With week two of the NFL season in the books, there’s a lot to analyze with regards to wide receiver opportunity. I think of week one as a dart throw. We can do as much offseason analysis as we want both in watching film and using advanced analytics, but none of it comes to fruition until these players take the field. A lot of them miss (ala Kenny Britt), but there are also players that break out into fantasy starters or even superstars by as early as week one and two. Last week, we delved into how average target market share can be an indicator for WR1 and WR2 production. To summarize, of the 12 players who had greater than 25% average market share per game, none finished below WR21 overall (except AJ Green who was a top 5 wide receiver before he got injured). Using this as a benchmark, let’s delve into this week’s target statistics. Below are the wide receivers who posted 25% or more target share this week and players that have a season average of 25% or more per game active.
|Player||2017 Average Taget Share/Game|
Alshon Jeffery – Jeffery had his Philadelphia breakout game this past week, posting over 90 yards and a touchdown in a tough matchup against the formidable Chiefs defense. Carson Wentz seemingly went to Alshon on every important play or at minimum looked his way. He’s established himself as the alpha in Philly, and I think he will continue to put up high end WR2 numbers throughout most of the season. The game plan for the Eagles thus far has been very pass-happy. Even if Jeffery hovers around 25% (he did “only” have 28% this week), that will be an extremely valuable opportunity. Look for Jeffery to even crack 30+% at some points this season as he gains Carson Wentz’s trust.
Jarvis Landry – Much was made this offseason about the inevitable demise of Jarvis Landry. From the looks of it in their first game, that simply isn’t the case. Devante Parker will remain the deep ball threat with big arm Jay Cutler at the helm, but Landry is here to stay and will consistently be high on this target share list on a weekly and season long basis. Last season, Landry finished 6th with an average market share of targets of 26.95%. Expect Landry to consistently get targets from Cutler as the go-to safety blanket in what looks like an explosive Miami offense.
Players to Continue Monitoring:
Rashard Higgins – For as incredible as his college stats were, Higgins had the exact opposite of a rookie year. A 5th round draft pick in 2016, Higgins was buried on a lackluster Cleveland receiving depth chart and never emerged. Actually released and then resigned to the Browns’ practice squad this season, Higgins surprisingly broke out in week two to post a very respectable stat line of 7-95 on 11 targets. One reason to monitor Higgins besides his good game is the health, or lack-thereof, of #1 WR Corey Coleman. With Coleman out for about two months, Higgins will have the opportunity to step up and replace Kenny Britt once Coleman gets back. Already named a starter going into week three, there’s a good chance this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Higgins.
Marqise Lee – Lee was part of the historically great 2014 WR class, actually selected by the Jaguars over Allen Robinson earlier in the second round. It has taken Lee a few years to get adjusted to the NFL, but he’s shaping up to be one of the better slot receiver in the league. With Allen Robinson out for the season, Lee’s target market share took a bump this week. Although the Jaguars passing offense is borderline inept, the opportunity Lee has is enough to warrant consideration in the future as a bye week fill in. Keep monitoring this situation in the coming weeks, for if Lee continues to gain 30+% of targets, he may creep into WR3 territory.
Zay Jones (Week 2: 24.39%; Season Avg: 19.14%) – The rookie Zay Jones saw a big uptick in target market share this past week. Though the low-volume Bills passing offense on was able to provide Jones with 6 targets, the increased opportunity is great for the rookie. Zay was unable to come up with a big catch late in the game, but Tyrod Taylor was able to trust him in that situation and should continue to do so moving forward despite the missed connection. Last week, I discussed Matthews as a player I’m worried about, and those concerns continued this week with an equally low target share for him. Jones will be the beneficiary of Matthews being a secondary option in the passing game moving forward.
Brandin Cooks (Week 2: 10.26%; Season Avg: 14.85%) – Cooks was (and still marginally is) one of my favorite WRs of the offseason, especially with the injury to Julian Edelman. Cooks simply hasn’t been a big enough part of the offense this season. In a game against the Saints where Brady threw 39 passes for over 400 yards, Cooks was only able to muster up 4 targets for a 2-37 line. I’m surprised by the lack of consistent usage Cooks has seen thus far in 2017, but I’m cautiously optimistic he will rebound. In an explosive offense, Cooks should remain a good asset for fantasy owners, but he might not even be a WR2 at seasons end if this pace continues.
Martavis Bryant (Week 2: 11.43%; Season Avg: 14.05%) – There’s no doubt about it, Bryant is one of the most explosive players in the league. We saw this evidenced in week two, and he should be the beneficiary of multiple big plays throughout the season. I want to pump the brakes on Bryant for just a minute. Wide receivers who rely on big plays for fantasy production are difficult week-in week-out starts in your lineup. This is even more the case with big play receivers who don’t get consistent looks in the passing game. Bryant had a great game, don’t get me wrong. However, he actually had less market share in week two than week one where he had a dud of a game! Bryant’s end of year stats will likely look very impressive, but I for one do not want to rely on him as any more than a boom-bust WR3 if I must start him. Unless he starts getting more targets, he will continue to be a risky play.
Analyzing targets via market share is essential to understanding the complete picture, but when it comes down to it, gross target numbers are key to fantasy success as well. Player X having 5 targets, but a higher market share, is less likely to outperform Player Y who had 8 targets but a lower overall market share. In the long run, market share will indicate performance during the ups and downs of the fantasy season. Gross targets, however, indicate the chances for success in any given week. More targets are always better than fewer targets for possible fantasy production, as opportunity is a key indicator for success. With that in mind, here are the top 36 WRs* with the most targets-to-date in 2017.
*Note – There are actually 37 receivers listed; there was a drop off after 13 targets, so I’ve included all players who have 13 targets on the season.
*All data courtesy of Pro Football Reference*