While the wide receiver market has been slow at the top of free agency, dominoes are beginning to slide into place. After Curtis Samuel signed last night with Washington, free agent Will Fuller has a new home with the Dolphins on a 1-year deal.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 18, 2021
Will Fuller Career Stats
Staying healthy and elevated to a lead-receiving role, we finally saw it all come together for Fuller. Well, until he was suspended the final five games (with another game still due to be served to start this season) for the use of PEDs.
Prior to suspension, Fuller had career-highs with 4.8 receptions and 79.9 yards per game with a career-high eight touchdowns. He was the WR8 in overall scoring at that time and closed the year as the WR8 in points per game.
For fantasy purposes, Fuller makes his money by receiving what I often refer to as targets rich in high fantasy cholesterol that carry fantasy leverage in the context of types of targets a player can receive. Over his career, 34.2% of Fuller’s targets have come on throws over 15 yards downfield while another 9.0% have come in the end zone, both above average rates at the position.
Will Fuller Career Deep and End Zone Targets
|Year||Deep Tgt||Rec||Ctch%||Yds||TD||EZ TGT||TD||TD%|
Of course, by joining the Dolphins, the lowest-hanging branch in question is if Fuller will be a good fit paired with Tua Tagovailoa.
As a rookie, Tagovailoa had a depth of target of 8.0 yards, which was tied for 26th in the NFL. Just 14.8% of Tua’s pass attempts as a rookie came on throws over 15 yards downfield, which ranked 35th among 44 passers with at least 100 pass attempts in 2020. On those downfield passes, Tagovailoa completed just 39.5% (17-of-43), which ranked 27th out of 42 passers with 20 or more of those attempts. The league average was a completion percentage of 44.3% on those throws.
It was a tough road for Tua in his rookie season despite his team posting a 6-3 record in his nine starts. Tagovailoa managed just 6.3 yards per pass attempt (37th) with 11 touchdown passes.
Entering an offseason with no workouts and coming off a major injury, we did not even know if Tagovailoa would play as a rookie and the Dolphins only gave him marginal help. Tua’s top receivers were Mike Gesicki (29 receptions), Lynn Bowden (27), DeVante Parker (23), and Jakeem Grant (21).
We are still left with questioning how much Alabama’s supreme talent depth at receiver played a role in elevating Tagovailoa, but we have seen Tagovailoa have success throwing the ball downfield to multiple players that had the talent level to be selected highly in the NFL draft already with DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle expected to both be first-round picks in April.
Josh Hermsmeyer has shown that depth of target belongs more to the receiver than the quarterback, so I am willing to bet on Fuller once again receiving high-leverage fantasy looks in 2021 and given what Tagovailoa had at his disposal as a rookie, I am willing to give the second-year passer a larger sample size with more talent around him this season in living up to the production he had entering the NFL.
Needless to say, even if Tagovailoa does take a step forward in his second season, expecting him to be equal to Deshaun Watson should not be anticipated and no matter how you slice that, Fuller is getting a downgrade in quarterback play. I would not treat him as the WR1 he was a year ago in Houston, but Fuller belongs in the WR2/WR3 grouping in the WR20-WR30 range of high upside and high variance wideouts.
But going back to college, Fuller has been nothing but productive at a high level per game. His one bugaboo is that he has not ever played a full 16 games in any season. As Edwin Porras has highlighted, being injury prone is a myth, but for fantasy gamers, Fuller’s frequency of missed games has given them plenty of ammunition against the overall data while providing an uncomfortableness in selecting Fuller in their drafts.
Between Fuller having to open the season still serving a one-game suspension, the unknown capability of Tagovailoa, and the narrative surrounding Fuller’s injury history, Fuller once again is likely going to fall in an area of fantasy draft position that offers upside below his displayed ability in the NFL and you should take chances on those types of players when the cost is depressed.