Kenny Golladay: Breakout or Bust?

by Josh Crocker ·

Kenny Golladay is fantasy football royalty, but volume is king. While other exciting young prospects such as Calvin Ridley, Chris Godwin, and Christian Kirk play in exciting, pass-heavy offenses, Golladay has been relegated to Detroit. Where he plays for a run first, defense oriented coach in Matt Patricia and his henchman Darrell Bevell. With a price tag at around the 50th overall pick, as the 18th receiver off the board on average, fantasy gamers have to answer the question of whether Babytron will be a breakout or a bust in 2019. In this range of drafts, we need to pick players with the upside to finish in the top 12 at their position. Does Golladay have that potential? Or will a lack of passing volume make him a player to avoid despite his advanced stats, metrics and analytics profile?

College Production

After an unorthodox college career, Golladay joined the NFL ranks at age 23. He played his first two seasons at North Dakota, in his age-18 and 19 seasons. In his age-19 season, he led the team with a very nice 69 catches, 884 yards and eight touchdowns. After that, he transferred to Northern Illinois and sat the requisite year. In his first year as a Husky, his age-21 season, he was immediately productive. As a result, his 41.8-percent College Dominator Rating puts him in the 84th-percentile. Even after sitting the year, and having his production at North Dakota cast aside, his 19.8 Breakout Age ranks in the 70th-percentile.

Kenny Golladay Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

Golladay is a size-speed specimen at 6-4, 218-pounds, with a 110.7 (93rd-percentile) Speed Score that draws comparison to the great Calvin Johnson. More precisely, he comps to players such as Alshon Jeffery and A.J. Green. It is completely fair to call him an older prospect, but the context matters. He has been productive at every opportunity and was consistently productive from an early age. He is a precocious producer with athleticism to match. 


Since being drafted in the third round by the Detroit Lions, the team has signaled their belief in Kenny Golladay. They parted ways with perennial top 24 producer Golden Tate, clearing the decks for the man known as Babytron. Marvin Jones will continue to run on the outside, but has never been a target dominator. In 2018, Jones earned a mere 18.4-percent (No. 40 among qualified receivers) Target Share. He plays a complementary and symbiotic role beside Golladay, similar to Will Fuller or DeSean Jackson, stretching the field and drawing defensive attention.

NFL Production

In his second year, Kenny Golladay showed fantasy managers what they hoped to see. He increased his Target Share from 13-percent (No. 82) to 22.3-percent (No.  24). He was targeted 12 times in the end zone, good for a 35.3-percent (No. 15) End Zone Target Share. He did all of this while being fed sub-prime targets from a Matthew Stafford who was not completely healthy. This shows up in his 76.3-percent (No. 61) Catchable Target Rate, which helps explain his 74th-ranked Catch Rate of 59.3-percent. Yet he still managed 2.18 (No. 27) Yards Per Pass Route. Golladay is a special talent, waiting for a chance to break out.

Check out Kenny Golladay on PlayerProfiler’s “World Famous” Draft Kit:

Volume Concerns

The elephants in the room are Darrell Bevell, Matt Patricia and the expected passing volume in Detroit. Bevell’s reputation has been built around oppressing Russell Wilson. Wilson is undoubtedly a world-class talent and it would be exciting to get to see him unlocked, throwing the ball 600 times. Regardless, he has still found a way to support Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett as high-end fantasy receivers despite the limited passing opportunities presented to him by Bevell. Matthew Stafford is nowhere near Wilson’s league. Stafford does, however, belong to a small club of QB’s that have supported two fantasy WR1’s in a single year. Wilson, talented as he may be, does not have a receiver who looks and plays like Golladay.

Low Passing Volume Comparisons

Outside of the ultra-efficient Russell Wilson, 29 quarterbacks in the last decade have had seasons where their pass attempts fell between 500 and 520. This range is plausible for Matthew Stafford. Of those 29 QBs, 27 of them had a wide receiver who earned over 100 targets. The quality of the receiver, and his ability to demand targets, was the deciding factor in whether they finished as a fantasy WR1. An elite QB like Wilson is not necessary. Eli Manning helped Steve Smith to a WR1 season. Matt Hasselbeck helped Nate Washington to a WR15 finish. There is no requisite WR archetype. Mike Wallace found success, as did Wes Welker, Larry Fitzgerald, Travis Kelce, and Randy Moss. There was no need, even with only 520 attempts, for Jordy Nelson to completely snuff out Randall Cobb to finish as the WR3 overall.

Top 24 WRs in Low Passing Volume Offenses


Kenny Golladay is an emerging star in the NFL. The externals are not ideal. Nonetheless, Golladay’s talent outweighs his circumstances. His talent is evident in many ways. The evidence ranges from college production to athleticism to outperforming opportunity in the NFL. His talent does not require a perfect alignment of the stars to show. Golladay’s talent has broken out whenever it has intersected with opportunity. In 2019, he will have ample opportunity showcase his talent and will put the bust doubts behind him.