This may come as a surprise to some of you, but you can actually get fantasy points for things other than touchdowns (note: heavy sarcasm). Most, or at least a lot, of the analysis in this year's On Target has centered on touchdowns. Touchdowns are relatively low-frequency events, but they provide fantasy points in bunches, and I think it's fairly reasonable that we focus on them. Without touchdowns, our fantasy teams will fall apart, and by getting as many of them in our lineups as possible, it's much easier to win championships. Yards, however, play a critical component in fantasy points (obviously). Opportunity isn't always easy to predict, especially with more tertiary players. Something that I haven't examined yet in the column this year is yards per target. Often, yards per target, as opposed to yards per reception, can really get at the heart of wide receiver (or tight end) efficiency.
Rather that simply examining what happens when a pass catcher actually secures the ball, there is extra information baked into yards per target. Catch percentage, effectiveness on different types of routes and involvement in the offense are pieces of information that can be found in yards per target. The following table is a sorted list of all players with 50-plus targets in 2014, descending from the leader in YPT. (Just for fun, I included TD per target, but the numbers are so miniscule that they are hard to analyze.)
Let's start with the good before the bad. DeSean Jackson
is what he always has been: a lightly used wide receiver who has a good shot at a 30-point fantasy outting every week ... but also can go out and put up four points simply because he is only targeted downfield. Kenny Stills
at fifth on this list should encourage everyone who put in a waiver claim for him after Brandin Cooks
went down. While Cooks was mostly being used around the line of scrimmage and in possession situations, Stills has seemed to inherit a little bit of the old Robert Meachem
role. If Stills can combine his downfield efficiency with the involvement in the offense that Cooks leaves behind, being a WR1 for the rest of the season is not out of the question. In fact, I would think that suggesting that Stills is anything worse than a WR2 is downright ridiculous. Jordy Nelson
, Demaryius Thomas
, Odell Beckham
, Mike Evans
and Travis Kelce
are familiar names atop the yards per target list. We know these guys are great, so it's not surprising.
I'm not really interested in players who are doing well. For the most part, we know that players who rack up a lot of yards are efficient, and their efficiency means that their quarterback and their coach will continually go back to them. If it's working, NFL coaches are very, very likely to continue doing whatever it is. Inefficient players, on the other hand, are subject to the vagaries of matchup and game plan. Reuben Randle is one of the worst players in football in yards per target, and that shouldn't be particularly surprising. He fell under constant criticism last season for not knowing the playbook and running the wrong routes; for our purposes, Beckham is the only NYG receiver worth paying attention too.
is primarily known an explosive player, someone who doesn't need a ton of touches to be fantasy viable. This season, he's seen more work than normal but it has had a dramatic impact on his effectiveness. There isn't a ton of actionable information here for this season, but it would suggest he might be a little overvalued next year because his composite numbers look pretty good. Keenan Allen
at the bottom of the YPT table tells us that he is who we thought he was as a prospect, but not as a rookie. He's a good player, with sure hands, but he isn't explosive enough to ever really profile as a WR1. Probably the most surprising name for me was Mike Wallace
so low. He's generally been an explosive player for his career and has had quite a season with Ryan Tannehill
. I think this is probably more an anomaly than anything else, but I've never been high on Wallace's ability anyway.