Target Leaders Analysis – Week 1

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Consistent opportunity is what separates the elite, week-in week-out fantasy football players from the best-ball specialists that wind up sitting on your bench every time they have a big game. For wide receivers, we can quantify opportunity though gross targets and overall market share of targets. Players who consistently draw 25%+ of their team’s overall targets finish the season as WR1s and WR2s. Last year, in fact, there were 12 players who averaged greater than 25% market share of targets.  Of those 12, only two, Emmanuel Sanders and AJ Green, finished outside of the top 16 PPR scorers. Sanders was the WR21 overall, and Green was a top 5 PPG option when healthy. Here’s the full list of the players:
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With this in mind, let’s focus our attention to Week One of the 2017 NFL season. As many of us found, week one was filled with surprises. Many superstar players simply did not perform to the level we’re all accustomed to seeing. One week is surely no means to panic, but owners should monitor target volume and market share as a basis to see if their superstar will bounce back or perhaps this could be an early forewarning of what’s to come. On the flip side, we saw big performances for players like Adam Thielen and Randall Cobb who were likely on benches in fantasy lineups this week. Let’s look at the players who received 25% or more target share this week.
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Notables:
Adam Thielen – One of my favorite sleeper picks of the year, Thielen got off to a great start on Monday Night Football against the Saints. With a revitalized running game and another year with Sam Bradford, this offense looked like it finally hit its stride. Thielen had dominant games like this last year too with three times going over 25% market share. He is making great strides towards being an every-week plug-and-play player, and I’d be more than confident moving forward with him as my WR3 or my WR2 with a strong team around me.
Pierre Garcon – A popular candidate this year as a top 24 WR, Garcon got the volume in week 1 that deserves that consideration. There’s no denying it; the team he’s on isn’t good. However, if he can keep up his target market share he’s likely to hover around that back-end top 24 WR territory. For those who drafted him as their WR3, this first game was a great sign that he’ll be a useable fantasy asset this season.
Players to Continue Monitoring:
Mohammad Sanu – Sanu had a fantasy relevant season with the Bengals, but that was back in 2014. While he was a serviceable real-life WR2 for the Falcons last year, his usage didn’t warrant fantasy consideration with Julio Jones opposite him. Can he keep up this market share with Austin Hooper rising and Julio Jones? Still to be determined, but if he can keep a greater than 20% market share consistently he could be a usable bye-week/injury replacement.
Paul Richardson – An athletic freak, PRich hasn’t been able to stay on the field in his 3 year career. Marred by injury, we really don’t yet know what Richardson is able to do throughout the full season. He has potential in a passing offense lead by Russell Wilson, but can he take control of the #2 job and gain enough targets ahead of Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham to stay relevant? This is a similar situation to Sanu in that we want to wait and see before we plug in PRich as a weekly replacement for guys like Allen Robinson and Kevin White who suffered injuries.
Other Notables:
Corey Davis (24.39%) – Just missing the cut of this article with a 24.39% market share in his first game as a pro, things look positive for the #5 overall draft pick and likely top 2 choice from your rookie drafts this summer. Davis made a phenomenal catch over a defender early in the game and looks the part of a true NFL WR1. He’ll gain Marcus Mariota’s trust as the season goes on; recall that Davis was limited throughout most of the preseason with minor injury. By week 6 or 7, don’t be surprised if Davis is a consistent WR2 for your fantasy teams.
Sammy Watkins (16.67%) – Sammy is one of the biggest question marks of the year, in my opinion. He was drafted most of the offseason as a WR2 for your fantasy teams, but can he sustain elite production with Jared Goff in an offense that has plenty of other targets? When healthy last year, Watkins averaged 22.56% target market share per game. He’ll need to get back to those levels with the Rams in order to be startable in fantasy. It’s certainly possible, but keep an eye on this situation for the next few weeks.
Jordan Matthews (10.71%) – Matthews has been a hallmark of average consistency in each of his first 3 NFL seasons with the Eagles. Once a very solid WR3 for fantasy teams, Matthews now carries a lot of question marks with his new team, the Buffalo Bills. Not one for historically high yards per target, Matthews has relied on consistent targets for his production in the past. Should he not get 20% or more target’s consistently on one of the league’s lowest volume passing offenses, his fantasy value will deteriorate quickly. I personally think Matthews will sustain WR4 production throughout most of the season, but he won’t be able to do even that with a 10% target market share.
Target Leaders:
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 7 targets, so I’ve included all players who had 7 targets for this week.
*All data courtesy of Pro Football Reference*

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