There seems to be this idea that a wide receiver landing with the Detroit Lions is all of a sudden a great fantasy option. Or at least, that’s what many are thinking with Golden Tate after leaving the Seattle Seahawks to lineup opposite Calvin Johnson. Somehow, they think this makes him a threat. They think the two WRs will have some symbiotic relationship. That the pressure defenses assert will be on Johnson and leave Tate open, and that Tate will attract enough defense to pull away from Johnson. That may happen. But it’s likely Tate will just be another accessory to Johnson.
History hasn’t been very kind to Johnson’s receiving mates (at least, not wide receivers). Since entering the league in 2007, only once alongside Johnson had a receiver taken in over 70 receptions. That occasion was in 2011 with Nate Burleson. Every other season, the WR2 has rarely registered 60 catches. The targets and receptions are dumped on Johnson, tight ends, and the running backs. The Lions’ offense isn’t very friendly with multiple receivers. Not only that, but Johnson is just too good to not target in mass amounts.
Does anyone need a reminder about him out-jumping three Dallas Cowboys defenders in the end zone for a touchdown? Sure, maybe Joe Lombardi‘s new offense will spread the wealth a little more, but if he spreads it more, then there’s not much for all of the involved players to produce. So even then, the likelihood of a 70 reception season is slim.
Tate has increased his receptions and targets since entering the league. Had he stayed in Seattle, he likely could have increased his 65 receptions to at least 70, but he’ll likely stay at that figure or regress. Of course, it’s what he can do with each reception that matters. But what he can do with the ball isn’t helping his case.
Though he was targeted more last season, Tate’s catch rate decreased five percent. Maybe that was due to more deep balls thrown to him? No, he saw nearly 10 percent less deep targets than he had in 2012. Which in turn decreased his yards per reception to 14 yards. Recently, the Lions WR2 has an average reception hovering around 10 yards. That doesn’t seem to help his case any either. But with the new system in place, we have to be weary of those types of figures.
So assuming he can at least manage 14 yards per catch, Tate will likely only see in the neighborhood of 800 yards. That would be the highest yardage from a Lions WR2 since Burleson left Seattle for Detroit in 2010. The most touchdowns Matthew Stafford has thrown to a wide receiver not named Johnson stands at six TDs. Assuming that Tate can reach that mark (improving upon his 2013 season total), his total fantasy output would be around 120-130 points.
With a total of that magnitude, he would be a borderline Top 30 WR. But to bring up Burleson again, there hasn’t been a teammate of Megatron’s to be a Top 40 receiving option since Burleson in 2010. Maybe Tate can repeat the moderate success Burleson found after making the same transitions – the odds are stacked against him though.