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Target analysis after NFL Week 4

October 3rd, 2023

Deebo Samuel had a nearly nonexistent fantasy Week 4 after a spectacular Week 3. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images) (Michael Owens via Getty Images)

I’ve been around the fantasy game for a while, and the target stat has come a long way, baby.

Targets didn’t become a tracked stat until 1992. Pro Football Reference wasn’t launched until 2003. My early days of fantasy football in the ’90s involved scoring leagues by hand, sitting down in the morning with a pencil, a caffeinated beverage and the newspaper.

The pencil and newspaper are gone from my life now; the caffeine remains.

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Receiving stats and analysis have blossomed in the modern era. Heck, this article a decade ago would have been merely about targets, full stop. Today, we have so many additional data points — first-read targets, average depth of target, catchable targets, routes run, red-zone data; the cup feels bottomless.

My goal every Tuesday this season is to analyze wide receiver data and trends, tracking where the puck has been and trying to figure out where the puck is headed. Targets will still factor in plenty, of course.

But remember: we have several different buckets to examine now.

The Diontae Johnson List (All the targets, none of the touchdowns)

Johnson famously absorbed 147 targets last year and didn’t score a touchdown, the fluke of all flukes. But generally, if we go after players who are getting volume but suffering with unlucky touchdown luck, good things should follow.

  • Puka Nacua finally jumped off this list late last week, with the walk-off touchdown against the Colts.

  • Ja’Marr Chase, 41 targets. He’s still getting peppered off the bus, but we have to worry about Joe Burrow, who hasn’t looked right all month.

  • Chris Olave, 38 targets. Generally, I would say Olave is a player too talented to fail, but I’m starting to wonder if Derek Carr is a below-average quarterback at this stage of the game. No one wants to talk about this, but Andy Dalton had better efficiency metrics than Carr last year. The Saints probably should let Jameis Winston play until they know Carr is healthy again.

  • DeAndre Hopkins, 31 targets. The Tennessee passing game is a hard watch, but at least Hopkins is where the bread is buttered.

  • Zach Ertz, 30 targets. Are catch-and-fall tight ends your thing? The Cardinals likely are showcasing Ertz and would love to trade him in-season.

  • Chris Godwin, 30 targets. If Mike Evans needs to miss any time, Godwin’s market share is obviously on the rise. Baker Mayfield‘s play has been inconsistent, but honestly, he’s played a little better than I expected, the Eagles blowout to the side.

  • Evan Engram, 29 targets. Still one of the most consistent and bankable tight ends in our game.

  • Zay Flowers, 29 targets. More downfield-route diversity would be nice, but he’s still hit the ground running.

  • Elijah Moore, 29 targets. Obviously, we can’t trust the Cleveland passing game until Deshaun Watson comes back. And I clearly prefer Amari Cooper to Moore; this is a 1-2 punch, not a 1-A situation. But Moore still has a chance to spread his wings.

The YAC Monsters

YAC stands for yards after catch, and it’s the type of stat that reflects a couple of things. Sure, we’d like to say it’s descriptive of players who make a lot of hay after they get the ball in their hands. But quarterback placement also spills into this, and it’s also a proxy of how well the playcaller is doing.

Let’s see who percolates to the top of this stat. Double-digit catches are required to qualify.

  • Nico Collins, 8.9 YAC/catch. Rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud is obviously one of the biggest winners of the opening quarter, playing superb football despite a makeshift offensive line in front of him. Collins has been the biggest beneficiary, and he’s making his own luck as well, showing the ability to high-point the ball and race past defenders after the reception. The Texans passing tree is also deliciously narrow, making Tank Dell an easy start and Robert Woods a viable option during bye week season.

  • Jaylen Waddle, 8.8. He’s obviously had an unlucky runout, with an early injury and last week’s surprising flop at Buffalo. I would think most fantasy leagues are too sharp to suggest a buy-low for Waddle, but I suppose it couldn’t hurt to try.

  • Deebo Samuel, 8.3. He put on a clinic in the Week 3 victory over the Giants, but last week we saw the downside of things: Brandon Aiyuk has become the team’s No. 1 target, if only by a slight margin.

  • Noah Fant, 8.2. I still think Fant could be a breakout tight end someday if the Seahawks (or some other team) leaned into him as a featured target. This is unlikely to happen anytime soon. He’s a watch-list tight end on the wire, nothing past that.

  • George Pickens, 7.4. It’s never a matter of Pickens running past and through people. It’s a matter of OC Matt Canada calling the right plays, and sophomore quarterback Kenny Pickett delivering the ball.

  • Evan Engram, 6.2

  • Davis Njoku, 6.2

  • Jonnu Smith, 5.8

  • George Kittle, 5.8

  • Rashee Rice, 5.8

  • Gerald Everett, 5.8

I was surprised to see this many tight ends on the list. If you want to place a speculation play on a Kansas City wideout, Rice makes a lot of sense.

Red-zone Targets

I’m almost ready to name this the Jake Ferguson stat. He’s sitting on one touchdown, but he leads the league in red-zone looks, and he’s tied for first if you measure from inside the 10-yard line or inside the five-yard line. The Cowboys like him, and so should you.

Davante Adams has 10 red-zone looks, second in the league. I realize Aidan O’Connell was uneven in his debut, but Adams has proven himself quarterback-proof.

Jayden Reed has nine red-zone targets, third in the league, Anytime a rookie wideout doesn’t look overmatched in his first lap around the league, we may be looking at someone special.

If you’re looking for some possible latent touchdown guys, note that Jakobi Meyers and Donald Parham both have three targets from inside the five-yard line. Maybe Parham needs a Gerald Everett injury to truly pop, but he could catch 7-9 touchdowns if the runout fell right. And we know the Chargers passing tree is in a state of flux with Mike Williams out.

Data from Pro Football Reference and Rotowire was used in this article

This content was originally sourced and posted at Yahoo! Sports – News, Scores, Standings, Rumors, Fantasy Games »
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