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   Targets, Receptions and Fantasy Points

December 09, 2018
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 2017) 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 2017 (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 2018.

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 2017 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 2017 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 2017. 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

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 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.

Aside from the usual studs, there were a number of surprise players such as Tyreek Hill, Marvin Jones and Robbie Anderson 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 Odell Beckham, Jr., Mike Evans and Sammy Watkins 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 Julio Jones, Brandin Cooks and TY Hilton 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. Hilton's situation obviously was hampered by the loss of Andrew Luck for the entire season -- so it says something that he STILL managed to finish in the top 25 on this list.




Receptions

WR Analysis

Observations:

Jarvis Landry

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 DeAndre Hopkins finished atop the list with 215.8 points, and Antonio Brown finished second with 207.3 in standard scoring. Over the course of the season that point differential is negligible and represents only about 0.45 fantasy point per game. Thus, their value would be very close in overall rankings headed into the 2018 season on fantasy draft charts in such formats. Meanwhile, note that our 3rd finisher, Keenan Allen, scored nearly 40 fewer fantasy points on the season. That represents a difference of over 2 fantasy points per game which IS quite significant.

Note that in PPR formats, Hopkins and Brown were still the unquestioned top two with 311 and 308 points respectively. The interesting name to look at here is Tyreek Hill, who finished 4th in standard scoring; however, Hill drops to 9th in overall PPR scoring.

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 Hopkins are even more valuable. I am talking valuable enough to draft in the first round as opposed to waiting until the 2nd or 3rd round, where Hill (who is still a WR1 in most formats) will likely go.




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.

... 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 Jarvis Landry. His situation may be unique given his departure from Miami to a historically QB-deprived team in Cleveland. It is difficult o forecast what sort of chemistry he and Tyrod Taylor (or Baker Mayfiled) may build, but you still want to be careful about over-valuing him.




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 a hodge podge of QBs in Houston chose to zero in on DeAndre Hopkins more than any other player on the team. What is surprising is that, despite the multiple other weapons and various guys throwing the ball, over one third of Houston's passes were intended for Hopkins. That was tops not only for the Texans, 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 2018 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. For example, Landry (as I mentioned) and Dez Bryant are both likely to see their volume reduced. Meanwhile, the arrival of Jimmy Graham in Green Bay could impact the number of targets that Devante Adams sees. Of course, Graham's presence could also open things up more for Adams in the deep passing game as well -- meaning that the quality of targets may improve and the chances of Adams having another fine fantasy season may significantly improve even if the quantity doesn't.




Conversion Rate

WR Analysis

Observations:

Golden Tate

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 three most efficient receivers last season were Golden Tate, Adam Humphries and Randall Cobb.




Fantasy Points Per Target

WR Analysis

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.

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. Antonio Brown
2. DeAndre Hopkins
3. Brandin Cooks
4T. Tyreek Hill
4T. Marvin Jones
6T. Doug Baldwin
6T. Devante Adams
8. Keenan Allen
9. Richie Anderson
10T. Alshon Jeffrey
10T. Golden Tate
10T. Devin Funchess

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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