While we discovered on episode one of HBO’s Hard Knocks that Falcons receiver Harry Douglas likes using women’s deodorant, it’s no Secret that he’s one of quarterback Matt Ryan‘s favorite targets. Yet, the consensus opinion on Douglas is that with Julio Jones and Roddy White returning to the lineup he’ll see a drastic drop-off from his career high 133 targets and overall production in 2014. While this is wholeheartedly true, the drop-off may not be as drastic as people currently think which is causing his ADP of WR #69, #232 overall (behind the likes of kickers, defenses and Jerricho Cotchery). Consider Douglas more in the territory of #166 (Justin Hunter) to #170 (Jarrett Boykin).
It’s not strictly Douglas’ 133 targets that Jones and White are going to eat up, it’s also the targets opening up with the departure of Tony Gonzalez. The greatest tight end of all-time averaged 121 targets per season over his 5-year tenure in Atlanta. While he saw two less than that last year, his 119 is still a very significant number. A number that sophomore tight end Levine Toilolo (14 TGTS, 2 TD as a rookie) won’t be able to compensate for all on his own.
Douglas did not play in 2009 (Gonzalez’ first season as a Falcon) so let’s just consider the period from 2010-2012. A time during which the Falcons made the playoffs three consecutive seasons, and saw their top four offensive weapons (White, Jones, Gonzalez, Douglas) combine to miss just four games. During those three seasons Douglas averaged just under 58 targets per season. While he only scored one touchdown in each of those campaigns, he also recorded at least 15 first downs in each, and was the teams deep threat with his long reception being at least 37 yards. What’s most noteworthy is that he’s about to become the Falcons third most prominent passing weapon, after spending those three seasons as Ryan’s fourth look.
Going in Douglas’ favor as well is the Falcons still suspect run game. Steven Jackson is banged up again, while their 4th-round draft pick and possibly most dynamic back, Devonta Freeman, struggles as a pass blocker. 2011’s 5th-round pick, Jacquizz Rodgers has seen his targets rise each season in his three year career, but hasn’t yet become the X-factor the Falcons hoped. So, all this should once again lead to Ryan surpassing the 600 passing attempts threshold.
Finally, there’s the money. While Roddy White recently received a four-year contract extension, Douglas is entering the third year of a four-year contract extension of his own, signed in 2012. A move that at the time showed their faith in their WR3, and he’s done nothing to make them lose it since.
While I’m higher than most on Toilolo as Gonzalez’ replacement in offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter’s system, Douglas is still the one primed for the majority of Ryan’s attention in the slot. His touchdown total will always be limited (career high two in 2013) due to his size rendering him a non-factor in the red-zone, but the yardage and reception totals will be there. His value increases greatly in PPR leagues for that reason. He also holds a higher value in keeper leagues in the event of ending up with another team eventually and having a better shot at a WR2, WR1 role.
Finally, finally, can’t have an article with this title, without this: