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   Targets, Receptions and Fantasy Points

December 02, 2022
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 2021) 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 2021 (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 2022.

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 2021 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 2021 team for which each player played last season.


Lets start by simply looking at the wide receivers who scored the most points in fantasy in 2021. Note that the point totals listed below represent both standard scoring (1.0 point for each yard rushing/receiving and 6 points per touchdown) as well as point per reception (PPR) -- standard PLUS one bonus point per reception totals. The data is sorted by PPR.




Fantasy Points

WR Analysis

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 36 fantasy WRs from last season. Obviously most of these players will be high in the 2022 rankings with the presumption that they will have another successful fantasy season. I have chosen to use 36 as the cut off because that would represent the 36 "starting" fantasy WRs in a 12-team, 3 WR format.

Aside from the usual studs, there were a number of surprise players such as Deebo Samuel, Diontae Johnson and Hunter Renfrow 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. Speaking of which... it may seem crazy now, but Cooper Kupp, who will be the top fantasy WR taken in virtually every format, was NOT viewed as such at this time last season. In fact, his ADP was that of a WR3 heading into 2021.

Some of the more disappointing players were DeAndre Hopkins, AJ Brown, Kenny Golladay, and Allen Robinson 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 Stefon Diggs and Keenan Allen is that they also under-performed. Yet, both of them finished as WR1 in standard scoring leagues, which is about where many of us expected them to finish.




Receptions

WR Analysis

Observations:

DaVante Adams

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.

A good example of the variation in the two formats is Brandin Cooks who finished essentially tied with CeeDee Lamb at 18 in our first chart in terms of PPR. However, this 2nd chart reveals that Cooks caught 11 more passes than Lamb on the season, which made up for Lamb's greater production during the course of the season. What this tells us is that a player like Cooks is much more valuable in PPR formats than he is in standard formats.

Note that Kupp and Adams were still the unquestioned top two in both formats and reception totals.

What does that mean?

Make sure you look closely at the scoring rules in your league. If it is PPR then players like Kupp and Adams are even more valuable. I am talking valuable enough to draft in the first round as opposed to waiting until the 2nd. Even a receiver like T. Hill is worth picking no later than early in the 2nd round in PPR formats.




Targets

WR Analysis

Observations:

DeAndre Hopkins

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.

Cole Beasley, Marvin Jones and Jakobi Meyers 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 opportunities with which they were presented, there is a chance that they will see a significant decline in opportunities (targets) this year. Take Jakobi Meyers. His situation may be unique given his record-setting volume WITHOUT a TD reception, but the point must be made that receivers who are targeted alot (and may even catch high percentage of their targets) may not necessarily be fantasy studs.




Team Share

WR Analysis

Observations:

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 Cooper Kupp was the receiver who saw the greatest share of receptions on his respective team (in this case the Rams). What is surprising is that, despite the multiple other weapons and this being the first season that QB Matt STafford played with the Rams, nearly a third of the Rams' passes were intended for Kupp. That was tops not only for the Rams, 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 2022 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 -- or players who have moved on. Keep a close eye on free agency to see what moves may have the greatest impact.




Conversion Rate

WR Analysis

Observations:

Hunter Renfrow

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.

I must admit that I was rather surprised to see the top 10 list. Kupp and Adams make sense, but the other 8 are somewhat surprising. In particular, I would not have guessed that the two most efficient receivers last season were Hunter Renfrow and Chris Godwin.




Fantasy Points Per Target

WR Analysis

Observations:

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.

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:

Antonio Brown

1. Kupp, Cooper
2. Adams, Davante
3. Jefferson, Justin
4. Renfrow, Hunter
5. Hill, Tyreek
6. Godwin, Chris
7. Allen, Keenan
8. Chase, Ja'Marr
9. Waddle, Jaylen
10. Diggs, Stefon
11. Pittman Jr., Michael
12. Samuel, Deebo
13. Cooks, Brandin
14. Lockett, Tyler
15. Johnson, Diontae
16. St. Brown, Amon-Ra
17. Moore, DJ
18. Higgins, Tee
19. Evans, Mike
20. Metcalf, DK

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 an interesting and defendable baseline.

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