Why Keenan Allen Will Finish Outside The Top-36 WRs (2020 Fantasy Football)
Throughout the offseason, Kyle Yates will be highlighting several marquee fantasy players as he walks through his projection process. These projections are subject to change based on injuries, signings above/below them on the depth chart, new information regarding scheme or player usage, etc. They’ll serve as a way to give a “peek behind the curtain” into Kyle’s projections thought process and whether or not a player will be a fantasy value in 2020.
In this article, we look at how Keenan Allen is a likely candidate to finish outside the top-36 WRs in 2020.
Keenan Allen has been a PPR machine over the past several seasons. Since 2017, Allen has averaged 101 receptions per year and hasn’t finished lower than the WR12 for fantasy football in that stretch. He’s been a favorite target of Philip Rivers, but change is coming for the talented wide receiver.
This route by Keenan Allen is filthy.
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) August 4, 2019
Allen no longer has Rivers throwing him the ball, but the Chargers are now moving forward with Tyrod Taylor behind center. Additionally, the offensive philosophy appears to be changing as the Chargers seem intent on utilizing a run-heavy attack and relying on their QBs mobility. This is evidenced by the fact that the Chargers drafted a QB that’s very good on the run in Justin Herbert and traded away future assets to come back up in the first round to select Kenneth Murray to solidify their defensive unit.
This team is going to take care of the football, run the ball, control the clock, and win through their defense. Long gone are the days when Philip Rivers would air the ball out and will his team to a victory. With this new direction, the Chargers’ pass attempts are going to come crashing down, which leaves less volume for the receiving options in this offense.
How does this all go together though to result in a player of Allen’s caliber falling outside the Top-36 WRs? Let’s look at the projections.
In 2019, the Chargers threw the ball 597 times. While Rivers did throw for a total of 23 TDs, he also threw a ridiculous 20 INTs last season. With as solid of a defense as this Charges unit has with guys like Derwin James, Melvin Ingram, Joey Bosa, etc. they can’t afford to give the ball away routinely and have the defense continuously come back onto the field. They’re going to rely on Taylor’s ability to take care of the football and work through their ground game.
Keenan Allen is nasty. Definitely underrated. Full speed one way.. and in 2 steps he’s going the other way lol tough on a corner who’s been guarding crossers pic.twitter.com/CCm3eZsc02
— CrockTIME (@eric_crocker) March 21, 2019
With that in mind, we need to drop their passing attempts dramatically from the 597 they had in 2019. While we saw teams like the Minnesota Vikings, Baltimore Ravens, and Tennessee Titans throw the ball under 470 times last season, it’s difficult to project the Chargers with that level of efficiency. I’m comfortable projecting the Chargers offense with 500 pass attempts to pair with 430 rushing attempts.
With the 500 pass attempts projection in mind, it’s arguably reasonable to project the receiving options with the following target share percentages:
- Allen: 22% (110 targets)
- Austin Ekeler: 19% (95 targets)
- Hunter Henry: 19% (95 targets)
- Mike Williams: 18% (90 targets)
- KJ Hill: 10% (50 targets)
- Joshua Kelley: 5% (25 targets)
- Joe Reed: 3% (15 targets)
- Justin Jackson: 2% (10 targets)
- Virgil Green: 2% (10 targets)
Over the past three seasons, Allen has averaged 148 targets. With this offensive shift, he’s going to see a dramatic drop-off in targets if it falls down to a 22% target share of 500 pass attempts. While Allen is still incredibly talented and will get open consistently, it’s simply not enough volume for him to be a true force for fantasy football.
With Allen’s historic numbers in mind, and the role that he’ll play in this offense, we can safely project a high catch percentage for him off of the 110 targets. I’m comfortable projecting a 72% catch percentage and a 11.1 Yards Per Reception rate, which is a bit of a drop-off from his previous seasons, but falls in line with Tyrod’s tendency to get the ball out quick in the short passing game. This equates to 79 receptions for 879 yards.
In some instances, 110 targets on a season is plenty for a player if they are a threat to score 8+ touchdowns on a season. However, in Allen’s 7-year NFL career, he’s never scored more than 8 TDs in a season and that was his rookie campaign back in 2013. That season, Rivers threw 32 passing TDs, which Tyrod is not going to come close to touching this season.
In Tyrod’s three years as a starter in Buffalo from 2015-2017, he never threw more than 20 passing TDs in a season. In fact, he saw his passing TD totals decrease each year going from 20 in 2015 to 17 in 2016 and finally dropping to 14 in 2017. Allen is going to have to become the main receiving option in the red zone in order for him to see high receiving TDs and that’s unlikely with the presence of Henry and Williams on the roster.
With that being said, we can factor in Allen’s expected TD rate, which I go over in previous articles in this series, to determine his baseline TD output. Based on the league average last year and Allen’s projected 879 yards, we are able to determine that Allen’s expected TD total is 5 receiving scores. However, we know that Taylor has never posted more than 20 passing TDs in his career and we need to be conservative across the board and under-project the Chargers’ receiving options from a TD perspective. Based off of that information, I’m comfortable projecting Allen with 4 receiving TDs.
This results in Allen finishing the season with 110 targets, 79 receptions, 879 receiving yards, and 4 touchdowns.
With those numbers in mind, Allen slides in at WR37 in my season long rankings. It’s very difficult to see a path for Allen to finish in the top-30 WRs and it’s unlikely to change if the Chargers do bench Tyrod for Justin Herbert. A raw rookie QB like Herbert isn’t going to significantly elevate this offense or force the Chargers to suddenly alter their offensive philosophy. They’re still going to want to keep the ball on the ground and win through their defense.
What a catch, Keenan Allen 😯
— ESPN (@espn) December 29, 2019
Allen’s currently going off the board as the WR19 in ADP Consensus. He’s also ranked as the WR20 in ECR, which indicates that I am much lower on him than the rest of the industry. However, I see little to no way that Allen passes some of the other options at the WR position above him in my rankings. He’ll have a safe floor week in and week out because he’s guaranteed to see targets in this offense, but there is little upside.
Allen certainly has the talent to make my ranking look foolish. However, this offense caps his upside and everything is going to have to go his way in order for him to return value on his current ADP and Expert Consensus Ranking.
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