It’s hard to remember a time when quarterback Philip Rivers wasn’t donning a Chargers jersey on Sunday afternoons. The fourth overall pick of the 2004 NFL Draft has been the full-time starter in San Diego/Los Angeles since 2006 and never missed a start. But 2020 will be different. Rivers is now the starting quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts and the Chargers will hand the reins over to a journeyman veteran and eventually a first-round rookie.
So what does that mean for the Chargers’ playmakers, specifically wide receiver Keenan Allen?
After some injury troubles early in his career, Allen played all 16 games for three straight seasons. He’s been a target monster, racking up 444 looks over the past three seasons. Those 444 targets are the fifth-most since 2017, behind only DeAndre Hopkins, Michael Thomas, Julio Jones, and Jarvis Landry. Will that continue with Tyrod Taylor and Justin Herbert?
Bovada has the following prop bets for Allen’s 2020 season:
Receptions: 89.5 (over -115; under -115)
Receiving Yards: 1,019.5 (over -115; under -115)
Receiving TDs: 5 (over -115; under -115)
There’s some distance between those numbers and his average 101-1263-6 line from the past three seasons. Does that mean bettors should hammer the over on all three wagers? Let’s dive deeper.
The unknown at the quarterback position makes Allen a tough player to project. It’s hard to imagine him seeing 150-ish targets this season, but what’s a reasonable number to expect? Allen’s average target share over the past three seasons is 26.2%. Given Allen’s talent level and Rivers’ penchant to target his WR1 and running backs so frequently, that high number isn’t much of a surprise. But Rivers is gone and we don’t really know 1) what to expect from Taylor and Herbert, 2) how many games each will start, and 3) how they’ll divvy up their target shares. So we have to make some assumptions.
Assumption No. 1: The Chargers will throw less frequently this season. They’ll rank somewhere close to 20th in the NFL in passing attempts after finishing inside the top 10 in two of the past three seasons.
Assumption No. 2: Allen’s lack of rapport with either passer drops his high target share a bit. He’ll still be a top-20 target-getter, just not top 10.
Assumption No. 3: The product of the first two assumptions is a projection of 550 pass attempts for Los Angeles in 2020 and a 3.5% drop in target share for Allen compared to his three-year average.
I can’t imagine we see a more precipitous drop in pass attempts or target share, especially with Melvin Gordon no longer in the backfield alongside Austin Ekeler, so one could consider those benchmarks as fairly conservative estimates. Let’s look at what that means specifically for Allen.
If his target share drops from 26.2% to 22.7%, we’re looking at about 125 targets over a full season. Allen has a career catch percentage of 68.4% and a three-year average of 68.2% since 2017. Using the latter for this exercise—which keeps with the conservative theme and is below his rate from the previous two seasons—he’ll get about 85 receptions on those 125 targets.
As for receiving yards, we can choose one of two options: default to his career average of 8.36 yards per target or use his three-year average of 8.53 yards per target. The former works out to 1,045 receiving yards over 125 targets, while the latter equates to 1,066. Both are over Bovada’s posted total.
When it comes to touchdowns, we have the same choice. Allen has scored on 4.05% of his targets over the last three seasons and 4.43% in his career. The former equals 5.1 touchdowns and the latter equals 5.5 over 125 targets. Either way, the line is sharp and this bet is a stay away.
There are so many unknown variables when it comes to the Chargers offense this season. No Rivers and no Gordon ensures some significant changes on the horizon. For that reason, it’s best to avoid wagering on any Chargers prop bets prior to the 2020 season. An 85-1045-6 season is well within the range of reasonable outcomes for Allen, but the margins between that projection and the posted totals are razor-thin.
- Dec 08, 2022
- Dec 08, 2022