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WR Stat Sleepers: Fantasy Points Per Target


In 2019, Marvin Jones Jr. averaged 2.13 fantasy points per target in ESPN standard PPR scoring. "What is that supposed to mean to me?" you ask. Fair enough. That's an odd stat to throw out there without any context.

Instead, what if I phrased it as follows: In 2019, Marvin Jones Jr. averaged more fantasy points per target than guys like Courtland Sutton (1.78), Tyler Boyd (1.52), Keenan Allen (1.76), and... Michael Thomas (2.02). Now do I have your attention?

Jones finished the season as WR28 with 193.9 points in ESPN standard PPR scoring, well behind the above-mentioned quartet of WR2s or better. The difference, obviously, is that each of the other four wideouts was targeted well over 100 times, while Jones saw just 91 passes thrown his way on the year due to injury. Thomas in particular was targeted more than twice as many times as Jones in 2019.

 

Points Per Target Matter

Why are fantasy points per target important? Well, it is decidedly not because you should consider drafting Marvin Jones over Michael Thomas in 2020 fantasy leagues. They are important because in a realm where "volume is king," it pays to be able to identify players who make the most of their volume despite not seeing as much of it as their more highly regarded peers. Only 30 wide receivers saw 100 or more targets in 2019. Do the math.

How many players out of 30 can you realistically expect to roster in a 12-team league? Even if some of them are late-round grabs like Cole Beasley or Dede Westbrook, or young players making a splash like D.J. Chark and D.K. Metcalf, chances are you're going to have to fill out the bottom half of your lineup with receivers who aren't focal points in their team's offense. And when you're sifting through those tiers of players, you might as well seek out the most bang for your buck.

Below we'll discuss some wide receivers who excelled in fantasy points per target in 2019. For the purpose of simplifying our examination, I'm setting the threshold for "excelled" at 2.0 points per target. Of last year's top 12 wide receivers in ESPN PPR scoring, only six of them averaged at least 2.0 points per target (Thomas, Chris Godwin, Cooper Kupp, Amari Cooper, DeVante Parker, Kenny Golladay). The rest were more dependent on volume.

Being that this is a discussion on statistical sleepers, a player should have to come in above average in this metric in order to qualify. We'll take a look at how these hidden FPPT gems racked up their points, whether their production is repeatable in 2020, and what to look for in terms of improvement or regression.

 

Marvin Jones Jr., Detroit Lions

(2.13 FPPT, 91 targets)

We may as well round out our introduction with a look into what allowed Marvin Jones to produce solid returns on fewer than 100 targets. As will often be the case, touchdowns played a crucial role. Jones scored nine receiving touchdowns in 2019, which landed him in a five-way tie for the third-most scores in the entire league. We naturally don't want to bank on a repeat of that, especially for a guy who's the number-two wideout on his own team. But...

What allowed Jones to pad his touchdown total in 2019 was a strong scoring-position role. While Kenny Golladay led the Lions (and the NFL) with 13 targets inside the 10-yard-line, Jones tied for the fifth-most such targets with nine. Five of them were converted into touchdowns, accounting for over half of his trips to the endzone. Since Jones came over to the Lions in 2016, he's seen at least 21.4% of the Lions' targets inside the 10 each year, and that includes a 2018 campaign in which he missed seven games. For what you're drafting Jones to be in 2020, a target share above 20% near the goal-line is nothing to sneeze at.

It's also worth noting Jones saw at least 100 targets in 2016-17, the two seasons he's spent in Detroit in which he played at least 15 games. He was on pace to eclipse the 100-target threshold in 2019 as well, but missed three games. Had he played all 16 at his pace, he'd have set a career-high. Jones is currently being drafted as WR38, at the end of the eighth round in 12-team leagues. While this seems borderline disrespectful given what we know he can do, never argue with a good deal. Jones is the perfect target for fantasy owners who spend the first three rounds loading up on running backs, and are looking to shore up wide receiver with value plays in the middle rounds.

 

Marquise Brown, Baltimore Ravens

(2.06 FPPT, 71 targets)

After discussing a player I consider to be one of the great safety valves of the middle rounds, let's now turn our attention to a player I'm worried about in Marquise Brown. Yes, I've seen Brown billed as "the next Tyreek Hill" and I understand why. He has blinding speed and showed us flashes of the potential to become one of the league's most devastating deep-ball threats. But consider this. Brown recorded 584 receiving yards as a rookie in 2019--which, by the way, if he were anyone else, would not exactly be cause for excitement. Of those 584 yards, 220 of them came on just four catches. Of those four catches, three of them occurred in the first two weeks of the season. Brown caught 46 total passes in 2019. This means that 37.7% of Brown's season total in receiving yards came on less than 10% of his receptions, and a large majority of that 37.7% can be accounted for in the first half of September.

Are you starting to see why I'm hesitant to anoint Brown as the heir to Hill's big-play throne? While Hill is indeed a 70-yard touchdown scamper waiting to happen, he's also one of the key focal points of an offense that loves to throw the ball. Hill enjoyed back-to-back seasons of over 100 targets in 2017-18 before coming up just shy with 89 last year as a result of only playing 12 games. Since Patrick Mahomes took over as the Chiefs quarterback in 2018, he has targeted Hill an average of eight times per game. Brown saw fewer than eight targets in every game he played last year except for two (and again, both of those happened in September).

Brown excelled in fantasy points per target largely as a result of those big plays early in the year, as well as the fact that he tacked another five touchdowns onto the two he scored in Week 1. When you're eyeing up Brown at his WR27 ADP in the sixth round, you have to consider the trade-offs. Is he capable of winning you a week all by himself? Sure. But in order for him to be trustworthy, he needs to emerge with a consistent role in Baltimore's offense during the weeks when he's not single-handedly dominating your fantasy matchup. If the Ravens remain among the run-heaviest teams in the NFL and Lamar Jackson endures the touchdown regression we all expect is coming, Brown's fantasy value will continue to hinge on his explosiveness and little else. That makes him a liability in fantasy lineups more often than a week-winner.

 

Darius Slayton, New York Giants

(2.05 FPPT, 84 targets)

It's difficult to escape the truth: a lofty touchdown total will inflate a player's FPPT more than anything else. Such is the case with Darius Slayton, who led the Giants with eight receiving touchdowns in 2019. Maybe he reaches that total again in his second year, and maybe he doesn't. There are enough positives in Slayton's metrics to suggest he may not need to frequent the endzone in order to be a valuable wide receiver in fantasy lineups.

For starters, Slayton really emerged as a go-to option for Daniel Jones in the second half of last season. Here are his splits from Weeks 3-9 compared to Weeks 10-17 of 2019:

  • Weeks 3-9 - 17 receptions, 31 targets, 273 yards, three touchdowns
  • Weeks 10-17 - 31 receptions, 53 targets, 467 yards, five touchdowns

In each sample, Slayton played exactly seven games. From Weeks 10-17, he only saw fewer than seven targets twice, and saw eight or more in four contests. He finished the year with 84 targets; his second-half pace would've gotten him over the 100-mark for the season had the volume ramped up earlier. I'm just one person, but this is a trend I look at as an indication that Slayton has earned the favor of his quarterback and offensive coaching staff. Why shouldn't we believe he's poised for similar work in 2020?

In addition to being heavily targeted in the back half of his rookie season, Slayton also made some noise as a downfield threat. Among receivers with at least 80 targets, Slayton ranked 11th with 11.5 yards-before-catch per reception, and tenth in average depth of target at 14.1 yards. Think about the other pass-catchers in the Giants offense. Golden Tate is a possession receiver. Evan Engram is a strong and imposing tight end, but he's going to do most of his work in the intermediate range. Regardless of how many targets Saquon Barkley sees, he's primarily going to line up in the backfield. This leaves Slayton and Sterling Shepard for the long game, and Slayton was better in that area as a rookie than Shepard has been during his career.

In summary, we have a second-year receiver who produced solid numbers down the stretch as a rookie and emerged as the team's preferred downfield target. Slayton has to share the field with enough serviceable-to-good pass-catchers that I'm at least a little concerned about his overall volume, but he came within striking distance of 100 targets in the same situation last year. Any touchdown regression or workload skepticism is already factored into his ninth-round, WR43 ADP. It's not easy to find players with a chance to be their team's WR1 that late in the draft. Consider me all-in on Slayton at this price.

 

Honorable Mention: Deebo Samuel, San Francisco 49ers

(2.33 FPPT, 81 targets)

There are a couple of reasons I'm not crazy about Deebo Samuel in 2020. For one thing, he's recovering from foot surgery and it seems safe to say he won't be active to start the season. For another, the 49ers scare the hell out of me as a fantasy offense outside of George Kittle. These things having been said, it would be unfair to leave one of last year's premiere FPPT performers out of this discussion.

The amazing thing about Samuel's high FPPT average is that it was decidedly not the result of touchdowns. He only found the endzone three times through the air as a rookie, and even if we count his three rushing touchdowns, six total scores hardly seems like an inflated or unrepeatable number. Samuel simply found a way to turn semi-heavy aerial volume into chunk yardage on a consistent basis.

Samuel ranked 15th in the league with 8.3 yards-after-catch per target. Eighteen players averaged 8.0 yards or better in that category. Fifteen of them were running backs. One was tight end Noah Fant. Samuel and A.J. Brown were the only wide receivers. Samuel was also one of only four players to achieve the 8.0 YAC threshold on 80 or more targets; the rest did it in variously smaller samples.

Additionally, if you've read anything else I've written this preseason, you know I'm relatively high on Jimmy Garoppolo as a result of the 49ers' tendency to throw the ball in the red zone. Well, no 49ers pass-catcher saw more targets inside the 20 last season than Samuel's 17. In fact, only 13 players league-wide had more than 17 red-zone targets. Kittle did see one more target inside the 10 than Samuel's eight, but no other San Francisco player saw more than five. What we could be looking at in Samuel is the rare instance of a player coming in above average in FPPT without having to score a bunch of touchdowns to do it, and the potential of some very positive touchdown regression on the way.

Of course, as alluded to above, there are drawbacks with Samuel. No one is ever going to supersede Kittle in the volume pecking order, so you're going to have to take what you can get with anyone else in this offense. But if you knew right now that you could pencil Samuel in for more than five targets per game (he averaged 5.4 in 2019) with a similar role in scoring position, isn't that a gamble you'd feel comfortable taking in the eighth round on a guy who is most likely starting the season on your bench anyway? As we draw closer to Week 1 and get a clearer picture of Samuel's health status, his ADP figures to drop even below that if things don't look promising on his early-season availability.

 

Conclusion

Needless to say, there are other players out there who fit the bill of solid FPPT production. I had to narrow down my focus or else we would be here until Labor Day, so I highlighted two players I'm all-in on at their respective ADPs (Jones, Slayton), one player for whom I am cautiously optimistic (Samuel), and one guy with whom I don't think we're exercising enough caution (Brown).

There are others out there, and finding them is rather simple. If you see a wide receiver with a high fantasy point total and a low number of targets relative to the other players in his scoring range, he probably matches the criteria. I encourage all fantasy owners to seek these players out, as doing so will help you get a better understanding of why Player A put up the numbers he did. From there, you can render your own verdict as to whether he will sustain, improve upon, or regress from his production this upcoming season. That's the most fun part anyway.

As always, if you have any questions about FPPT sleepers or anything else remotely pertaining to fantasy football, you can direct them to me on Twitter, @cjoreillyCLE. Best of luck in your upcoming drafts!



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Welcome to another edition of Tape Tells All. I've been thinking of rebranding as just TAPE. All-Caps like that. Probably wouldn't be a good idea for SEO purposes, right? Anyways, this week we'll be discussing Detroit Lions rookie running back D'Andre Swift. Swift set a lot of career highs this week, with bests in carries... Read More


Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups & Adds

Week 6 was like the 2020 of fantasy football weeks. All those great matchups meant nothing, those studs let you down, and your bench likely went crazy. The good news is that we didn't have any season-ending injuries to running backs or games canceled due to COVID, so in retrospect maybe we shouldn't complain. The... Read More


FAB Bidding - Week 7 Waiver Wire Targets

Whether it's injuries, bye-week blues, or simply poor performance, we've got the waiver-wire cure...but it just might cost you! Alongside our famous waiver wire pickups list and our weekly waiver wire columns by position, this column focuses on suggested waiver wire bidding percentages for fantasy football owners in leagues using a Free Agent Budget (FAB). In... Read More


Waiver Wire Express - Week 7 Lightning Round

Week 6 was relatively healthy and had no coronavirus delays, so let's just take a moment to bask in that. That said, we still saw Miles Sanders (knee) and Zach Ertz (ankle) go down, while Mark Ingram (ankle) has a bye to get healthy. Week 7 byes are Baltimore, Indianapolis, Miami, and Minnesota. Let's get... Read More


Running Back Waiver Wire Pickups - Week 7

Fantasy GMs are to be commended for rising to the unique challenges that have unfolded during this regular season. Injuries to critical players is an unwelcome reality that occurs every year. This is also the case for backs that were expected to operate as RB1s, but have been relegated to committees. However, this season has... Read More


Wide Receiver Waiver Wire Pickups - Week 7

Six weeks of NFL football are behind us, aside from a pair of Monday games, including a late afternoon game between the Bills and the Chiefs. In terms of wide receiver production this week, we didn't have the huge breakouts like we had in Week 5. Chase Claypool didn't score four touchdowns. In fact, only... Read More


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Dissecting Contact Quality In Search Of Fantasy Bargains

Of the 1,015 hitters sampled(1) between 2015 and 2019, there were only 14 instances of hitters making more productive contact against pitches outside of the strike zone than against pitches inside of the strike zone based on xwOBAcon. Based on the same sample, the average hitter was a whopping .116 points better against pitches inside... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 23rd, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 23rd, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Lineup Order Risers and Fallers: AL West 2020 Review

It’s the offseason and there are about to be a bunch of moving parts. This allows for speculation in terms of players gaining or losing playing time, moving up or down a batting order and much more. The idea here is to highlight some lineup situations for each team and some potential winners or losers... Read More


2021 1st & 2nd Year Players with James Anderson - Benched with Bubba (Episode 317)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by James Anderson (@RealJRAnderson) on episode 317. The guys will go over 30+ first and second-year players. They will discuss their current ADP's in the 2 Early Mocks, what to expect of the players in 2021, and much more. They also go over some listener questions, compare Juan Soto to Mike... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 21st, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 21st, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 20th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 20th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Bubba and Bat Flip 54: 2 Early Mocks APD Player Debates - Benched with Bubba (Episode 316)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by Bat Flip Crazy (@BatFlipCrazy) to take a deeper look at the 2 Early Mocks ADP. They go over some of the positions and look at players with similar ADPs and debate. Going around the diamond discussing some players people are high on and some they are down on with a... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 18th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 18th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 17th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 17th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


2021 Early Mock ADP Values & Reaches: WPC+ Videocast

Pierre Camus and Nicklaus Gaut prepare for the 2021 fantasy baseball season with a look at early mock draft results from the RotoBaller Expert mock. Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us on iTunes and BlogTalkRadio as well! Be sure to also tune into RotoBaller... Read More


Statcast Season Review: 2020 Barrel Leaders (Hitters)

The 2020 MLB season will always be one for the record books, even if everything that took place will have multiple asterisks attached to it. Evaluating Statcast numbers is a nice way to find hot and cold hitters, as well as underachievers and overachievers. Now that the regular season is over, let's reflect on the... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 16th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 16th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 15th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 15th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 14th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 14th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Bubba and Bat Flip 53: 2 Early Mocks APD Trends & More - Benched with Bubba (Episode 315)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by Bat Flip Crazy (@BatFlipCrazy) to take a deeper look at the 2 Early Mocks ADP. They dig into trends, some interesting risers/fallers, and much more. They also go over some listener questions at the end to keep the Fantasy Baseball information coming even in the offseason. Be sure to subscribe... Read More