When a new QB takes over a team, we have to re-evaluate the skill players and try to determine where the fantasy output will come from. When Tannehill played, it was quite predictable; Jarvis Landry would get a ton of targets and catches, Kenny Stills would catch some long balls and get looks as the team gets closer to the end zone, DeVante Parker didn’t see consistent volume, and the tight end didn’t necessarily produce much in this offense. With Smokin’ Jay Cutler now at the helm, let’s take a look at his target distribution while he played in the Adam Gase offense in Chicago.
Adam Gase was the offensive coordinator for the Bears for the 2015 season. Chicago ranked 25th in passing attempts in 2015, and Miami ranked 31st last year. We know this is a run-first offense, so we have to assume that there isn’t enough volume to support more than a couple of receivers on a consistent basis. Jay Ajayi will get a ton of work, and it’s important to note that Cutler did like to target Matt Forte, even on early downs. Forte had 40 receptions in 13 games, which is a very healthy number. Cutler liked to target his tight end as well. Martellus Bennett played in 11 games in 2015, and racked up 80 targets. In the games that he played with Martellus Bennett (Cutler missed Week 3 and Bennett missed some time at the end of the season; only counting them playing together), Bennett had a 22% target share. When Bennett was hurt towards the end of the year, Zach Miller continued receiving a relatively large target share of 18% from Weeks 10-16. All of this tells me that Julius Thomas can be an awesome late-round flier who can definitely provide fantasy value this year. He’s being drafted in the 14th round, and if I can wait that long to get my tight end, I’m very happy.
Kenny Stills was an important piece of this offense who I’m not sure Cutler will take advantage of. Tannehill had a nice rapport with Stills for big plays. Jarvis Landry was the underneath guy in the slot, who soaked up targets. He remains one of the league’s best, if not the best, slot receiver, but I’m not sure Cutler will be giving him as many targets as we’re used to him seeing. Not to compare the talents of Landry to Eddie Royal, but Royal only had a 14% target share coming out of the slot when him and Cutler were both on the field in 2015. I don’t think Landry’s target share will drop that dramatically, but I have a hard time believing it will stay near 28%. When Cutler had Alshon Jeffery on the outside as his X receiver in 2015, Jeffery averaged a 31% target share. That’s absolutely ridiculous, and why I think DeVante Parker has the biggest upside with Cutler taking over as quarterback.
Parker has the frame, catch radius, and talent to be a legit #1 wide receiver in this league, but there were multiple reasons why it hasn’t happened yet. Two of those reasons include Parker not taking care of his diet and health properly at the NFL level to avoid injury and to maintain an optimum level of fitness throughout the season, and the other is not getting the opportunity. Parker only received 87 targets last year at about a 18.5% share. Cutler likes to throw it to his big receivers on the outside, and I can see that target share going up. Not only that, but Gase likes to target that X receiver on his offenses as well, going back to Demaryius Thomas in his years with Denver. There are comparisons made to DT and to AJ Green when it comes to Parker, but until Parker produces like those guys, that’s all they are… comparisons. Parker’s being drafted in the 8th round around Jeremy Maclin, Eric Decker, and Randall Cobb. Depending on my roster construction until this point, if I need a flier who can potentially give me a high ceiling, I would go Parker. If I need some depth and consistency, I would go Maclin or Decker. Remember, Parker isn’t a sure thing yet, but all signs point to him possibly breaking out, and Cutler gives us a reason for why that could happen this year.