One of the more difficult tasks each year is creating a set of
realistic team projections when no roster remains the same from
season to season. Team projections are often necessary for fantasy
enthusiasts because it keeps our individual projections in check.
To create accurate individual projections each summer, it is vital
to be able to set expectations. Expectations can be hard to set
without established parameters.
For the most part, fantasy analysts who take this kind of approach
to projections can generally assume teams will attempt somewhere
between 500 and 650 passes. It is a wide range, but understanding
each team's personnel, scheme and overall philosophy are pieces
to the puzzle. Understanding which pass-catchers will get their
targets almost regardless of what the defense does is another
Over the next two weeks, the goal in this space will be to set
realistic individual target expectations as we inch closer to
Big Board season.
Mark Andrews likely just experienced
his career year, especially in terms of commanding a 25.9 percent
target share. Further complicating matters is that the Ravens
have spoken openly about returning to their run-heavy ways. In
none of Andrews' previous three seasons did a single Raven exceed
100 targets (including Andrews). Will Andrews or Rashod Bateman
change that if Baltimore goes ground-and-pound again?
While Marquise Brown theoretically leaves behind 146 targets
for Bateman, the second-year pro is unlikely to see that kind
of volume due to OC Greg Roman's desire to return the offense
to its roots. Andrews has also firmly established himself as Lamar Jackson's favorite red zone target AND Jackson has no problem
calling his own number in those situations. Devin Duvernay appears
poised to start, but how much does an increase to even a 12 percent
target share (was eight percent last year) mean on an offense
that may not reach 500 pass attempts?
Diggs' 164 targets and 26.4 percent target share were slight
decreases from his amazing debut season with the Bills in 2020.
Without an established veteran like Cole Beasley returning, those
marks should be Diggs' floor in 2022. Dawson Knox was a revelation
for about the first 12 weeks of the season, but the targets and
touchdowns started drying up about the same time Gabriel Davis
became more of a full-time player. There is a distinct possibility
Knox does not match last year's production across the board unless
he plays all 17 games this year (15 in 2021).
The real mysteries in Buffalo's passing game come down to how
Beasley's work will be distributed and how much of it will go
to Davis. Emmanuel Sanders was on pace for 108 targets through
eight games before he began ceding time to Davis. Interestingly,
the only game Sanders or Davis had a 10-target game was in Week
18. As far as replacing Beasley, will it be Jamison Crowder, Isaiah McKenzie or both? How does rookie Khalil Shakir fit into that
mix? McKenzie is reportedly ahead of Crowder going into training
camp, but Beasley's 2021 season is an example of targets and target
share not meaning everything. What good is being the WR26 in targets
with an 18 percent target share if he finished as the WR40 in
Despite missing three games last year, Tee
Higgins was not very far behind Ja'Marr
Chase in either targets or target share. (He actually owned
a slight edge in targets per game.) A healthy season by both players
in 2022 probably drops Tyler
Boyd under a 15 percent share, but last year's overall distribution
(57.8 percent spread out among the top three receivers) is about
what should be expected in this offense against this year. While
Uzomah and is probably an upgrade at tight end, he will not
take priority over Chase, Higgins or Boyd very often, so Uzomah's
11.7 percent target share is probably the ceiling for Hurst in
Joe Mixon has not attracted more than 50 looks in a year in four
of five seasons. With Cincinnati expected to play with the lead
more often than they have during Mixon's career, he will be hard-pressed
to repeat his 42 catches from last season. Not only are Samaje Perine and Chris Evans capable as receivers, but HC Zac Taylor
may opt to use them in those situations more often in 2022 as
a way to better manage the amount of punishment Mixon takes.
As will be the case until the league makes a decision on Deshaun Watson's playing status, not much is clear in regards to target
distribution with the Browns. Since most expect a suspension of
at least half of the season, we will assume he will not play for
now. Jacoby Brissett has served as the primary starter for a full
season twice in his career. In those years, only 28-year-old T.Y. Hilton (109 targets) and 27-year-old Jack Doyle (108) drew more
than 72 targets. Hilton only managed a catch rate of 52.3 percent
that year (2017). Common sense dictates Cleveland will run the
ball as long as possible with Brissett under center, making it
unlikely any Brown will push for 100 targets (unless Watson gets
It is probably unfair to assume Amari Cooper will do much better
with Brissett than Hilton did. David Njoku can probably still
thrive on 72 targets from Brissett because his targets should
be shorter and come out of Brissett's hand quicker. The same can
be said for rookie David Bell. With Bell working the short and
intermediate areas of the field along with Cooper and Njoku, how
likely is it that Kareem Hunt will remain a significant factor
in the passing game? Brissett has only thrown to his running backs
209 times in his career (17.3 percent), so it figures to be a
The arrival of Russell Wilson (and the Broncos' desire to build
their offense around him) should mean Denver is primed for an
increase in targets, possibly from last year's 513 to 575 or so.
Except for Noah Fant and his 90 targets, most of the main supporting
cast returns from last year. It seems unlikely Albert Okwuegbunam
- while a very good mid-to-late option in drafts - will completely
absorb Fant's targets, if only because Jerry Jeudy should see
more than 56 targets (and a 10.9 percent target share) if he stays
Beyond that, what do we know? Courtland
Sutton theoretically has the best combination of status (clear
starter) and downfield game (Wilson's average throw depth in 2021
was 9.3 yards - the highest mark among NFL quarterbacks with at
least 200 drop-backs) - for a receiver attached to Wilson. However,
is cut from a similar cloth as Sutton and KJ
Hamler (if he can ever stay healthy) is a true field-stretcher.
Despite all of that, it should surprise no one if Jeudy paces
the group. Jeudy is not unlike Tyler
Lockett in that he can get open quickly - a quality that all
quarterbacks like. Perhaps Okwuegbunam's only breakout will be
as a strong red zone option while the receiver group - particularly
Sutton, Jeudy (and maybe Patrick, depending on other factors)
- push for 100-plus targets.
The five players that finished third through seventh on the team's
target share list last season are either gone or not expected
to contribute much in 2022, leaving behind a combined 35.2 percent
target share (and 125 targets). The Texans should also expect
to have more than last year's 523 targets available given their
trust in Davis Mills. Thus, there should be ample opportunity
for Brandin Cooks to repeat last year's activity (25 percent),
Nico Collins to move into the 16-18 percent target share range
and rookie John Metchie into the 12-14 percent range if he is
completely recovered from his ACL tear by October. Brevin Jordan
could match Metchie.
As things stand right now, Michael
Pittman Jr. appears to be in great shape to keep his 25 percent
target share, (although bringing in a veteran like Julio
Jones or Odell
Beckham Jr. is a possibility). The Colts did little to replace
69 targets (13.7 percent target share) outside of drafting Alec
Pierce, and it seems unlikely the rookie will get that level
of attention from Matt
Ryan in 2022. Indianapolis also needs to find takers for the
targets left behind by the retired Jack Doyle and the unsigned
The Colts figure to pass more too with Ryan if only because they
trust Ryan more than they ever did Carson
Parris Campbell has a path to a major role, but can stay healthy
all season for the first time as a pro? If he can, look out. A
healthy Campbell could push for 15 percent of the targets. Nyheim Hines (in particular) and Jonathan Taylor should each see a healthy
bump in targets in 2022 if only because Ryan has shown a willingness
to lean on his running backs in the passing game throughout his
career. Mo Alie-Cox should crawl over 10 percent for the first
time in his career if Jelani Woods experiences the steep learning
curve that most rookie tight ends do, although Kylen Granson looms
as a threat in the same way Trey Burton did a few years ago.
There may not be a single thing we can take away from the Jags'
target distribution last season. James Robinson may not return
to his previous form until 2023 - if even then. Christian Kirk
was paid to be the No. 1 option regardless of whether he is capable
of handling that role. Zay Jones was paid like a capable No. 2
despite the likelihood Marvin Jones will hold onto his starting
job. There is a belief Travis Etienne will be used like pre-2021
Alvin Kamara, but there are also concerns about his ability in
pass pro. Laviska Shenault somehow managed 100 targets last season
and may struggle to see regular work on offense in 2022. Jamal Agnew came on early and Laquon Treadwell came on late; at least
one of them may not make the team in 2022.
It is reasonable to believe no Jacksonville player will enjoy
a 20-plus percent target share this season, but Kirk and Marvin Jones should be in the 18-percent range while Etienne and Evan Engram (if healthy) push for between 13 and 15. The continued
development of Trevor Lawrence, the absence of Robinson and the
presence of Etienne makes it extremely likely the Jags will throw
more than 600 times in 2022, so there should be enough to appease
the four healthy non-quarterbacks mentioned in the first sentence
of this paragraph.
Gone from last year's roster are four of the six players with
more than 25 targets who combine for 49.8 percent of the team's
target share. More than half of those belong to Tyreek Hill. JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and rookie Skyy Moore
cannot replace him by themselves. Travis Kelce (134 targets, 21
percent target share) also cannot expect much more work than he
is already getting either, although his current situation likely
dictates he will attract about 25 percent of the targets in Kansas
City this year. Ronald Jones probably won't be able to handle
Darrell Williams' 57 vacated targets, meaning there is a great
opportunity for Clyde Edwards-Helaire to potentially triple last
year's involvement (23 targets, 3.6 percent target share) if he
can stay healthy.
Patrick Mahomes told reporters during OTAs that he expects his
receiver targets to be more spread out than they were with Hill
on the roster. It makes sense. Smith-Schuster proved to be more
of a second receiver during his time in Pittsburgh, while injuries
and Davante Adams' greatness held Valdes-Scantling in check. Moore
should emerge as the alpha in this receiver room soon enough,
but 2022 may be too early for him to do that. All three could
conceivably finish in the 12-16 percent target share range. Mecole Hardman is unlikely to fall below 10 percent.
The Chargers are the rare team that kept their most important
assets intact, as Jared Cook is the only player with more than
25 targets last year that is not on the roster this season. About
the only reason this offense falls short of the 657 targets it
was responsible for in 2021 is if the Chargers are in positive
game scripts more often; the offense will continue to rely heavily
on Justin Herbert. The roles of Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and
Austin Ekeler should not change much, although Ekeler could be
slightly more involved in the passing game if rookie Isaiah Spiller
proves he can handle the 1B role Los Angeles has been trying to
fill in recent years.
Cook's departure presents an excellent opportunity for Gerald
Everett to have a career season; Everett's previous career
high is last year's 63 targets with Seattle. He is an upgrade
on the 35-year-old Cook. Josh
Palmer should be considered one of the better "receiver handcuffs"
in the league if Allen and/or Williams go down, although he will
probably settle for a 10-12 percent target share if both stay
While there is a path for every key Raider (Davante
Renfrow and Darren
Waller) to meet expectations in 2022, some common-sense factors
will need to fall into place for it to happen. In the 10 games
both Waller and Renfrow finished before his knee injury, Waller
held a 79-73 edge in targets (21.9-20.3 in target share). Las
Vegas lost Zay Jones (70 targets, 11.6 target share) in free agency,
Edwards (59, 9.8) and parted with Henry Ruggs (36, 6.0) at
midseason. That means the Raiders need to replace 165 targets
and a 26.4 target share with those three departures, which conveniently
sounds like a normal season for Adams in Green Bay.
With that said, offenses rarely ever have three players command
a target share of at least 20 percent. The good news is that the
Raiders should throw more often (603 targets last season) and
operate at a faster pace than 2021, meaning Adams could exceed
150 targets (and a 25 percent target share) while Renfrow and
Waller could push for 125 (and come close to a 20 percent target
share). There is not another pass-catcher who should demand more
than eight percent of the targets.
Just among the four wide receivers no longer on the team, the
Dolphins have 157 targets to replace from last season. In other
words, Miami does not have to work exceptionally hard to fit Tyreek
Hill into the offense. Unfortunately, it is never that simple.
The Dolphins are unlikely to have 599 targets to distribute among
upgraded supporting cast because they should be able to run the
ball better in 2022. Furthermore, Miami also signed Cedrick
Wilson to a three-year deal worth $22.8 million, suggesting
he will see a fair amount of time in 11 personnel packages with
Hill and Jaylen
Waddle. So who gets the shaft?
The easy answer(s) should be Waddle and Mike Gesicki. As good
as Waddle was as a rookie, he is not quite in Hill's class yet.
While he could still command a 20 percent target share, the odds
are strong he will see his looks dip below 120 and his catch rate
drop into the low 60s as a result of running more deep patterns.
Gesicki figures to take the biggest hit with Wilson likely stealing
some of the slot work he has been getting in recent years. It
does not help Gesicki's cause that he is a weak blocker and the
new head coach (Mike McDaniel) is a Kyle Shanahan protégé.
DeVante Parker gives this offense the kind of perimeter No. 1
option it so desperately needed. There is more to consider, however.
How much creativity and aggressiveness can we expect from presumptive
OC Matt Patricia? Will Mac Jones be willing to trust Parker in
contested-catch situations? Can Parker stay healthy long enough?
By virtue of an expected defensive decline and more trust in Jones
in 2022, the Patriots should be expected to have more than last
year's 524 targets available. The departure of FB Jakob Johnson
is also actually a big deal as well since it means the Patriots
will utilize 11 (one tight end, three receivers) or 12 (two tight
ends, two receivers) personnel more often this season, further
suggesting less reliance on the running game. Based on last year's
spending, expect plenty of 12 personnel.
Unless Parker gets hurt early this season, there is almost no
way Jakobi Meyers (and certainly not Nelson Agholor, who may not
make the final roster) will be as involved in 2022. With Meyers
and Agholor likely to lose at least 75 targets between them and
the offense expected to produce about 50 more, New England does
not have to work very hard to keep Parker fed. The remaining targets
should go to Jonnu Smith, who played nearly 300 fewer snaps last
season than Hunter Henry. It appears much of his disappointing
campaign had to do with a
spring injury and the birth of his child. Not only does Johnson's
absence likely open up blocking snaps for Smith, but fantasy managers
need to remember the 2021 season marked the first time in five
seasons that Hunter Henry did not miss at least two games.
The Jets are yet another team with a deceiving target distribution
from last season. Corey Davis was the clear alpha until he got
hurt in Week 6, but he was not the same again upon his return.
For an extended stretch (Weeks 8-13), Elijah Moore ranked seventh
in the league with 51 targets, sixth with 459 receiving yards
and tied for first with five receiving touchdowns. Only two of
those games came with Zach Wilson, however. Braxton Berrios took
the baton the rest of the way, although he was much more of a
compiler than an explosive playmaker. The Jets made things even
more interesting by spending a first-round pick on arguably the
best receiver prospect in the draft in Garrett Wilson.
New York will likely build their passing game around Moore to
some degree, if only because he has already proven he is worthy
of the honor. Anything short of 100-plus targets and an 18 percent
target share would be a bit disappointing. Davis was on pace for
a target share of around 20 percent before his injury, while Wilson
may be the most complete receiver of the bunch. If Moore plays
the slot more often than the others as expected, he should have
a slight edge on the others to lead the team in receiving. With
that said, New York's top three receivers could just as easily
take turns having 10-plus target games and all could finish in
the 15-18 percent target share range.
The retirement of Ben Roethlisberger throws much of the Steelers'
potential target distribution into question, but it seems reasonable
that Diontae Johnson will continue to be a target hog - although
maybe not in the 26 percent range with rookie George Pickens arriving
via the draft. Pittsburgh also seems unlikely to create 653 targets
again, which was partly a byproduct of Roethlisberger unloading
the ball so quickly. Johnson's 169 targets seem like a good place
to start trimming because the Steelers have more quality options
than they did last year.
Mitchell Trubisky is no stranger to throwing to his running back
(Tarik Cohen, David Montgomery, etc.), so Najee Harris probably
is not in danger of losing much of his 14 percent target share.
Pickens will likely handle a similar share of the passing game
as James Washington did in 2021 (6.7 percent). Ray-Ray McCloud's
66 targets are up for grabs (so are JuJu Smith-Schuster's 28),
but many of those looks could also be part of the aforementioned
volume downsizing. Pittsburgh waited about a third of the season
to get Pat Freiermuth more involved as a rookie, meaning he has
a chance at a 15 percent target share - a very good number for
a tight end - and 90-plus targets. Chase Claypool is the great
mystery. Trubisky was not a particularly good deep-ball thrower
during his time as a Bear. Was it former HC Matt Nagy? Chicago's
offensive line? Trubisky's own limitations? Especially with Pickens
possibly sharing snaps with him in two-wide sets, the odds are
against Claypool being as involved this year (105 targets, 16.1
target share in 2021).
Firkser are gone. Chester
Rogers and Jeremy
McNichols remain unsigned. Five of the Titans' seven top targets
from last season are no longer around. Even for an offense built
Henry, replacing that many pass-catchers is difficult to do
in one offseason - especially when the two players expected to
pick most of that slack (Treylon
Burks and Robert
Woods) have their own issues. Woods appears to be in great
shape to be the team's primary receiver despite last year's ACL
injury. He likely has no choice but to match or exceed Brown's
20.1 target share from last season (remember, Brown missed four
games due to injury). Burks was drafted in April with an eye on
being Brown's eventual replacement, but his asthma (and possible
conditioning) issues may make him a big question mark until he
and the team's medical staff can figure out a plan to make breathing
less of an issue for him. Burks will likely surpass Jones' 9.2
target share from last season, but it may not be by much. Fantasy
managers in deeper leagues should have Nick
Westbrook-Ikhine's name near the top of their watch lists
just in case.
All of the uncertainty makes Austin Hooper a potential steal
on draft day. Not only should does Hooper enter training camp
as the only likely starting pass-catcher without a health concern,
but the combined 86 targets left behind by Firkser and Rogers
(both short-area pass-catchers like Hooper) should give him ample
opportunity to push for 60 catches. Hooper's biggest threat may
be rookie receiver Kyle Philips, who figures to be the team's
primary slot option at some point early in the season.
Notes: All stats courtesy of Pro
Football Reference. The cutoff to qualify for this list was
Doug Orth has written for FF Today since 2006 and has appeared as a guest analyst on several national sports radio shows and podcasts, including Sirius XM's Fantasy Drive, FantasyPros and RealTime Fantasy Sports. He is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.