Targets of Preference – 2019 Alumni
In August, I put out an article about players who dominated the receiving targets for their teams in 2019. In highlighting these players, I hoped to make fantasy drafters of big possibilities. They could be the key for striking it big on the PPR point front, as they were favoured targets in the eyes of their Quarterbacks.
The question is: did any of those players managed to hit those same heady heights in 2020? Were they able to repeat their form – and renew their membership in the ToP club?
Players were eligible for entry into the prestigious 2019 club by fulfilling several preset conditions:
- They had to be healthy for at least three quarters of the regular season.
- Be the focus of over 25% of the team’s passing targets.
- Be the focus of over 40% of the Wide Receiver group’s targets.
- Remained at the same team for 2019 and 2020 seasons.
- Have the same Quarterback in both those seasons.
Five simple rules that cut down the field to five remaining players. Those players were: Michael Thomas (Saints); Courtland Sutton (Broncos); Allen Robinson (Bears); Jarvis Landry (Browns) and Odell Beckham Jnr (Browns).
So, how did these players fare? Let’s start with the player who had the highest target share of anybody in 2019.
MICHAEL THOMAS, SAINTS
With Drew Brees sticking around to throw Saints targets for at least one more season, it was music to the ears of many Michael Thomas owners. Surely this would mean another solid season of receptions, yards and touchdowns. Thomas was seen as many as the WR1, and was drafted as such in many redraft leagues.
So it must have been a colossal slap in the face when many drafters’ first rounder picked up an injury in the first game against the Bucs. Thomas managed only 3 receptions from 5 targets for 17 yards whilst picking up the injury.
Up until that point, Thomas had missed just one game through injury since the start of his career. So, to have a high ankle sprain take him out of action for 7 weeks afterwards was a shocking blow to everyone. Especially those who had drafted him.
Based upon that absence alone, Thomas misses out on renewing his membership to the ToP club. But the Wide Receiver ended up missing more time later on in the year. This injury placed him on the IR list for Week 15 onwards, much to the chagrin of drafters who may have miraculously made their league’s playoffs.
As a result, his target share fell well short of last year’s peak. Thomas finished up with 55 targets (10.9% of total targets) – only good enough for fourth highest on the team. That target share, and Drew Brees calling time on his career after the playoff loss to the Bucs, means that Thomas will not be a member for the 2020 class.
COURTLAND SUTTON, BRONCOS
As much as MT’s injury prevented him from joining the exclusive club, at least the Wide Receiver managed to see the field for a couple of games! Courtland Sutton, the jewel in the crown of the Bronco’s receiving game, had it even worse.
Sutton was one of several Denver players who picked up injuries in the weeks leading up the start of the season. The Wide Receiver was diagnosed as having a sprained AC joint, and missed the opener, a narrow loss to the Titans. He made his debut against the Steelers, and caught three of his six targets for 66 yards. Although a spirited effort, it was cut short when Sutton pulled up with ‘knee and leg cramps’
The wide man left the field…and that was the last we saw of Courtland for the rest of the year. Those cramps? A season-ending ACL tear. Those targets and receptions were the only action that Sutton drafters got all season – equivalent to just over 1% of total target share. Thankfully, recent reports indicate that Sutton’s rehab is on track for him to return before the start of next season.
However, with the Broncos’ nightmare season at an end, there could be questions about whether Quarterback Drew Lock is the way forward in 2021. Although plagued with injury to himself and those around him, the second-year player threw just one more touchdown (16) than interceptions (15), being responsible for turnovers on a near-Jameis Winston level.
Whether Sutton was the key to success for Lock or not is one question; whether Lock will have the opportunity to throw to Sutton again is another matter.
JARVIS LANDRY AND ODELL BECKHAM JR., BROWNS
The Browns heralded a new era in 2020 – their first playoff appearance in many years. However, this could largely be down to the prevalence, and success, of the Cleveland ground game. Stats suggest that the Browns favoured the carry (7th highest) in 2020, as opposed to the pass (4th lowest in 2020 passing attempts). To make matters worse, there was an injury to one of our Target of Preference members.
Odell Beckham was looking to raise the number of seasons with all 16 games played to three. A full 2020 schedule would have made it two in a row. Unfortunately, it was not to be for Beckham. A knee injury against the Bengals in Week 7 scuppered his chances of making the ToP club for a second year running. After all said and done, Beckham finished the season with under 10% target share – and didn’t stay healthy enough for three quarters of the games.
His team-mate, on the other hand, managed to stay healthy for the majority of the season. Despite playing all games in 2019, Jarvis Landry has had consistent injury concerns. He came into the season with the more obvious risk of injury. However, he missed only one game – the Browns’ surprise Week 16 loss against the Jets. So he ticked the box for game availability.
And it was promising for his share of targets compared to his other wide men. Beckham’s absence allowed Landry to step up to the top spot, and picked up 40.7% of the targets in the Wide Receiver group.
However, the picture of the passing situation in general was not so rosy. The 9% drop in Cleveland passing targets (49 less targets in than in 2019) and rise in targeted personnel (18 in 2020; 16 in 2019) meant that there was less to go around, and more mouths to feed. As a result, Landry missed out on renewing his membership due to overall target share. At 21.63%, he fell just short of eligibility.
ALLEN ROBINSON, BEARS
Well, so far it’s been three injuries and lack of team targets that have seen our first four members have their cards declined and privileges revokes.
Our last player, Allen Robinson, cruised into the ToP club for his 2019 performance. His 27.81% share of targets just one of the reasons why he made the cut. But, with unsettled Quarterbacks in and out of the team in 2020, did ARob get welcomed back?
Well, Robinson started the season with Mitch Trubisky, and he ended with Mitch Trubisky. In the middle, he had a little bit of Nick Foles. Luckily for Robinson, the man throwing the ball didn’t matter when it came to getting the ball his way. While there was the odd game with 5 targets or less, Robinson saw an average of 9.4 targets a game in the regular season. He also finished as lead target in 9 of the 16 games played.
While Darnell Mooney began to rise in the standings towards the end of the season, his targets weren’t taken away from Robinson. Instead, they were drawn away from Anthony Miller. And ARob finished strong, with a 40.5% share of all Wide Receiver targets. His target share across the whole squad also finished within the parameters. Although less than 2019, his 25.4% of targets…hit the target.
ALLEN’S MEMBERSHIP STATUS
So based on target share stats, Allen Robinson is going it alone in the ToP club. A lot of room to roam when you’re the only member! However, his continued enrolment is dependant on several factors.
First of all, Robinson is coming towards the end of his current deal. That means he has the possibility of free agency.
There are several options that the Bears can explore, including using the franchise tag to keep him at the club. But the chances of another team calling on a player of Robinson’s talents are large. And so it could mean that ARob could be handing in his club pass on trading.
Second of all, even if Robinson elects to stay with the Bears, the player throwing to him could well void his membership. Mitch Trubisky has been in and out of the Bears starting string. Although he finished the regular season on a high, poor post-season performance have caused trade rumours to circulate. And, from the way Mitch was switched in, the Nick Foles experiment seemed to fail mid-season.
So, if the Bears find a Mitch replacement, it’s unlikely that Foles will be in a starting role in 2021 – and Robinson could see his pass reject his entry at the door.
NEW MEMBERS IN 2020
However, if things at the Bears stay the same, then Robinson will be free to use all complementary items available to him in the next season. And, barring any other trades and transfers, he won’t be alone.
The 2020 Targets of Preference club has been assembled, and they are waiting on the paperwork to clear. As it stands, there could be five other members ready to join when August rolls around!