Targets of Preference – The 2019 Club
In this article, I look for Wide Receivers who dominate the targets in their position group last season. The ones that stood out when it came to a team’s distribution in the passing game. Using a set of rules, I narrow the entire field of wide players down to a couple who fall into this category.
In order to qualify for this prestigious group, the Wide Receiver must have done the following in 2019:
1. Was healthy for more than three quarters of the season
2. Been the focus of over 25% of passing targets.
3. Over 40% of passing targets in the Wide Receiver group.
4. Remained at the same team for both 2019 and 2020.
5. Have the same Quarterback in both 2019 and 2020.
As you can expect, the number of Wide Receivers got steadily smaller and smaller with the addition of more restrictions. After all those stipulations went into effect, only 5 Wide Receivers remained.
But who are they?
MICHAEL THOMAS – NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Thomas is an excellent receiver. He is undoubtedly one of the best in the modern eras, and can surely claim a stake to be one of the best of all time. And the amount of targets he sees in a game is one of the reasons he dominates at both NFL and fantasy levels. In the 2019 season, Michael Thomas saw 185 targets. That’s a 33.2% share of the 557 New Orleans attempts last campaign. And it’s the biggest 2019 target share of anyone in the NFL.
The lack of relative depth in the New Orleans receiving group was also a big factor in Thomas seeing 66.5% of all Wide Receiver targets last year. After Thomas’ monster haul, Ted Ginn saw the second highest WR targets…with 56.
Will that change this year? With Emmanuel Sanders now a Saint, I can imagine that there could be some more options at Wide Receiver for Drew Brees to consider. However, Thomas is more than just a one-season player – his receiving stats have been consistently high since his rookie year. And he fulfils two of the other rules in staying with Drew Brees at the Saints, continuing their strong bond. I would fully expect Thomas to feast again next season.
ALLEN ROBINSON – CHICAGO BEARS
Unlike Drew Brees and the Saints, the Quarterback situation is a little more fluid at the Bears. Mitch Trubisky’s early season form last year enflamed doubts in his ability. And with Nick Foles entering the picture, could we really consider Trubisky as the starter?
Well, although Foles is clearly there to potentially oust Mitch for the starters job, the pre-season circumstances may have a say in the starter. In a conference call, head coach Matt Nagy admitted that Foles has not yet had a chance to throw to his new team mates due to the COVID situation. On the other hand, Trubisky has. This should put the incumbent Quarterback in good stead to start Week 1.
And this qualifies Allen Robinson to be part of this exclusive group.
Based on previous stipulations removing other Wide Receivers from contention, Robinson clocks in at second in this group. His 154 targets was the equivalent to 27.21% of Chicago’s targets last season. And although his team mate Anthony Miller saw 85 targets, his 44% share of the Wide Receiver targets still keeps him in this group.
But can things change for Robinson this season? Well, his target situation is unlikely to get worse. The Bears have swapped Taylor Gabriel for Ted Ginn, so there is no loss of experience players in the lineup. And there has been one Wide Receiver drafted in the form of Darnell Mooney who may get lost in the depth chart due to the offseason circumstances.
In other positions there is Cole Kmet. While Kmet could have been a great signing at virtually any other club, he has landed at the team with a million Tight Ends. This includes a recently signed Jimmy Graham – who can still offer a huge impact – so it is unlikely that Cole will factor in immediately.
But one thing that is more than likely – Robinson will look to continue the form that got him so well fed last season. And, as such, he is a huge player to grab in PPR leagues.
JARVIS LANDRY AND ODELL BECKHAM JNR – CLEVELAND BROWNS
A double whammy for the Browns – both Landry and Beckham feature on this list. The pair managed to stake a massive claim on the 516 targets that were produced by Cleveland last year. Beckham’s total saw him less than 1% above the team targets threshold, (25.78%) while Landry was slightly more secure inside with 26.74%.
One thing that will have helped in their dominance of this area was their target floor. The lowest number of targets either player saw in a game last season was 5. That means that they were getting consistently looked at by Baker Mayfield in every game.
Their targets as a proportion of the Wide Receiver group meant that the other members had to make do with scraps. Landry saw 41.5% of the WR targets, while Beckham had 40%, directly on the eligibility line.
Can they do it again this season? Well, already Jarvis Landry has been placed on the PUP to recover from surgery after last season. So he could well miss some time. And that does open the door for Beckham to step up and over his partner. But, make no mistake, Landry can still offer fantasy relevance even if he misses a few games. He will be an active contributor to this offence when he returns – back up to levels that got him on this list in the first place.
And the fact that Cleveland only picked up a Wide Receiver in the 6th round (Donovan Peoples-Jones) gives confidence from the management team that the pair can recreate what they produced last year.
COURTLAND SUTTON – DENVER BRONCOS
Our final player in this dream team is a player that absolutely blitzed the league in his sophomore year. Courtland Sutton had to work through 3 different Quarterbacks – Flacco, Lock and Allen – and still managed to get 43.9% of all Wide Receiver targets for the Broncos. Like Landry and Beckham, Sutton’s high target floor was another reason that he ended in this group – the lowest target number he saw in a game was 5.
This number may have been reduced had Emmanuel Sanders stuck around more than half the season. However, Sutton still saw the same floor when Sanders was at the club, which makes it more impressive.
For Vic Fangio, having to put the weight on the shoulders of a second year player was a brave decision. But it seemed to pan out well. Sutton ended up with just over the threshold for team targets as well – 25.78%. And Drew Lock has tied up his end of the stipulations by sticking it out as the Bronco’s QB1. Which could help continue this trend into 2020.
But the Broncos’ off-season actions may put slight pressure on the Courtland Sutton target share. Denver have expended some high draft picks on wideout talent. Jerry Jeudy was a first round pick. Not to mention KJ Hamler (2nd round) and Tyrie Cleveland (7th round). With so much fresh talent entering the Wide Receiver group, it will be interesting to see whether Sutton gets the same looks as before. The lack of pre-season games may help early on, as Sutton and Lock have developed rapport already. But as the season wears on, you should see other wide players, Jeudy and Hamler especially, begin to make inroads into the target share.
OTHER PLAYERS WHO MISSED THE CUT
Tyler Boyd – Cincinnati Bengals – 25.13% of team targets. But a new Quarterback is behind the line, and he only saw 38.1% Wide Receiver target share (Auden Tate and Alex Erickson saw decent numbers, and this was without the presence of AJ Green!)
DeAndre Hopkins – Houston Texans – 28.96% of team targets. 45.1% of Wide Receiver targets. But he has moved teams and has a new Quarterback throwing to him.
Julian Edelman – New England Patriots – 26.11% of team targets. 41.6% of Wide Receiver targets. But Tom Brady has left the club and, with that, comes a player who does like to rush a lot more than his predecessor. So whether Edelman will see the same volume remains to be seen…
Keenan Allen – Los Angeles Chargers – Likely the closest to making the group. He got 25.87% of team targets. 50.5% of Wide Receiver targets. But Philip Rivers has left the team to join the Colts and both Tyrod Taylor and Justin Herbert figure to battle it out to see who will be the QB1. While the targets he sees may vary in accuracy and reliability, he should see the same high number.
Even with the players who didn’t make the group, this will hopefully help you make decisions on certain players. Large volumes of targets should provide you with the biggest opportunity to get fantasy points, particularly in PPR leagues.
Until next time, Rush Nation,