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   Targets, Receptions and Fantasy Points

March 22, 2017
Al Lackner

This is the first of three features that I will be doing this pre-season regarding an analysis of fantasy Wide Receivers.

In the two future segments I will analyze Sophomore Wide Receivers (from the Class of 2014) and look closely at what I call the QB-to-WR Index.

In this feature, I will attempt to look at the empirical receiving data from 2014 (in terms of targets, receptions and fantasy points) to help build a model (or at least a starting point) for ranking the fantasy wide receivers headed into 2015.

WR Analysis

More specifically, this feature is built around a number of top-25 charts. My goal is to use the data represented in these tables to begin a guided tour that will hopefully get us to our destination: an initial ranking of fantasy wide receivers.

The charts include the final 2014 rankings of wide receivers in the following categories: Fantasy Points, Receptions, Targets, Team Share, Conversion Rate, and Fantasy Points Per Target.

Note that the tables below reference the 2014 team for which each player played.

So, for example, even though Jeremy Maclin is now the property of the Kansas City Chiefs, on the charts below he is listed as having played for the Philadelphia Eagles.


Lets start by simply looking at the wide receivers who scored the most points in fantasy in 2014. Note that the point totals listed below represent standard scoring (1.0 point for each yard rushing/receiving and 6 points per touchdown).




Fantasy Points

 PlayerTeamYardsTDsFantasy Points
1 BROWN, ANTONIOPIT168213250.3
2 NELSON, JORDYGB151913234.9
3 THOMAS, DEMARYIUSDEN161911233.9
4 BRYANT, DEZDAL132016229
5 BECKHAM, ODELLNYG130512207
6 COBB, RANDALLGB128712204.4
7 SANDERS, EMMANUELDEN14049199.8
8 JONES, JULIOATL15936199.4
9 MACLIN, JEREMYPHI132910196.9
10 HILTON, T.Y.IND13457181.5
11 EVANS, MIKETB105112181.1
12 JEFFERY, ALSHONCHI113310177.6
13 HOPKINS, DEANDREHOU12106163
14 TATE, GOLDENDET13314161.1
15 JOHNSON, CALVINDET10778156.7
16 BENJAMIN, KELVINCAR10089154.8
17 JACKSON, DESEANWAS11696154.6
18 WALLACE, MIKEMIA86210146.8
19 SMITH, TORREYBAL76711143.7
20 SMITH, STEVEBAL10656141.5
21 EDELMAN, JULIANNE9724140.6
22 LAFELL, BRANDONNE9537137.6
23 GREEN, A.J.CIN10416137.3
24 BOLDIN, ANQUANSF10625136.6
25 WHITE, RODDYATL9217136.1

Observations:

There is nothing truly earth-shattering here, as when we look at the total numbers at a high level, we simply see the top 25 fantasy WRs from last season. Obviously most of these players will be high in the 2015 rankings with the presumption that they will have another successful fantasy season.

The first thing that jumps out to me is the presence of three rookie WRs in Beckham, Evans and Benjamin. Beckham and Evans, in particular, finished with stud-like numbers. Aside from the rookies, there were a number of surprise players such as Emmanuel Sanders, Jeremy Maclin, T.Y. Hilton, Golden Tate, and Brandon LeFell who all posted start-worthy numbers -- that is, finished as at worst a WR2 in 12-team leagues -- but were largely overlooked last year in fantasy drafts.

Some of the more disappointing players were Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green and Roddy White, who were typically drafted with high selections in fantasy drafts yet seriously under-performed (in many cases due to injury). It is interesting that the perception of DeAndre Hopkins, DeSean Jackson, Mike Wallace, Torrey Smith, and Anquan Boldin is that they also under-performed. Yet, all of them finished as WR2 in standard scoring leagues, which is about where many of us expected them to finish.




Receptions

 PlayerTeamReceptions
1 BROWN, ANTONIOPIT128
2 THOMAS, DEMARYIUSDEN111
3 JONES, JULIOATL104
4 SANDERS, EMMANUELDEN101
5 TATE, GOLDENDET99
6 NELSON, JORDYGB98
7 EDELMAN, JULIANNE92
8 BECKHAM, ODELLNYG91
9 COBB, RANDALLGB91
10 BRYANT, DEZDAL88
11 MACLIN, JEREMYPHI86
12 JOHNSON, ANDREHOU85
13 JEFFERY, ALSHONCHI85
14 LANDRY, JARVISMIA84
15 BOLDIN, ANQUANSF83
16 HILTON, T.Y.IND82
17 WHITE, RODDYATL80
18 SMITH, STEVEBAL79
19 ALLEN, KEENANSD77
20 HOPKINS, DEANDREHOU76
21 LAFELL, BRANDONNE74
22 DECKER, ERICNYJ74
23 BENJAMIN, KELVINCAR73
24 JONES, JAMESOAK73
25 RANDLE, RUEBENNYG71

Observations:

Antonio Brown

Receptions are key because not only do they represent opportunities for yards and TDs -- but they also directly correlate to fantasy points in PPR (Point Per Reception) formats.

Looking closer, for example, in the first chart we see that Antonio Brown finished atop the list with 250.3 points, and Jordy Nelson finished second with 234.9 in standard scoring. Over the course of the season that point differential is negligible and represents only about 1 fantasy point per game. Thus, their value would be very close in overall rankings headed into the 2015 season on fantasy draft charts in such formats.

However, in PPR formats, Brown would have scored 378.3 points, and Nelson would have scored 332.5 points. That is a difference of over 50 fantasy points (or over 3 points per game), which is quite significant.

What does that mean?

Make sure you look closely at the scoring rules in your league. If it is PPR then players like Brown and Demaryius Thomas are even more valuable. I am talking valuable enough to draft in the first round as opposed to waiting until the 2nd round, where Jordy Nelson (who is still a WR1 in all formats) will likely go.




Targets

 PlayerTeamTargets
1 THOMAS, DEMARYIUSDEN184
2 BROWN, ANTONIOPIT180
3 JONES, JULIOATL163
4 NELSON, JORDYGB151
5 JOHNSON, ANDREHOU146
6 BENJAMIN, KELVINCAR145
7 JEFFERY, ALSHONCHI145
8 MACLIN, JEREMYPHI144
9 TATE, GOLDENDET143
10 JACKSON, VINCENTTB142
11 SANDERS, EMMANUELDEN141
12 BRYANT, DEZDAL136
13 EDELMAN, JULIANNE134
14 SMITH, STEVEBAL134
15 BOLDIN, ANQUANSF131
16 HILTON, T.Y.IND131
17 BECKHAM, ODELLNYG130
18 JOHNSON, CALVINDET128
19 WATKINS, SAMMYBUF128
20 RANDLE, RUEBENNYG127
21 COBB, RANDALLGB127
22 HOPKINS, DEANDREHOU127
23 WHITE, RODDYATL124
24 EVANS, MIKETB123
25 ALLEN, KEENANSD121

Observations:

Demaryius Thomas

In a way, targets are even more interesting numbers to look at than receptions. I think of a reception as being the successful outcome of a target. Targets represent opportunities.

The mantra in fantasy, of course, is not to assume that opportunity leads to production. While that is also true with the targets, of course, it makes sense that there is a direct correlation to receivers who were heavily targeted in the passing game with those who had strong fantasy seasons.

Andre Johnson, Vincent Jackson, Sammy Watkins, Rueben Randle, and Keenan Allen are the only receivers among our top 25 most-targeted, who did NOT also make the top 25 list in fantasy points scored.

From that perspective, these players had the most disappointing seasons of all, because the opportunities were there. Moreover, since they failed to produce on the volume of opportunties with which they were presented, there is a chance that they will see a significant decline in opportunities (targets) this year. Johnson's situation may be unique given his departure from QB-deprived Houston to the harvest that is Andrew Luck in Indianapolis, but you still want to be careful about over-valuing him.




Team Share

 PlayerTeamTargetsTotal Team TargetsPct Of Team
1 BRYANT, DEZDAL1364180.3254
2 BENJAMIN, KELVINCAR1454610.3145
3 BROWN, ANTONIOPIT1805830.3087
4 JOHNSON, ANDREHOU1464750.3074
5 THOMAS, DEMARYIUSDEN1845990.3072
6 NELSON, JORDYGB1514940.3057
7 JACKSON, VINCENTTB1424960.2863
8 BOLDIN, ANQUANSF1314650.2817
9 DECKER, ERICNYJ1144090.2787
10 HAWKINS, ANDREWCLE1124060.2759
11 HOPKINS, DEANDREHOU1274750.2674
12 JONES, JULIOATL1636210.2625
13 TATE, GOLDENDET1435500.2600
14 SMITH,SR, STEVEBAL1345200.2577
15 COBB, RANDALLGB1274940.2571
16 BALDWIN, DOUGSEA983850.2545
17 EVANS, MIKETB1234960.2480
18 GREEN, AJCIN1164780.2427
19 JEFFERY, ALSHONCHI1455980.2425
20 EDELMAN, JULIANNE1345650.2372
21 SANDERS, EMMANUELDEN1415990.2354
22 JOHNSON, CALVINDET1285500.2327
23 CRABTREE, MICHAELSF1084650.2323
24 WATKINS, SAMMYBUF1285550.2306
25 MACLIN, JEREMYPHI1446500.2215

Observations:

Dez Bryant

I find this chart to be more interesting than necessarily useful from a fantasy perspective. What it does is emphasize how important that a given receiver was to his team in terms of the percentage of targets went his way.

What this does is emphasize not only which receivers were the favorite targets of their respective teams -- but which ones became the apple's eye of their quarterback.

It is not surprising, for example, that Tony Romo chose to zero in on Dez Bryant more than any other player on the team. What is surprising is that, despite the multiple other weapons at Romo's disposal, his reliance on Bryant was so great: nearly one third of Romo's passes were intended for Dez. That was tops not only for the Cowboys, but for the entire league.

I suppose the value from a fantasy perspective here lies in identifying those teams which may evolve into a more pass-friendly offense in 2015 or whose QB situation may be better.

I'll look at that more closely in a future installment on Taking a Look at the QB-to-WR Index. So be on the lookout for that segment in the next week or so.

Conversely, be careful to look closely at teams that added immediate reinforcements. For example, given the arrival of Jimmy Graham in Seattle, it would make sense that Doug Baldwin's share of targets likely will change. Of course, Graham's presence could also open things up more for Baldwin in the deep passing game as well -- meaning that the quality of Baldwin's chances may significantly improve even if the quantity doesn't.




Conversion Rate

 PlayerTeamConversion Rate
1 STILLS, KENNYNO0.7590
2 LANDRY, JARVISMIA0.7568
3 COBB, RANDALLGB0.7165
4 SANDERS, EMMANUELDEN0.7163
5 BROWN, ANTONIOPIT0.7111
6 BECKHAM, ODELLNYG0.7000
7 TATE, GOLDENDET0.6923
8 EDELMAN, JULIANNE0.6866
9 ROYAL, EDDIESD0.6813
10 HARVIN, PERCYSEA0.6800
11 BALDWIN, DOUGSEA0.6735
12 JONES, JAMESOAK0.6577
13 LAFELL, BRANDONNE0.6549
14 MATTHEWS, JORDANPHI0.6505
15 DECKER, ERICNYJ0.6491
16 NELSON, JORDYGB0.6490
17 JENNINGS, GREGMIN0.6484
18 GARCON, PIERREWAS0.6476
19 BRYANT, DEZDAL0.6471
20 WHITE, RODDYATL0.6452
21 JONES, JULIOATL0.6380
22 ALLEN, KEENANSD0.6364
23 BOLDIN, ANQUANSF0.6336
24 BOWE, DWAYNEKC0.6316
25 CRABTREE, MICHAELSF0.6296

Observations:

Think of this as the list of receivers with the best batting average. That is, the receivers who converted the greatest percentage of their at-bats (targets) into hits (receptions). For this exercise, I have excluded players who did not have at least 75 targets.




Fantasy Points Per Target

 PlayerTeamFantasy Points Per Target
1 BRYANT, DEZDAL1.68
2 JACKSON, DESEANWAS1.63
3 COBB, RANDALLGB1.61
4 BECKHAM, ODELLNYG1.59
5 SMITH, TORREYBAL1.56
6 NELSON, JORDYGB1.56
7 EVANS, MIKETB1.47
8 SANDERS, EMMANUELDEN1.42
9 BROWN, ANTONIOPIT1.39
10 HILTON, T.Y.IND1.39
11 MACLIN, JEREMYPHI1.37
12 ROYAL, EDDIESD1.35
13 FLOYD, MALCOMSD1.35
14 STILLS, KENNYNO1.34
15 MATTHEWS, JORDANPHI1.31
16 HOPKINS, DEANDREHOU1.28
17 WALLACE, MIKEMIA1.28
18 FLOYD, MICHAELARI1.28
19 THOMAS, DEMARYIUSDEN1.27
20 SANU, MOHAMEDCIN1.27
21 WRIGHT, KENDALLTEN1.25
22 JENNINGS, GREGMIN1.23
23 JEFFERY, ALSHONCHI1.22
24 JOHNSON, CALVINDET1.22
25 JONES, JULIOATL1.22

Observations:

Again, we are talking Traditional (Non-PPR) formats. The list above is for a minimum of 75 targets. The Points Per Target value was rounded to two digits to the right of the decimal, but all sorting was performed prior to the rounding -- and no two players had an identical value prior to the rounding. That is, there were no ties despite the identical values listed above -- and the players are all listed in the correct order.

Jordy Nelson

After clarifying all that, I must say that this is one of my favorite statistics when looking at fantasy wide receivers as it truly measures which players made the most (fantasy points) of the opportunities presented to them (targets). The key to identifying fantasy relevance is to identify which players appear on this Fantasy Points Per Target chart as well as the Total Targets chart. This will present you with the list of players who operated at a high fantasy level due to both volume and production.

Using such a formula gives us the following players who had the highest combined score on both charts:

1. Jordy Neslon
2. Antonio Brown
3. Dez Bryant
4T. Demaryius Thomas
4T. Emmanuel Sanders
6. Odell Beckham, Jr.
7. Randall Cobb
8. T.Y. Hilton
9. Julio Jones
10. Jeremy Maclin
11. Alshon Jeffrey
12. Mike Evans
13. DeAndre Hopkins
14. Calvin Johnson

Obviously this is far from scientific and fails to take other key factors (such as injuries, possibility of unusually bad/good season, new team, etc.) into account. But I think it represents a pretty good baseline.

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