TA: Wide Receivers

PLAYER TEAM TARGETS RECEPTIONS CATCH %
Antonio Brown PIT 178 129 72.5%
Demaryius Thomas DEN 178 111 62.4%
Julio Jones ATL 156 104 66.7%
Jordy Nelson GB 146 98 67.1%
Kelvin Benjamin CAR 142 73 51.4%
Andre Johnson HOU 141 85 60.3%
Emmanuel Sanders DEN 140 101 72.1%
Jeremy Maclin PHI 140 85 60.7%
Vincent Jackson TB 138 70 50.7%
Golden Tate DET 136 99 72.8%
Dez Bryant DAL 135 88 65.2%
Alshon Jeffery CHI 135 85 63.0%
Steve Smith BAL 130 79 60.8%
Odell Beckham Jr. NYG 129 91 70.5%
Randall Cobb GB 125 91 72.8%
Julian Edelman NE 124 92 74.2%
Calvin Johnson DET 124 71 57.3%
Sammy Watkins BUF 124 65 52.4%
T.Y. Hilton IND 123 82 66.7%
Roddy White ATL 122 80 65.6%
Rueben Randle NYG 122 71 58.2%
Anquan Boldin SF 121 83 68.6%
DeAndre Hopkins HOU 120 76 63.3%
Mike Evans TB 116 68 58.6%
Brandon LaFell NE 114 74 64.9%

WIDE RECEIVER TARGET ANALYSIS BREAKDOWN

1. Antonio Brown PIT: What didn’t Brown do last year to show he’s the league’s top wide out? Lead the league in targets (178)? Check. Lead the league in receiving yards (1698)? Check. Catch more balls than any other receiver (129)? Check. See the field for more snaps than any other WR (1084)? Check. His 13TDs were second in the league only behind Dez Bryant’s insane 16 (more on him later), and his catch percent of 72.5 was 3rd most among WRs who saw 125+ targets. Brown needs to be the first receiver off draft boards and even in standard scoring leagues should be drafted in the 1st round.

2. Demaryius Thomas DEN: 2014 was the first time he reeled in 100+ targets (111); not to mention he set a career high in yards too with 1619. The scariest thing? Demaryius could see even more opportunities with the other Thomas (Julius) moving on to the Jaguars and Wes Welker a free agent. New TE Owen Daniels is a favorite of new head coach Gary Kubiak (Daniels averaged 89 targets the last 3 seasons under Kubiak in which he played at least 15 games), but QB Peyton Manning is already familiar with Demaryius so you better believe Thomas will be Manning’s go-to-guy (like usual). It’s insane to think Thomas could see more looks but the combined 163 looks that Julius and Wes saw on average the last 2 years need to go somewhere. Even if Daniels sees near his average of 89, I can’t see unproven Cody Latimer getting those remaining 74. Demaryius, much like Brown needs to be off boards in round 1.

3. Julio Jones ATL: Much like Thomas, 2014 was Julio’s first year hauling in 100+ balls (104). He also set a career high in yards with 1593, and added in 6TDs on his way to being the 6th best WR in PPR scoring last year. He was one of two WRs to finish in the top 10 with single-digit scores (Emmanuel Sanders had 9). When he is healthy, playing 13+ games in a year, Jones is consistent in his catches and yards (averaging 79 grabs on 126 targets for 1250 yards in his 3 seasons with 13+ games played), and while he’s only hit double-digit TDs once in his career (10 in 2012) scores are the one thing that can fluctuate from year-to-year more than anything else. Should he be able to garner another 150+ targets in 2015 don’t be shocked if he finishes as a top 5 WR in all scoring formats with the upgraded O-line and running game the Falcons added this offseason.

4. Jordy Nelson GB: Nelson failed to hit double-digit fantasy points (PPR) just once in 2014 while playing all 16 games. Of all the names on this list only 1 other guys played a full season with better results; Antonio Brown had double-digits in every game in 2014. What makes Nelson’s double-digit feat more impressive is he had to compete with Randall Cobb (also on this list) for targets while Brown was hands down the man in Pittsburgh. Nelson has played a full slate of games in 3 of the last 4 seasons, and in those seasons he’s had an increase in targets (93-100-146), receptions (68-85-98), and yards (1263-1314-1519). He’s had double-digit TDs in 2 of those 3 seasons (15 in 2011 and 13 last year), and has at least 7 scores in each of his past 4 years. Top receiver on the league’s best offense? Sign me up.

5. Kelvin Benjamin CAR: Man talk about an impact rookie from the jump! Remember that circus TD catch Benji made during the preseason? That was him saying “I’m heeerreee!” Benjamin finished 2014 with the most targets among rookie WRs (142), while finishing 3rd in receptions (73), 3rd in yards (1008), and 3rd in touchdowns (9). His 142 targets last year we’re also the most targets received by any pass catcher that Cam Newton has played with in his 4-year career. Benjamin started out as the hottest rookie wide out last year but he did fade somewhat in the back half of the year. He had just 1 score and a single 100-yard game in the final 5 weeks of the year, and only went over 10 points just once in those final five games in PPR scoring while not hitting more than 10 over that final five game stretch at all in standard scoring. Benji finished as a high WR2 in 2014 (16th) but if he can remain more consistent at the end of the year and raise his catch percentage from 51% (worst on this list) he could be a true WR1 in 2015.

6. Andre Johnson HOU (IND): Andre has played 12 NFL seasons. He’s played at least 13 games in 10 of those 12 years. He’s had 100+ targets every year he played 13+ games. That was in Houston with questionable quarterback play at the best while not having a true WR next to him to roll coverage off him (other than what DeAndre Hopkins did for him last year). Now he is playing with the league’s best young gun QB in Andrew Luck. Johnson also has the privilege of lining up with T.Y. Hilton, and 2 potential stud TEs in Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen. Plus Andre doesn’t have the pressure of being the teams WR1 (that responsibility goes to Hilton) so he will see softer coverage. He may be 34 years old when the season starts, but he can still do damage and being on the best team he’s been on in his career we could see a side of Andre we never had before, and that’s a scary thought.

7. Emmanuel Sanders DEN: Sanders had 7 games of 100 or more yards in 2014. He had 0 in his previous 4 years combined in Pittsburgh. His 9 scores last year were a career high, hell he almost scored more last year than he did in his entire Steelers career (11 total TDs). Sanders is the Robin to Demaryius Thomas’ Batman in the Broncos dynamic wide receiving duo, however Sanders failed to hit double-digit fantasy points just twice the entire year last year while Thomas had single-digits three times. Sanders’ ADP is currently 3.03 while Demaryius is going at 1.12. Thomas deserves 1st round status but getting 2 solid starters and THEN adding Sanders is a lethal combination for any fantasy squad.

8. Jeremy Maclin PHI (KC): Maclin posted career numbers across the board last year with 8 catches on 143 targets for 1318 yards and 10 scores. 2014 was his first year with over 1000 yards receiving and his 10 touchdowns was his 2nd season with double-digit scores (10TDs in 2010 as well). Now Mac is out of Eagle green and slipped into Chief red. Maclin is very familiar with Andy Reid’s offense, seeing Maclin played 4 of his 5 seasons under Reid. Mac should have no problem adjusting to a new team, and he actually gives Alex Smith and Kansas City a legit WR1. Maclin should also, if he remains healthy, surpass his average numbers under Reid (65-863-6) in 2015.

9. Vincent Jackson TB: V-Jax has been seeing a healthy number of targets since his arrival in Tmapa Bay 3 years ago. 138 or more targets each year while catching at least 70 passes and hitting the 1000 yard mark all 3 years. Sounds good, but enter another 2014 rookie WR monster in Mike Evans. Jackson looked like the main man when 2014 kicked off, scoring twice in the first 4 weeks of the year while getting 7+ targets in 8 of the first 9 games of the year. However once Evans began his emergence in week 5 Jackson definitely saw a decline in production. His 2TDs in the first quarter of the year is the 2 times he scored the entire season, and after game 9 Jackson saw 7+ targets just 3 times. Evans meanwhile caught at least 1TD in 9 of his final 12 games, and had 7+ targets in every game after week 3 other than week 17. Evans also recorded 1 of 8 games in 2014 in which a WR went over 200 yards (209).  Jackson saw a decrease in total yards and scores each of the past 3 years and it is clear with how Evans played last year after his breakout game (7-124-2 vs Cleveland week 9). Jackson could very well see his first sub-1000 yards year (when healthy) since 2007. His ADP of 6.12 currently puts I ahead of guys with more upside like Amari Cooper, Torrey Smith, Kevin White, and Davante Adams.

10. Golden Tate DET: What a difference having a stud line up across from you. On second thought forgot stud, Tate would have taken a good WR across from him in Seattle. After signing with Detroit last offseason Tate had his first 1000 yard season (1331) while reeling in more receptions (99) than his highest number of targets in his Seattle career (93)! Even though he scored just 4 times in 2014, his fewest TDs since 2011, Tate still managed to finish as the 13th best WR in standard scoring, and 11th in PPR. If Tate can find the end zone even a handful more times in 2015 while staying close to his receptions and yards of 2014, he will be a steal at his current ADP of 5.03 (4.08 PPR).

11. Dez Bryant DAL: Watching Dez on the field is like watching a man amongst boys. He’s just so unbelievably physically gifted some of the moves he pulls off no one else in the league can replicate. He scored a league-leading 16TDs last year (more on that subject later this summer …) while posting 1300+ yards for the 2nd time in 3 years. He’s got the best offensive line blocking for one of the better quarterbacks (at least fantasy wise) in the league. Touchdowns are hard to predict but even if Dez fails to score a TD a game this year (odds are he won’t hit 16 again), he should stay true to his average of 91 catches for 1312 yards and 13 scores over the last 3 years he will once again be a top 5 wide receiver come the end of 2015.

12. Alshon Jeffery CHI: Jeffery is a name rising on draft boards with Brandon Marshall now in New York with the Jets. Jeffery burst onto the fantasy scene half way through 2013 and hasn’t looked back. Jeffery saw 6+ targets in 14 of 16 games (88%) last season, while Marshall saw 6+ targets in 8 of 13 games (62%). Jeffery went for 70+ yards 9 times last year while Marshall went for 70+ in just 4 games he appeared in. Hell Alshon has never gone more than 3 straight games without grabbing a touchdown in his career (Marshall has had 7 streaks of 4+ scoreless games in his career). Jeffery clearly was becoming the top target of Jay Cutler last year, and 2015 should just see Jeffery progress further into a true WR1.

13. Steve Smith BAL: Smith came into Baltimore last year talking a lot about how the Panthers dropping him was a bad idea, and man did he start off 2014 on a tear! Smith had 5 or more receptions in each of his first 6 games as a Raven to go along with 4 touchdowns. He had 70+ yards in 5 of those 6 contests and surpassed 100 yards 4 times. And is it any surprise he had his best game, not only in 2014 but since week 1 of 2011, against the Panthers last year when Smith went in for 7 grabs 139 yards and 2 scores. However after week 6 Smith started to slow down and quickly. He failed to have another 100 yard receiving game the rest of 2014 (just 3 more games in the final 10 with 70+ yards), had just 2 more scores over the final 10 weeks, and only scored double-digit fantasy points in 3 of the last 10 games … and that is in PPR scoring. Smith will be 36 this season and with Breshad Perriman and Maxx Williams being drafted in May, along with more check downs to Justin Forsett, I think we saw the end of the Steve Smith we all loved for the last decade and a half.

14. Odell Beckham Jr NYG: In case you are somehow unaware of the best looking wide out to come into the NFL since Randy Moss dawned purple and gold in the Midwest, ODB put in work last year! Finishing top 10 among all WRs in catches (his 91 put him 8th), yards (his 1305 put him 10th), and touchdowns (his 12 put him 3rd). All that while missing 4 games and supposedly playing 2014 on two hamstrings that weren’t 100%. The man is a freak of nature and while a lot of guys have question marks about repeating previous performances (especially players entering year 2 after a monstrous rookie campaign) ODB is one guy that must be drafted round 1 in every scoring format. If he plays all 16 games this year we could see some historic receiving numbers.

15. Randall Cobb GB: Cobb netted himself a career high stat line last year going 91-1287-12. Cobb has been a scoring machine in his career. He’s scored 24 touchdowns in 37 games the last 3 seasons, or 1TD every game and a half. Let’s put that in perspective; Calvin Johnson has scored 25TDs the last 3 seasons but that came in 43 games, AJ Green found the end zone 28 times but had 44 games to do so , and Julio Jones played 36 games but scored just 18 times. And although he scored 10 of his 12TDs during the first 9 weeks of the year last year, Cobb still managed to post double-digit PPR points in 5 of those last 7 games. Cobb, much like Nelson, can make moves and score at any time and with the best QB in the NFL throwing to him, I fully expect Cobb to continue dominating the touchdown column while getting bigger numbers in his catches and yards.

16. Julian Edelman NE: Edelman is like a reception vacuum. This is the second straight year he’s lead this list in catch percentage; 74.2% in 2014 (92 grabs on 124 targets), and 71.9% in 2013 (105 catches in 146 opportunities). Edelman definitely benefits from having one of the leagues smartest quarterbacks in Tom Brady throwing to him so the first 4 weeks of 2015 could see Edelman not his usual self but I wouldn’t worry, he will once again find himself with well over 100 targets and should see close to his last 2 year average of 1014 yards and 5TDs. He’s averaged over 15 points per game (PPR) the last 2 years, finishing as a high-to-mid WR2 both years.

17. Calvin Johnson DET: Here is a fun fact: Calvin Johnson’s worst statistical year was his rookie season way back in 2007 when he scored 103 standard points. In 2014 that point total would have ranked him 45th among WRs, higher than WR1’s for their teams like Doug Baldwin of the Seahawks, James Jones of the Raiders, and Keenan Allen of the Chargers. After his rookie season, Johnson has never had fewer than 65 catches, 984 yards, or 5TDs. We all know how great Megatron is but numbers like that really put into perspective how dominate he’s been virtually his entire career. While he is still an elite WR in the NFL, his days of a first round fantasy pick are over. His targets, catches, and yards have all dipped each year over the past 3 seasons. He’s always been streaky with touchdowns as well; having just one streak in which he increased his TDs in 3 straight years. With Golden Tate now in the mix, the talk of Eric Ebron getting more looks in 2015, and rookie RB Ameer Abdullah coming in to take passes out of the backfield (along with Theo Riddick; who may see time in the slot this year) Megatron may no longer post the numbers that can consider him the top overall fantasy pick let alone top WR off the board.

18. Sammy Watkins BUF: While Watkins did not have a rookie season like fellow first-year guys like ODB, Mike Evans, or Kelvin Benjamin, Watkins did show flashes as to why he was the first receiver off the real and fantasy draft boards alike last year. Watkins didn’t have much consistency throughout 2014, going for double-digits in PPR leagues just 7 times and back-to-back just twice (just 5 games of double-digit points in standard scoring) and in games he didn’t hit 10+ points he went over 35 yards just 1 time in 9 games while failing to score in all those games. The QB situation in Buffalo is arguably the worst in the NFL, and Kyle Orton was the one saving grace at quarterback for the Bills last year so without him it will be interesting to see what happens there. New HC Rex Ryan is also a run first guy and with new toy in the backfield LeSean McCoy, expect Rex to run as much as possible. Watkins can still finish as a WR3 like last year, but his upside isn’t great give his QB and coaching scheme. HIs current ADP of 4.11 (PPR) over guys like Jarvis Landry (5.08), Jeremy Maclin (5.12), and even over a guy like Brandon Marshall (5.02 … ok another bad QB situation but more proven and crazy talented) is insane.

19. T.Y. Hilton IND: The last 2 seasons Hilton has shown why he is one of the games most exciting and explosive players. He had identical 82-catch performances in 2013 and 2014 however he did way more damage last year. Those 82 grabs came on 11 fewer targets (134 in 2013 and just 123 last year) and his yardage went from 1083 in 2013 to 1346 in 2014; that’s over a 24% increase in yards while he added on 2 more scores in 2014 (5 to 7TDs). Hilton was also the only player in the NFL to average better than 16 YPC while having at least 80 grabs. Andre Johnson will see his fair share of looks as a first-year Colt, but even if Hilton gets just 120 targets again, he’s shown he can make a lot happen and with more weapons around him Hilton should have every opportunity to have another WR1 year in 2015.

20. Roddy White ATL: After having 6-straight seasons of 100+ targets snapped in 2013, White came back from the dark side and got himself 122 looks from Matt Ryan last year. White has scored at least 7 touchdowns in 6 of the last 7 years. White is still a viable WR in fantasy football but I do think he’s on the slow decline. 2013-2014 is the first time since his rookie and sophomore campaigns that White has failed to hit 1000 yards in back-to-back years. The Falcons are looking to up their run game this year with the addition of Tevin Coleman via the draft, and they also added a new set of great hands to the WR corps in Justin Hardy also through the draft. White’s ADP of 6.11 isn’t horrible but I’d rather wait and take a chance on a new rookie WR this year going behind White currently like Cooper (7.01), Kevin White (8.10), Nelson Agholor (9.07), DeVante Parker (11.06), or Bresahd Perriman (11.07).

21. Reuben Randle NYG: Randle’s name may be the biggest surprise on this list. His 122 targets last year were more than his first 2 NFL seasons combined (108). Randle got double-digit targets in 5 games last year, while getting 9 targets in an additional 3 contests. He went over 70 yards in 5 games as well. However, 4 of those 70+ yard games came after Victor Cruz went down. Top in that Randle only scored 3 times on 71 catches (that’s a scoring percentage of 4%; worst on the list) and his catch percent of 58.2% was 5th worst on the list. Victor Cruz will be back, Larry Donnell should see an increased workload, and Shane Vereen will demand his looks too. All that factors into Randle not being the greatest option in 2015. His current ADP of 13.09 is perfect for a late-round flyer-type player, especially one who’s shown he can step up if an injury does occur and he’s thrust into a starting role.

22. Anquan Boldin SF: Boldin has had 7 straight 100+ target seasons, and has 100 or more targets every year of his career other than 2007 (when he had 96). Boldin has posted no fewer than 83 catches, 1062 yards, or 5TDs in either season he’s played in San Francisco. Now the 49ers are under a new coaching regime and many believe they get back to running more, and I can’t disagree with that notion. But when Kaepernick does drop back to pass Boldin now will have even more space on the field with Torrey Smith across from him. Boldin may not be targeted like he was back in Arizona (had 5 of 7 seasons with 120+ targets) but even if Boldin loses a few targets to Smith, Anquan still has the talent and ability to make big plays. A lot of guys would lose value with fewer targets, however Boldin is the type of guy who will make every catch count like it’s his last.

23. DeAndre Hopkins HOU: Hopkins showed last year why the Texans could feel comfortable letting Andre Johnson walk. Hopkins opened 2014 with a touchdown or 100 yards in his first 4 games. The he had a streak during mid-season in which he had 80+ receiving yards in 5 of 6 games including two 100-yarders and a 238 yard outburst in week 12. While the final quarter of his year was disappointing (just over 50 yards once and no TDs) in comparison to the first 12 games he played, that was with Tom Savage and Case Keenum throwing to him. Hopkins has better QB options this year in Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett (they aren’t Brady or Manning but definitely a big step up from Savage and Keenum) and the drafting of Jaelen Strong to line up opposite Hopkins sure makes DeAndre a great option to anchor your wide receiving corps if you decide to draft stud RBs or a Gronk/Graham with your first few picks.

24. Mike Evans TB: SEE VINCENT JACKSON

25. Brandon LaFell NE: On the plus side LaFell posted career highs in all categories in 2014, catching 74 of his 114 targets for 953 yards and 7TDs. Going to play with the best QB the game has ever seen (full balls or not Tom Brady is the best to ever play quarterback), and being on the best offensive team he’s ever gotten a chance to play on definitely helped but LaFell is still 3rd on the list of mouths to feed in New England in 2015. Factor in Brady missing a quarter of the year and the fact that LaFell scored double-digit points in standard scoring leagues just 6 times in 15 games last year (back-to-back 10+ point performances just once), Brandon is more of a flex play and not trustworthy as a weekly starter.

Five Up/Five Down

Every year we see new players emerge as passing threats as well as watch some people drop the ball for their opportunity to reappear on this list next season. So who could make the leap to potential PPR glory? And who will trip and fall flat in 2015? Here are a few names to keep in mind.

Five Up

Breshad Perriman BAL

Jarvis Landry MIA

Brandon Marshall NYJ

Amari Cooper OAK

Torrey Smith SF

Five Down

Reuben Randle NYG

Roddy White ATL

Brandon LaFell NE

Steve Smith BAL

Vincent Jackson TB

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