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Buckeyes in the NFL: 2023 Fantasy Football Preview — Terry McLaurin

Scary Terry has been a model of consistency despite lackluster QB play in the nation’s capital. Facing another season with another unknown at signal caller, can this former Buckeye produce solid fantasy stats again in 2023?

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Terry McLaurin was a versatile and hardworking wide receiver at Ohio State, but one whose stats never really jumped off the page. He finished his OSU career with 75 receptions for 1,251 yards and 19 touchdowns, 11 of which were scored during his senior season. Instead of pumping out record-breaking stats, Scary Terry was more than willing to ‘do it all’. And over the course of four seasons, he became one of the most highly respected players and teammates of the Urban Meyer era.

However, McLaurin’s college production did little to inspire (others’) confidence that he would develop into an NFL star, a fantasy football gem, or even a video game stud.

Fortunately for Scary Terry, his own confidence (and hard work, skill, etc.) has been more than enough to take him and his game to the next level. Drafted in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft by the now-Washington Commanders, McLaurin hit the ground running and has never looked back. He hauled in 58 receptions for 919 yards and 7 touchdowns as a rookie, quickly putting the league on notice McLaurin’s profile as both a star WR and fantasy football asset has only continued to grow.

He has since added three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and a Pro Bowl nod, while also earning a lucrative contract. He will enter the 2023 season as Washington’s go-to pass catcher, provided he is able to return from injury quickly and re-establish chemistry with the team’s new quarterback.

The last part of that last sentence likely reminds Commanders fans of Bill Murray and/or the movie Groundhog Day, because the same scenario seems to play out year after year: The team lets an aging QB battle it out with the young gun, only to watch both (or all) fail. Washington has had 10 different starting QBs since McLaurin entered the league and roughly 100 since the turn of the century... No need to fact-check, all numbers are correct.

Last season it was Carson Wentz who got dragged in to save the day, despite the fact that he had just fallen on his face in Indianapolis. Naturally, he was awful when not injured, forcing the Commanders to turn (back) to Taylor Heinicke. The latter also kinda stunk, and that just sort of sums up Washington’s recent existence. The organization is hoping that 2022 fifth-rounder Sam Howell will finally be the answer moving forward, but fifth-round picks tend to get drafted when and where they do for a reason.

Yet nothing has stopped McLaurin from lacing ‘em up and trying to go win a game every week (three games missed in four seasons). All the man does is give effort and produce. Perhaps more impressively, he has outperformed expectations without the benefit of any positional support or backup. Due to Washington’s typically poor team-building, the former Buckeye has been flanked on the outside by WRs Kelvin Harmon, Cam Sims, Isaiah Wright, Adam Humphries, and Dyami Brown, just to name a few.

Tight end Logan Thomas has been the team’s second pass-catching option, and the second-highest yardage total produced by a WR not named McLaurin was Sims’ 477 yards in 2020. That is, until last season, when both Jahan Dotson and fellow Buckeye Curtis Samuel exceeded 500 yards... barely. But you get my point! McLaurin has been a one-man band for much of his NFL career.

Now entering his age 28 season, McLaurin still appears to be in the early stages of his prime. His speed and athleticism are (still) quite evident, and he just put up the biggest total of his career, yardage-wise (1,191 in 2022). When factoring in an average of 75 receptions per season, McLaurin should be viewed as a strong WR2 in fantasy, with weekly WR1 upside... Provided, again, that he remains healthy.

And those numbers I mentioned represent Scary Terry’s floor! If the Commanders hit on Howell or any other QB – or McLaurin gets traded away from the dysfunctional Washington franchise – his production could skyrocket. 90 catches and 1,200+ yards is absolutely within the realm of possibility. Same goes for an uptick in TD (McLaurin’s career high is 7, as a rookie). It’s just going to take better QB play. But unfortunately, there is no guarantee of that in the nation’s capital.

Scary Terry is scary good, however, his fantasy value is not even remotely reflective of his talent and/or ability. His current ADP is right around No. 50 overall, and most sites have him as a fringe top-20 WR. But again, those rankings are a byproduct of his situation. Regardless, McLaurin is about as rock-solid as they come. Fantasy owners may want to aim a little higher for their WR1, but this former Buckeye is an ideal WR2. And there will absolutely be weeks during which he balls out and finishes top-5, top-6 at his position.

McLaurin might never reach the heights of a Michael Thomas, or generate the buzz of a Garrett Wilson, but he is arguably the safest fantasy option one will find, as far as former Buckeyes go. And if he ever gets to play with a good-to-great QB, watch out. Here’s hoping it happens sooner rather than later, because you won’t find an easier player to root for.