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The Case for a Terry McLaurin Breakout

By Jared Smola 8:07am EDT 7/14/20

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Editor's Note: This article was published a few hours before news broke of Kelvin Harmon's torn ACL. McLaurin's target ceiling now extends even higher.

What You Need to Know:

  • McLaurin posted a 58-919-7 line and WR29 PPR finish as a rookie last year.
  • He ranked top 14 among 79 qualifying WRs in yards per target, yards per route run, Pro Football Focus receiving grade and Football Outsiders DVOA.
  • McLaurin is set to dominate targets in 2020 with Washington sporting arguably the worst group of pass-catchers in the league behind him.
  • QB Dwayne Haskins and OC Scott Turner are question marks.

A strong debut

McLaurin was 1 of the few bright spots in Washington last year. The 3rd-round rookie won a starting job right out of the gate and compiled a 58-919-7 line on 93 targets. All 4 of those marks led the team by significant margins.

And McLaurin did it in 14 games — missing Week 4 with a hamstring and Week 17 with a concussion — on a bad Redskins offense. Washington finished 32nd in points scored, 31st in total yards, 32nd in passing yards and 28th in passing TDs.

McLaurin posted some impressive efficiency marks, both compared to his teammates and all other WRs. Consider this: McLaurin averaged 9.9 yards per target, while all other Redskins WRs mustered just 6.0. That 9.9-yard average ranked 11th among 79 WRs with 50+ targets last year. He ranked 14th among that group in yards per route run and 6th in Pro Football Focus’ receiving grades. Football Outsiders ranked him 12th in DVOA among 81 qualifying WRs.

And he did it as a rookie, landing in some elite company. McLaurin is just the 10th rookie WR to average 9.9+ yards per target over the past 10 seasons, joining these guys:

Kenny Stills

A.J. Brown

JuJu Smith-Schuster

Anthony Armstrong

Julio Jones

Odell Beckham

Keenan Allen

Terrance Williams

Deebo Samuel

And he joined these 13 guys as the only rookie WRs to post 2.05+ yards per route run over the last 10 years:

Martavis Bryant

Odell Beckham

A.J. Brown

Tyreek Hill

Doug Baldwin

JuJu Smith-Schuster

A.J. Green

Julio Jones

Hunter Renfrow

Keenan Allen

Mike Evans

Robert Foster

Cooper Kupp

There are a few guys on those lists that flamed out, but the majority turned into perennial high-end producers.

2020 outlook

So we’re optimistic about McLaurin heading into 2020 — especially considering he has a chance to dominate targets. The WR depth chart behind him reads: Kelvin Harmon, Steven Sims, Antonio Gandy-Golden, Cody Latimer. And the Redskins are sporting the league’s worst TE room with Logan Thomas, Jeremy Sprinkle and Thaddeus Moss.

McLaurin garnered 22.5% of Washington’s targets in his 14 games last year. That number could certainly climb in his 2nd season. And the entire passing pie should grow. The Redskins ranked 28th with 479 pass attempts last year and, more importantly, dead last with 885 offensive snaps. They became just the 2nd team since 2010 to run fewer than 900 snaps in a season, joining the 2018 Dolphins. Miami ran 144 more plays the following year. We’re not projecting that big an increase in Washington’s 2020 plays, but they’re a good bet to run significantly more. That likely means more pass attempts — and potentially more targets for McLaurin.

The biggest concern here is the Redskins offense. On top of the weak supporting cast behind McLaurin, QB Dwayne Haskins remains a major question mark. He was underwhelming in 7 rookie-year starts, finishing 23rd among 35 qualifying QBs in Pro Football Focus’ passing grades. He did seem to improve late, though, completing 67% of his passes with 5 TDs vs. 1 INT over his final 3 starts. He ranked 8th in PFF’s passing grades over that stretch. Let’s remember, too, that Haskins was the 15th overall pick of the 2019 draft after chucking for 4,831 yards and 50 TDs in his 1 season as Ohio State’s starter. There’s certainly the potential for him to emerge as at least a league-average starter this year.

Washington overhauled its coaching staff this offseason, which adds a bit more unknown to McLaurin’s outlook. OC Scott Turner will be calling plays. His only experience in that role came over the final 4 games of last season, when he replaced his father, Norv, in Carolina.

Draft Sharks Bottom Line:

McLaurin posted a 58-919-7 line and WR29 PPR finish last year. That’s even more impressive when you consider he was a rookie on arguably the league’s worst offense. McLaurin’s yards per target and yards per route run numbers in his debut season put him in some elite company.

He should dominate targets in 2020 considering the rest of Washington’s pass-catching corps looks like the weakest group in the league. QB Dwayne Haskins and OC Scott Turner are question marks — but that’s baked into McLaurin’s WR3 ADP.

Volume alone makes him a good bet to return value at that price tag. And his upside extends well into WR2 territory.

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