Fantasy Impact: Kenny Golladay Signs with Giants (2021 Fantasy Football)
After nearly a week of free agency, Kenny Golladay has chosen a landing spot, agreeing to terms on a four-year deal worth $72 million, including $40 million in guarantees. That’s a hefty contract considering the reports of teams offering him $10-12 million, as well as the recent contracts given to receivers like Will Fuller and JuJu Smith-Schuster.
OUTPERFORMING HIS ROOKIE CONTRACT
After sitting in the shadows during his rookie season, Golladay erupted onto the fantasy scene in 2018, racking up 1,063 yards and five touchdowns on 119 targets. He followed that up with an even bigger year in 2019 where he tallied 1,190 yards and 11 touchdowns. It seemed he was reaching new heights, though 2020 had different plans, as he missed two games to start the year with a hamstring injury, and then played just five games before tapping out with a hip injury. For a player taken late in the third round, Golladay severely outperformed expectations.
When many look at the numbers Golladay has posted, they automatically assume he’s a great receiver who’s deserving of high target totals. While I won’t disagree that he deserves targets, he’s not your prototypical No. 1 wide receiver who gains tons of separation and makes life easy on the quarterback. In fact, Golladay finished dead last in yards of separation in 2019, and then had the third-fewest yards of separation in 2020. He averaged less than 2.0 yards of separation at target in both of those seasons, though not many fantasy managers cared because the production was there.
Why is this noteworthy? Well, because Matthew Stafford is a quarterback who was more than willing to bet on Golladay to win contested catch situations, and that’s evidenced in his aggressive numbers with NFL’s NextGenStats. Stafford threw into tight coverage 16.7 percent of the time in 2020 while Golladay played less than a third of the season, while the number was 23.4 percent in 2019 (led the NFL). Throwing the ball into tight coverage with Golladay is more 60/40 than it is 50/50. On top of that, Stafford threw the deep ball (20-plus yards down the field) 19.2 percent of the time in 2019, which led the NFL, and allowed Golladay to average 18.3 yards per reception.
Now, what about Daniel Jones? He threw the ball into tight coverage 22.4 percent of the time in 2019, and then 17.6 percent of the time in 2020, which are both solid numbers for Golladay’s projected target totals. Unfortunately, Jones only threw the deep ball 11.8 percent of the time in 2019, and then just 9.6 percent of the time in 2020 under new offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. Is that problematic? Well, it certainly isn’t promising, especially since Darius Slayton is someone who can stretch the field. However, we can’t completely write off Jones and the deep ball because he’s never had a contested-catch receiver like Golladay. The bottom line here is that we need Jones to trust Golladay to win both in contested-catch situations and down the field.
VOLUME AND UPSIDE
The Giants released Golden Tate a few weeks back, so the starting lineup right now would be Golladay and Slayton on the perimeter, while Sterling Shepard goes back to the slot where he excelled earlier in his career. While with the Cowboys, Jason Garrett regularly had his receivers getting around 55-59 percent of the targets in the offense. Last year with the Giants, that number was down at 52.9 percent.
When you add Golladay, that number will go up, but the question is “how much?” They only threw the ball 514 times last year, and that’s with Saquon Barkley missing essentially the entire season. It is natural to see the offense throw a bit more in the second year under a coordinator, but based on Garrett’s history and the return of Barkley, we shouldn’t expect too much more. For projections sake, let’s say they bump up to 530 attempts. That leaves around 290-310 targets for the wide receivers if we stay true to Garrett’s play-calling of targeting receivers 55-59 percent of the time.
You don’t pay Golladay $72 million to walk in and see 100 targets in the offense, but we also aren’t going to see Shepard and Slayton completely disappear. Even if we dial back Shepard to 85 targets, then Slayton to 75 targets, and add in another 20-25 miscellaneous targets, we’re looking at what might be 110-130 targets for Golladay. That’s plenty of targets to do damage in fantasy (he totaled 119 in 2018 and 116 in 2019), though we also have another issue to pay attention to. Jones has only thrown 35 touchdowns in 27 career games, including just 11 of them in 10 games in 2020 under Garrett. It doesn’t seem likely that Jones will throw as many touchdowns as Stafford did on a per-game basis.
When Golladay signed with the Giants, my initial reaction was that he lost quite a bit of value, maybe even into high-end WR3 territory, but the more I got into it, the less worried I got. Sterling Shepard is a fine receiver, but he’s not going to threaten Golladay as the No. 1 receiver. Darius Slayton is a fine complementary receiver, and the Giants know that, otherwise they wouldn’t have felt the need to pay Golladay the money they did. The biggest concern to Golladay is Daniel Jones, who needs to take more shots down the field to support Golladay’s previous stat lines. It appears his targets should be similar to what they were in Detroit, but his 16.8 yards per reception number is likely to come tumbling down unless Jones starts taking more shots down the field. It’s tough to see Golladay finishing as a top-12 receiver in this offense, but as a WR2, he should be relatively stable.
Way-Too-Early 2021 Projection: 122 targets, 69 receptions, 981 yards, 6 touchdowns