Any owner can take a glance at the year-end fantasy-point totals
and reach a fairly accurate conclusion about how a player's season
went. More enterprising owners will search for or create their own
week-to-week target breakdown and draw a more detailed inference.
While I never want to be accused of dismissing the past or the
present when it comes to this hobby, I would prefer predictive
analytics over reactionary ones. Target totals are very helpful
because they provide us with an idea of how often a receiver or
running back has a chance to make a play. Opportunity means a
lot in fantasy, so I don't want to diminish how important those
numbers really are. But I believe we can do better.
Target totals tell part of the story, however. They leave out
a bit of context, especially when all the players from all 32
teams are lumped together. For instance, seven targets is a good
number for a receiver to hit most weeks. On a day in which the
quarterback drops back 55 times, it is much less impressive. So,
is there a way I can figure out how important one particular player
is to a play-caller and/or his quarterback?
With that in mind, I'd like to introduce target shares (or at
least introduce it to this site). Target shares refer to the percentage
of the "target pie" a player receives on his own team.
Ideally, target shares allow us to get a handle on just how much
of a go-to guy a particular player is. At its best in the preseason
(while making the necessary adjustments for offseason transactions
and coaching changes, of course), an owner might be able to answer
the question posed above and could come reasonably close to predicting
the number of opportunities a receiver or back might get in the
passing game if they can develop a pretty good floor and ceiling
for the number of pass attempts that team will record in the upcoming
Naturally, I want to take this analysis one step further: Although
the term "target share" is relatively new in fantasy circles,
I have only seen it applied on a yearly basis. I want to look
at it from a weekly perspective. As per usual, I'm not trying
to confirm Antonio
Jones and Odell
Beckham Jr. are great - no one needs me to tell them how dominant
they are. I'm more interested in using whatever tools I can to
provide more accurate predictions for the rest of the crowd. I'm
reasonably certain this will help me do exactly that.
For the sake of keeping the chart below with reason in terms
of size, I have eliminated any non-receiver (quarterback, offensive
lineman, etc.) and any player who failed to earn an 11 percent
market share in at least one game. (In other words, if a team
attempts 40 passes on a regular basis and a player cannot achieve
more than four targets once, he's probably not a key part of the
game plan. You'll might be happy to know the above criteria removed
nearly 170 players.) Because I want this to be a reference resource
as much as anything, I've chosen to keep the remaining 325 players
on the chart.
Note: The numbers listed below for Weeks 1-17 are percentages
(%). EX: Julio Jones received 32.4% of team targets in Week 1.
Below you will find the running backs, receivers and tight ends
grouped into several different categories. I have chosen to use
the 20 percent threshold as a means to group these players, but
I will talk a great deal about how often they exceeded the 25- and
30-percent thresholds as well.
To no one's surprise, Brown and Jones earned at least a 20 percent
market share in every game, and they were the only ones to do
so. Hopkins and Thomas fell one shy of that mark at 15, but it
is interesting nonetheless both players (12) went over 25 percent
one more time than Jones (11). Jones countered by tying Brown
again for the most times above 30 percent (nine).
Two of the three remaining 100-catch players from a season ago
bring up the rear of this list - Marshall and Landry - with 14
games of at least a 20 percent share. Interestingly, both players
are in the same conversation as their peers above when it comes
to surpassing the 25 percent threshold (Marshall, 11; Landry,
12) but fall just a bit short at the 30 percent-and-over mark
(Marshall, five; Landry, seven).
Of this group, possibly only Landry's role will change, so he's
the best bet to fall into the next category, through no fault
of his own. Dolphins new HC Adam Gase has a deep and talent receiving
corps to work with now and openly discussed creating mismatches
whenever possible. He intends to use Landry as an outside receiver
more often than before, which will allow a number of players to
work the slot that Landry owned over his first two seasons. Still,
most owners do him a disservice by undervaluing him as a limited
possession receiver just because of how Miami chose to use him,
so there is a decent chance he could end up being undervalued
a bit in some drafts even though he is coming off a 111-catch
Four 80-catch players from a season ago highlight the top part
of this group. Robinson may have made his name down the field
and by finishing in a tie for first in the league with 14 touchdown
catches, but he still drew 20 percent of his team's targets 13
times and 25 percent of the targets nine times. With the exception
of a handful of players we'll discuss in a bit, we have pretty
much exhausted the players that enjoyed a 30-percent share in
more than a third of his team's games. Robinson's three such outings
seems a bit on the low side but understandable considering how
often he was competing with Allen Hurns and Julius Thomas for
Blake Bortles' attention.
Allow me to begin by saying this will probably be the only time
Beckham will be throw into the "near-elite" - as opposed
to "elite"- category of anything. Let's face it though;
he probably would have received a 20-percent share of the targets
in the game he was suspended (Week 16 versus Minnesota), so his
spot in this area is more of a technicality than anything. As
it was, OBJ tied Robinson with 13 games of at least a 20 percent
share, got edged by Robinson by one (9-8) in games with at least
25 percent and nudged him in the 30-percent area.
Green did not thrill many with his inconsistency in fantasy in
2015, although a fair amount of the blame can be pinned on the
emergence of Tyler Eifert - especially in the red zone - and the
reliance on the running game. Interestingly, this analysis paints
him in the same light as Johnson, with the only difference being
Megatron having two more games with at least 25-percent share.
With Eifert's early regular-season status in doubt and Marvin
Jones and Mohamed Sanu no longer around, owners have every right
to expect Green to be a consistent top-five receiver once again.
It goes without saying Johnson's retirement leaves a huge void
in the Detroit passing game (12 games with at least 20 percent
share, nine with at least 25 and four with at least plus-30).
Golden Tate could ascend into this group as a result (he does
have back-to-back 90-reception seasons after all), although it
is more likely the Lions run a more balanced offense, keep Tate's
role roughly the same and ask Marvin Jones and Eric Ebron to pick
up the targets left behind by Megatron.
And now, our first minor surprise of the day to round out this
group. Amari Cooper's owners will remember Crabtree as the player
who repeatedly stole the rookie's touchdowns last year. Crabtree
matched his personal bests in catches and scores, while his yardage
total is the second-highest of his career. He did so in part because
he owned a 12-9 advantage over Cooper in games with at least a
20-percent target share, much of which can probably be attributed
to the tilted coverage the fourth overall pick saw much of 2015.
Now it starts to get a bit more interesting, as we see our first
tight ends (neither one of which is Rob Gronkowski) and one final
100-catch receiver (Fitzgerald). Olsen is far from a shocker,
as he was a near-lock to see a heavy dose of targets the moment
Kelvin Benjamin tore his ACL last summer. Nevertheless, his target
consistency is superb for a tight end (11 games of at least 20
percent, eight with 25 percent and six with 30-plus). While those
marks figure to take a small hit in 2016, Olsen is still as good
of an option at the position one can hope for after Gronk.
Was Jones rightfully paid this offseason after all? No, but I
must admit I am stunned he had 11 games with at least 20 percent
of the Bengals' target share last season, although Cincinnati's
relatively low passing-game volume (505 attempts) helped him in
that regard. The next two marks (two games with at least 25 percent
and one with 30-plus percent) tell the real story, however. Don't
be surprised if his numbers in Detroit this season are similar
across the board, as Golden Tate should could push for 150 targets
as Matthew Stafford's top option and Eric Ebron figures to play
the role of a poor man's Tyler Eifert in the red zone.
As good as Maclin's first year with the Chiefs was (an eye-popping
70.1 percent catch rate for a receiver, no less), the chart above
suggests it could have been even better. Maclin and Evans are
the only two receivers not included in the first two groups to
see a 25-percent target share at least 10 times, but it might
be a bit much in this situation to ask for more from the 28-year-old
former Eagle just because he'll have another offseason to bond
with Alex Smith. Volume is always going to be a bit of an issue
as long as Smith is the quarterback, so owners expecting another
fantastic season from Maclin need to hope he can repeat the aforementioned
catch rate as well.
Much like Marvin Jones, Baldwin didn't exactly tear it up in
terms of his actual target number (103), but the combination of
his second-half explosion and the Seahawks' relatively low volume
(one of only five teams with fewer than 500 pass attempts) help
him make the cut here. Rumor has it that Seattle wants to continue
with the quick-hitting passing game it used to set the fantasy
world on fire beginning in Week 11, so Baldwin could be in line
for a few more targets. Working against him is the emergence of
Tyler Lockett and whatever contributions Jimmy Graham can make.
Lockett saw a steady dose of targets as the season came to an
end and has done nothing this offseason to make anyone believe
he isn't ready to become a 60-70 catch wideout in Year 2. And
since Graham was out during most of the Seahawks' offensive tear,
one would have to think even 80 percent of his former self will
keep Baldwin from approaching 14 touchdowns again.
Recency bias and age (33 in late August) have created an interesting
buying opportunity for Fitzgerald, who took a back seat to a healthy
Michael Floyd once the latter got completely healthy late in the
season. Even though his opportunities began to slow to a crawl
over this time, Fitzgerald's target 20-25-30 target shares were
on par with target hogs Evans and Beckham (11-10-6 for Evans,
13-8-4 for OBJ and 10-8-6 for Fitzgerald). Beckham is a near-lock
to be a top-five pick in almost every draft, Evans typically goes
somewhere in the second round and Fitzgerald, well, he can be
had late in the fifth round. In no way do I want to suggest the
three are all the same, but it is worth noting Fitz's worst 16-game
season totals in three years with Carson Palmer also playing 16
games are 82 catches, 954 yards and nine touchdowns.
Barring another round of injuries to the San Diego receiving
corps, Benjamin has virtually no shot at returning back to this
area in 2016. To put his season into some perspective, he finished
with one more target than Maclin (114) and 21 more than Baldwin
(103), yet trailed both players by at least 50 points in PPR scoring
when all was said and done. One thing we can all be certain of:
last year's 54.4 percent catch rate will go up with Philip Rivers.
Less certain is whether or not his replacement, Browns first-round
pick Corey Coleman, can make Cleveland forget about Benjamin.
It wouldn't be terribly surprising if the rookie enjoyed similar
target shares this season, but he's a raw route-runner with Robert
Griffin III as his quarterback in a run-based offense.
Much like I started to do in the previous section, I will be picking
only a select few players as the lists continue to grow. I'll
focus on the players who I believe will experience a significant
move up or down.
Cooper is poised to take the next step and will probably be in
the near-elite class next year. Despite committing 20 drops per
Pro Football Focus (other credible statistical website list him
with 10), battling through a foot injury that made him a virtual
no-factor in three games late in the season and battling through
coverage designed to slow him down as a rookie, he still finished
with 72 receptions, 1,070 yards and six TDs. I'll be thrilled
if I can land him as a WR2 this year. Bryant should join him in
the near-elite class, assuming his foot holds up. Following his
return from the original injury, Dez went 8-for-8 in hitting the
I've already touched on Tate earlier, so allow me to round out
the risers by promoting Cobb and Moncrief. Many want to point
to the absence of Jordy Nelson as to why Cobb disappointed in
2015; while Nelson's injury was probably the most significant
reason why Cobb fell short, I'd put a fair amount of blame on
Cobb's shoulder injury, which was conveniently thrown under the
rug by many in the media around midseason. With Nelson back and
a full offseason to heal, I expect a rebound. What appeared to
be a breakout season for Moncrief turned out only to be a mini-breakout,
which stalled significantly once Andrew Luck was lost for the
year. Luck and T.Y. Hilton seemed to be tied at the hip, so expecting
Moncrief to surpass Hilton as the top receiver in Indy may be
asking too much, but I suspect the former will push for 10 games
with a 20-percent share and 2-3 in the 25-percent range.
Matthews, Boldin, Aiken and Ginn figure to fall significantly.
Play volume will no longer be on Matthews' side, and the new regime
has already determined he's better in the slot than outside. He
saw a 20-percent share nine times last season; I'd venture a guess
he'll have six or fewer in 2016. Boldin and Aiken should be relatively
obvious picks, while Ginn will almost certainly return to being
a field-stretching third receiver with Kelvin Benjamin coming
back and Devin Funchess starting to gain some traction. Ginn deserves
a ton of credit, however, as his 20-25-30 target rates (8-4-3)
were on par with Cobb's (8-5-4).
Jeffery is a no-brainer pick to leap up a category or two, but
owners need to beware of three things: 1) the change from OC Adam
Gase to Dowell Loggains, 2) his injury history and 3) Kevin White.
Let's remember Gase has transitioned almost seamlessly from Tim
Tebow to Peyton Manning to Jay Cutler over the last few years,
while Loggains' one year as the play-caller in Tennessee featured
Kendall Wright's 94-catch season but little else. In short, Gase
is proven and Loggains is not. White is probably the biggest threat,
however, as he profiles as a cross between Larry Fitzgerald and
Andre Johnson. There's no way Jeffery's 20-25-30 target share
rate will be 7-7-5 again with a healthy White, who I expect to
make a strong push for 65-plus catches and 1,000-plus yards in
his first full season.
Diggs, Gronk, Clay and Edelman should move up at least one tier
in 2016. Diggs was another player helped by his team's low volume
in the passing game, but that doesn't make his 20-25-30 target
share rate of 7-3-1 any less impressive. Gronkowski needed one
more target in any number of weeks to move up a tier or two in
this analysis, so I'll cut him some slack. The Bills have already
admitted Tyrod Taylor didn't get Clay the ball as much as he should
have, yet he could have made the next group had he not missed
the last few games of the season. Edelman missed nearly half the
season, so even 14 games from him this year should allow him to
do better than 6-4-2.
Pushing aside Cook, Woods and Jones for what I think are fairly
obvious reasons, Graham and Adams highlight the players from this
list who could stumble a bit. Graham's continuing recovery from
a torn patellar tendon injury makes him a low-end TE1 at best
and a player extremely unlikely to command targets at the same
rate he did last year (seven 20-percent share outings in 11 contests).
Adams needs to be able to hold off a charge from Jeff Janis to
be the Packers' third receiver this year and obviously won't be
force-fed the ball on occasion like he was last year with Jordy
The Best of the Rest
(No, I'm not going to list over 100 players here. What I will
do is briefly discuss a few of my favorites from this rather large
It's OK if you love Tyler Lockett; the Seahawks share your enthusiasm.
Does that mean he'll overtake Doug Baldwin as the No. 1 option
in Seattle? I have my doubts about it happening in 2016, but his
time is coming. I'd prefer Kevin White's upside over Lockett's
in the middle of Round 7, but I do like Lockett's potential to
be a value pick in that area. His three-week run from Weeks 13-15
- in which he earned a target share of at least 20 percent in
all three games - should be more of the rule than the exception
The only thing keeping Keenan Allen from being higher on this
list is missing half the season. He drew a plus-40 percent target
share in two of his first three games last year - a number greatly
influenced by the suspension of Antonio Gates. With Travis Benjamin
on board and Gates back, he's unlikely to revisit that territory
again soon, but it shouldn't stop him from a visit to the near-elite
Coby Fleener quite often seemed like he was on the verge of being
a consistent fantasy force as a Colt. His 20-25-30 target share
split of 3-1-0 in 2015 should double next year as the main middle-of-the-field
threat for the Saints. As I stated earlier this summer, owners
cannot and should not expect vintage Jimmy Graham numbers. With
that said, I could easily see Ben Watson-like involvement with
a much healthier YPC, making him a threat for 70 catches, 900-plus
yards and 6-8 scores.
Take a close look at DeVante Parker's target shares. Despite
precious little offseason work and an underreported setback with
his foot during the season, the rookie commanded a pretty healthy
portion of Ryan Tannehill's throws over the final six games in
an offense that was in chaos for most of the year. Owners who
decide to go against the flow and target running backs early should
be all over him in Round 6; Miami wants to play with pace (good
for volume) and use him heavily in the red zone (good for everything
else in fantasy). He's a player most are going to want to target
as a WR3 who should produce like a WR2 if the Dolphins make the
kind of offensive improvement I expect them to make under Gase.
Doug Orth has written for FF
Today since 2006 and been featured in USA Today’s Fantasy
Football Preview magazine since 2010. He hosted USA Today’s
hour-long, pre-kickoff fantasy football internet chat every Sunday
in 2012-13 and appears as a guest analyst on a number of national
sports radio shows, including Sirius XM’s “Fantasy Drive”.
Doug is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.