WIDE RECEIVER TARGET ANALYSIS BREAKDOWN
- DeAndre Hopkins HOU: Hopkins absolutely killed it in 2017! The dude has been a monster his entire career, being just one of four wide outs to get at least 125 targets each season since the start of 2014 (Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, and Demaryius Thomas). Last year we saw his connection with rookie quarterback DeShaun Watson become something magical until Watson went down. DeShaun should be ready for the start of the 2018 season and that only means better news for Hopkins and his owners. In less than 6 full games together last year Hopkins got no fewer than 8 looks from Watson in games DeAndre finished. He caught 6 scores in that period and was held under 50 yards once – in week 6 when he didn’t finish the game. If we calculate Hop’s numbers last year with a season of him and Watson healthy together than he’d be on pace for 158 targets, 98 grabs, 1,161 yards and 16 touchdowns. Yep, Wat to Hop is going to be a fun thing to watch in 2018 and could once again leave Hopkins as the reigning wide out champion in the fantasy world.
2. Antonio Brown PIT: Brown is the only player over the last five seasons with at least 150 targets in each season; and just the aforementioned DeAndre Hopkins is the only other wide out in that span more than 2 such seasons (he had 3). Brown is also one season away from tying the NFL record by a wide receiver for most 100-catch seasons; Brandon Marshall owns the honor at 6, but Brown’s 5 top every other wide out to ever play the game not named Larry Fitzgerald, Wes Welker, or Andre Johnson (who also have 5 to their credit); however, Brown is the only guy on that short list to do it for five consecutive years. Basically what I’m trying to say is he’s kinda good; should be the first receiver off boards and could arguably be the first overall pick in leagues.
3. Larry Fitzgerald ARZ: Ok, I don’t want to see people fail but when it comes to Fitzgerald I always think this is the year he takes a step back and he does nothing of the sort. In his last three years he’s gotten no fewer than 146 looks while catching 109, 108, and 109 balls respectively, going over 1,000 yards each season and catching at least 6 score each year as well. His stretch from 2015-2017 of averaging 16PPG is topped only by his three-year run from 2007-2009 when he posted just shy of 19 per contest. With new quarterbacks in the desert in Sam Bradford and rookie Josh Rosen, is this the year Fitz slips? History has been telling me don’t doubt him anymore and I’m not going to. Bradford has played very well when he’s on the field and is rookie Rosen comes in could there be a better security blanket in NFL history than Fitzgerald? The dude still averaged double-digit points with guys like Derek Anderson, Kevin Kolb, and Drew Stanton tossing him the rock. Until Fitz stops performing you have to draft him as your top wide out.
4. Jarvis Landry CLE (MIA): While Landry failed to reach the 1,000-yard plateau for the first time since 2014, last season he saw a career-high with 112 catches; a number that lead the NFL. He also scored 9 times, a career-high there as well and more touchdowns than he had in 2015 and 2016 combined. Now he’s gone North to the Cleveland Browns and, this is something I never thought I’d be saying, he could be even better in Cleveland. Landry never had a legit offense around him and now he’s lining up across from Josh Gordon, one of the best in the game when he’s on the field. Landry has Tyrod Taylor throwing to him, and while Tyrod isn’t a dude that’s going to throw for Drew Brees yards, I still will take him over Ryan Tannehill any day of the week. Landry has posted an average of no fewer than 11PPG all four of his NFL seasons while averaging 100 targets per year. While there are more mouths to feed in Cleveland’s passing arsenal, there is no reason Landry won’t see triple-digit looks once again and being the Browns’ number two behind Gordon, he should see softer coverage and could have another career-year in 2018.
5. Keenan Allen LAC: 2017 saw Allen play his first full season since, well ever. He set a personal best with 102 grabs and 1,393 yards joining Antonio Brown last year as the only two wide outs with at least 100 catches and better than 1,300 yards. This man is a difference maker when on the field and is arguably the heart and soul of the Chargers offense. Now Antonio Gates is retired and Hunter Henry is missing all season with a torn ACL, so I expect Allen to see even more opportunity than the 159 balls thrown his way last year; I mean who else is Rivers going to target, Virgil Green? If Allen stays healthy I’ll make the bold(ish) prediction today that he leads all wide outs in targets in 2018.
6. Michael Thomas NO: Thomas is the next superstar at the wide receiver position. The man made stride from a rookie to sophomore last year gaining 28 more looks (121 to 149), 12 more catches (92 to 104), and 108 more yards (1,137 to 1,245). All we saw dip was his scoring from 9TDs in 2016 to just 5 in 2017 but we all know the most fickle of stats is touchdowns, they will come and go but if the rest keeps moving forward the scoring will follow. He is just one of four wide outs to finish in the top ten in scoring in both 2016 and 2017 (Antonio Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, and Julio Jones). The Saints will be missing Mark Ingram the first four weeks and have no tight end to do damage plus Drew Brees will be breaking the NFL’s passing yards mark this year and the Saints have just 3 outdoor games in cold weather cities this year with just one coming after October 21st which make this offense even more dangerous. Could Michael Thomas become the newest king of the wide receiver mountain in 2018? You’re damn right he can!
7. Julio Jones ATL: Jones is the only player in the NFL over the last four seasons to have at least 125 targets, 80 catches, and 1,400 yards in each year. Jones’ biggest problem is finding the end zone. He’s only scored double-digit touchdowns once; back in 2012 and since he’s gone for more than 6 end zone trips just once (8 times in 2015). Jones arguably has the most talent in the league at the position and could be the best wide out in terms of fantasy points if he scores more TDs, but will that happen? The addition of Calvin Ridley is going to make a big difference for Jones as Ridley will be the best wide receiver to line up across from Jones since Roddy White did in 2011 and 2012 (the last time he hit 10+ scores). If Ridley can learn the league fast and contribute right away look out for Julio going on a major tear in 2018!
8. A.J. Green CIN: Since 2011 when Green entered the NFL only three wide outs have had 100+ targets each of those seven season; Green, Antonio Brown, and Larry Fitzgerald. There has never been any question about his looks and he posted 1,000+ yards in six of those seasons (the only time he missed is when he got injured in 2016 when he didn’t play the final 6 games and he still finished just 36 yards shy of the mark). He’s been held under 6 scores just once in seven seasons; never going for fewer than 4 in a year. He’s not the sexiest name but he’s a stud are arguably the most consistent receiver since 2011 outside of Antonio Brown.
9. Adam Thielen MIN: I’m stealing the name Coach Bombay had in The Mighty Ducks for Adam Thielen and he will hence forth been known as ‘The Minnesota Miracle Man.’ Thielen surprised the fantasy world in 2016 with 92 targets (he got 42 of them in the final 6 games) then held up his end of the bargain in 2017 getting 143 targets and catching 91 balls (one shy of his TARGET total in 2016). He is clearly the Vikings top receiver and that’s when he was catching balls from Sam Bradford, Case Keenum, and Shaun Hill now he’s got a true QB in Kirk Cousins in purple and gold and that should only make Thielen’s value and numbers go up, up, up and away. If he takes another leap from 2017 to 2018 like he did from 2016 to 2017 he could see damn near 200 targets (and if he hits 200 he’d be just the 6th player in NFL history to do so).
10. Demaryius Thomas DEN: While his scores and yardage went down since Peyton Manning’s departure, he’s still getting elite-level targets as well as finished in the top 12 each of the last two seasons in receptions. He’s gotten 140+ targets and caught at least 80 balls in 2016 and 2017; that’s the good news. The bad of the situation? His 140 targets, 83 catches, and 949 yards were all his fewest since 2011 while he’s rattled off three straight seasons of 6 or fewer scores in each. Thomas peaked in 2014 and has been slipping in every category each year since. The question is does new quarterback Case Keenum give Thomas better value than Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch (who still could be throwing to Thomas at some point this year)? That’s a question we will have an answer to later this year but coming off the board late 4th round, he’s worth the risk at that spot knowing what he can do with the right arm tossing to him.
11. Mike Evans TB: Evans is a guy I can never fully buy into. While he’s had 120+ targets all four years as a pro, he is too inconsistent and doesn’t do nearly enough with his opportunities. He’s never had better than a 55% catch rate and only once as he able to hit at least 75 grabs in a season. He’s scored single-digit points in 12 games the last three years; that’s one dud every less than every four games. He’s missing Jameis Winston for the first three weeks of the year which could slightly hold back his start out of the gate. Evans has the tools to post big years (WR13 in 2014, WR3 in 2016), but he can post less-than-stellar years too (WR23 in 2015 and WR17 in 2017).
12. Dez Bryant FA (DAL): Bryant as the Cowboys top wide out for the last 7 years but he’s been released by Dallas this offseason after having his 4th season of 130+ targets and his 132 looks last year were his most since 2014. So what does Bryant do from here? He is currently still a free agent and had one offer earlier from the Ravens which he shot down and it seems like no one is banging on his door to sign him. While he is still getting plenty of targets he’s slipped everywhere else as his catch rate slipped from being in the 60% range four of his first five seasons to not being able to surpass 52% in any of the last three. He hasn’t had a 1,000-yard season since 2014 while he’s had fewer touchdowns the last three seasons than all but his rookie year. If a team signs Dez during camp to come in and be a number two that would make his value sky-high but he isn’t a WR1 and he needs to accept that or he won’t have a job any time soon. He’s by far the most intriguing free agent on the market still, so let’s see how this plays out.
13. Alshon Jeffery PHI: Jeffery’s first year in Philadelphia was quite successful for him. Not only did he get himself some championship hardware, but personally he had his best year in terms of targets since 2014. It was his first year getting more than 100 looks since 2014 (120 in 2017) while his 57 grabs and 9 scores were also best since that 2014 season. On the downside he did catch just 47% of passes thrown his way so he needs to boost that number up and if he can catch in that 60% range like he usually does those extra grabs and yards, even off 120 targets, would push him into WR1 territory once again. With a deep threat in Mike Wallace signing on this offseason and 2nd year back Chris Clement and Jay Ajayi holding down the backfield, Jeffery should be able to crank it up a notch in 2018.
14. Golden Tate DET: Tate has no played 8 NFL seasons, his first four in Seattle and the past four in Detroit. While a Seahawk he never hit 100 targets and only once did he surpass 70 looks, but since joining the Lions he’s been over 100 targets all four years with a low of 120. He passed 800 yards once in Seattle and never had a 1,000-yard campaign while he’s gone for 800+ all four season in Detroit and has had 3 years of 1,000+ yards. Now the Lions enter 2018 with Eric Ebron and his 72 targets a year off the roster and I’m sorry but Luke Wilson or Levine Toilolo aren’t going to fill those shoes. Tate will get more looks as will his partner Marvin Jones; the only pair of teammates to both make this list but more on Marvin shortly …
15. Davante Adams GB: Adams followed up his career-year in 2016 (75 grabs on 121 targets for 997 yards and 12 scores) with a nearly as good year in 2017 catching 74 balls on 118 looks for 885 yards and 10 touchdowns. Last year we began to see the transition of Adams being the top look for Aaron Rodgers over Jordy Nelson as Adams had more targets than Nelson in 10 of the 13 games they were on the field together in 2017. Nelson is now off in Oakland which makes Adams the top dog in the wide receiver order without a doubt for 2018. The addition of Jimmy Graham gives the Packers a weapon they’ve never had before and defenses will have to play a little different which could be good news for Adams on the outside. I can see Adams having a year like Nelson had in 2014 and 2016 when he got over 150 targets each of those two seasons. Davante is sliding up this list this year, maybe to the tip top.
16. Doug Baldwin SEA: Baldwin just had his third straight year of 100+ targets, 75+ catches, and he fell just 9 yards shy of three straight 1,000-yard campaigns. His last three touchdown totals; 14, 7, and 8 were also the top three performances in that category of his career as well. So can Baldwin’s trend continue in 2018? No reason to think not! Jimmy Graham and Luke Wilson both left for starting gigs in the NFC North (Packer and Lions, respectively) and Paul Richardson moved on to Washington, so that average of 137 targets per season has to go somewhere. Yes, Tyler Lockett and Brandon Marshall will get looks but Baldwin is going to get fed first. He’s got the best connection with Russell Wilson that any wide out has had during Russell’s career so you better believe Baldwin is in for another 100, 75, 1,000, 7 season and we may see him have career-bests in some of those categories in 2018.
17. Robby Anderson NYJ: Since becoming a starter half way through the 2016 season, Anderson has gotten 167 targets in that 23 game span. That’s an average of 7 looks per game, and if we break his numbers down to include the entirety of 2016 than he’s got 192 targets the last two seasons – 36th most in the NFL in that span and more than guys like Jimmy Graham, Tyreek Hill, DeVante Parker, and Randall Cobb. He’s the Jet’s top receiver and will be fine with Josh McCown under center and even if/when rookie Sam Darnold lines up under center, Anderson is going to be his top look. The only downside to Anderson this year is a possible suspension to start the year but even if that happens you can get him for pennies on the dollar and he could be a difference maker for your squad as the year winds down.
18. Brandin Cooks LAR (NE): Cooks just played one season in New England before being shipping off to the West Coast and joining a young, up=and-coming Rams offense. Last season he raced up his third straight year of 110+ targets and 1,000+ yards. While he did catch 65 balls from Brady, the 57% catch rate was the worst of Cooks’ career by far; previous low being 65%. Now as he gets integrated with Jared Goff and the Rams O as their top passing weapon there are big things on the horizon for Cooks. He should see all 70 targets that opened up with Sammy Watkins gone and then some. No Rams wide out had 100 targets last year but with a new toy that has such vertical speed, Goff will air it out a lot more and Cooks should be seeing his 4th straight 100-target season. *Side note: If Cooks sees 100+ looks this year he’d become just the 2nd player in NFL history to get 100+ targets in three consecutive seasons with three different teams (Tony Martin did it from 1997-1999 with the Chargers, Falcons, and Dolphins). Also if Cooks get 100+ targets in any season with Los Angeles he’d be just the 9th player ever to achieve that number with at least three teams and join the ranks of Anquan Boldin, Joey Galloway, Keyshawn Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Tony Martin, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, and Mike Wallace; Johnson (Jets, Buccaneers, Cowboys, Panthers), Marshall (Broncos, Bears, Dolphins, Jets), and Owens (49ers, Eagles, Cowboys, Bengals) being the only three to do it with four teams.
19. Devin Funchess CAR: Funchess stepped it up big time after Carolina’s WR1 Kelvin Benjamin got traded to the Bills half way through last year. Before Benjamin’s departure Funchess had a total of 92 targets in 24 games (just under 4 looks per game) while in the 23 games without Kelvin, Funchess saw 142 targets or better than 6 per contest. He had his first 100 target season last year and was held under 6 targets just three times in sixteen games. He went for 9+ points 11 times last year and there is no reason to think that number drops. It may only get stronger with Greg Olsen’s return and the addition of Torrey Smith and D.J. Moore to the receiving corps taking some pressure of Funchess.
20. T.Y. Hilton IND: Since coming into the league in 2012 Hilton has seen no fewer than 90 targets in a season and saw over 100 every year since his sophomore season in 2013; that’s 5 straight years. Last year without Andrew Luck, Hilton saw ‘just’ 109 looks, his fewest since his rookie year as he was averaging 140 per season from 2013-2016 (better than 130 each of those four years joining just Antonio Brown and Demaryius Thomas to accomplish that in that span). Luck is back under center and the Colts receivers on the depth chart are just some random dudes you’d see at the bus stop so Hilton is going to get peppered with targets from a fresh Luck shoulder in 2018!
21. Marvin Jones DET: Jones is the forgotten receiver in the Motor City with Golden Tate ahead of him but the dude balled out in 2017 and has been consistent for the past several years. He had 103, 103, and 107 targets with 66, 55, and 61 catches respectively. His yardage has increased each fo the last three seasons and he scored 9 times last season. He saw 6+ targets in 8 games and was held to fewer targets just three times. Without Eric Ebron out of town it’s easy to see how Tate and Jones will get more looks and both could post career highs in looks in 2018.
22. Marquise Goodwin SF: Goodwin had himself a career-year in 2017 topping his own stats in targets (105), receptions (56), and yards (962). While that is great news if you owned him last season, take a step back this year. Goodwin had the majority of production in the second half of the season after Pierre Garcon went down. In the first 8 games when Garcon was on the field Goodwin had just two games with 8 or more targets and had 46 total looks, from game 9 on he had four games with 8+ looks including five straight weeks of 6+ targets (no more than 2 in a row in the season’s first half) and a total of 59 balls thrown his way. Garcon coming back this year will put a damper on Goodwin’s looks.
23. Tyreek Hill KC: Hill is a guy I’m not sure what to make of this coming year. I know he’s going to put up fantasy points with his speed, the arms of Mahomes, and Hill’s big play ability but the question is what kind fo targets will he see? While he gained 22 looks from rookie to sophomore season (83 to 105), will that trend continue or will he even out, or drop some looks this year? First off Mahomes isn’t a rookie technically but he hasn’t played a regular season game yet so we need to see what he can do despite the fact he’s looked good in camps and preseason. Second, we tend to see first year QBs look more for tight ends and pass-catchers out of the backfield so guys like Kelce and Hunt will benefit quicker than a Hill in my opinion. Third the Chiefs signed Sammy Watkins this offseason and while he’s not the biggest threat in the world, he’s a big upgrade over the Chief’s number two last year in Albert Wilson. Hill is a guy I’m still drafting but I’m not taking him based on the targets he will see.
24. Kenny Stills MIA: Still had a career-high in targets last season with his 105, and one would think with Jarvis Landry gone North that Still could still hold some of that value but don’t bank on it. With Landry gone DeVante Parker (who also had a career-high with 96 targets while missing three games) is Miami’s top dog. Plus the Fins signed Danny Amendola who got 80+ targets in five of the last seven seasons in which he played at least 11 games, not to mention the emergence of Kenyan Drake out of the backfield; who got 42 of his 48 targets after Jay Ajayi was traded and he established himself as the man in the Miami running back stable. Stills is going to be a weapon with his vertical game but his targets will fall in 2018 with all the pieces around him.
25. Jamison Crowder WAS: Many of us, myself included, thought last season would be huge for Crowder but unfortunately that was not the case. He took a step backwards in terms of his point production from 12 per game in 2016 to 10 last season. He got four more targets (from 99 to 103) despite missing a game but had one fewer grab (67 to 66), 58 fewer yards, and 4 fewer touchdowns. Now the Redskins went from Kirk Cousins to Alex Smith, so what does that mean for Crowder? Well, Smith won’t take nearly the same risks Cousins did and Smith will have the deep threats and tight ends more involved. Crowder will still hold PPR value and still have some big weeks but 9 weeks last year of single-digit points was unacceptable for a PPR guy.
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 2018? Here are a few names to keep in mind.
Danny Amendola MIA
Michael Crabtree BAL
Allen Robinson CHI
Keelan Cole JAX
Chris Hogan NE
Dez Bryant FA
Robby Anderson NYJ
Tyreek Hill KC
Marquise Goodwin SF
Kenny Stills MIA