Of the 36 players who received 100+ targets last season, just 5 went undrafted in fantasy. The highest finish for any undrafted WR? WR20 in PPR. That and more target analysis inside

I’ve been thinking a lot about what my approach to fantasy drafts will be this season and one thing that I kept coming back to is how difficult I find it to be to find high target share WRs post-draft. This thought is driving me towards a WR-heavy approach early in the draft since we typically know who will see the majority of their team’s targets.

I wanted to see if that was reflected in stats at all so I decided to take a look.

Last season, using FFC’s final PPR ADP (https://fantasyfootballcalculator.com/adp?format=ppr&year=2017&teams=12&view=graph&pos=wr) just 5 players who were not being regularly selected in fantasy drafts surpassed 100 targets last season.

Those 5 were Devin Funchess, Marquise Goodwin, Jermaine Kearse, Kenny Stills, and Evan Engram.

I chose 100 because it’s often seen as a benchmark and in his recent article Mike Tagliere says: “There were just three wide receivers who finished inside the top-24 with less than 100 targets: Stefon Diggs, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Nelson Agholor.”

Now back to those 5 undrafted players who hit this benchmark and their finishes and targets:

Funchess - WR20 - 112 targets

Stills - WR26 - 105 targets

Kearse - WR28 - 102 targets

Goodwin - WR29 - 105 targets

It’s just a one year sample but I think those finishes do help prove that it’s really difficult to find a league winning WR in the final rounds of your draft or afterwards.

In fact, if we expand it a little further Adam Thielen (WR8, 143 targets, 9.03 ADP), Marvin Jones (WR11, 107 targets, 9.10 ADP) and Robby Anderson (WR18, 114 targets, 12.11 ADP) were the only WRs drafted after round 6 to break 100 targets.

Out of the all the WRs taken after round 6 just those 3 were able secure high target shares in their offense. In general we do a really good job of being able to identify who will see high target shares in each offense around the league. Because of that, and because we know that a player probably needs to reach 100 targets to finish as a WR2, I think we should change how we approach the WR position. Many people will be content to wait on WR this year because guys like Will Fuller, Randall Cobb, Sammy Watkins, and Robert Woods among many others are late round candidates that have been productive fantasy assets in the past. However, last year shows us that it can be really hard to count on these late round receivers to obtain a target share that allows them to become every-week fantasy starters.

Think about that when you’re mock drafting and feel like you’re getting “steals” late at the WR position.

While we’re at it we might as well take a look at the top 10 targeted WRs to see how their fantasy finish matched up with their targets:

DeAndre Hopkins - 174 targets - WR1

Antonio Brown - 162 targets - WR2

Jarvis Landry - 161 targets - WR4

Larry Fitzgerald - 161 targets - WR5

Keenan Allen - 159 targets - WR3

Michael Thomas - 149 targets - WR6

Julio Jones - 148 targets - WR7

Adam Thielen - 143 targets - WR8

AJ Green - 143 targets - WR10

Demaryius Thomas - 140 targets - WR16

Of the top 10 fantasy WRs only Tyreek Hill was not also one of the top 10 targeted WRs in the NFL last year. Demaryius Thomas was the lone WR in the top 10 in targets last season to not also finish as a top 10 PPR WR which was almost certainly due to the abysmal QB play he dealt with all season.

There’s a similar trend with tight ends, unsurprisingly. 6 tight ends were among the 36 players that received 100+ targets last season.

Travis Kelce - 122 targets - TE1

Evan Engram - 115 targets - TE5

Delanie Walker - 111 targets - TE4

Zach Ertz - 110 targets - TE3

Jack Doyle - 108 targets - TE6

Rob Gronkowski - 105 targets - TE2

The 6 tight ends that topped the charts in targets filled out the entire top 6 at their position. Engram had really poor efficiency in 2017 but his absurd 115 targets allowed him to have one of the biggest statistical seasons we’ve ever seen from a rookie TE.

I think at times we can occasionally forget just how important volume can be in fantasy football. It often gets discussed with RBs since an inefficient runner can still be a great fantasy asset with enough volume but it’s just as true at WR and TE where the top targeted players are almost guaranteed to finish at the top of their position and where it can be really hard to find someone who is going to get that target share either late in the draft or post-draft. Most of the time you need to pay up if you want those guys who are locked into 100+ targets before the season starts and if you don’t you’re unlikely to get a difference maker, especially at WR.

To me, the biggest difference between late round RBs and late round WRs is the consistency of their volume. With a RB like Marlon Mack, currently going at 8.01 according to FFC’s 12 team PPR ADP, if he’s the lead back you can feel confident that he’s going to touch the ball 10-15 times in a game. Until he’s hurt or until someone passes him on the depth chart you know he’ll see that volume each and every week. And if that happens, you know to leave him on the bench.

However, at WR the targets can’t always be counted on week-to-week. A late round WR like Robert Woods (ADP 7.12) might be very involved one week, or for a 2-3 week stretch, but unless something about his situation has changed (an injury to another WR) it’s difficult to have that trust that he’ll get the volume each week. You’re probably leaving him on the bench until you see a trend, unless you’re desperate, but by the time the trend is significant he could be back to only being the 3rd most targeted WR there. While we know generally who will lead teams in targets each year, it can be difficult to project the targets for the 2nd/3rd WRs for teams on a week-to-week basis because so much can be gameplan dependent.

This is leading me to a WR heavy approach early in the drafts this season in leagues that start 3 WRs and a flex and use .5 or full PPR scoring. There’s a lot of hype surrounding RBs this year, so much so that only Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr, and DeAndre Hopkins are going in the 1st round of PPR drafts at the moment. It’s not often that we’ve been able to start a PPR draft with both OBJ AND Julio Jones or AJ Green so this seems like a year to take advantage of that.

Unless you grab these high target share WRs early it can be very hard to find any later on. It also seems like every year some of the players featured on the most fantasy championship teams are unheralded RBs like Gio Bernard last season or Tim Hightower in 2015. Nearly every key injury at the RB position creates an opportunity to pick up a fantasy starter, while an injury at WR often has a less significant impact as the targets are spread throughout the team.

I’d love to hear everyone else’s thoughts on this!

3 Likes

This was a great analysis of this year’s outlook and I couldn’t agree more. While dynasty will differ from redrafts, I already had a startup dynasty draft this month and I inadvertently feel into this same strategy after seeing so many RBs taking in the first 4 rounds. Ended up with AB, T Hill, T Hilton, and A Jeffrey in a league that starts 2 WRs and 3 flex while a lot of other drafters had RB and rookie fever. I’ll probably be following the same strategy in my next redraft

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I think you’d want more than 1 year of analysis to show anything conclusive, but in general, I’d not expect to get a league winner on the waiver wire.

@DFWB
I decided to look at 2016 and 2015 as well. 2016 had a fair amount of undrafted or late round WRs produce well while the numbers from 2015 looked closer to those from 2017.

2016:

Undrafted:

Player Targets Finish
Davante Adams 121 WR10
Tyrell Williams 119 WR18
Pierre Garcon 114 WR22
Kenny Britt 111 WR26
Brandon LaFell 107 WR34
Quincy Enunwa 105 WR44
Marqise Lee 105 WR43
Jeremy Kerley 115 >WR50

Post Round 6:

Player Targets ADP Finish
Michael Thomas 121 10.11 WR7
Michael Crabtree 145 7.07 WR12
Rishard Matthews 108 12.06 WR19
Terrelle Pryor 141 14.02 WR21
Mike Wallace 117 13.09 WR24
Stefon Diggs 112 9.03 WR31
Willie Snead 104 8.08 WR35
Sterling Shepard 105 8.01 WR36
Desean Jackson 100 7.1 WR37
Tavon Austin 106 10.02 >WR50

Top 10 in targets:

Player Targets ADP Finish
Mike Evans 173 2.04 WR3
Odell Beckham Jr. 169 1.03 WR4
Julian Edelman 160 3.11 WR14
T.Y. Hilton 155 3.05 WR5
Antonio Brown 154 1.01 WR1
Jordy Nelson 152 2.05 WR2
DeAndre Hopkins 151 1.06 WR27
Larry Fitzgerald 151 5.12 WR9
Allen Robinson 150 1.09 WR28
Michael Crabtree 145 7.07 WR12

Definitely a much better group with the WRs 7, 10, 12, 18, 19, 21, 22, 24, and 26 all coming from players taken after round 6 or undrafted. This is also by far the worst cumulative performance out of the top 10 most targeted as Hopkins and Robinson were big busts.

And now for 2015:

Undrafted:

Player Targets Finish
Kamar Aiken 127 WR27
Travis Benjamin 125 WR29
Willie Snead 102 WR31
Donte Moncrief 105 WR37

Post Round 6:

Player Targets ADP Finish
Larry Fitzgerald 146 7.12 WR7
Doug Baldwin 103 13.04 WR10
Eric Decker 132 9.09 WR13
Michael Crabtree 146 12.04 WR17
Allen Hurns 105 13.10 WR19
Pierre Garcon 111 10.11 WR32
Marvin Jones 103 12.02 WR36

Top 10 in targets:

Player Targets ADP Finish
Julio Jones 203 1.06 WR2
Antonio Brown 193 1.03 WR1
DeAndre Hopkins 192 3.05 WR4
Demaryius Thomas 177 1.09 WR9
Brandon Marshall 173 5.03 WR3
Jarvis Landry 167 4.01 WR11
Odell Beckham Jr. 158 1.11 WR5
Allen Robinson 151 5.06 WR6
Calvin Johnson 149 2.01 WR10
Mike Evans 148 3.06 WR26

So in all of 2015 and 2016 the only WR drafted after round 6 to crack the top 10 in targets was Michael Crabtree in 2016. Although to be completely fair Larry Fitzgerald had an ADP of 7.12 and was the 11th most targeted WR in 2015 and that same year again Crabtree was among the target leaders at #12 despite his 12.04 ADP. Similarly Terrelle Pryor was 12th in targets in 2016 and he was drafted at 14.02 that season.

2 Likes

This all seems like good sound analysis. I’m curious though, what leagues are you in that start 3 WR’s AND a Flex?

Really cool analysis. Although I do agree with you in concept, I think passing on RB in the first 2 rounds will result in a lot of missed opportunities in PPR formats. The RB class is super deep for the first few rounds but anything after that leaves much to be desired. I’m still thinking through my drafting guidelines but I think I’m still going to employ an RB heavy approach in rounds 1-3 and try and get value at WR in rounds 4-5. I feel like there are a decent amount of guys in that group that I am comfortable using as starters in 2-3WR leagues. I think part of the problem is that rookie WRs were a complete non-factor in 2017. Guys like Corey Davis, Mike Williams, John Ross where teams invested heavy draft capital, were injured for most of the year.