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Keeping Pace - WRs/TEs



By Doug Orth | 10/26/23 |

So much can happen during the NFL season that trying to predict the future may seem pointless. With that said, it is our job as analysts and fantasy managers to attempt the impossible.

For better or worse, this industry seems more fixated on the macro than the micro. As such, I decided I wanted to give the fantasy football world a look at what each player's year-end statistics would look like if they simply maintained their current per-game production. While we know roughly 99 percent of these averages will change between now and the fantasy playoffs, my hope is this information will shed some light on who is due for a positive or negative market correction.

My hope for this week is to highlight some of the notable outliers at wide receiver and tight end. Maybe in doing so, I will be able to point out the potential buying and selling opportunities that exist.

Below you will find the statistical totals for every receiver and tight end of note if they maintain their current pace over 17 games. I have adjusted the totals for the players who have either missed time or are expected to because of injury. (For example, Travis Kelce missed the opener, so his total is for 16 games.) I did the best I could in terms of projecting a realistic timeline for cases such as Deebo Samuel, whose projected return to action is a bit open-ended right now.

I understand this is not a one-size-fits-all exercise. For example, Chris Olave seems highly unlikely to score only on two of his projected 95 catches. The point of this exercise is to see how certain hot/cold starts might look in December if they continue. Part of the fun of this exercise is to ask yourself which of these starts are likely to continue and which ones will be difficult to maintain.

 Year-End Totals for WRs At Their Current Per-Game Pace
Player Tm Att Yds TDs Tgt Rec Yds TDs FPts
Tyreek Hill MIA 2 34 0 180 129 2191 17 454
Stefon Diggs BUF 0 0 0 189 134 1647 15 386
A.J. Brown PHI 0 0 0 182 126 1965 7 367
Puka Nacua LAR 5 10 0 199 141 1826 5 354
D.J. Moore CHI 0 0 0 124 97 1545 12 325
Keenan Allen LAC 6 17 0 181 130 1626 11 362
Amon-Ra St. Brown DET 3 11 0 184 136 1485 8 334
Adam Thielen CAR 3 17 0 167 139 1442 11 354
Ja'Marr Chase CIN 3 6 0 207 142 1575 9 350
Davante Adams LV 0 0 0 172 112 1282 7 284
Justin Jefferson MIN 0 0 0 138 94 1485 8 289
Jakobi Meyers LV 3 0 0 149 99 1027 13 282
Jordan Addison MIN 0 0 0 107 70 971 15 255
Christian Kirk JAC 2 15 0 134 95 1151 7 255
Michael Pittman Jr. IND 0 0 0 158 102 1188 5 250
Nico Collins HOU 0 0 0 119 82 1550 9 289
Mike Evans TB 0 0 0 139 85 1326 11 286
Courtland Sutton DEN 0 0 0 104 75 852 12 233
Brandon Aiyuk SF 0 0 0 115 80 1363 5 248
Chris Olave NO 0 0 0 165 95 1144 2 224
Marquise Brown ARI 2 70 0 146 78 930 7 221
George Pickens PIT 3 45 0 136 77 1417 6 257
Zay Flowers BAL 15 29 0 131 95 1073 2 219
CeeDee Lamb DAL 9 60 0 119 96 1346 3 253
Kendrick Bourne NE 2 10 0 124 83 899 7 218
Terry McLaurin WAS 0 0 0 124 90 1049 2 209
Josh Downs IND 0 0 0 114 80 974 5 207
Drake London ATL 0 0 0 119 78 930 5 201
DeVonta Smith PHI 0 0 0 121 78 930 5 201
Curtis Samuel WAS 10 49 2 95 75 753 5 199
Garrett Wilson NYJ 0 0 0 156 91 1046 6 230
Tutu Atwell LAR 5 66 0 104 63 826 7 196
Gabriel Davis BUF 2 -5 0 85 53 843 10 196
Jaylen Waddle MIA 3 -5 0 109 80 957 5 208
Josh Reynolds DET 0 0 0 80 56 1024 8 206
Michael Thomas NO 0 0 0 131 83 901 2 187
Calvin Ridley JAC 10 24 0 117 66 894 5 187
Rashee Rice KC 2 -7 0 83 63 741 7 180
Romeo Doubs GB 0 0 0 119 65 731 11 206
Chris Godwin TB 0 0 0 139 94 1128 0 206
Deebo Samuel SF 45 238 3 80 50 755 3 180
Amari Cooper CLE 0 0 0 133 68 1102 3 196
Tyler Lockett SEA 0 0 0 113 77 819 6 192
Rashid Shaheed NO 15 80 0 85 49 792 5 165
DK Metcalf SEA 0 0 0 106 70 1078 6 216
Michael Wilson ARI 0 0 0 66 51 833 5 163
DeAndre Hopkins TEN 0 0 0 133 77 1065 0 184
Tank Dell HOU 13 29 0 90 61 1037 6 206
Josh Palmer LAC 0 0 0 99 57 1000 3 173
K.J. Osborn MIN 0 0 0 90 53 634 5 146
Jayden Reed GB 3 -6 0 88 45 655 9 162
Tyler Boyd CIN 0 0 0 116 85 578 3 160
Jerry Jeudy DEN 0 0 0 91 67 763 0 142
Cooper Kupp LAR 0 0 0 121 74 1278 4 228
Nelson Agholor BAL 0 0 0 56 45 592 5 136
Robert Woods HOU 0 0 0 122 62 643 3 145
Elijah Moore CLE 23 31 0 122 71 640 0 138
Kalif Raymond DET 7 131 0 46 39 503 2 117
Rondale Moore ARI 36 330 2 68 41 274 0 116
Jahan Dotson WAS 0 0 0 95 53 444 2 112
Nick Westbrook-Ikhine TEN 0 0 0 65 45 476 6 153
D.J. Chark CAR 0 0 0 86 42 630 6 142
Darius Slayton NYG 0 0 0 78 44 627 0 107
Jaxon Smith-Njigba SEA 0 0 0 91 57 490 3 122
Allen Lazard NYJ 0 0 0 65 40 595 3 116
Tee Higgins CIN 0 0 0 115 45 477 6 131
Marvin Mims DEN 10 5 0 32 24 597 2 116
Wan'Dale Robinson NYG 6 24 0 81 69 489 0 120
Darnell Mooney CHI 3 6 0 65 40 521 3 109
Michael Gallup DAL 0 0 0 91 51 578 0 109
Demario Douglas NE 5 67 0 61 37 525 0 96
Kadarius Toney KC 12 -5 0 63 44 255 2 83
Alec Pierce IND 0 0 0 61 34 491 0 83
Jalin Hyatt NYG 0 0 0 48 31 663 0 97
Zay Jones JAC 0 0 0 78 35 338 9 121
Christian Watson GB 4 -22 0 69 35 620 4 121
Diontae Johnson PIT 0 0 0 78 52 826 0 135
Jameson Williams DET 0 0 0 52 17 238 4 68

Note 1: Tyreek Hill wow. Hill and A.J. Brown are both on pace to break Calvin Johnson's single-season receiving yardage record (1,964).

Note 2: A stunning 41 receivers are on pace for over 100 targets this season. Ja'Marr Chase is on pace for 207 - one shy of the league record since they started tracking the stat in 1992! Six others are on pace for at least 180.

Note 3: While this exercise did not reveal too many crazy outliers last week, the table above reveals a bunch of players who are probably due for some negative regression in the coming weeks. I will touch on some of the more notable ones, but not everyone I write about below will be players due for negative regression.

Puka Nacua - Although he continues to lead the league in targets (82) and catches (58), just about everything with his 17-game projection is unsustainable. He will probably not become the first player since Julio Jones in his prime to eclipse 200 targets in a season or threaten Cooper Kupp's single-season catch record. He will probably also fall well short of Calvin Johnson's single-season receiving yardage mark as well (1,964). The one positive is that touchdown regression should start working in his favor relatively soon, as five scores for someone with his level of involvement in the offense would be hard to comprehend (although it is the same number Megatron had during his record-setting season).

It makes more sense to extrapolate Nacua's numbers since Kupp returned three games ago and use those averages to project what he could do over the final 10 games. Here is that 10-game projection: 63 catches for 837 yards and three touchdowns.

If he does that, his final line would look something like 121 catches for 1,589 yards and five touchdowns.

If fantasy managers are fine with an average of 14-15 PPR fantasy points each week with an occasional touchdown (he surprisingly has not been involved in the red zone very often), then sit back and enjoy the high-level WR2 production you are about to receive from your savvy late-round draft pick or expensive post-Week 1 FAAB purchase.

Adam Thielen - Thielen appears to be a safe bet to be another player who will not come anywhere close to maintaining his current pace. Maybe OC (and new play-caller) Thomas Brown - formerly of the Rams - can tap into all of the things he learned under Sean McVay. Maybe he can weaponize Thielen in the same way McVay does Cooper Kupp. The problem is HC Frank Reich - the former play-caller - was already doing that to a large degree. Thielen is already performing at his ceiling in what is a bad offense and probably cannot be expected to score one of every two passing touchdowns Carolina quarterbacks throw - as is currently the case. Regression is not the main concern here, however. Age and Thielen's history of durability are.

Prior to 2022, the last time he played a full season was 2018. He is 33 years old and highly unlikely to continue catching 83 percent of his targets. He has done the bulk of his considerable damage against four of the 12 most forgiving defenses against wide receivers. There is definitely potential for more spike weeks along the way, but the Panthers are going to want to see what they have in a player like Jonathan Mingo at some point. We have seen Thielen produce at a level similar to this during his career year in 2018 (113-1,373-9), so there is history of him catching fire and staying hot. The better bet is that his 13- and 14-target games drop to eight- and nine-target games, which is more consistent with what a high-end WR2 typically gets.

Justin Jefferson and Cooper Kupp - There is not much to say here other than it is not hard to be amazed that Jefferson's 13-game projection looks better than the majority of his contemporaries' 17-game projections. His recovery is reportedly going well, and the expectation is that he will be ready to return the moment he is eligible to come off IR following the completion of Week 9.

Kupp's projection is every bit as impressive. Potentially posting 1,278 yards despite missing four games is insane for most mortals, at least those not named Justin Jefferson. The 30-year-old seems likely to score more than four touchdowns, as he already has nearly as many red zone targets (4-3) as Nacua in four fewer games.

CeeDee Lamb - Here is another major positive regression candidate. Especially with Tony Pollard's effectiveness already taking a turn for the worse, the Cowboys probably (maybe hopefully) used the bye week to re-evaluate their offensive issues - especially in the red zone. Lamb has been targeted only five times inside the 20 and four times inside the 10. His only touchdown of the season came from 20 yards out.

Rookie receivers - Except for Michael Wilson, Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Rashee Rice, I am not confident there is another rookie receiver above who is going to maintain their current pace. We already discussed Nacua, although any regression he suffers was bound to happen playing in the same offense as a healthy Cooper Kupp. Jordan Addison probably will not score 15 touchdowns, which would leave him in sole possession of second place all-time for a rookie receiver (Randy Moss had 17 in 1998). Zay Flowers seems highly unlikely to reach 95 catches, which would leave him in sole possession of third place all-time for a rookie wideout. I am not sure I can see Downs topping 80 catches, but I also do not think it is out of the realm of possibility either as Gardner Minshew directs what should be a more pass-heavy offense than the one we anticipated for Anthony Richardson. Jayden Reed scoring nine times also seems unlikely.

Garrett Wilson - Are you kidding me? How great is Wilson going to be if he ever gets to play a full season with Aaron Rodgers? While Zach Wilson is a far more competent quarterback this year, Garrett Wilson deserves major kudos if he can finish with a line that looks like the one above (91-1,046-6). Garrett Wilson's projection not only seems sustainable because he did something similar as a rookie (83-1,103-4) with sub-par quarterback play but also because so much of the passing game revolves around him (30 percent target share).

It may not be the WR1 season we were hoping for, but he may still be able to salvage a high-end WR2 finish. The most encouraging bit for his managers is 33 targets over the last three contests. He should have ample opportunity to pad his stats in the coming weeks, especially with New York's next three games coming against the Giants, Chargers and Raiders. While the touchdowns figure to be lacking for the rest of the season, the only daunting matchup he has left is in Week 17 against the Browns.

Chris Godwin - Let this serve as a reminder that Godwin's disappointing season to this point is only disappointing because he has yet to find the end zone. Godwin is among the league leaders in red zone targets (nine) and targets inside the 10 (five) - both of which are higher than Mike Evans' totals (five and two, respectively). He is the only receiver with at least 28 catches who has yet to score. It will happen. Any manager who selected Godwin on draft day would have been thrilled to know that 94 catches were even in the realm of possibility with Baker Mayfield as his quarterback.

Calvin Ridley

Calvin Ridley - One of my goals this week was to gain a better understanding as to how Ridley can be so good at his job, yet be so uninvolved in the Jacksonville offense some weeks. I stumbled upon this post, which confirmed what I have been seeing when I watch the Jags. More research has allowed me to settle on a conclusion - one that may allow fantasy managers to breathe a sigh of relief … eventually.

Ask yourself what the most obvious thing that Ridley's two big games as a Jaguar had in common. One of the first answers is that Zay Jones played the majority of snaps in them (Weeks 1 and 5). Interestingly enough, in the three games Jones played, Ridley saw at least eight targets in all of them. In the four games Jones has missed, Ridley's target totals are 7, 2, 8 and 4. His catch rate in the former games is 63 percent. His catch rate in the latter games is 47.6. These differences caused me to look at his average depth of target (aDOT) in each game. It confirmed what is the likely root cause of Ridley's "demise." In Jones' healthy games, Ridley's aDOT marks were 9.6, 12.4 and 16.4. In the other four games, they are 15.4, 21.5, 12.4 and 17.5.

What does all that mean? Every receiver benefits from having a healthy aDOT, but there is a point of diminishing returns. In my experience, that number is usually somewhere around 16. It is rare for receivers with aDOTs much larger than that to be consistent because deep routes are the hardest to complete and take the most time to execute. Some offenses (and quarterbacks) have no desire to wait an extra half-second in hopes that the deep guy gets open, assuming he is even a part of the progression on a given play.

For the most part, what those high aDOTs reflect is that Ridley is running a higher number of clear-out routes to open things up for Christian Kirk and Evan Engram when Jones is not available. Jones also forces defenses to play Ridley more honestly, which has not been happening a lot lately. In at least two of Ridley's down games, he saw safety help on occasion in addition to drawing the other team's top corner. Ridley is also running a large number of routes outside the hashes (such as out routes), whereas Trevor Lawrence is throwing a lot inside the numbers.

Ridley bouncing back may not be as simple as Jones getting healthy, but it is a good bet that he will perform at a significantly higher level once it happens. For managers looking for a reason to start him again this week - even if Jones is not ready to return yet - consider this nugget from one of my former King's Classic opponents. Patrick Peterson and Levi Wallace have both struggled on the perimeter this season for Pittsburgh, so the combination of facing those two cornerbacks and Ridley's success against single-high coverage may just be enough to get things going back in the right direction in Week 8.

 Year-End Totals for TEs At Their Current Per-Game Pace
Player Tm Att Yds TDs Tgt Rec
Travis Kelce KC 157 128 1400 11 333
T.J. Hockenson MIN 143 114 947 5 238
Mark Andrews BAL 107 75 952 13 250
Sam LaPorta DET 119 85 916 7 221
Darren Waller NYG 119 85 923 2 192
Evan Engram JAC 124 100 840 0 184
Dallas Goedert PHI 100 75 787 5 184
George Kittle SF 78 56 714 7 172
Cole Kmet CHI 78 61 583 7 190
Jonnu Smith ATL 85 68 750 2 184
Dalton Schultz HOU 96 60 609 9 172
Kyle Pitts ATL 102 61 724 2 146
Logan Thomas WAS 85 61 629 5 157
Hunter Henry NE 75 49 510 5 129
Zach Ertz ARI 104 66 454 2 126
Gerald Everett LAC 65 54 422 6 131
Jake Ferguson DAL 82 60 538 3 131
David Njoku CLE 88 68 612 0 129
Tyler Higbee LAR 85 51 585 0 109
Dalton Kincaid BUF 72 67 515 0 118
Tyler Conklin NYJ 77 57 643 0 121
Luke Musgrave GB 79 62 536 0 116
Kylen Granson IND 69 43 453 3 104
Cade Otton TB 65 51 417 3 111
Mike Gesicki NE 53 41 362 2 92
Noah Gray KC 44 32 376 2 83
Donald Parham LAC 40 26 170 9 94
Trey McBride ARI 51 36 413 0 78
Hayden Hurst CAR 62 40 329 3 90
Noah Fant SEA 37 34 550 0 107
Dawson Knox BUF 62 34 233 2 72
Chigoziem Okonkwo TEN 74 48 346 0 83
Michael Mayer LV 36 24 313 0 78

Note 1: Travis Kelce missed the opener with a knee injury and still has a decent chance at setting career highs in catches, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.

Note 2: Mark Andrews is not going to challenge Kelce for overall TE1 honors in all likelihood, but he is very much on track to live up to his third-round cost on draft day.

Darren Waller - The Giants had a lot of things go wrong for them at the beginning of the season, but the lack of involvement for Waller in the first month was still inexcusable. New York is not out of the woods yet as it relates to the health of its offensive line, but the team is getting healthier. The Giants are also giving more playing time to vertical threats Darius Slayton and Jalin Hyatt, which opens up the middle of the field. Saquon Barkley and Wan'Dale Robinson are healthy now as well.

Lo and behold, Waller appears to be back now as well. Perhaps it is a function of the improved health in New York AND a realization by HC Brian Daboll and/or OC Mike Kafka after the first month of the season that it was wasting its best weapon in the passing game, but October has brought about a noticeable change. Per Fantasy Points Data, Waller has been the first read in the progression at least 28.6 percent of the time in each of the last three games (41.7, 28.6 and 33 percent for those who care not to click on the link).

It is hard to understand why it took New York four games to realize what should have been painfully obvious after two games, but there is a decent chance all of the above factors forced Daboll and Kafka to go into an ultra-conservative mode to keep Daniel Jones from getting hit more than he already was. While it is too early to say for sure that Waller is a top-five lock for the rest of the season, there is much more reason to feel that way now than there was a month ago.

Evan Engram - From the Chris Godwin class of ridiculousness, Engram is on pace for 100 catches and no touchdowns. An even more ridiculous stat: Engram has yet to be targeted in the red zone. Do with that information what you will, but it seems like a bad idea to ignore a 6-3, 240-pound former college receiver in scoring territory.

Atlanta TEs - Public Enemy No. 1 Arthur Smith's love for tight ends (or upsetting fantasy managers, as appears to be the case) may know no bounds. He has two of them on pace for 60-plus catches apiece and may end up feeding them 200 targets. Yet, the one who would seem the most obvious candidate to lead the position group in every receiving category (Kyle Pitts) is not leading in any of them. Unlike the case I laid out for Waller, there is no way to know if this is the offense Smith wants to run or if it is the offense that Desmond Ridder allows him to run. (Considering his deployment of the running back position, most readers probably feel as though they know the answer.)

Jake Ferguson - Keep the faith on Ferguson. There is reason to believe his breakout is coming. As I alluded to earlier with CeeDee Lamb, however, this is the team that might be running a complementary back into the ground (Tony Pollard) and has failed to find a way to get its best receiver more than seven targets in five of six games (Lamb). Even worse, Dallas has ramped up Ferguson's snaps, routes and slot use over the last two games, only to throw to him less often than it had been. If the Cowboys cannot make Ferguson a more featured part of the offense in what appears to be favorable matchups for him over the next two weeks (Rams and Eagles), then it might be time to give up the dream of him breaking out this season. The problem with doing that is that Ferguson's underlying metrics scream (at worst) low-end TE1.


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.