Wide receiver Terry McLaurin, who is a great bet in fantasy leagues this season, was one of the few bright spots for the Washington Football Team during his rookie season. Despite being drafted in the third round, he finished second among all rookies with 919 yards, and he tied for third with seven touchdowns. That would be a solid statistical season for any player, let alone a player in his first season. As a result, Washington fans are justifiably excited about his potential.
However, as with all other players that garner a great deal of hype, it is worth asking how much value McLaurin really provided to the Washington Football team in 2019. In order to evaluate his performance, we will use PFN’sOffensive Share Metric (OSM), which measures how much influence a player had over the statistics they produced, and therefore how much impact they had on the offense overall.
McLaurin’s overall OSM grade during his rookie season was unimpressive
In McLaurin’s case, his overall OSM grade was lower than you might expect; at 30.64, it ranked 70th among all wide receivers that qualified for a grade. That relatively low score indicates that McLaurin did not accrue his statistics in a particularly efficient manner, at least when looking at his season holistically.
To explain why McLaurin’s grade doesn’t match his traditional statistics, we need to delve into the advanced metrics involved in calculating a wide receiver’s OSM grade. In McLaurin’s case, the one that dragged his grade down the most was his average separation from defenders. Throughout the season, he averaged just 2.1 of distance, tied for the third-lowest in the NFL, indicating that he had trouble getting open.
McLaurin’s other important metrics were better, but not by enough to save his overall grade. His catch percentage of 62.37% and his average yards after the catch of 3.9 both ranked near the middle of the pack. Overall, McLaurin’s grades ranked either average or below-average, which isn’t terrible for a player still in his rookie season, but it isn’t indicative of a high standard of excellence either.
Examining McLaurin’s weekly OSM grades
While McLaurin’s season-long grade was not particularly impressive, taking a more fine-grained look at his statistics tells us a slightly different story. The chart below shows how he developed on a weekly basis, with the black dots marking his grades from each week of the season. For comparison, the season average for wide receivers in 2019 is represented by the yellow line.
During the first half of the season, McLaurin’s grades hovered around the league average. As I’ve already said, an average grade for a rookie isn’t awful. Still, given that several of his fellow first-year wide receivers performed well above that average in 2019 (notably, Hunter Renfrow and Deebo Samuel ranked first and second), it is difficult to be overly impressed by that showing from McLaurin.
However, things changed after Haskins became the starting quarterback in Week 9. Washington had their bye the following week, and after those seven days off, something clicked for McLaurin. His grades began improving at a dramatic rate, peaking in Week 15 when he received an absolutely stellar grade of 52.77, which more than double his lowest grade of 2019, a 21.11 in Week 12. That grade was the highest received by any wide receiver during that week.
McLaurin’s development late in his rookie season is encouraging for two reasons: first, that he was on an upward trajectory going into 2020, which bodes well for his play next season. Second, the fact that his spike in efficiency coincided with Haskins becoming the starter could signal that the pair have maintained some of the chemistry they had when they played together at Ohio State.
What can McLaurin’s rookie season tell us about his future?
Next season will be a critical one for McLaurin, and for Washington overall. With the arrival of new head coach Ron Rivera and a hopefully more stable quarterback situation with Haskins at the helm full time, McLaurin should be able to continue his upward trajectory.
If he can play at the level of his peak performances from last season on a more consistent basis, he will quickly become one of the NFL’s most dangerous wide receivers and a phenomenal asset for a team looking for a fresh start in 2020. His growth will be crucial with a young quarterback who will need a reliable target in the coming years if he is going to be successful.