I’ve been around the fantasy game for a while, and the target stat has come a long way, baby.
Targets didn’t become a tracked stat until 1992. Pro Football Reference wasn’t launched until 2003. My early days of fantasy football in the 90s involved scoring leagues by hand, sitting down in the morning with a pencil, a caffeinated beverage and the newspaper.
The pencil and newspaper are gone from my life now; the caffeine remains.
Receiving stats and analysis have blossomed in the modern era. Heck, this article a decade ago would have been merely about targets, full stop. Today, we have so many additional data points — first-read targets, average depth of target, catchable targets, routes run, red-zone data; the cup feels bottomless.
My goal every Tuesday this season is to analyze wide receiver data and trends, tracking where the puck has been and trying to figure out where the puck is headed. Targets will still factor in plenty, of course.
But remember: we have several different buckets to examine now.
Looking at the market share leaders
Davante Adams, as you might expect, is first in market share (team target percentage), absorbing a ridiculous 39.4% of the Raiders targets. Adams made beautiful music with Aaron Rodgers over the years, but Adams has proven to be quarterback-proof since leaving Green Bay. Derek Carr didn’t play well last year, and Adams still feasted. Jimmy Garoppolo might be league-average at best right now, and it doesn’t hurt Adams. Even if Garoppolo misses time and the Raiders have to use retread Brian Hoyer or untested rookie Aidan O’Connell, I’m not adjusting my Adams rank.
Keenan Allen ranks third in market share (32%), he’s coming off an 18-catch game and now he’s stepping into a world where Mike Williams is out for the year. Giddy up. I’m not worried about defenses scheming Allen out of games, given that the routes he wins on are often underneath patterns. Heck, at times the defense will concede that type of completion, in lieu of getting beaten over the top.
Jakobi Meyers slots fifth in target share (31.4%), and although he did miss one game, that shows you how narrow the Las Vegas tree has been. It’s not a plus offense, but at least we know where the ball is going. The Patriots surely miss the crafty Meyers. He’s still underrated.
Chris Olave ranks sixth in this stat (30.8%), and now he probably gets some time with Jameis Winston. I could see it being a plus, and I don’t think Winston could be much worse than Carr. Olave and Ja’Marr Chase are tied for the target lead among players who haven’t scored a touchdown yet (the Diontae Johnson memorial stat); both have 32 looks through three games. As always, we chase talent and opportunity, and both players obviously have that.
Zay Flowers ranks eighth in market share (29.1%). He’s the one right answer in that complicated Baltimore receiver room.
DeAndre Hopkins slots ninth in market share (28.9%). I grant you that the Tennessee offense has problems, but the Saints and especially the Browns forced a lot of those problems. Hopkins still has some juice left.
Ja’Marr Chase has a market share of 26.2%. After Monday’s game, I would have guessed it was 100%.
Garrett Wilson is getting 23.5% of the New York looks, which probably isn’t enough given how pedestrian the rest of that receiver group is. At some point, the Jets need to accept that any quarterback addition, no matter how old or desperate (they reportedly plan to sign Trevor Sieman), is probably an upgrade over Zach Wilson.
Amari Cooper and Elijah Moore are tied for the same share, 23.5%. Deshaun Watson played a lot better in Week 3, one hilarious misplay to the side.
Zach Ertz still has the best tight end market share (24.4%), then it’s Travis Kelce (21.5%) with Sam LaPorta (21.4%) a close third. LaPorta has at least five catches in every game and the Lions aren’t spoon-feeding him at all — he’s playing 80% of the snaps.
This is going to be LaPorta Week in the fantasy industry, with pundits screaming that he’s a top-10 or top-eight or top-five or top-two tight end. Where you draw the line does not matter; the obvious point is that he’s a no-doubt starter moving forward.
Age is just a number
It’s been said that youth is wasted on the young and wisdom is wasted on the old. But maybe that wisdom isn’t a waste in the current NFL landscape. I found it interesting that the current top 10 wideouts in basic scoring include a handful of receivers who are in the middle of their careers, or perhaps on the back nine, and yet it doesn’t matter. Experience for the win.
Those older guys, in order:
Maybe Hill and Diggs aren’t a surprise to the market, as both players were drafted optimistically all summer. Adams slipped into the second round of many drafts, though as we said earlier, he’s proven to be QB-proof. Allen was an age-concern pick for many, making him a steal in a lot of drafts. The uncertain quarterback rooms in Tampa Bay and Carolina have not held back Evans or, shockingly, Thielen.
Obligatory Marvin Mims Jr. section
This entire article could have been about Marvin Mims, the exciting (if rarely used) Denver rookie. Mims is a splash play waiting to happen — his seven catches have gone for 195 yards, and he’s scored touchdowns of 60 yards (reception) and 99 yards (kick return) in his brief career.
So why can’t this guy get on the field? Mims has played just a quarter of Miami’s snaps through three games. Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy run a route on about 80% of Denver’s dropbacks. Mims sits at a paltry 22.9%
Here’s where I think we can assume rational coaching. Sean Payton knows offense. The Broncos traded up on draft day to select Mims, grabbing him in the second round. Denver’s obviously in the midst of a rebuild, the 70-20 loss at Miami was embarrassing and Russell Wilson may or may not have quality play left in him. But we have to figure Mims will start to see a significantly expanded role.
Mims is rostered in about a quarter of Yahoo leagues. He is welcome on any of my teams.
Some other interesting Week 3 notes
Luke Musgrave posted a useful 6-49-0 line on eight targets. Consider him the budget LaPorta of the moment, a rookie who isn’t held back by rookie rules or maxims. LaPorta and Musgrave get the national spotlight when the Lions and Packers play on Thursday.
Although he only had two catches Monday, Kyren Williams did absorb seven targets, and he was on the field for all of the Rams’ offensive snaps (and he played 95% of the snaps the prior week). That’s an enormous workload. Only six other backs made it over 80% last week, with Rachaad White (91%) the other back in the 90s.
If Josh Jacobs stays healthy, he will smash his career bests in the passing game. He’s currently sitting on 14 targets, 10 catches, 92 yards. He’s never scored a receiving touchdown in his career.
Tyler Lockett (another savvy veteran) leads the league with seven end-zone targets. Tee Higgins and Romeo Doubs both have five, and five players are tied with four (Zay Jones, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Pat Freiermuth, Courtland Sutton). Brandin Cooks is the only player with three or more end-zone targets without a touchdown.
I love how poised C.J. Stroud is, making fantasy factors out of three different wideouts: Nico Collins is an automatic start, Tank Dell has also stepped into that class and Robert Woods isn’t bad in a pinch. Their raw usage is close to even — they all have 15 catches, and they all have between 21-25 targets. Collins is the slight preference when it comes to first-read targets (26.6%); Woods tracks at 22.8% and Dell is at 21.5%. Houston looks like a fun team.
Data from Fantasy Points, Pro Football Reference, and Fantasy Pros was used in this article