Ahh yes. There’s a smile on my face and spring in my step
these days ‘cause it‘s that time of year again. Yep,
Fantasy is in the air, players are in camp, and the NFL Network
is running Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader swimsuit calendar shoots. The
hunt is on for players to bolster our fantasy team. Who’s
going to break-out? What stars will rise or fall? Most importantly,
who should you draft this year? For now let’s look at the
WR position since they seem to be all the rage this year.
When scouting potential receivers you’ll read expert analysis
that says this guy has great ability but his QB stinks. Or this
WR has raw athletic talent but poor hands. Maybe you read that this
receiver is big and may get a lot of red zone opportunities. The
amount of variables can seem overwhelming. After all the analysis
you’re still scratching your head asking “what does
this all mean for my draft!” FFToday feels your pain so let’s
make things a little less complicated. We can do this by applying
some concrete values to replace all the talk. Because what we really
want to know is how many fantasy points will this guy score?
Consider what makes a NFL Wide receiver successful in terms of Fantasy
football. The greatest determining factor and most obvious has to
be opportunity. No matter how talented a player, they can only score
points when thrown to or “Targeted” as we will call
it during this article. The top WR’s in this league are usually
targeted around 150+ times per season. Here’s a glance at
the most targeted WR’s last season. It’s a pretty good
indicator for fantasy success.
These receivers all did well last year but notice Randy Moss is
not number one on this list yet he was far and away the top WR in
’07 in terms of fantasy football scoring. So let’s put
total targets on the back burner for a bit and look at some other
The second factor in measuring production would be converting opportunity
into success. Receptions are a good indicator but not a true measure
of performance. What we must look at is rather how efficient a WR
is when targeted. (Opportunity meets success). Here we’re
looking at how many receptions the WR had vs. how often he was targeted?
This is often referred to as catch %. Factors like QB accuracy,
the receiver’s ability run routes, speed to get open, hands
to make the catch, pass protection, chemistry, and many of those
wordy descriptions I mentioned above that leave us scratching our
heads can all be summarized in to one simple value called efficiency.
(Receptions/targets = catch rate efficiency %.) Here are the top
9 WR’s last year with over 35 targets in terms their target
Again, Randy Moss doesn’t lead in targets or catch efficiency
yet we know he’s number one. Catch percentages can be greatly
affected by the type of routes a receiver runs. Case in point, Wes
Welker had a very high catch rate just above 77%. (112 receptions
per 145 targets) while Moss’ was 62% (98 receptions per 159
targets). The difference is clearly that Welker only averaged 10.5
yds per catch while Moss averaged 15.2 yds per catch. Moss also
scored 23 times to Welker’s 8. Moss is a classic big play
receiver and Welker’s a classic possession receiver. This
brings us to the third measure of a receiver in terms of fantasy
value. Production per reception. Production per reception encompasses
wordy descriptions such as yards per catch, touchdowns, red zone
targeting, and yards after catch. Here’s a look at the most
productive WR’s last season per reception. (2007 fantasy points
totals/reception = FPTS/REC).
OK. So now we have measured efficiency and production but two charts
are too many when we can easily combine them in to one. Instead
of measuring fantasy points per reception we can include the efficiency
measurement by graphing fantasy points per target rather than per
reception. Now we are getting to a real measurement or snap shot
of a player’s production in terms of fantasy scoring per opportunity.
Here’s the top 47 in a standard scoring format:
Here we quantify all those factors we have discussed that determine
fantasy production and efficiency per opportunity in to one measurement.
Essentially the biggest variable becomes number of targets assuming
all other factors remain static. We can make some good estimates
based on this measurement. For instance, Randy Moss was targeted
159 times in a wide open attack. It is unlikely that his production
has much room to grow because his opportunity is maxed out. When
I look at this list I am looking at how opportunity may effect a
player’s overall fantasy production. Jabar Gaffney is 7th
on this list in terms of FFPts/Target. Does this mean I think he
may finish as the 7th best WR in 2008? Certainly not, because with
Moss, Welker, Watson, and others there is little chance his opportunity
will increase dramatically. I realize the smaller the amount of
data to measure the less accurate these measurements become. It’s
a sliding scale because a receiver will get more focus from the
defense and TD receptions will more drastically skew the numbers.
However, I still prefer analyzing this list to make reasonable assumptions
over trying to read a paragraph about a WR and having someone tell
me what they think he will do without a formula for their projection.
Let’s take a look at some players with solid fantasy efficiency
from the table above that standout.
Holmes is targeted just 100+ times this year instead of the
85 targets he had in ’07 his production could increase about 1.67
fantasy points per target (FFPts/Tar). So I would estimate him
scoring approximately 167 fantasy points this season. That makes
Holmes a top 10 receiver candidate for 2008. He proved to be more
a playmaker than the gritty Hines Ward last season and he will
become the more targeted receiver this season.
is no stranger to the sleeper lists from past years and hasn’t
quite duplicated his 2003 season in Minnesota. This makes him
a great value pick. If you take Burleson’s last 5 regular season
games plus two playoff performances and projected his average
over 16 games he would have been 2nd only to Randy Moss for a
stunning 232 FFPts. He finished 2007 with a per target average
of 1.30 FFPts/Tar. He is in a pass happy offense, had a strong
2nd half last year, D.J. Hackett has left for Carolina and his
other main competition in Deion Branch has lingering injury issues.
I expect to see him improve on his 95 targets last year and get
closer to 115 targets * 1.30 FFPts/Tar for 150 FFPts putting him
in the top 15-20 WR range this season.
Williams has never been a top tier WR in this league but last
year was his first full year with a solid QB in Garrard. Offensive
coordinator Dirk Koetter is known for his aggressive passing packages
but was reluctant to break them out last year. I expect him to
expand the playbook due to increased confidence in Garrard’s ability.
Williams will also benefit from having Jerry Porter alongside
him to open things up. Its unlikely his TD’s per reception remain
as high if his workload increases but you can expect increased
in line with 75 targets at 2.05 FFPts/Tar for a total of 150 FFPts.
is a top tier WR that will likely be targeted around 150 times.
His chemistry with QB Matt Schaub will only improve with another
camp together so assuming they stay healthy he could be around
(1.55 FFPts/Tar *150 targets) = 232pts which is 2nd only to Moss.
Gonzalez had a terrific 73% catch percentage and still managed
15.6 yds per catch leading to a high 1.45 FFPts/Tar average. With
those numbers he will push Marvin Harrison regardless of Harrison’s
health. If Harrison falters then Gonzales could see 75+ targets
and score well over 100 points this year.
made a reception 68% of the time he was targeted in Seattle giving
him a 1.20 FFPts/Tar mark. He moves to Carolina and now has Steve
Smith garnering all the attention. His yards per catch are low
at 12.0 but he’s big and has good hands so if Delhomme’s elbow
holds up he could increase significantly from his low 47 targets
Dwayne Bowe caught 60% of his targets as a rookie with a young
QB in Croyle. He will likely become more of a focus and could
move up to 145 targets * 1.11 FPTS/TAR and score around 160 pts
this year making him a solid #2 WR. The numbers support all the
hype you’ll read about on this guy. Experts love his talent.
Sidney Rice is a young player with a young QB so being in the
top 25 in terms of FFPts/Tar is a good sign. He’s big and
skilled but his yds per catch are average. Now he has a speedster
in Berrian to open things up and he could see 90 targets * 1.20
FFPts/Tar for 100+ points also making him solid #3 or Bye week
Likely To Remain About The Same…
Greg Jennings has all the numbers to say he will become a top
10 star this season. He was the second most efficient WR per target
last season and 12th overall for WR scoring. By all measures he
has top ten talent per reception and per target. If it wasn’t
for a change in QB he would be the best candidate of all to be
a riser considering he was only targeted 84 times. Without Favre
his production per target may decrease but he has replaced Driver
as the #1 option in the land of cheese. I expect an increase in
targeting to offset this enough to remain a top 15-20 WR in ’08.
Colston was 9th best last year for receivers in total points.
What stands out is that that he had only 143 targets, the least
of the top 10 receivers last year. This is surprising considering
how many attempts Drew Brees had last year. The addition of Shockey
will improve the offense but may keep Colston’s targeting from
increasing much further.
Brandon Marshall is a rising star that burst on the scene last
year. I was shocked to see he had more targets (170) than anyone
in the league last year. Hard to envision him improving upon that
very much. That being said, I think anyone who gets him as a WR2
on their team if his draft status falls due to all the bad publicity
is getting a steal here. He’s remains WR1.5 due to the high
Patrick Crayton is highly productive per target at 1.38 FFPts/Tar.
His Problem is getting more targets. T.O., Witten, and Barber
are all top 5 type players as well. I temper my optimism towards
Crayton improving much until T.O. starts showing his age (or mentality).
There has also been plenty of water cooler gossip about owner
Jerry Jones sniffing around the league to upgrade at WR2.
Johnson are a dynamic duo for sure. That’s their problem to
some extent. They both get equal targets. Note that despite playing
at less than 100% healthy for most of the year Johnson was nearly
as productive (1.05 vs. 1.09) as the veteran Williams. His downfall
was a low 51% success rate. Since Williams’ was 62 % perhaps better
chemistry with Kitna will help Johnson improve in his second season.
received the 2nd most targets of all receivers last year. Given
Chad Johnson’s off-season exploits I think he will remain Palmer’s
top choice. Keep in mind this is a contract year for him so he
has dollar signs in his eyes. The concern is that the arrival
of TE Ben Utecht from the Colts will give Palmer another red zone
option and make it tough for T.J to get 12 scores again this year.
Some Possible Slips…
Devery Henderson was high on the list but his reception per target
is only 48%. It is unlikely he will increase targeting that dramatically
because he still has the same hands as well as Bush, Shockey,
and Colston getting the opportunities. Word is that Robert Meacham
a talented rookie last season from Tennessee that was injured
has been impressing coaches to battle for the WR2 job there as
was less productive per target then his partner Anquan Boldin.
He also had the 3rd highest number of targets (168) last season
and had a spike in production during 3 of Boldin’s 4 missed games.
Leinart is set to play more this season so the offense will be
less wide open. I see Boldin stealing some opportunities on shorter
routes and red zones. Fitzgerald gets a few less targets, I say
150 * 1.20 FFPts/Tar for 180 FPTS. Not drastic but still a slight
dip from last year making him about 9th or 10th rather than a
top five as he has been drafted so far this year.
will lose targets as Santonio Holmes gains them. He was less productive
than Holmes but given more targets in ‘07. That is soon to change.
I say 95 targets at 1.02 FFPts/Tar for 96 FPTS.
has to compete with Hines Ward and rising star Santonio Holmes
for targets. Pittsburg also figures to throw less with Parker
back and a new toy in Mendenhall. Add Limas Sweed to the mix who
was drafted in order to give Big Ben a Big WR following his headline
stirring comments on his receiving core’s lack of size. All good
reasons to expect Washington’s targets to slip to around 45 (1.36
FFPts/Tar) for 61 FFPts.
Whether or not you agree or disagree with my assessments here
or any other prognosticator’s is not the real crux of this
look at receivers. The key point in this exercise is providing
another way of looking at a player’s history of production
and applying actual measurements rather than just words to help
you make solid draft decisions. You can use these numbers and
calculate your own amount of opportunity. If things change in
training camp then all projections are rendered useless. With
this measurement you can make quick determinations to a new player’s
possible projections given a new amount of opportunity. If you
want to evaluate a player not in these tables FFToday has a great
stat section that tracks targeting
so you can make quick estimates for players on your radar. Keep
in mind the sliding scale we discussed and this system obviously
doesn’t work with rookies. But I don’t suggest counting
on them too much any ways. Happy Hunting.
For those of you in a more fun and dynamic fantasy league (no
bias here) I’ve included a Top 50 FFPts/Target table for
PPR scoring systems...