Guess who’s back, back again? Rome is back, tell a friend.
You heard it here first, I am back on the active roster for the Razzball Fantasy Football Team. This year’s focus will be targets. Each week I will highlight target share trends to help you dominate lineup decisions and critical waiver claims over the course of the season. Just add this as another tool to your belt, along with all of the other edge-creating tools provided by Razzball.
Today we highlight a few NFL roster changes that impact target opportunities. Keep in mind, not all targets are created equal. Red-zone and end-zone targets are more valuable than a 2-yard target at the 40-yard line. A departing receiver with an aDOT (average depth of target) of 11.2 is leaving behind more valuable targets than a departing WR with a 4.5 aDOT. While a team with a lot of vacated targets provides an opportunity to find value on draft day, a team that made additions to their WR room will dilute opportunities for some of our favorite fantasy receivers from 2020. Let’s dive in and take a look at who’s stock is up after the offseason.
Perennial fantasy stud, Julio Jones, spread his wings and left the nest after 10 seasons in ATL. Jones barely played over half the season in 2020 and his fantasy finish shows it (WR 52). Despite playing in only 9 games, Jones averaged 85.7 yards/game and 7.5 targets/g. To put that in perspective, Justin Jefferson and Robert Woods averaged 7.8 targets/g in 2020 (both finished as a WR1). Jones has averaged 9.9 targets per game since Ridley joined the team in 2018. Along with the targets, Jones leaves behind the 2nd highest vacated aDOT (11.3) among receivers that recorded at least 30 targets, only trailing Will Fuller (11.7). R.I.P. to the Hall of Fame fantasy career Jones had with the dirty birds. We thank him for the many championships won.
Vegas put the Falcons in the bottom 25% of the league with a 7.5 win total. For the last 3 years, Matt Ryan has finished top 3 in the league in pass attempts (1st overall in 2020). Unless you think Mike Davis is going to turn into Derrick Henry, expect Matty Ice to continue tossing that rock.
Beneficiaries: The answer is Calvin Ridley. Ridley is coming off his best fantasy finish (WR5) and now has a real path to the overall #1 WR in PPR formats. Do not overthink this pick, Ridley’s WR6 ADP is a value. My draft darling this summer has been Russel Gage, I do not want to leave a draft without him. Gage finished as a WR3 on a healthy 110 targets. This is after fighting Jones, Ridley, and Hayden Hursts’ combined 299 targets. Rookie Kyle Pitts is the 2nd most valued rookie and 1st pass-catching rookie off the board. We have to trust the professional NFL analysts with their Pitts evaluation that he will be able to produce at a high level his first year in the league. The opportunity is there, but the history books are not in his favor. A sleeper hidden in the ashes from Julio Jones’ aftermath is RB Mike Davis. He has little-to-no competition for the RB1 spot on Atlanta’s depth chart. Davis recorded the 4th most receptions, 5th most targets, and 9th most receiving yards amongst all NFL running backs last year. ATL didn’t bring Davis here to only run the ball, expect them to utilize his abilities in the passing game.
A.J. Green vacates the 3rd most end-zone (10) and red-zone (9) targets from 2020, after heading west to Arizona Cardinals. Greens’ 104 total targets is the 2nd most vacated targets from 2020. Giovani Bernard has gone ‘ship hunting and joined the defending Super Bowl champions. Bernard leaves behind the 2nd most vacated RB targets (59).
Former Heisman Trophy winner, Joe Burrow is on track to recover from his 2020 knee injury. Barring any setback, the Bengals’ offense should take a step forward in 2021. A below-average defense, and a projected 6.5 win total, is a favorable recipe for fantasy passing opportunities. Burrow was on pace to lead the league in pass attempts before his week 11 injury. Joe averaged a blistering 40.4 attempts per game through his first 10 starts. That is a total of 646 pass attempts projected over a full 16-game season.
Beneficiaries: It is lazy to assume all vacated targets get dumped to one particular player. In Cincinnati, all pass catchers stand to benefit from the pass-happy offense and 163 vacated targets from Bernard and Green. Joe Mixon has the ability to be an every-down back in the NFL. He will get a bump in his passing stats this season, Cincinnati did nothing to replace Bernard in the offseason. The question: Will the Bengals run the ball enough to pay off Mixon’s 2nd round price tag (19 OVR / RB 13)? Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd finished with nearly identical statistical and fantasy seasons. Higgins finished as the WR 28 with Boyd right behind him at WR 29. Even though unproven in the NFL, Ja’Marr Chase is the first Bengals receiver off the board in fantasy drafts ( 62 OVR / WR 25). His first-round draft status and joining his collegiate quarterback, Burrow, has inflated Chases’ fantasy price. In my experience, drafting the cheaper fantasy asset in a situation like Cincinnati is the way to go. The Vikings Justin Jefferson is an outlier when it comes to rookie receivers producing reliable fantasy numbers. 2nd-year receiver, Tee Higgins is my bet to lead this receiving core in fantasy production (69 OVR / WR 29). Boyd is the most likely of the three to outperform his current ADP by the largest margin ( 93 OVR / WR39).
Marvin Jones Jr. leaves behind the single-most vacated end-zone (11) and red-zone (14) targets, from 2020, after signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Lions lose a staggering 240 total targets from last season. Marvin Jones Jr., Kenny Golladay, Danny Amendola, and Mohammed Sanu will not be returning for the Dan Campbell Lions era.
The Lions won’t be the most coveted re-draft fantasy roster. This is an opportunity to find value on draft day. Average at best in reality, Jared Goff has been a serviceable fantasy quarterback.He will be playing from behind in the majority of his games this season. The oddsmakers in Las Vegas have Detroit’s win total set at 4.5. A negative game script screams opportunity in the fantasy passing game.
Beneficiaries: Entering his 3rd season, T.J. Hockenson is an attractive mid-round TE target this year (ADP 57 OVR / TE 6 ). Tyrell Williams ( 246 OVR / WR 78) and Breshad Perriman (268 OVR / WR 84) are free late-round fliers worth considering in deeper leagues. I prefer the younger of the two and former 1st rounder, Perriman. Pay attention to training camp and pre-season news to see if rookie WR Amon-Ra St. Brown can carve out a role in this star-less receiver room. Negative game scripts favor third-down and receiving running backs. Look for D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams to help offload some of the receiving work. Williams is a popular “zero-RB” target (135 OVR / RB 45).
Will Fuller has the highest vacated aDOT (11.7) among receivers that recorded at least 30 targets in 2020. In the same vein, Fuller vacates the highest air yards per game (89.1). Along with Fullers 75 targets, veteran Randall Cobb vacates an additional 48 targets (5 EZ / 7 RZ).
Houston, we have a problem! Who will be throwing the ball in H-Town? I have no clue if Deshaun Watson will throw another pass for the Texans. He has reported to training camp and is taking reps at the quarterback position. If Watson suits up, the Texans’ skill players will be huge values in fantasy drafts. In the meantime, Tyrod Taylor is the presumed starter. Serviceable his three years in Buffalo (2015-2017), Tyrod lost his opportunity in Cleveland and Los Angeles due to fluke injuries. Remember, we do not need elite QB play to support relevant fantasy production (exhibit-a : Blake Bortles – Allen Robinson). Las Vegas has Houston finishing with the worst record in the league (4-wins).
Beneficiaries: Brandin Cooks might be the biggest proven WR value in redraft leagues. The guy has finished with over 1,000 receiving yards in 5 out of his last 6 seasons. Four of those years were with different quarterbacks and offensive systems. Cooks is the unchallenged WR1 for the Texans this season. He is currently being drafted as the 35th WR and 86th overall. Brandin has top 20 WR fantasy finishes every season dating back to 2015, except one. In 2019, he was injured and didn’t play a full season. It is hard to lobby for any other Houston pass-catcher without knowing who will be playing QB. In deeper formats, Keke Coutee is an interesting grab. He is the presumed slot receiver with Cobb gone, unless newcomer Anthony Miller is able to beat him out for the spot. Keep an eye on that camp battle. Rookie Nico Collins is an interesting late-round grab in larger keeper leagues.
Las Vegas Raiders
Tied with Marvin Jones Jr., Nelson Agholor leaves behind the single-most vacated end-zone targets (11) after signing with New England. Nelly was the Raiders leading wide receiver in red-zone (13) and total targets (82). Only trailing Will Fuller and Julio Jones, Agholor vacates the 3rd highest aDOT among receivers with over 65 targets in 2020.
Derek Carr attempted the 14th most pass attempts in the NFL last season (517). The oddsmakers have Oakland with the 7th worst win total for 2021 (7). Similar to Detroit, expect the Raiders to be trailing in a majority of their games.
Beneficiaries: This offense already funnels through Darren Waller and his price tag shows it ( 24 OVR / TE 2). Look for Waller ‘da baller’ to help offset some of the targets vacated by Agholor, only increasing his value. Sophomore receivers Henry Ruggs III (132 OVR / WR 48) and Bryan Edwards ( 326 OVR / WR 86) are interesting fliers to bet on outperforming their current ADP. Ruggs is considered the field stretcher for this offense. He will get his opportunity to absorb the downfield targets vacated by Agholor. Keep an eye on veteran wideout John Brown. JB is only one season removed from recording over 1,000 receiving yards in Buffalo (1,060 yds in 2019). The default WR1 for Las Vegas is in Browns’ range of outcomes if neither Ruggs nor Edwards are able to take the reins in their 2nd year.
Others to consider: Carolina Panthers – DJ Moore, Robby Anderson, and Christian McCaffrey. Curtis Samuel and Mike Davis leave behind a combined 167 targets. Chicago Bears – Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney. Anthony Miller vacates 76 targets. Kansas City Chiefs – Demarcus Robinson and Mecole Hardman. Sammy Watkins has averaged 67 targets/yr his three-season in KC. Los Angeles Rams – Van Jefferson. Josh Reynolds vacates 81 targets.
ADP data pulled from www.fantasypros.com . Data and stats sourced from fantasydata.com
Agree? or disagree? @ me on Twitter @NicRome_