Without targets, there would be no receptions. Being targeted is the first, and most crucial factor, to the success of a pass catcher. If the ball isn’t thrown in your direction, you cannot succeed. I decided to take a look at how targets were being spread around among each team and then how each player was converting those targets. Below are the results and I’ve included a link to the Excel spreadsheet (Download) containing the full report. This exercise will only be “targeting” wide receivers and tight ends.
Arizona Cardinals: Larry Fitzgerald has not been a popular player amongst fantasy owners so far this season. In his first 4 games he has yet to score a touchdown and has amassed a measly 27.4 points in PPR leagues (and much less in standard). He has actually forced many to put his a** on the bench. The wide receiver that is getting all the attention in Arizona is Michael Floyd. While he has outscored Fitzgerald by about 10 points, has he really been much better on the field? Floyd has 12 receptions on 29 targets and Fitzgerald has 13 receptions on 28 targets. Pretty much even-steven. The big difference is yards per reception. Floyd is averaging 21.58 yards per catch while Fitzgerald is only at 12.62. That’s a big difference and tells me that Floyd is getting the deep looks. But what about John Brown who is leading the Cardinals pass catchers in fantasy points? Brown has 11 receptions on 21 targets for 10.27 yards per reception. Less targets, less catches and less yards per catch than both Floyd and Fitzgerald. What Brown does have is 3 touchdowns. While touchdowns are nothing to sneeze at, I prefer not to rely on the all or nothing player. I rank them Floyd, Fitzgerald and then Brown.
Atlanta Falcons: It will come as no surprise to anyone that Julio Jones is the leader of the cast of falcons in Atlanta. A group of falcons is called a cast. Jones has been targeted 57 times which is 29 percent of all Falcons’ targets and 24 more times than the next pass catcher (Roddy White). He is catching just over 70 percent of balls thrown to him for 40 receptions in 5 games at 13.8 yards per reception. However it is actually Devin Hester that leads the team in yards per catch at 15.14, but he’s only seen 19 targets of which he’s caught 14. While Roddy White is the second most targeted, he is catching only 48.48 percent (16 of 33) of them for 13.31 yards per catch. I rank them Jones, White, Hester and then Harry Douglas.
Baltimore Ravens: Coming into the season everyone thought Torrey Smith was going to be the goto receiver in Baltimore as he was on average the 22nd receiver taken in ESPN drafts. Well they were half right. The top Ravens receiver is a Smith, just not Torrey. To nearly everyone’s surprise Steve Smith Sr. has been lighting up fantasy scoreboards. Catching 30 of 49 targets for a 61.22 percent reception rate, Steve has emerged as Flacco’s goto
Smith guy. Does this mean we should forget about Torrey? Absolutely not. Torrey actually has a slightly higher yards per reception (16) than Steve (15.43). What does that mean? With a few more targets his value will be on the rise. Steve, Torrey and then Owen Daniels.
Buffalo Bills: Those who think “www” stands for world wide web are wrong. In Buffalo it stands for Watkins, Williams and Woods. Rookie Sammy Watkins leads the Bills with 44 targets which is 25.43 percent of all team targets. He has caught 24 of them (54.55 percent) for 11.83 yards per catch. These are great numbers. Mike Williams, who has only 18 targets and 8 receptions, leads the team with 17.75 yards per reception. And it’s Robert Woods who falls between them with 33 targets (19.08 percent) and 14 catches for 11.14 yards per catch. If I had to pick two I’m taking Watkins and Williams.
Carolina Panters: Kelvin Benjamin is a beast. I really wish I owned him in at least one of my leagues. Especially now that Cam Newton is more of a lover than a fighter. I mean passer than a runner. Benjamin leads the team in targets with 47 (26.7 percent) and has hauled in 24 of them for 15.29 yards per reception. Greg Olsen is not far behind and leads the team in receptions (27) and receiving touchdowns (4). His 27 catches for 12.07 yards each comes on 40 targets which is 22.73 percent of total team targets. A look at the numbers shows that Jericho Cotchery‘s 16 receptions on 19 targets for an 84.21 reception rate deserves a mention. I actually rank Olsen ahead of Benjamin because he is a tight end and that makes his production more valuable.
Chicago Bears: Guess who leads the Bears in targets and receptions. Brandon Marshall? Wrong! Alshon Jeffery? Wrong! Martellus Bennett? You betcha! Bennett has 32 receptions on 42 targets for a reception rate of 76.19 percent. Throw in 4 touchdowns and you have quite a nice surprise so far this season. The most touchdowns goes to Marshall with 5 to go along with 19 catches on 37 targets for 9.89 yards per catch. Jeffery leads the Bears in yards per reception with 13.81 and has 26 of them on 39 targets. I’m giving the nod to Jeffery. Then comes Bennett because of position and then Marshall.
Cincinnati Bengals: Based on the numbers, A.J. Green is barely ranked higher than Mohamed Sanu. Green has 17 receptions on 25 targets and 2 touchdowns. Sanu has 17 receptions on 26 targets and 2 touchdowns. So what’s the difference? Green is averaging 18.47 yards per reception while Sanu is at 13.76. And if we take yards after the catch into account, that tips the scale back towards Sanu who has 151 yards after the catch compared to Green’s 87. I still rank Green ahead of Sanu, but that shows you that Sanu is a guy that should be considered when looking for a fill-in receiver.
Cleveland Browns: Andrew Hawkins, a guy I’ve been touting all season, leads the Browns with 41 targets. The next closest is Miles Austin with 23. Hawkins has converted 24 of those targets into catches for 11.29 yards per catch. Austin has 16 catches for 10.56 yards per catch. It’s actually Taylor Gabriel that leads the team in yards per catch with 18.36. As a result of injuries, Jordan Cameron has just 6 receptions on 15 targets for 17.17 yards per catch. And despite only 8 catches on 12 targets Travis Benjamin now has 3 touchdowns. I rank them Hawkins, Cameron, Gabriel, Austin and Benjamin. But I wouldn’t own any of the last 3.
Dallas Cowboys: Thirty-two receptions on 47 targets gives Dez Bryant the team lead in both categories. He is averaging 11.75 yards per reception and has 4 touchdowns. Terrence Williams who has only been targeted 27 times, has half as many receptions (16) for 15.63 yards per reception and 5 end zone celebrations. Dwayne Harris leads the team in yards per reception with 17.33, but he has only been targeted 7 times, catching 6. Jason Witten is second in targets with 28. He has 19 catches for 11.32 yards per. Terrence is giving him a run for his money, but Dez is still the man in Cowboy land.
Denver Broncos: According to the stats, Emmanuel Sanders is not far behind Demaryius Thomas as the top receiver in Denver. Sanders leads the team in receptions with 32 on 42 targets for 13.59 yards per reception. Thomas has just 21 receptions on 43 targets for 17.48 yards per reception. Thomas is averaging 3.89 more yards per catch, but Sanders is catching 76.19 percent of balls thrown at him compared to Thomas’ 48.84 percent. Wes Welker missed the first two games but still has 13 catches on 18 targets for a reception rate of 72.22 percent and a 9.08 yards per catch. And finally Julius Thomas, who leads the team in reception rate at 83.33 percent, catching 20 of 24 balls thrown to him for 11.3 yards per catch. D. Thomas, Sanders, J. Thomas and Welker.
Detroit Lions: Megatron who? In the wake of Calvin Johnson‘s injury induced mediocre performances, Golden Tate has stepped up as the receiver to own in Detroit. Tate has 31 receptions on 40 targets (77.5 reception rate) for 14.55 yards per reception. And his 236 yards after the catch is not good, it’s golden. Calvin has clearly been hobbled by a bad ankle but has still managed to haul in 22 catches on 37 targets for 15.82 yards per catch and leads the team in receiving touchdowns with 2. If there was a stat for being a decoy so that Tate can catch more passes, Johnson would lead that category too. No one else on the Lions has double digit receptions, but Jeremy Ross has caught 8 of 10 for 15.13 yards per and a touchdown. Eric Ebron is the third most targeted pass catcher in Detroit being targeted 9.09 percent of the time. Based on the numbers it’s Tate, but would never own him over Megatron.
Green Bay Packers: Welcome to the Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb Show. Nelson is being targeted 34.44 percent of the time by Aaron Rodgers and has 34 receptions on 52 targets. Cobb is being targeted 22.52 percent of the time and has 24 receptions on 34 targets. Nelson has as many catches as Cobb has targets. Jordy’s yards per catch is 15.44 and Cobb’s is 11.38. Cobb has 6 touchdowns and Nelson has 4. They are clearly both must starts, but I give the edge to Mr. Jordy Nelson and couldn’t care about any of the other Packers pass catchers. Good day!
Houston Texans: Even though he is second on the team in targets, DeAndre Hopkins has emerged at the top pass catcher in Houston so far this year. With 24 receptions on 31 targets, Hopkins has a reception rate of 77.42 percent, a yards per reception of 14.75 and 3 touchdowns. Perennial favorite Andre Johnson leads the team in targets, but has done slightly less with more. In 42 targets he has 27 catches for 11.85 yards per catch and 0 touchdowns. If Johnson can start pulling in a few more of the passes thrown to him, he will have a chance to regain the top status in Houston.
Indianapolis Colts: We are looking at a near dead heat in Indianapolis between T.Y. Hilton and Reggie Wayne. Hilton has 31 catches on 50 targets for 12.29 yards per catch and 99 after the catch. Wayne has 30 catches on 45 targets for 12.8 yards per catch and 78 after the catch. Pretty much a pick’em, but I’d pick Wayne. Too bad Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen couldn’t combine to be one tight end perhaps named Coby Allen or Dwayne Fleener. Or how about Dwaybe Flallen? Fleener has 11 catches on 21 targets for 12.64 yards per catch and 2 touchdowns. Allen has 15 catches on 20 targets for 13.6 yards per catch and 4 touchdowns. Combined they’d have 26 catches on 41 targets and 6 touchdowns. That’s quite the tight end. I choose Allen over Fleener.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Allen Robinson leads the team in targets (37) and receptions (22) and has 11.05 yards per reception. Allen Hurns is second in targets with 35 and second in recpetions with 16 for 17.5 yards per reception. He also has 3 touchdowns to go with those numbers. Then you have Mike Brown, Cecil Shorts and Marqise Lee who are all being targeted about 8 percent of the time and are catching about half the balls thrown in their direction. Brown has the highest yards per catch of the three with 12.57 and has played in all 5 games as opposed to Lee and Shorts who have only played in 2. And then there’s Clay Harbor who has caught 91.67 percent of his 12 targets in just 2 games played. I really don’t want anything to do with any of the Jaguars receivers, but if I had to take one, I’d begrudgingly choose Hurns.
Kansas City Chiefs: With 20 receptions on 27 targets, Travis Kelce leads the team in both categories and is boasting a 13.7 yards per reception. Having played one less game, Dwayne Bowe is just 4 targets and 6 catches behind him and is averaging 13.93 yards per catch. Kelce has 3 touchdowns and Bowe has none. Donnie Avery is also in the mix being targeted 15.48 percent of the time with 14 catches and 11.14 yards on each. For me it’s a toss up between Kelce and Bowe, but since I own Kelce in one of my leagues and Bowe in none of my leagues, I am giving the win to Kelce and his 172 yards after the catch.
Miami Dolphins: Mike Wallace leads all Dolphins with at least 10 targets in nearly all receiving categories. He has 20 receptions on 35 targets for 12.3 yards per reception and 3 touchdowns. Jarvis Landry has a higher reception rate of 66.67 percent as compared to Wallace’s 57.14, but Wallace has been thrown to nearly twice as many times. Brian Hartline, a preseason PPR darling, is second in targets and receptions with 16 catches on 26 targets for 10.06 yards per reception and a lone touchdown. And I guess Charles Clay deserves mentioning with his 14 catches on 22 targets for 7.93 yards per catch. Wallace all the way in Miami.
Minnesota Vikings: Cordarrelle who? Wasn’t that a Pearl Jam song? Oh my bad that was Corduroy. Given the state of affairs with the quarterback situation in Minnesota, Patterson has not been that bad. He has 15 catches on 25 targets for 12.6 yards per catch and zero touchdowns. The zero touchdowns thing doesn’t help. Greg Jennings who’s been just about as good (or bad) as Patterson has 17 catches on 28 targets for 13.82 yards per catch. And then there’s Jarius Wright who leads the team in yards per catch with 14 on 14 catches on 24 targets. The targets have been almost evenly distributed between Cordarrelle, Jennings and Wright which is likely why none of have emerged as the clear goto guy. If I’m taking one I am going with the upside of Patterson.
New England Patriots: What started out as the Julian Edelman show seems like it has a fair chance of becoming the Rob Gronkowski show. Edelman has been a beast in PPR leagues catching 31 passes on 44 targets giving him a healthy 70.45 reception rate but just 10.26 yards per catch. Gronkowski now has 19 receptions on 37 targets for 13 yards per reception and more importanly 4 touchdowns as compared to Edelman’s 1. And perhaps a late bloomer, Brandon LaFell has 11 catches on 28 targets for a team-high 16.82 yards per catch and a touchdown. In PPR leagues I am still sticking with Julian, but otherwise it’s Gronk.
New Orleans Saints: It will come as no surprise that Jimmy Graham leads the Saints in targets with 47 and receptions with 34. He is averaging just 11.06 yards per reception, but has 3 touchdowns and a team-high 149 yards after the catch. Second in targets and catches is rookie Brandin Cooks with 41 targets and 32 catches for 7.97 yards per catch. Looks like he’s getting a lot of short yardage passes. Marques Colston leads the team with a 16.53 yards per catch average on 15 catches and 29 targets (51.72 percent reception rate). And finally Kenny Stills has reeled in 10 catches on 15 targets for an average of 14.1 yards per catch. I’ve got’em Jimmy, Brandin and then Colston.
New York Giants: Despite his week 5 goose egg, there’s no way I couldn’t lead off with Larry Donnell who is catching over 78 percent of balls thrown to him (25 of 32) for 9.44 yards per catch. Donnell is getting lots of short passes and 4 of them have been for touchdowns. Rueben Randle leads the team in targets with 40 and is second to Donnell in receptions with 23. Randle’s average yards per catch is even less than Donnell at 8.22. Victor Cruz leads the New York Football Giants with a 15.29 yards per catch with 21 catches on 38 targets. The salsa man had a slow start to the season, but I think he’s about to heat up. And although he’s just played in 1 game, I’d like to throw an honorable mention out to Odell Beckham Jr. and his 4 catches on 5 targets for 11 yards per catch and a touchdown.
New York Jets: How about the New Jersey Football Jets? Eric Decker leads them in yards per reception with 14.57 and 2 touchdowns. However it’s Jeremy Kerley that is being targeted more than anyone else and leads the team with 33 targets and 19 receptions, but with just 8.84 yards per reception. Although being targeted less than Jeff Cumberland, Jace Amaro appears to be the more productive tight end for the Jets with 14 catches on 17 targets and 10.29 yards per catch. With the quarterback situation in New Jersey I’m not really interested in any of these fellas.
Oakland Raiders: Isn’t James Jones the guy that did the Darth Vader voice? Oh that’s James EARL Jones. My mistake. James Jones is the guy that leads the Raiders in targets (28) and receptions (21) and touchdowns (2) and yards after the catch (83). He is averaging a respectable 12.95 yards per reception and is catching 75 percent of the balls thrown to him. After Jones there ain’t much to talk about in Oakland. Andre Holmes has 11 catches on 21 targets for an average of 13.45 yards per catch and has managed a touchdown. So I guess there is something.
Philadelphia Eagles: Jeremy Maclin leads the entire NFL in targets with 58. While he is only catching balls at a 44.83 percent rate he does have 26 receptions at a whopping 16.92 yards per reception, 159 yards after the catch and 4 touchdowns. Maclin is a must own and must start. Jordan Matthews and Riley Cooper have put up very similar stat lines. Matthews is being targeted 15.42 percent of the time while Cooper is at 14.93 percent. They both have 19 receptions with Matthews at 9.26 yards per reception and Cooper at 8.32. Matthews has 69 yards after the catch compared to Cooper’s 65. With 16 catches on 26 targets, it wouldn’t be fair to exclude tight end Zach Ertz who is averaging 16.19 yards per catch.
Pittsburgh Steelers: And this brings us to my favorite receiver so far in 2014. Antonio “You’re the Best” A-Brown. Big Ben is targeting Brown 29.31 percent of the time he throws the ball to a non-running back. Brown has 34 receptions, 177 yards after the catch, is averaging 15.03 yards per reception, has 1 awesome karate kick and 5 touchdowns to boot! Heath Miller is second on the team in targets with 31. He is catching balls at team-high rate of 77.42 percent for 24 catches and an average of 10.13 each. Markus Wheaton, who was one of the guys I was targeting in drafts, has 20 receptions on 28 targets for an average of 12.2 yards per reception. Brown then Wheaton then Miller.
San Diego Chargers: Preseason favorite Keenan Allen leads the Chargers in targets with 35 and receptions with 25, and has a respectable 10.76 yards per reception. No touchdowns yet though! It seems Antonio Gates and Eddie Royal catch all of the touchdown passes as they have 5 and 4 respectively. Eddie Royal has caught 20 of 32 passes thrown in his direction and has an average of 13.8 yards per catch. He leads the team Chargers with 166 yards after the catch. Gates has 1 more catch (21) on 3 less targets (29) and an average of 13.1 yards per catch. Malcom Floyd leads the entire league with an average yards per catch at 21.58 for any non-running back with at least 10 catches.
Seattle Seahawks: Percy Harvin and Doug Baldwin are the only pass catchers in Seattle with more than 10 receptions. Harvin is being targeted 21.15 percent of the time and leads the Seahawks with 19 catches, but is only averaging 7 yards per catch. Baldwin has been targeted 20.19 percent of the time Russell Wilson throws the ball and has 14 catches for 11.07 yards per catch. Harvin is catching 86.36 percent of his targets and has 101 yards after the catch. Jermaine Kearse has been thrown to 12 times for 8 catches at 13.25 yards per catch and has caught 1 of just 3 Seahawks receiving touchdowns. Ricardo Lockette has the other 2.
San Francisco 49ers: It seems to be a close tie between Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin for the top pass catcher in San Francisco. I’m giving the slight edge to Crabtree. They both have 25 receptions on 36 targets, but Boldin has a higher yards per catch average with 12.12 compared to Crabtree’s 9.84. So why am I leaning towards Crabtree? Because he has 2 touchdowns and Boldin has none. Stevie Johnson actually has the highest reception rate at 78.95 catching 15 of 19 targets for 12.2 yards each to go along with 2 touchdowns of his own.
St. Louis Rams: This should be quick. Pun intended. Brian Quick is one of 2 receivers (Hawkins) that I have been telling everyone to pickup since week 1. He’s been targeted 20 percent of the time and has 20 receptions on 31 targets for an average of 15.33 yards per reception with 3 touchdowns and 68 yards after the catch. These are the kind of stats I want from my receivers. Jared Cook has also been targeted 20 percent of the time and has 19 catches for an average of 11.63 yards per catch. Kenny Britt has just 9 catches, but is averaging 17.11 yards on each. Lance Hendricks, their other tight end, has 12 catches on 15 targets. If only his production could be coupled with Cooks’ you’d have a great tight end. Just like in Indy.
Tampa Bay Bucaneers: Vincent Jackson has been targeted 28.66 percent of the time a Bucaneers quarterback throws the ball. That sounds about right. He has only 21 catches on 47 targets for a low catch rate of 44.68 percent and is averaging 13.24 yards per catch. Mike Evans has 17 receptions on 27 targets for an average of 11.94 yards per catch. But the guy I am interested in is Louis Murphy who in just 2 games has caught 9 passes on 18 targets for an average of 14.89 yard each and 1 touchdown. Brandon Myers has 13 catches on 16 looks, but I don’t really care about him. Thanks.
Tennessee Titans: Before last week Delanie was walking away with the titan’s share of the pass catching ranks in Tennessee. He has 26 receptions on 36 targets for an average reception of 14 yards. Add in 3 touchdowns and 131 yards after the catch and you have yourself a surprise top tight end. Kendall Wright leads the team in targets with 38 and has converted 25 of them for 8.92 yards a piece. He also has 3 touchdowns and has 122 yards after the catch. Justin Hunter finally came alive last week and now has 12 receptions on 31 targets. Not a great catch rate at 38.71 percent, but he is averaging 19.75 yards per catch. Nate Washington has 10 receptions on 26 targets with an average of 13.7 yards.
Washington Football Team: Pierre Garcon leads Washington with 41 targets and 26 catches and has an average of 10.69 yards per catch. But DeSean Jackson leads the team with an 18.2 yards per catch average on 20 catches of 37 targets. Niles Paul is the third Washington pass catcher with over 20 receptions catching 22 of 30 targets for an average of 14.5 yards. I’m giving the nod to Jackson.
If you made it this far, thanks. And I hope some of this helps some of you…