Chris Godwin Breaking Out in 2019? (Fantasy Football)
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We’re always trying to find the “next big thing” before it happens, and the consensus among experts in the industry is pointing at Chris Godwin as the next breakout star. There have been plenty of inconsistencies in his game to this point, but was that on the coaching? The quarterbacks? The learning curve? We’re going to try and answer some of those questions today.
INCONSISTENT TO THIS POINT
Through 32 career games, Godwin has been inconsistent when it comes to his fantasy results, delivering WR3 or better numbers in just 35.5 percent of his games. It’s not all his fault, though. He’s only played 50-plus percent of the snaps in 18-of-32 games, including just nine games where he played at least 70 percent of the snaps. It’s extremely hard to produce consistently when you’re playing inconsistent snaps, so we shouldn’t base our opinion off that alone.
Looking at the games he did play at least 50 percent of the snaps, he produced as a WR3 or better in 55.6 percent of those 18 games, which is clearly much better. What does that compare to? Tyler Boyd was a WR3 or better in 57.1 percent of his games last year.
Why the inconsistent snaps? Well, for one, he was a rookie in 2017 playing behind both Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson. That’s going to give any rookie issues getting reps on a consistent basis. During the 2018 season, we watched his role grow rather significantly, as he played at least 67 percent of the snaps in eight of the last 11 games, including at least 77 percent in each of the last five games. With Jackson out of town, it’s cleared out the No. 2 wide receiver spot, which belongs to Godwin.
I’ve seen a lot of analysts talk about the target numbers from last year and how high the ceiling is for Godwin and Evans, but it’s important to remember that this isn’t the same offense it was under Dirk Koetter/Todd Monken. In comes Bruce Arians, who has been a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to his offense, as his teams have ranked top-12 in pass attempts three times, but have ranked in the bottom-half of the league nine different times. You can call him a chameleon coach, as he’ll change his scheme based on the personnel he has available.
It’s fair to say the Bucs have much more talent in the passing game than they do in their backfield, as Ronald Jones and Peyton Barber are nothing to write home about, so while you should expect Arians to lean on the pass-attack, don’t expect him to pass the ball 625 times like the Bucs did last year. Did you know that when a team changes its head coach, they average 24.4 fewer passes that following year?
HIS ROLE ON THE TEAM
Since Arians arrived, we’ve heard him say nothing but great things about Godwin, including this quote: “Oh, man, he should fit perfectly in what we’re doing because he’s a physical guy, a big guy. We can use him in the slot, we can use him out wide. He’ll never come off the field and he’s going to get single coverage because they’re never going to let Mike Evans be over there one-on-one, for sure.”
This tells us that Godwin will be starting on the perimeter in two-wide receiver sets and move into the slot when they go three-wide. This is awfully similar to the role Larry Fitzgerald played in the Arians offense from 2013-2017 when he had four top-18 fantasy football finishes, including a WR4 PPR finish in 2017 at 34 years old. Playing the big slot receiver in Arians’ offense is massive and you shouldn’t write it off as “coach speak” because Evans played just 17 percent of his snaps in the slot last year and didn’t catch a single touchdown on them.
This is where the issue begins, as it’s clear Evans is the top target on the team. When Arians says he expects him to be doubled, it highlights who the team’s No. 1 receiver is. That’s fine, we’re not expecting WR1 numbers out of Godwin, right? The hope, however, is that he can at least reach the 100-target threshold, as that’s the target-mark that produces top-20 receivers more often than not. Here’s a chart of the last five years, showing you how likely it is to get a top-20 receiver with a set number of targets:
|Targets||Total WRs||Top-20 Finishes||Odds|
It’s obvious that a higher target total would give you a higher shot at fantasy success, but this chart shows it in a realistic way. If your wide receiver can bank on 110-plus targets, you’re going to end up with a top-20 receiver nearly 70 percent of the time, which is phenomenal odds. Looking at the Bucs, can we get there with Godwin to make us feel better about his current asking price as the WR20?
How many teams over the last three years have had two wide receivers with 110-plus targets? There have been seven occasions where that’s happened, with five of them amounting to 120-plus targets apiece. So, it’s rare, but it is possible. Next question: How many targets did the leading tight end have on each of those teams? 73, 81, 37, 25, 51, and 82. This could be an issue, as it would cap O.J. Howard at 82 targets, a number that nine different tight ends hit in 2018, including Jordan Reed and Austin Hooper. We all know Howard deserves targets.
During his time with the Cardinals, Arians had his quarterbacks target the wide receiver position at least 60 percent of the time in each season, with a high-mark of 66 percent in 2015, though the tight ends never combined for more than 98 targets, so that number is a bit misleading due to the lack of talent in the tight end room. The Bucs don’t have that problem, so there’s bound to be a shift in percentages. It’s worth noting the 60 percent target share to wide receivers that Arians hit every year would have ranked top-10 in 2018.
While I’m expecting a decline in pass attempts, we can’t pretend like it’s going to be a big decline with how bad the Bucs defense looks on paper heading into 2019. They were already one of the worst in the league last year and lost four starters in free agency. Pegging this team for around 600 pass attempts might be low-balling it, but for the sake of numbers, let’s go from there. Even if they did target the receivers 60 percent of the time, we’d be looking at 360 targets to divvy up.
That’s still a whole lot of targets. It may not be the 422 targets that went to the receivers in Tampa Bay last year, but they also don’t have DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries accounting for 179 of them. In fact, I’d be shocked if Breshad Perriman and Justin Watson combined for 100 targets, leaving 260-plus targets for Evans and Godwin. I’ve been on record as saying Evans may lose his elite target ceiling and it’s because of Godwin’s emergence.
There’s a lot to sift through when deciding whether Godwin is worth the price of admission in 2019. There are plenty of signs pointing in the right direction, but the change in the coaching staff brings on new questions that nobody has answers to just yet. What we’re hearing is that Godwin is going to be a focal point of their offense, and that’s never a bad thing. Playing as the possession receiver in the slot also means you’re not going to have to worry about some of the cornerback matchups that you do with Evans.
Godwin could be on a similar path as the one taken by JuJu Smith-Schuster where he was looked at as the No. 2 receiver on his team, limiting his upside, but there may be room for two fantasy superstars in this pass-attack. While the concern about O.J. Howard‘s emergence is real, the fact that there are no real threats to catch passes out of the backfield alleviates some of those concerns, as the correlation between running back and tight end targets is much more real than the correlation of wide receiver and tight end targets. The question right now is whether or not Godwin can offer much equity at his current cost, and knowing Evans is healthy, it’s tough for us to bank on anything better than WR2 production. Godwin is a solid pick at WR20, but anything higher would probably be a mistake with the questions we have.