If you were a Terry McLaurin owner headed into week seven, you were loving life. Scary Terry/F1/McLovin had five touchdowns in five games and was averaging 4.6 catches and 81.6 receiving yards a game. He was fantasy football’s WR10 on the season, and things were looking mighty fine for those who snagged him late in their fantasy football drafts.
Then, tragedy struck. Washington started playing actual good pass defenses, and a concussion sidelined Case Keenum and his innate Grudenness sent Jay Gruden packing. Now, Terry is stuck with some guy he would never produce with… his college quarterback, who he previously produced with. The only problem is that McLaurin has nine receptions for 89 yards in his last three games combined. McLaurin and Dwayne Haskins have put up huge numbers before, at Ohio State, what seems to be the problem now? Does this connection make Terry McLaurin, WR77 over the last three weeks, droppable?
Let’s make excuses for McLaurin look at each of the last three games, individually.
Week Seven: Washington 0, San Francisco 9 (Terry McLaurin: 2 targets, 1 catch, 11 yards, 0 TD)
This one was a sloppy mud bowl, and I said from the beginning that all statistical output from this game should be thrown out. Washington’s first eleven plays were rushes, and they ran the ball twice as much as they passed it. Outside of that, the 49ers allow the sixth-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers this year, and the Niners boasted the #1 pass defense DVOA in the NFL headed into week nine. The best pass defense, in the rain, when they only threw the ball twelve times? I’ll give him a pass, even if Case Keenum wouldn’t.
Week Eight: Washington 9, Minnesota 19 (Terry McLaurin: 6 targets, 4 catches, 39 yards, 0 TD)
There are a lot of angles to take to explain McLaurin’s struggles. First, Thursday Night Football is weird. I’m sorry if that’s too squishy a factor for you, but it was TNF, and TNF games are just… weird. The other angle is Dwayne Haskins getting tossed into the game without getting first-team reps for months thanks to the Keenum concussion just after half-time. Haskins just plain wasn’t ready, and it showed (he also threw the ball just five times in the second half, none to McLaurin). If that is too squishy for you: the Vikings have a top-ten defense by DVOA, and the #12 passing DVOA so far on the year. A good pass defense, on a short week, with no preparation? Again, I’m giving McLaurin a pass on that one.
Week Nine: Washington 9, Minnesota 24 (Terry McLaurin: 6 targets, 4 catches, 39 yards, 0 TD)
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before to explain why McLaurin struggled… Buffalo is the second-worst defense for wide receivers to produce fantasy football points. Buffalo also has the #6 passing DVOA defense on the year. The Bills have shut down everyone this season (except T.J. Jones and DeVante Parker, somehow), and McLaurin was not immune from that. Even with that in mind, Dwayne Haskins looked markedly better than he did in his past two matchups, as evidenced by his quarterback rating (86.2) being more than his last two quarterback ratings combined. The Bills put him on his back four times, but he got away without a turnover. Given that he had four interceptions in his first 22 NFL passes, I am going to call “no turnovers” a major win.
There are two major factors that will help McLaurin produce going forward: Haskins is improving. He looked much better out there, even against a bad defensive matchup. He certainly looked better than guys like Gardner Minshew, Sam Darnold, and Mason Rudolph in week nine.
The other, more important factor, is after their week ten bye, McLaurin will get some breathing room in his matchups. He takes on the Jets, the Lions, and the Panthers in weeks eleven through thirteen. Carolina and the Jets both rank in the top ten in fantasy points allowed to wide receivers. The Lions are a tougher matchup… ranking twelfth. McLaurin has good matchups coming up, and Haskins is improving.
Don’t panic with Terry McLaurin. While it’s unlikely that he returns to top-ten form, it’s also unlikely he remains in the WR70-80 range going forward. He stacked three bad matchups in a row, which coincided with team turmoil (QB and head coach change). Washington has a chance to clean up the turmoil in their bye, and they get three positive matchups coming out of it. If you’re asking yourself, “should I drop Terry McLaurin?” the answer is a resounding no. I’m trying to buy him on his bye week, as there are brighter days ahead.
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