In fantasy football, we're always on the lookout for the next top prospects. That's how you stay ahead of the curve and on top of your teammates. (Yeah, I heard it. And I stand by it.) It's not always an easy task, especially when it comes to wide receivers. More than any other position in fantasy football, receivers require the exact right combination of raw talent, opportunity, and chemistry with their quarterback to be elite.
And while we've seen flashes of that ability from Robby Anderson, he has yet to put it all together over the course of a full season. With the way things are shaping up for the 4th-year wideout, though, there's a very real chance we could be talking about Anderson as fantasy's next breakout star come the end of the 2019 season.
2018 Finish: WR39
His ADP in PPR formats is 7.02, and he's the 31st wide receiver being taken off the board. Anderson is currently being drafted behind the likes of Jarvis Landry, Mike Williams, Alshon Jeffery, and Dante Pettis. And look, I get it. He finished the season as WR39. That's very not great.
But as I noted in my 25 Surprising Stats From 2018 article Anderson was the WR2 during your fantasy playoffs, behind only DeAndre Hopkins in PPR formats. (Anderson was the WR1 in standard leagues, though I beg you all to stop playing in that abominable format.)
Those top tier numbers happen to coincide with Anderson's highest snap counts of the year by far. He averaged 94.8% of snaps in that stretch, but just 71.2% the rest of the year. He also saw significant upticks in his red zone targets during those last games. If the new coaching staff has any sense, they'll look at those numbers and understand the value of keeping Anderson on the field and getting him the ball.
The QB Connection
If you're not a fan of such small sample sizes, let's look through a wider lens. Things looked much brighter for Robby Anderson, surprisingly, when rookie quarterback Sam Darnold was on the field. Looking only at his games playing with Darnold under center, Anderson was on pace for 109 targets, 58 receptions, 881 yards, and 7 touchdowns. That would've been good for 188.1 PPR points and put him at WR25 on the season. That's a pretty respectable finish playing with a rookie quarterback.
Overall quarterback health has really hurt Anderson's consistency. He hasn't had a chance to develop a rapport with a QB for more than a handful of games before having asked to slum it with a replacement. But in the last 2 years, when he's actually played with the designated starting QB, he's been on pace for full-season stats of 62 catches, 1023 yards, and 9 touchdowns. That would've been good for WR18 last year. Now we're cooking.
If Anderson can finally get a connection going with Darnold -- and Darnold can remain healthy -- there's no reason to think those numbers can't grow.
Is Adam Gase A Coaching Upgrade Or Downgrade?
Look, we all know Adam Gase's history as an "offensive juggernaut" is almost exclusively related to his years with Peyton Manning. In 2 of his 3 years as the Dolphins' head coach, his offenses ranked dead last in number of plays run. And in his one season as offensive coordinator for the Bears, his offense ranked just 25th in passing plays. For reference, they finished 8th the season prior.
But hey, I'm supposed to be selling you on this guy, right? So let's talk positives. In that same season with the Bears, Alshon Jeffery was on pace for 167 tar, 96 rec, 1435 yards, 7 TDs. In those 3 seasons with the Dolphins, he twice had a top 15 fantasy receiver. Yes, it was slot receiver Jarvis Landry, but that was primarily a function of his lackluster quarterback and using his best offensive weapon. Anderson is that guy in New York.
Meanwhile, with the Jets, Todd Bowles' offenses have ranked 24th, 25th, and 22nd in passing attempts. So, at worst, we're really talking a lateral move with Gase.
Also, the Dolphins did finish 4th in passing plays in 2017, so we at least know Gase is possible of leading a pass-heavy offense. Besides, as the deep ball, big play threat, Anderson is perhaps the most immune to Gase's offensive fluctuations. He proved that under Bowles. He doesn't require massive target numbers to make waves in your lineup.
And as luck would have it, Anderson may be on the cusp of diversifying his role and becoming more than a one-trick pony. Gase said he wants to "create variety in his routes" and get him involved "underneath, intermediate or down the field." If that's more than the usual coachspeak, fantasy investors should be in for a wild ride with Anderson. Route diversity is critical to becoming a top tier fantasy receiver.
Upgrades Around Him Can Bolster His Production
Le'Veon Bell may not see the kind of production fantasy owners are used to, but he'll definitely be a valuable asset for the Jets overall. And most importantly for our purposes here, he'll open the offense up and take away coverage from Anderson. Even if he's not used as a true workhorse, as Gase has suggested.
The same could be said -- to a lesser degree, of course -- about Jamison Crowder, who gives the Jets a firm slot presence. Having three healthy, versatile receivers could actually benefit Anderson, who's excited to face fewer double coverages with the bolstered offense. It's a valid point, and hopefully one that can be realized in 2019.
The Jets didn't added some pieces to their abysmal O-line to help keep Darnold upright, drafting OT Chuma Edoga in the 3rd round of the draft and, more importantly trading for former Pro Bowl guard Kelechi Osemele. They also drafted a pretty stellar blocking tight end in Trevon Wesco, though it's hard to predict how NFL ready he'll be. It's also worth noting the O-line was decimated by injuries last season, so if the group can actually stay healthy, it would be nearly impossible for them to be as bad as they were in 2018.
Robby Anderson's 2019 Projection
For the sake of argument, let's assume Anderson is the Jets' top receiver again this year, which isn't exactly a stretch. If we use Gase's 4-year average of 514 passes per season, and grant Anderson the average target share of Gase's No 1 receivers over that same span (26.2%), his career averages in yards per reception and catch percentage would give him 142 targets, 77 receptions, and 1132 yards.
If Sam Darnold's passing touchdowns increase from a paltry 17 to the league average 27, Anderson's red zone numbers should make 7-9 touchdowns an easily achievable mark.
Assuming the low end of his TD projection, this would all put Anderson at 232.2 fantasy points, which would've made him the WR15 in last year's final rankings. Give him the 9 TDs he's been on pace for when playing with the same starting QB from week to week, and that bumps up to 244.2 points and makes him WR13.
Do I think that production's a given? No, of course not. There are plenty of variables at play here, and a handful of things need to go right for Anderson to crack that high-end WR2 barrier. But do I think it's very much within the realm of reasonable outcomes? You bet I do. And for a healthy receiver currently going in the 7th round, you can't ask for much more than that. Sign me up for Robby Anderson as this year's breakout wide receiver.