One of the hardest things to do in Fantasy Football is to predict which receivers will do well in any given week. There are just so many parameters that are outside of the receiver’s control. How accurate is his QB? What sort of offensive game plan will be installed for that particular week and opponent? How effective is the opposing defense — and is the receiver likely to be locked up against an elite opposing D-Back?
There are two things that I like to look at to help formulate projections for receivers — whether we are talking about Wide Receivers, Tight Ends or even Running Backs. The first is Total Targets. This gives us an idea of how many opportunities we can expect the receiver to have. The second is Yards Per Target. That lets us know how much the receiver made of his opportunities.
Let’s start by looking at the Top 10 Targets for Wide Receivers through the first 2 Weeks. (These numbers do not count the Thursday night game which kick-started Week 3.)
1. Victor Cruz (28)
2. Danny Amendola (25)
2T. Reggie Wayne (25)
4. A.J. Green (23)
5. Hakeem Nicks (21)
6. Brandon Lloyd (21)
6T. Percy Harvin (21)
6T. Dwayne Bowe (21)
9. Brandon Marshall (20)
9T. Vincent Jackson (20)
9T. Brian Hartline (20)
In case you are wondering, Calvin Johnson is next (or tied for 12th) with 19 targets through Week 2. Cruz and Nicks are certainly no big surprise, especially coming off Week 2’s 500+ yard passing day for the Giants. Amendola nearly broke a record for receptions in a single game against the Redskins last week, so he his presence on this list makes sense.
The names that jump out at me are Reggie Wayne, Brandon Lloyd, Brandon Marshall, and Brian Hartline.
Wayne is a bit surprising because no one expect him to be so active this year. But maybe we should have. Remember, he was not terrible in 2011, despite terrible play from his bevy of QBs. Now, in Andrew Luck he has a competent young QB willing to get him the ball. Wayne was drafted in most leagues as a WR3, but he is emerging as at least a borderline WR1/WR2.
Lloyd is interesting from a different perspective. We heard all through preseason about how he and Brady were connecting almost at will in practice. However, through the first two weeks of the season the New England offense has been a bit out-of-sorts, and the perception is that Lloyd is not active enough in the passing game. The above list would seem to debunk that view. The Patriots have TRIED to get the ball to Lloyd, but they just have not been hitting on the big plays. As a result, Lloyd’s output has looked like 5 catches for 60 yards and no scores in each game.
It is worth noting that in Lloyd’s big seasons with the Broncos (and even the partial time with the Rams last year), he was one of the most targeted receivers in the NFL. In fact, he ranked right up there with the likes of Roddy White and Wes Welker in targets — but he came nowhere close to either in actual receptions. His rate of receptions per target has historically been in the 50% range. That is not great. In the past we blamed it on inaccurate QB play. However, now that he has a very accurate Tom Brady as his QB… Not much better. Suffice to say that Lloyd looks like he will remain a boom or bust option in fantasy from week to week.
The Bears were criticized for ignoring Brandon Marshall last Thursday night. At first glance, the list above would suggest that notion to be wrong. However, note that of Marshall’s 20 targets, 15 of them came in Week 1. Now, it is unrealistic to expect him to be targeted 15 times every week, but he is also not going to slip to as few as 5 very often either as was the case in last Thursday’s debacle against the Packers. Hence, the perception that Cutler was under-targeting Marshall last week is indeed reality. Certainly, some of that had to do with how the Packers were rolling their coverages in that game. Moreover, the Packers just seem to have Jay Cutler’s number, especially at Lambeau Field.
Brian Hartline may be the biggest surprise of all. I did like him heading into the season as a Sleeper (especially in PPR leagues), but I tempered my expectations as he pretty much missed all of the preseason nursing injuries. Clearly he and Ryan Tannehill have made an immediate connection. He was targeted 8 times in Week 1 and 12 times in Week 2.
Now let’s look at Yards Per Target:
1. Steve Smith (14)
2. Malcolm Floyd (12.5)
3. Brandon LaFell (11.92)
4. Andrew Hawkins (11.83)
5. Kevin Ogletree (11.67)
6. Hakeem Nicks (11.29)
7. Calvin Johnson (10.79)
8. Demaryius Thomas (10.44)
9. Mike Wallace (10.09)
10. DeSean Jackson (10.05)
Since we are already dealing with a small enough sample size after only 2 weeks, I decided to impose that each player have a minimum of 10 targets to qualify for the above list.
This list is actually a pretty fair evaluator in terms of fantasy status. In fact, each receiver listed above ranks among the current top 25 fantasy WRs in terms of fantasy points scored in a traditional scoring league after 2 weeks.
The two big questions, of course, are:
Was Ogletree’s Week 1 explosion a fluke?
— and —
Will Hawkins be able to sustain the success he has had the first two week?
I think LaFell is for real, and the others on this list are all established top fantasy WRs.
Let me know if this was helpful. If so, I can do a similar breakdown of Tight Ends and Running Backs.
Good luck this weekend to all!