.3%
2
Dez Bryant
2010
2017
DAL
909
73
8.0%
3
Jimmy Graham
2010
2017
TOT
860
69
8.0%
4
Odell Beckham
2014
2017
NYG
498
38
7.6%
5
Martavis Bryant
2014
2017
PIT
224
17
7.6%
6
Eric Decker
2010
2017
TOT
713
53
7.4%
7
Devin Funchess
2015
2017
CAR
232
17
7.3%
8
Sammy Watkins
2014
2017
TOT
346
25
7.2%
9
Donte Moncrief
2014
2017
CLT
257
18
7.0%
10
Kenny Stills
2013
2017
TOT
382
26
6.8%
11
Doug Baldwin
2011
2017
SEA
649
44
6.8%
12
Marvin Jones
2012
2017
TOT
425
28
6.6%
13
Davante Adams
2014
2017
GNB
398
26
6.5%
14
Andre Holmes
2012
2017
TOT
233
15
6.4%
15
Torrey Smith
2011
2017
TOT
612
39
6.4%
16
Randall Cobb
2011
2017
GNB
614
39
6.4%
17
Brandin Cooks
2014
2017
TOT
429
27
6.3%
18
Allen Hurns
2014
2017
JAX
334
21
6.3%
19
Rueben Randle
2012
2015
NYG
327
20
6.1%
20
Mike Wallace
2009
2017
TOT
939
57
6.1%
21
A.J. Green
2011
2017
CIN
949
57
6.0%
22
Chris Hogan
2012
2017
TOT
254
15
5.9%
23
Jeremy Maclin
2009
2017
TOT
839
49
5.8%
24
Rishard Matthews
2012
2017
TOT
365
21
5.8%
25
Allen Robinson
2014
2017
JAX
384
22
5.7%
26
Kelvin Benjamin
2014
2017
TOT
341
19
5.6%
27
Mike Evans
2014
2017
TAM
579
32
5.5%
28
Cole Beasley
2012
2017
DAL
363
20
5.5%
29
Demaryius Thomas
2010
2017
DEN
1039
57
5.5%
30
Alshon Jeffery
2012
2017
TOT
649
35
5.4%
31
Larry Fitzgerald
2004
2017
CRD
2042
110
5.4%
32
Terrance Williams
2013
2017
DAL
372
20
5.4%
33
Antonio Brown
2010
2017
PIT
1107
59
5.3%
34
Michael Crabtree
2009
2017
TOT
962
51
5.3%
35
Nelson Agholor
2015
2017
PHI
208
11
5.3%
36
Kenny Britt
2009
2017
TOT
609
32
5.3%
37
Jordan Matthews
2014
2017
TOT
382
20
5.2%
38
Michael Thomas
2016
2017
NOR
270
14
5.2%
39
Stefon Diggs
2015
2017
MIN
291
15
5.2%
40
John Brown
2014
2017
CRD
331
17
5.1%
41
Brandon Marshall
2006
2017
TOT
1625
82
5.0%
42
Travis Benjamin
2012
2017
TOT
358
18
5.0%
43
Amari Cooper
2015
2017
RAI
358
18
5.0%
44
Michael Floyd
2012
2017
TOT
480
24
5.0%
45
DeSean Jackson
2008
2017
TOT
983
49
5.0%
46
Victor Cruz
2010
2016
NYG
509
25
4.9%
47
DeAndre Hopkins
2013
2017
HTX
735
36
4.9%
48
Mohamed Sanu
2012
2017
TOT
426
20
4.7%
49
Rod Streater
2012
2016
TOT
215
10
4.7%
50
Julio Jones
2011
2017
ATL
925
43
4.6%
51
Brian Quick
2012
2017
TOT
218
10
4.6%
52
2013
2017
SDG
481
22
4.6%
53
T.Y. Hilton
2012
2017
CLT
758
34
4.5%
54
Tyler Lockett
2015
2017
SEA
206
9
4.4%
55
Josh Gordon
2012
2017
CLE
344
15
4.4%
56
Jarius Wright
2012
2017
MIN
230
10
4.3%
57
Ted Ginn
2007
2017
TOT
668
29
4.3%
58
Golden Tate
2010
2017
TOT
791
34
4.3%
59
Jermaine Kearse
2012
2017
TOT
373
16
4.3%
60
Jamison Crowder
2015
2017
WAS
280
12
4.3%

Allen's 4.6% touchdown rate ranks 52nd among active receivers, and he sits behind such luminaries as Brian Quick, Rod Streater, and Kenny Britt. If there's a silver lining, it's that the most targeted receivers all tend to trend lower on this list. Julio Jones is also at 4.6%, Antonio Brown stands at 5.3%, and Michael Thomas is at 5.2%. Positive touchdown regression is a logical expectation for Allen (and the other super-elite pass catchers who are lower on this list then you might have expected). Philip Rivers is a prolific touchdown producer, and Allen is among the league leaders in red zone targets. In his two healthy seasons, Allen was targeted 20+ times in the red zone.

Scoring touchdowns is as much about opportunity as ability, and Allen has been given an inordinate amount of opportunity. There's nothing on film, or in Allen's skill profile, that precludes him from reversing the bad touchdown luck he's endured in his career to date. But even if he doesn't improve his scoring rate, remember Allen was the No. 3 fantasy receiver last year in both PPR and non-PPR formats. Positive touchdown regression could mean he overtakes Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham, and DeAndre Hopkins for top honors.

Are 200 Targets Possible?

Allen's 159 targets last year were the most for a Chargers player in the Philip Rivers era. In fact, since Philip Rivers took over as the starter in 2006 (12 seasons), only five players have been targeted 100+ times in a season.

Chargers Players with 100+ Targets in a Season (2006-2017)

Rank
Player
Year
Targets
1
2017
159
2
2014
121
3
2006
119
4
2016
117
5
2007
117
6
Vincent Jackson
2011
114
7
2009
114
8
2013
113
9
Vincent Jackson
2009
107
10
Danny Woodhead
2015
107
11
2013
104
12
Vincent Jackson
2008
101

The pessimists would note Allen's 159 targets appears an extreme outlier in Philip Rivers career. The optimists would acknowledge Allen has been targeted 100+ times in each of his three healthy seasons.

The Void at Tight End Cannot Be Overstated

Allen's target share last year came with both an emergent Hunter Henry and the venerable Antonio Gates on the roster. The Chargers tight ends combined for 122 targets, 82 receptions, 942 yards, and 7 touchdowns last season. Gates retired (and will waltz into the Hall of Fame in a few years), and Hunter Henry tore his ACL in the preseason. Their absence leaves the Chargers with an uncharacteristic void at a position that's always been Philip Rivers' security blanket.

% of Offense, Chargers Tight Ends (2006-2017)

Season
Target %
Reception %
Yards %
Touchdowns %
2006
29.8%
29.6%
29.8%
50.0%
2007
28.8%
30.2%
33.7%
45.5%
2008
23.7%
24.1%
20.8%
29.4%
2009
25.1%
26.0%
26.6%
31.0%
2010
19.8%
22.3%
24.4%
40.0%
2011
24.3%
26.0%
23.4%
25.9%
2012
22.5%
21.4%
20.5%
38.5%
2013
27.8%
26.0%
28.6%
21.9%
2014
22.1%
23.7%
24.5%
41.9%
2015
24.4%
23.5%
23.3%
33.3%
2016
26.1%
26.0%
24.0%
45.5%
2017
21.3%
22.5%
20.8%
25.0%
Average
24.6%
25.1%
25.0%
35.7%

In the Rivers Era, tight ends have accounted for 25% of targets, receptions, yards and more than 35% of touchdown passes. Yet, entering the preseason the team has one of the worst tight end corps in the AFC:

  • Virgil Green -- 103 targets, 71 receptions, 807 yards, and 4 touchdowns in 100 career games
  • Sean Culkin -- 0 stats
  • Braedon Bowman -- 0 stats
  • Ben Johnson -- A rookie
  • Cole Hunt -- A rookie

Unless the team coaxes Antonio Gates out of retirement (a distinct possibility), it's almost impossible to imagine Rivers targeting Allen fewer than ten times per game. And if Tyrell Williams and Mike Williams don't take steps forward, 200 targets for Allen is a reachable goal.

Projections

Projector
Games
Rushes
RuYards
RuTDs
Recs
ReYards
ReTDs
FumLost
15.0
2.0
8
0.0
95.0
1169
7.1
1.0
15.0
2.0
10
0.0
99.0
1280
8.0
0.0
15.0
0.0
0
0.0
108.0
1325
8.0
0.0
16.0
2.0
11
0.0
100.4
1383
6.5
1.0

Final Thoughts

Keenan Allen lost three years to injuries, but just when the fantasy community had lost faith, he rebounded last year and delivered a top-3 finish in both PPR and non-PPR formats. Even if nothing had changed in the offseason, Allen would be one of the safer bets to earn top-10 honors. But things didn't stay the same in the offseason. Antonio Gates retired, and Hunter Henry tore his ACL. That leaves a massive hole at Philip Rivers' favorite position, and all but assures Allen will not only approach last year's 159 targets but could lead the league and approach 180 to 200 targets. Allen's injury history can't be forgotten, but he's coming off a healthy season and poses no more risk of major injury than other highly ranked starters. The one fly in Allen's ointment is a preternaturally low touchdown rate, but the case for positive regression is strong considering how often Allen gets targeted in the red zone. Allen is worthy of his current ADP and should be on your short list at the end of the first round or early part of the second round.


Other Thoughts from around the web

Rotoworld's Evan Silva foresees positive touchdown regression:

"Allen scored only six TDs despite leading all receivers in red-zone targets (24), hinting at forthcoming positive-touchdown regression; Allen hit pay dirt on just 5.9% of his catches after scoring on 7.2% of receptions in his first four years."

FFToday's Steve Schwarz doesn't trust Allen, even though he ranks him as a top-10 receiver:

"I love Allen, but I don’t trust him. He’s injury-prone. He’s never started 16 games in a season. He was a volume receiver last season, setting career highs in targets, receptions, and yards, but caught just 64.2% of his attempts. Will he get the same number of looks this season? Probably. But Mike Williams, their 2017 first-round pick did little last season due to injury and should see a lot more than the 23 targets he saw in 2017. They also have capable receivers in Tyrell Williams and speedster Travis Benjamin. The loss of TE Hunter Henry to injury and Antonio Gates to retirement should help, but I’m still concerned."

Shark Pool (Footballguys Message Board) Thoughts

TheDirtyWord is surprised Allen isn't higher on draft boards:

"In 2015, Allen in 8 games prior to suffering a season-ending injury put up 67/725/4. Then he missed all but one half of action in 2016 (but caught 6 passes for 60 yards). In 2017, while LAC meandered offensively through the first stretch of the season, Allen was mediocre, but in the last 8 games of the season - put up 62/845/5. His situation is static - he has a great QB who loves him. He's in an offense where Henry/Gates who combined for TD's are no longer on the team...I'm surprised his ADP is behind Michael Thomas, ODB, and Julio."

Just Win Baby likes Allen but thinks further growth will be difficult:

"His 16 game pace from 2015-2017 is 112/1396/6 on 163 targets. That is 18 ppg in PPR, which would have ranked #4 last year, #7 in 2016, and #10 in 2015.

So IMO he is clearly a top 10 WR. But is he definitely a top 5 WR in 2018? Not necessarily."