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On Target: More Than Just The Looks

Howard Bender

Howard Bender

Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over a decade on a variety of web sites. For more from him, you can find his personal musings on his blog RotobuzzGuy.com or follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy. For questions, thoughts or comments you can email him at rotobuzzguy@gmail.com.

While we’re only three weeks into the season, we’re starting to see the TPL (Target Percentage Leaderboard) take shape, giving us a better look as to which receivers are presented with the greatest opportunities to accrue fantasy points. Obviously the list is still evolving due to the small sample size of data we have, but it is definitely becoming easier to see who is being leaned on most. There are still a number of factors that you must also take into account – red zone targets and total yardage, for example – but the theory remains strong in the aggregate, that the more opportunities a player receives the more likely they are to rack up fantasy points.

Let’s start with a look at the weekly leaderboard:

Top 20 Targets – Week 3

Player Name Pos Team Yards TD Pass Att Targets Recpt RZTgts RZTgt% Catch % Target %
Dwayne Bowe WR KC 79 0 44 16 7 0 0.0% 43.8% 36.4%
Reggie Wayne WR IND 88 0 46 15 8 1 50.0% 53.3% 32.6%
Santonio Holmes WR NYJ 147 0 45 14 9 1 16.7% 64.3% 31.1%
Greg Olsen TE CAR 98 0 33 14 7 4 66.7% 50.0% 42.4%
Calvin Johnson WR DET 164 1 55 12 10 2 40.0% 83.3% 21.8%
Tony Gonzalez TE ATL 91 1 40 12 9 2 40.0% 75.0% 30.0%
Brandon Lloyd WR NE 108 0 41 12 9 2 28.6% 75.0% 29.3%
Nate Burleson WR DET 69 1 55 12 10 0 0.0% 83.3% 21.8%
Brandon Pettigrew TE DET 61 0 55 12 8 0 0.0% 66.7% 21.8%
A.J. Green WR CIN 183 1 28 11 9 1 16.7% 81.8% 39.3%
Eric Decker WR DEN 136 0 52 11 8 0 0.0% 72.7% 21.2%
Mike Wallace WR PIT 123 1 49 11 8 1 16.7% 72.7% 22.4%
Antonio Brown WR PIT 87 1 49 11 7 0 0.0% 63.6% 22.4%
Steve Johnson WR BUF 61 1 35 11 7 3 75.0% 63.6% 31.4%
Percy Harvin WR MIN 89 0 35 11 9 0 0.0% 81.8% 31.4%
Damaris Johnson WR PHI 84 0 37 11 5 0 0.0% 45.5% 29.7%
Brandon Marshall WR CHI 71 0 31 11 5 2 50.0% 45.5% 35.5%
Kenny Britt WR TEN 55 0 42 11 6 1 16.7% 54.5% 26.2%
Kendall Wright WR TEN 41 0 42 11 7 2 33.3% 63.6% 26.2%
Demaryius Thomas WR DEN 34 0 52 11 3 1 20.0% 27.3% 21.2%

As stated last week, one of the best ways to isolate fluke performers each week is to compare names between this list and the running TPL found below. There are, in fact, two names listed here that you won’t find below, yet only one should be considered an outlier at this time and that’s Eagle’s wide receiver Damaris Johnson. With Jeremy Maclin out with an injury, Johnson was given the start and targeted a team high 11 times this week. His 45.5-percent catch rate should be a pretty good indication as to why he doesn’t normally start and why he will probably, once Maclin returns, fade into obscurity once again.

The other name you won’t find below is Titans wideout Kenny Britt, but that has more to do with the fact that he missed the first week and therefore is a game’s worth of targets shorter than everyone else. Knowing Britt’s role in the Tennessee offense and just how pass-happy that team has become, it’s just a matter of time before he joins the overall list below.

What we’ll also see here on a week to week basis, which is why the list below becomes so important, is that there are teams with strong passing offenses that might not be represented here. For example, the Giants are definitely considered a pass-heavy team, yet after jumping out to an early lead over Carolina, they were able to run the ball more and chew up the clock rather than having to air it out and play catch-up as they did in Week 2 against Tampa Bay. Victor Cruz still had a high percentage of targets with respect to the Giants level of passing, but he did not see as many looks as some other players whose teams' took it to the air more often. Even though he may have had an off-week, Cruz will still be reflected as a primary target below and should still be viewed as a top option/must-start each week.

Now let’s hit the overall and discuss some of the specifics worth noting.

Targets Percentage Leaderboard
Player Name Pos Team Yards TD Pass Att Targets Recpt RZTgts RZTgt% Catch % Target %
Danny Amendola WR STL 296 1 95 34 25 2 33.3% 73.5% 35.8%
A.J. Green WR CIN 311 2 96 34 21 3 25.0% 61.8% 35.4%
Vincent Jackson WR TB 204 1 80 27 10 3 33.3% 37.0% 33.8%
Santonio Holmes WR NYJ 243 1 99 33 16 2 13.3% 48.5% 33.3%
Brandon Marshall WR CHI 214 1 93 31 16 4 40.0% 51.6% 33.3%
Percy Harvin WR MIN 277 0 97 32 27 1 6.7% 84.4% 33.0%
Reggie Wayne WR IND 294 1 122 40 23 5 33.3% 57.5% 32.8%
Dwayne Bowe WR KC 234 2 119 37 18 2 22.2% 48.6% 31.1%
Steve Johnson WR BUF 172 3 86 26 13 5 35.7% 50.0% 30.2%
Victor Cruz WR NYG 279 1 120 36 23 3 16.7% 63.9% 30.0%
Larry Fitzgerald WR ARI 181 1 87 25 14 3 13.6% 56.0% 28.7%
Brian Hartline WR MIA 202 0 102 29 13 5 29.4% 44.8% 28.4%
Brandon Lloyd WR NE 237 0 118 33 22 3 18.8% 66.7% 28.0%
Greg Olsen TE CAR 167 0 86 24 14 4 36.4% 58.3% 27.9%
Dennis Pitta TE BAL 188 2 113 31 18 6 54.5% 58.1% 27.4%
Tony Gonzalez TE ATL 214 3 107 28 21 4 19.0% 75.0% 26.2%
Michael Crabtree WR SF 183 0 92 24 19 0 0.0% 79.2% 26.1%
Roddy White WR ATL 244 1 107 27 19 5 23.8% 70.4% 25.2%
Demaryius Thomas WR DEN 222 2 115 29 16 3 15.8% 55.2% 25.2%
Antonio Brown WR PIT 240 1 120 29 18 0 0.0% 62.1% 24.2%
DeSean Jackson WR PHI 234 0 125 29 14 3 25.0% 48.3% 23.2%
Calvin Johnson WR DET 369 1 135 31 24 3 17.6% 77.4% 23.0%
Owen Daniels TE HOU 160 1 96 22 13 2 25.0% 59.1% 22.9%
Eric Decker WR DEN 243 0 115 26 17 3 15.8% 65.4% 22.6%
Malcom Floyd WR SD 227 1 103 23 13 0 0.0% 56.5% 22.3%
Donnie Avery WR IND 176 1 122 27 14 4 26.7% 51.9% 22.1%
Steve Smith WR CAR 296 0 86 19 14 2 18.2% 73.7% 22.1%
Wes Welker WR NE 251 0 118 26 16 2 12.5% 61.5% 22.0%
Jimmy Graham TE NO 172 3 141 31 17 6 25.0% 54.8% 22.0%
Vernon Davis TE SF 169 4 92 20 13 2 28.6% 65.0% 21.7%
Kendall Wright WR TEN 102 1 115 25 14 4 26.7% 56.0% 21.7%
Julio Jones WR ATL 189 3 107 23 15 7 33.3% 65.2% 21.5%
Miles Austin WR DAL 243 2 108 23 14 2 33.3% 60.9% 21.3%
Darren McFadden RB OAK 107 0 128 27 17 4 25.0% 63.0% 21.1%
Brandon LaFell WR CAR 182 1 86 18 10 2 18.2% 55.6% 20.9%
Jermaine Gresham TE CIN 131 1 96 20 12 5 41.7% 60.0% 20.8%
Brent Celek TE PHI 258 0 125 25 14 2 16.7% 56.0% 20.0%
Sidney Rice WR SEA 91 1 75 15 8 6 27.3% 53.3% 20.0%
Laurent Robinson WR JAX 115 0 81 16 8 0 0.0% 50.0% 19.8%
Davone Bess WR MIA 174 0 102 20 13 2 11.8% 65.0% 19.6%
Kyle Rudolph TE MIN 138 3 93 18 13 4 26.7% 72.2% 19.4%
Brandon Pettigrew TE DET 156 1 135 26 16 3 17.6% 61.5% 19.3%
Martellus Bennett TE NYG 185 3 120 23 15 6 33.3% 65.2% 19.2%
Andre Johnson WR HOU 212 2 96 18 13 1 12.5% 72.2% 18.8%
Donald Jones WR BUF 82 1 86 16 11 2 14.3% 68.8% 18.6%
Dez Bryant WR DAL 164 0 108 20 13 0 0.0% 65.0% 18.5%
Justin Blackmon WR JAX 31 0 81 15 4 2 20.0% 26.7% 18.5%
Andre Roberts WR ARI 111 2 87 16 9 3 13.6% 56.3% 18.4%
Mike Wallace WR PIT 234 3 120 22 17 3 15.8% 77.3% 18.3%
Jermichael Finley TE GB 131 1 116 21 15 1 14.3% 71.4% 18.1%
Fred Davis TE WAS 142 0 89 16 11 2 25.0% 68.8% 18.0%
Darren Sproles RB NO 163 1 141 25 18 5 20.8% 72.0% 17.7%
Anthony Fasano TE MIA 85 1 102 18 10 5 29.4% 55.6% 17.6%
Kevin Ogletree WR DAL 197 2 108 19 14 4 66.7% 73.7% 17.6%
Jason Witten TE DAL 76 0 108 19 8 0 0.0% 42.1% 17.6%
Hakeem Nicks WR NYG 237 1 120 21 14 2 11.1% 66.7% 17.5%
Mike Williams WR TB 104 2 80 14 7 2 22.2% 50.0% 17.5%
Scott Chandler TE BUF 113 2 86 15 8 2 14.3% 53.3% 17.4%
Nate Burleson WR DET 149 1 135 23 17 0 0.0% 73.9% 17.0%
Ray Rice RB BAL 127 0 113 19 14 2 18.2% 73.7% 16.8%

If there was ever a reason to incorporate Catch Percentage into your decision-making process, it is found right here at the top. Looking at targets and target percentage is great, but as you can see with Vincent Jackson, Santonio Holmes and even Brandon Marshall, though they are the top targeted player on their respective teams, they still might not be the best play amongst your wide receivers, since the quarterback on each of their teams doesn’t have the luxury of multiple targets. Sure, there are other guys on the field, but no one that can really be considered reliable. Maybe you could consider Mike Williams a possibility in Tampa, but neither Stephen Hill nor Alshon Jeffery have proven themselves to be consistent performers. Therefore, Holmes, Jackson and Marshall are dealing with heavy coverage which will ultimately hinder their catch rate.

Dwayne Bowe might warrant consideration in the above group; however, his catch percentage is being skewed by a really poor week here. While I won’t necessarily throw him a mulligan, I’m willing to give him another week or two to right the ship.

Touchdowns, baby! Touchdowns. It may sound stupidly obvious, but it’s the guys that find the endzone the most that should, in the end, prove to be the most valuable. Yardage is great, and in PPR play, receptions are big, but the number of touchdowns a player scores should be one of the first things you look for in a receiver. You can start with red zone targets and red zone target percentage to see where your best chances lie, but ultimately, the number of scores is where you should be looking first. A tight end like Vernon Davis may not see as many targets or accrue as much yardage as teammate Michael Crabtree, but he’s accrued more fantasy points thanks to his four touchdowns. After isolating those that score the most, then items like target percentage and catch rate become more helpful in determining who to start.

Speaking of touchdowns, or at least the potential for more, Panthers tight end Greg Olsen was incorporated into the offensive scheme a little more this week and while he failed to score, he was a huge red zone target for Cam Newton. If that trend continues, then Olsen, who already leads the Panthers in target percentage, could be in for a breakout very soon.

Buffalo’s Steve Johnson is already racking up fantasy points due to his three touchdowns this season, but with continued looks within the red zone, another three this past week, there should be no reason other than a bye week or debilitating injury to have him on your bench.

We pointed out the target percentages between Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker last week and noted the surprise given that Decker was expected to be Peyton Manning’s go-to guy. See that gap closing? It wouldn’t be a total shock to see them swap places on the leaderboard in another week or two.

Owning Percy Harvin might be a little frustrating right now as his failure to find the endzone is limiting his overall value. However, he is still the most targeted receiver on Minnesota and has a phenomenal 84.4-percent catch rate. It won’t be long before he starts scoring, so if you see a frustrated owner in your league, you might want to consider trading for him. Steve Smith is another one who falls into this category.

Potential fallers from the leaderboard after next week include: Justin Blackmon, Scott Chandler, Kendall Wright and Kevin Ogletree.

Potential risers who failed to make the cut this week include: Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Andrew Hawkins, Torrey Smith, Denarius Moore, Heath Miller and Golden Tate.

Week 4 Match-Up to Watch: Washington at Tampa Bay – You’re looking at the two worst pass defenses in the NFL right now, with the Redskins allowing an average of 350 receiving yards per game and 10 touchdowns through the air already, while Tampa Bay has coughed up an average of 365 receiving yards per game and four touchdowns. Vincent Jackson, Mike Williams, Fred Davis and even Leonard Hankerson should all be strong plays this week. Pierre Garcon as well, but with the foot injury, he might miss another game this week.

Week 4 Potential Breakouts: Owen Daniels, Andre Roberts, Laurent Robinson, Anquan Boldin, Jacob Tamme, Denarius Moore.

Week 4 Potential Busts: Brandon Marshall, Martellus Bennett, Kenny Britt, Steve Smith (CAR), Brian Hartline, Danny Amendola.

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Have a question or need some advice from Howard Bender? Follow @rotobuzzguy on Twitter, or feel free to e-mail him at rotobuzzguy@gmail.com