Fantasy Impact: Will Fuller Signs with Dolphins (2021 Fantasy Football)
One of the big-name wide receivers came off the free agent market Thursday afternoon, as the Miami Dolphins have agreed to terms on a one-year deal with Will Fuller, worth a reported $10 million with upside for more.
We were waiting to see if the Texans might try to hang onto Fuller considering they needed to get back in Deshaun Watson‘s good graces, but he left town on just a one-year deal, which is not something anyone expected.
BOOM OR BUST
Fuller has played 53 games in his NFL career to this point. He’s had at least five targets in 40 of them. Despite that, he’s been a WR2 or better just 34.0 percent of the time, which is the same career mark as Mike Wallace and Randall Cobb. Now, with that being said, Fuller has also offered much more upside than those receivers, turning in WR1-type performances 26.4 percent of the time, which is among the elites like Reggie Wayne, Demaryius Thomas, and Steve Smith, though his bust rate is nearly double those guys.
Many wondered how Fuller would fare in his first season without DeAndre Hopkins tilting coverage, and he responded in a big way. He finished with WR3 or better-type numbers in 9-of-11 games in 2020 (81.8 percent), which ranked as the fourth highest percentage in the NFL, behind only Stefon Diggs, Tyreek Hill, and Davante Adams. To put it plainly, he was a star in 2020… until he was suspended six games for performance enhancing drugs, which will actually keep him out for Week 1 of the 2021 season.
CHANGE OF SCENERY
It’s been a long time since Fuller has had to play with a quarterback not named Deshaun Watson, which is going to take some adjusting. Here are Fuller’s splits with and without Watson throughout his first five years in the league:
The Dolphins were hoping to land their franchise quarterback in last year’s draft when they snagged Tua Tagovailoa with the No. 6 overall selection, though his rookie year didn’t go quite as expected. During the nine games Tagovailoa played the majority of the game, there were just five occasions where a wide receiver finished with more than 9.4 half-PPR points, while none of them finished with more than 15.1 points. Now granted, he didn’t have Will Fuller, but it’s still not ideal.
If there’s one thing Fuller will help with, it’s giving Tagovailoa a receiver who gets more separation. During his rookie year, Tagovailoa acknowledged that the windows aren’t as big in the NFL and that he needed to get more comfortable throwing the ball into tight spaces. Part of the issue is that his leading receiver, DeVante Parker, only averaged 1.7 yards of separation at target, which was tied for the lowest mark in football. Meanwhile, Fuller averaged a full 3.0 yards of separation at target in 2020.
Looking at the deep ball, Watson chucked the ball 20-plus yards down the field on 12.3 percent of his passes, while Tagovailoa hit that mark on just 10.0 percent of his. But again, he did that without a true field-stretcher in the offense. The 2.3 percent is negligible when you factor in the personnel around them.
EARLY 2021 PREDICTION
The Dolphins are moving to a new offense under Eric Studesville after the resignation of Chan Gailey, so there are certainly question marks surrounding how Fuller will be used, but if used correctly, he complements DeVante Parker extremely well. Fuller will be the separator and one they use down the field, while Parker should be the one Tagovailoa goes to when he’s under duress, as Parker can win contested catch situations. You have to love that Fuller was willing to bet on himself with a one-year deal, but we do have a history of him without Watson, and the short glimpse we got with Tagovailoa wasn’t great, so the situation he’s walking into isn’t “can’t miss.” Knowing Fuller was boom-or-bust for most of his career with Watson, it’s hard to say he won’t be without Watson, especially when the Dolphins are a team who might add a big-name wide receiver in the draft. For now, consider him a low-end WR3 who comes with a bit of risk as an every-week play. You also must remember he’ll miss Week 1.
Way-Too-Early 2021 Projection: 98 targets, 58 receptions, 808 yards, 4 touchdowns