Avoid Jarvis Landry (Fantasy Football)
Just last year Jarvis Landry was considered a sure-thing target-hog for the Miami Dolphins. In 2016 redraft leagues, his ADP hovered around the top of the fourth round, and in dynasty leagues, he was considered a late second-rounder.
How things change.
Despite the constant glowing comments coming out of Dolphins’ camp this offseason, Landry hasn’t been the recipient of any of the hype from the team’s coaches and coordinators. As the Dolphins have yet to even begin negotiating a contract extension with Landry, it seems that they are now phasing him out of their game plans and that you should phase him out of your fantasy rosters.
2016 Drop-Off: Enter Ajayi
Coming into the 2016 season, Landry was a bonafide target monster and a reliable PPR receiver for fantasy purposes. He held the NFL record for the most receptions in a player’s first two seasons, and for the start of the 2016 season it looked like he would continue that trajectory.
Then Jay Ajayi happened. Ajayi’s breakout in 2016 completely warped the structure of the Dolphins’ offense. After averaging over 36.5 passing attempts per game between the 2013-2015 seasons, Ryan Tannehill averaged just 29.9 attempts per game in 2016 as the Dolphins leaned more and more heavily on their running back. Landry suffered from this shift in offensive style more than any of the other receivers on the team. Kenny Stills’ targets per game actually increased after Ajayi’s breakout (from 4.2 targets per game to 5.45 targets per game) and DeVante Parker’s targets per game dropped by about a half a target per game. Landry lost over two targets per game on average.
It is also important to remember that in 2015 Landry rushed 18 times for 113 yards and a touchdown. In 2016 he rushed just five times for a total of 17 yards. Ajayi is effective enough as a runner that head coach Adam Gase felt comfortable leaving out an entire, efficient aspect of Landry’s game. If the offseason reports that Ajayi’s receiving skills have improved 200% are anywhere near true, then Ajayi may continue to eat into more of Landry’s opportunity share.
Odd Man Out
The Dolphins re-signed Kenny Stills to a four-year, $32 million contract. The hype coming out of training camp surrounding Ajayi and DeVante Parker are almost overwhelming. And yet, we have heard nothing about Jarvis Landry (which is exactly how much he has heard from the franchise about a contract extension).
Landry has operated as the Dolphins primary slot receiver since entering the league, but in 2016 Kenny Stills also played in the slot for almost 25% of his own snaps. Stills is an all-around better athlete and a legitimate deep-ball threat. If the Dolphins are not planning on extending Landry’s contract, it would make sense that they would start testing out other options in the slot, especially when those other options were recently signed to a four-year deal.
Landry wasn’t the target-commanding threat we saw in previous seasons. As Mike Tagliere has pointed out in his recent articles Top 200 Fantasy Football Rankings and 2016 Studs to 2017 Duds, Landry averaged just 7.1 targets per game over the Dolphins last 12 games. Per PlayerProfiler.com’s ‘Hog Rate’ metric, which documents a receiver’s targets per snap played to show their share of the passing offense for their team, Landry’s target share dropped significantly as well. In 2015 Landry had the eighth-highest Hog Rate in the league. In 2016, Landry had just the 21st-highest Hog Rate. For a receiver whose fantasy production comes from target volume and yards after the catch, the steep drop-off in his targets spells trouble.
The hype surrounding Ajayi’s receiving ability, Julius Thomas’ 10 touchdowns, Kenny Stills’ big contract and DeVante Parker’s breakout have many experts reasonably asking “Where will all these targets and touchdowns come from?” If they come from anywhere, they’ll come at Landry’s expense.
Tannehill has steadily increased his yardage each season from his rookie season through 2015. His yards per attempt have trended upwards as well, from 6.9 YPA in 2014, to 7.2 YPA in 2015 and 7.7 YPA in 2016. His completion percentages have also increased in that time span from a weak 58.3% his rookie season to last year’s 67.1% (good for the fifth-highest completion rate in 2016 per TeamRankings.com). With the “best offense he’s played on,” Tannehill should be set to continue his gradual upward trajectory.
The issues for Landry are that Tannehill has never thrown for more than 27 touchdowns in a season and that Landry has never caught more than five in a season. Landry already had low touchdown upside, and now he has to compete with players that thrive in the red zone, like Julius Thomas, for targets (when the Dolphins decide not to give the ball to Ajayi, that is). In 2016, Landry had just nine red zone targets, placing him outside of the top 50 players in that category. Tannehill may finally crack 30 touchdowns in 2017, but don’t expect Landry to be the one catching them.
Tannehill’s increasing YPA each season also indicates that the team is moving away from Landry. Landry has always been the short-yardage, possession receiver for the team, and his low air yards per target over his career show how the Dolphins prefer to use him. Now that the Fins have a functional run game, those short-yardage passes are less critical to their overall game plan. With two burners in Stills and Parker, who ran 4.38 and 4.45 40-yard dashes respectively, and an experienced pass-catching tight end, it would seem that the most effective way they could use their offensive pieces would be to stretch opposing defenses to maximize Ajayi’s ability to run. It would make less sense for them to continue to pepper targets at a receiver that’s only three or four yards out from the line of scrimmage. If Ajayi really did boost his receiving ability this offseason, then Landry’s skill set will be almost redundant in 2017.
The age of four-yard slants to Jarvis Landry is over. The Dolphins posted their first winning season since 2007 last year and started their win streak when they stopped running their offense through him. All of the press from training camp, the end-of-season trends, and the Dolphins’ offseason activities align to indicate that the team is moving away from Landry, and yet his ADP is still around the sixth round in mock drafts. Do yourself a favor and avoid drafting him in your leagues this year.