In Stats and Shares, we look at which fantasy players can benefit from changes in a team’s passing game for the 2020 season.
Sometimes, fantasy football can provide a challenge from two distinct sides. On one hand, fortune can favour the brave (and the lucky). A gut feeling can provide those much-needed points to inch you in front of your opponent. On the other hand, the raw data can provide the answers. The stats can unearth a steal, ready as a secret weapon for the next season.
In this first series of articles, we look at the latter option. We take that data and examine it for the answers we seek – to give a focus on NFL outfits that show promise in 2020. Teams who give arriving players their shot. Teams who can give existing players the chance to expand on the small role they had last year.
The analysis that forms the basis of these articles have come from both individual and team passing stats from the 2019 season. You can read on the way I collect and analyse these stats in the first instalment of this series. Be warned, these articles use a projection of teams having a similar target level for 2020 compared to the 2019 season.
The third article in this series looks at an NFC East team that has been flying in the wrong direction…
You wouldn’t think it, but it’s only been 2 years since the Eagles beat the Patriots in the Superbowl. A lot of things have changed since then. The MVP Nick Foles is a Bear, with a detour via. Jacksonville. His opposite number Tom Brady now plays at Tampa Bay. And the Eagles seem to have been taking steps further and further away from the biggest night in sports entertainment.
So why could 2020 be a year for fantasy owners to sit up and take note of Philly?
Many Mouths To Feed
Throws from Eagles QBs to offensive targets ranked as 4th highest in the NFL. However, the 17 players they got shared between was joint second in the league. In layman’s terms, A lot of targets, but a big group to share them with.
Let’s break that group down. Of those 17 players, 8 saw between 1 and 20 targets. In total, they were targeted 67 times – equivalent to a target share of 11.36%. Not a significant number at first. But consider that the average completion rate of those 8 players is only 50.92%. That a high proportion of incomplete passes for such a small number.
On the flip side, 5 players saw over 60 targets. Sanders, Ertz, Goedert, Agholor and Jeffrey accounted for 427 targets – 72% of the target share. With a higher average completion rate (65.33%), it is understandable how these players accrued such a large proportion of the share. There will be more passes to the players who are more likely to catch it!
So why is this significant?
Trimming The Fat
By season’s end the Eagles’ management were already shrinking their roster, and 6 players have now left. Both Jordan Matthews (2.03%) and Mack Hollins (3.56%) left towards the end of regular season. Miami-bound Jordan Howard takes 2.37%, while released players Darren Sproles and Jay Ajayi take a total of 1.86% with them. Between the five, that frees up 9.82% of available targets. In addition, four players belonged to that inefficient group of 8 mentioned earlier.
The Eagles also let go one of their biggest targets. Nelson Agholor, who saw 11.69% of targets, joins the Las Vegas Raiders. However, the stats see justification behind this. Agholor did have one of the worst completion rates in the team, catching just 39 of his 69 targets (56.5%). Out of the top targets, he had the least yardage and the lowest average yards per catch.
All six players combine to provide a total of 21.51%, which is the equivalent of 127 targets in the 2019 season.
Keeping It Exclusive
Only one player has been brought in from existing clubs – Marquise Goodwin from San Francisco. He was targeted 21 times by the Niners in 2019, equalling 3.54% if you translated it to a share of the Philadelphia targets.
When you balance incoming and outgoing percentages, 17.97% of target share remains – the equivalent to 108 targets. If one player got all those targets, it would put them second on the 2019 target list, below Zach Ertz.
As it stands, only 12 targeted players (including Goodwin, as he got targets at SF) remain on the roster from 2019. That’s down 5 overall which, as it stands, is the joint highest drop in the NFL, alongside the Chargers.
This gives an opportunity, not just for existing Eagles, but for incoming college players. Philly drafted 3 offensive passing targets, followed by 5 undrafted college players to boost numbers.
So who is going to benefit?
The Old Guard
As a Tight End duo, Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert made a huge impact on the target share in 2019. I would expect them to repeat this in 2020, and maybe even taking more available target share. But there are some other members of the offence who could step up to get that extra volume:
Sophomore Wide Receiver Ward came into squad towards the tail end of his rookie season. In the six games he played in, Ward was a well-used member of the offence, with 40 targets (6.78%) over the Eagles’ six outings. Those 40 targets led to 26 completions, 254 yards and a game winning touchdown against the Redskins. Ward’s contributions played an active part in the Eagles getting four wins from those last six games. Because of those victories, the team claimed a wild card slot.
In that time, his average of 6.6 targets a game was third (behind the Tight End team Ertz and Goedert) and his average completion was actually HIGHER than both of them. So there is reason to believe that Ward could handle that type of volume again next season. He even got 3 completions from 4 targets in the wild card playoff, proving the management are not afraid to play him in important matches.
Ward currently sits fourth on the depth chart behind players like J.J Arcega-Whiteside and DeSean Jackson. So why am I writing about him rather than the other two?
The Other Guys
Last year, Jackson started out with a bang against the Redskins. But a bump against the Bears continued his fitness issues, and he returned to injury reserve. Although entering his thirteenth season as a Wide Receiver, he has not played a full 16 games since 2013. When push comes to shove, reliability is an issue for DeSean Jackson.
And in each of the six games that Ward featured, he saw more targets than Arcega-Whiteside. He gained more yards and saw better completion percentages. When you’re drafting late round receivers and have the two to choose from, this should be considered!
Jalen Reagor will definitely come in and impact the numbers below the starting positions. But Greg Ward has shown he could ride that wave and come out strong. Although he is unranked in ADP by many experts, he may well be a steal from the waivers during the season.
Again, like with Ertz and Goedert, it would be easy to say that Miles Sanders would see a target share increase in 2020. This is primarily based on the team’s departures including Running Back partner Jordan Howard.
And why wouldn’t you? Sanders had a stellar rookie year and ended up overtaking Howard in becoming the lead Running Back. Though this happened halfway through the season, Miles ended up far ahead in carries and receptions. For all intents and purposes, Howard’s departure leaves the door wide open. Sanders can step in and consolidate that position for the foreseeable future.
But do the stats back up Miles’ claim to the throne? Not entirely. Because around the time that Howard took a step back, Boston Scott took a step forward. Before the final four games of the season, Scott had seen one target and completion (Dallas in Week 7). But this lead up to the playoffs saw him as the perfect partner for Sanders.
The Playoff Run-In
Sanders dominated the ground game, recording more yards than Scott (with a 100+ yard game against the Redskins). But Boston fared better in the passing game, as these stats for the final four games shows.
Targets: Sanders 22 / Scott 25
Completion%: Sanders 81 / Scott 92
Avg. Rec yards: Sanders 7.35 / Scott 9.8
Target share%: Sanders 12.9 / Scott 14.7
Rec TD: Sanders 1 / Scott 0
As the numbers show, Sanders was the only one who caught a touchdown – in the domination of the Redskins. But the other stats suggest that Scott had higher receiving output in that final stretch.
I should make myself clear. What I am not suggesting is Boston Scott will be in line to be RB1 at Miles Sanders’ expense. Sanders showed his ability on the ground and that alone will keep him ahead of Scott in the depth chart.
But these articles are about receiving – judgements here are based upon that. What the stats suggest is that Boston Scott can be used as a good pass-catching alternative to Sanders. If he reproduces his late-2019 form, he is a solid shout to stay ahead of the rookies and grab himself a bigger piece of the action.
In terms of ADP, Scott is off the board at 146th overall and RB50, far behind Sanders’ RB12 and 22nd overall. Taking Scott as a value pick in later rounds could well pay dividends, especially if he continues to be part of the passing game.
The Fresh Faces
The college players that Philly have brought in tempt me to say that they could all grab some target share. Both rookie running backs were RB1s at their respective schools. Wide Receivers picked up in the draft have got serious speed to stretch the play downfield.
But there is one newcomer who a lot of people are seeing plenty of potential in…
A lot of Eagles fans are excited about the prospect of Reagor taking the field for their team. As I have already said in the Writer’s Battle article, Philly have a big piece to help reshape their offence.
The first round pick has amazing acceleration ability, and separates very well. Tape shows that he is often several yards ahead of his cover before the catch, and deals well with contested throws. Highlights show him leaping above defenders to pluck balls, and his spectacular flexibility while he makes some difficult catches.
Reagor’s sophomore year saw his highest performance in many areas. After a solid freshman year, he was rewarded with a rise in volume. This increased workload and improved stats came despite a drop in the number of QB attempts and team receptions. However, Reagor’s junior year form dropped due to a change at quarterback. This saw a further fall in QB attempts, team receptions and, this time, it did affect Raegor’s personal stats.
A Change Of QB
Now, the rookie has got a veteran Quarterback who has been with his club for many years. A pass-happy QB who threw the 4th highest amount of targets in the NFL. So, if Carson Wentz can get the ball to him, I believe Jalen Raegor can do very well in his first season.
He stands as 161st overall – that’s WR62! In comparison, fellow Eagles are not ranked too much higher. Alshon Jeffrey sits at WR48 and DeSean Jackson is WR59. Considering he can offer a huge breath of fresh air to the Philly receiver corps, Reagor could be your bargain pick of the draft.
As always, I will finish this article by saying that all this is just projection based on the numbers. These are all players where the vacated targets could go. However, the numbers do not project who will earn those targets.
Teams can provide every chance for a player to succeed, but it is down to that player to run those routes and get in a position to be a target. They then have to catch that ball, stop the drop and avoid the fumble. If they do all that, then glory awaits.
Until then, Keep Rushing!