Will Pierre Garcon be the WR1 in 2017? He just might be.

If any coaching debut has been more anticipated in the last decade than Kyle Shanahan’s I don’t remember it. Oh wait, I’m an Eagles fan. Yeah, Chip Kelly, that was pretty big too I guess. Anyone remember how that one turned out?

Back to Kyle Shanahan though. Thankfully for fantasy football owners, we have a long track record to look at for Shanahan. Through 9 seasons at 4 different stops, we can discern patterns and maxims

What’s Past is Prologue:

Typically I don’t quote Shakespeare, I’m not that guy. For this article though it felt apt. When we look at Kyle Shanahan’s past what we notice is a high target share for his WR1. With a few exceptions if you are the designated lead wide receiver in a Kyle Shanahan offense you are going to be targeted, a lot. The WR1 on average will see 25.9% target share and 151 targets per season (per a full 16 game season).

Even that 25.9% share (which is a high %) comes with a caveat. If not for a broken hand suffered by Santana Moss in week 3 of the 2011 season it’s very likely Moss would have had a target share approaching 25% and would have led the team instead of Jabar Gaffney. Moss saw 145, 120 and 138 targets in the three seasons preceding the 2011 season. Do note that 2010 was Shanahan’s first season as O.C. in Washington. This directly led, in my mind at least, to Gaffney being the WR1(based on PPR scoring per game) in Washington in 2011. Instead of Moss nearing 25% market share, Jabbar Gaffney drags down the average WR market share with his paltry 19.7% target share.

More egregious than the 19.7% target share put up by Gaffney is Pierre Garcons’s 15.6% market share the following season. We’ll delve into that later when we discuss Mr. Garcon further.

Three times in Shanahan’s nine seasons as an O.C. he’s had a WR1 exceed 30% in target share. Five out of nine seasons have seen the WR1 exceed 25% market share. Seven out of nine seasons have seen a Shanahan WR1 secure at least a 20% target share. I would argue the only two seasons a Shanahan WR1 did not see at least 20% target share it was due to injury.

Are targets per game something that interests you? A Shanahan WR has had a top 10 finish in targets per game six out of his nine seasons as an Offensive Coordinator. Two of those six seasons his receiver led the league in targets per game and in two other seasons his receivers finished 2nd in the league.

Pierre Garcon will be a League Leader in targets and Fantasy Points:

If you are Pierre Garcon: 1. hey man thanks for reading, 2. you’ve already seen the benefits of being the WR1 in one of Kyle Shanahan’s offenses. In 2012 Shanahan showed a glimpse of what was to come for Garcon. That season Garcon only played 10 games. During those 10 games, Garcon saw 68 targets. If he would have played a full season and maintained his per game target average he would have seen a 24.82% target share on 108 (rounded down to the nearest whole number) targets. Not to belabor the point but Garcon fought toe and foot injuries the entirety of the 2012 season, so it’s nearly impossible to properly determine how high his targets would have risen in 2012.

Well, it might not be impossible to determine what Garcon would have done if healthy in 2012. We can just look to Garcon’s 2013 season. 181 Targets and a 30.1% target share. That’s pretty good. In fact, that’s damn good.

Actually, let’s pause here and just marvel at Garcon’s 2013 season. Garcon led the NFL in receptions, total targets, targets per game, receptions per game. He finished 8th in receiving yards, 10th in fantasy points per game and 11th in total fantasy points. Pop Quiz: Who was the Offensive Coordinator for Garcon in 2013? If you answered Kyle Shanahan, you are correct and congratulations for paying attention.

How confident am I that Pierre Garcon will finish in the top 10 in targets in 2017? Extremely so. @BenCumminsFF covered this topic recently for RotoViz in “3 Players With Clear Coaching Trends in Their Favor” As Ben noted, five times a Mike Shanahan Wide Receiver finished in the top 6 for total targets in a season. One of those players, Pierre Garcon.

Targets lead to Points:

All this target talk is fun, but what we truly care about in fantasy football is fantasy points. As is obvious to everyone that plays fantasy football there is a direct correlation between targets and fantasy scoring. Shanahan has produced 4 top 12 WR seasons, 6 top 24 seasons and 8 top 36 seasons. Under Shanahan’s tutelage, Garcon has put up a WR14 and a WR29 season. If you still doubt Shanahan’s prowess just take a look below. He turned Andrew freaking Hawkins into a top 50 WR. That right there is some impressive stuff.

Most of this article makes it appear I’m completely disregarding the returning wide receivers on the 49ers roster. Well, that is correct, I am disregarding them as competition to Garcon’s role as WR1. Taking a look at his challengers, Torrey Smith is now in Philadelphia. I legitimately have no idea who Aaron Burbridge and Chris Harper are; I’m not even sure they are real football players. Quinton Patton is going into his age 27 season having accrued a grand total of 880 yards on 73 receptions. Bruce Ellington, not listed below due to missing the 2016 season with injury could be an interesting stash. The, still, only 25-year old would be more a threat to Jeremy Kerley than Garcon though.

Jeremy Kerley, in theory, would be the biggest threat to Garcon’s target share. Put simply, Kerley is not a threat. Garcon has outperformed Kerley in receptions, yards, touchdowns, yards after the catch, catch rate, targets, targets per game, fantasy points, fantasy points per game etc. throughout their respective careers. Garcon is also an underrated athlete with a 121.2 SPARQ score(89th percentile), compared to Kerley’s 110.6 (65TH). I am not a projections guy, not hard projections at least. But I will say this. I would be floored if Garcon sees less than 140 targets and doesn’t average at least 14 fantasy points per game in 2017.

The WR2 might be Worth A Stash:

Don’t think that only the lead wide receiver gets fed in Shanahan’s offense. While not on the level of the WR1 the WR2 on is at least a low-end WR3 or flex starter at best and a bye week fill in at worst. The immortal Kevin Walter put up 12.5 fantasy points per game in 2008 and since that time the WR2 in Shanahan’s offense is good for around 9 points per game.

With a projected win total of just 4.5 intuitively you’d expect game scripts that call for a lot of passing, which would help all of the receiving targets on the 49ers. In six of nine seasons, Kyle Shanahan led offenses have had non-winning records. In five of those six seasons, his offenses landed inside the top 10 of pass attempts per game.

So who will be the WR2 in San Francisco this season? That’s a hell of a question that I can not answer. I’m a Bruce Ellington truther so that’s where I’d lay my money. Perhaps it’ll be Jeremy Kerley. Kerley did just sign a “3 year contract”. Yes, I put the 3 years in quotes. The 49ers can part ways with Kerley after the 2017 season with just a $1.3 million cap hit. With so little invested in Kerley it’s hard to get excited about his future prospects. Maybe the rookie Trent Taylor, whose closest comp on playerprofiler.com is Jeremy Kerley?

The best thing Kerley, Ellington, and Taylor have going for them is their low cost. Kerley’s latest ADP from DFF is 221 while ADP for Ellington and Taylor is nothing more than a myth(meaning they don’t even have ADP). All three of these players are throw in/waiver wire players you can pick up for nothing. Assuming you have a taxi squad I’d stash Taylor on it and pick up either Ellington or Kerley for your active roster.

Remember: Garcon + Shanahan = Target Monster/PPR Stud

Using the DLF Trade Finder I found that Garcon can typically be acquired for a random rookie 2nd round pick and a half-eaten cheese sandwich. If you are a contender for a championship this coming season you should be sending out offers to Garcon owners immediately. Hell, even if you’re not a contender you should be sending out offers for Garcon. Coming off his first 1,000-yard season since 2013 (who was his O.C. again in 2013?) Garcon has landed in the perfect situation at the perfect time. Buy him now before there’s a market correction!

Thanks for reading and feel free to give me a follow @DFF_Shane.

Special thank you to @BenCumminsFF, @AmazeHayes_DFF and @RussellJClay for helping me or even actually providing some of the data in this article! Much obliged, gentlemen.

Originally published at dynastyfootballfactory.com on July 12, 2017.