Fantasy Football Quandary: Are Targets a Vital Statistic?

Oct 16, 2009

It seems the trendy statistic in the NFL is the number of targets a player receives.  Quite simply, it’s the number of times the ball is thrown to a player.  Obviously it’s important that a player gets thrown to in order to put up numbers, but is it being overhyped?

Here are the top 12 targeted WRs:
Andre Johnson – 52
Nate Burleson – 49
Steve Smith (NYG) – 49
Randy Moss – 48
Reggie Wayne – 48
Chad Ochocinco – 46
T.J. Houshmandzadeh – 45
Steve Smith (CAR) – 43
Santonio Holmes – 41
Calvin Johnson – 41
Wes Welker – 41
Hines Ward – 40

Now here are the top 12 fantasy WRs (non-PPR leagues):
Steve Smith (NYG) – 72.1
Reggie Wayne – 69.9
Andre Johnson – 67.7
Brandon Marshall – 54.8
Chad Ochocinco – 53.0
Nate Burleson – 53.0
Mario Manningham – 52.2
Miles Austin – 51.1
Roddy White – 50.9
Larry Fitzgerald – 50.0
Vincent Jackson – 49.3
Hines Ward – 49.0

Notice that five of the top targeted WRs don’t show up.

The next four highest scoring WRs are DeSean Jackson, Mike Sims-Walker, Santana Moss, and Percy Harvin, which makes them the 13th-16th ranked fantasy WRs.

Jackson, Sims-Walker, and Harvin don’t rank among the top 30 targeted WRs.    Santana Moss is 22nd.

Steve Smith (CAR), Wes Welker, Torry Holt, Anquan Boldin, Justin Gage, Eddie Royal, Mark Clayton, Mushin Muhammad, Bryant Johnson, Bernard Berrian, Louis Murphy, and Patrick Crayton are among the top 30 targeted WRs yet they aren’t among the top 30 fantasy scoring WRs.  That’s a staggering 40%.

While it is a useful statistic, do not put too much stock in it.  The most important statistic for a WR is TDs.  It is no coincidence that the top ten scoring WRs all have 3 or 4 TDs so far.  Obviously a close second is yardage.  That’s where the scoring comes from.

PPR leagues add a point per reception, but I am vehemently opposed to PPR leagues.  It overvalues possession receivers and short-changes deep threats.  For the life of me I can not figure out why someone would agree that 3 catches for 15 yards should be more valuable than 1 30 yard catch.  That’s a different discussion for a different day.

The bottom line is use targets as a guide, but don’t ignore the age old indicators of fantasy production.

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7 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. Drew Henson
    October 16th, 2009 at 10:21 am #

    >>”For the life of me I can not figure out why someone would agree that 3 catches for 15 yards should be more valuable than 1 30 yard catch”

    Yardage wise, certainly not. But it’s quite possible that those 3 receptions end up moving the chains for more than just 1 1st down.

    Just playing Devil’s Advocate there. I agree with you that 1 point per reception is too much, and overly skews the value of possession receivers, and even worse, 3rd down RBs. But I think something between 0.25-0.5 PPR would be fine.

    Can you say that if Joey Galloway got open for a 70 yard pass on his only reception of the day (assuming he could actually hold onto the ball, and that he didn’t have so many drops that he’d be active on game day), that he’d be more valuable than Wes Welker, who might go 8 catches for 67 yards, with 7-8 first downs gained on the day?

  2. LestersLegends
    October 16th, 2009 at 10:28 am #

    If that 70 yard pass led to a TD where Welker’s first downs were spread out and didn’t lead to any points, then I’d say yes.

    I understand your point, but odds are you aren’t starting a Robert Meachem type who may or may not connect with Brees on a deep ball.

    I just don’t like that PPR leagues take away from the value of RBs. Besides, the league rules already give an advantage to the passing game.

  3. Jackie
    October 16th, 2009 at 10:41 am #

    Nice job you’ve done on your site – are you having fun with it? It’s interesting and well worth the time to visit.

  4. Drew Henson
    October 16th, 2009 at 11:53 am #

    Meachem, probably not. But you’d be surprised at how many people, both this year and in year’s past, start Devery Henderson. It’s always ‘Is this the year he finally can be consistent?” …. um, most likely, no.

    I think targets are a somewhat good indicator of week in, week out consistency. A guy could have one big catch in one game, but typically (if you aren’t associated with the Chicago Bears) you don’t get 1 game wonders for targets. Unless a D really schemes to take away a specific player or give up certain plays (TE), it’s a bit more reliable of future potential. Santana Moss has had 2 good games and 2 complete 2 shows. Sims-Walker and Brandon Marshall will be among the league leaders in targets by end of year; they just started the season off the bench. Percy had those 2 short WR screens for scores and both he and DeSean Jackson have 1 of their TDs from a kick return. (I’m assuming your stats are counting those S/T scores as belonging to them personally; some leagues don’t award S/T scores to the player.)

    Agree on the RB issue. That’s my main gripe with PPR as well. It just completely dilutes and kills actual RB value. Brandon Jacobs and Michael Turner are never top 10 PPR RBs. How can one say that Kevin Faulk is the most valuable RB on the Patriots … ok, maybe that one is true. But (circa 2007) is a MeMo who catches 5-20 worth as much as a FWP who ran for 75 yards against the Ravens? I don’t think so. Even in Shaun Alexander’s prime, there was only 1 year he was a top 8 fantasy RB (in a PPR league) and it took him shattering the NFL single season TD record to do it. I think we both agree on the point that running the football well isn’t rewarded enough. Maybe we do 0.5 PPR but you get 1.5 points for every 10 yards rushing, or a point per 7 yards rushing (if there’s no fractional scores).

    Right now, I think IDP in deep leagues is the most interesting part of fantasy football. QB’s and TE’s certainly aren’t. WR’s can get shut down by defensive schemes and are somewhat inconsistent. RB’s not get enough love with RBBC and all the situational replacements. There are more 3 down LB’s than 3 down RB’s in the NFL these days, and I think that’s what has made IDP more interesting relative to offensive players over the past few years.

  5. LestersLegends
    October 16th, 2009 at 12:09 pm #

    Drew – Excellent discussion. I am so with you on Henderson. I’ll look at the box scores and will check the receptions and targets for guys who put up the huge game because of a long catch. I urge people not to follow box scores. Make them prove it again before you go out and get them.

    Interesting ways to reward RBs. How about reward WRs or RBs for first downs. That way you are truly rewarding something rather than an arbitrary reception.

  6. Drew Henson
    October 16th, 2009 at 5:11 pm #

    >>How about reward WRs or RBs for first downs.
    Agreed, that would make more sense, though then you’d get into debate about whether the 8 yards one gains on 1st down is less valuable than 2 yards on 3rd down.

    The PPR thing is tough to justify: a failed screen pass that nets a 5 yard loss … would still be +1 fantasy points. Obviously ridiculous.

    But to get back to the subject of your article: you’re right in that Targets are an overrated statistic in standard non-PPR leagues. It does give some indication of value, but just a little. The reception is a slightly better indicator, but both are secondary to yards gained. Receptions are a way of judging reliability and consistency, and not just relying on a few catches to accumulate all the yardage. Assuming one’s quarterback isn’t named “JaMarcus” and that he’s somewhat accurate, targets are then the next step down in judging potential reliability and consistency.

    Perhaps for standard scoring leagues they should really have a “Targeted Yards Downfield” statistic that indicates the cumulative yardage gain (assuming 0 YAC) from all the targets a receiver had? I think that would really be the best way, in a non-PPR league, to gauge how they’re used. Of course, those receivers who can run after the catch are making it on their own and this would be misleading. But no more so than “carries” for RB’s.

    You’d then get something like this.

    Miles Austin, Week 5:
    Targets 15. Target Yards: 150
    Receptions 10. Yards 250. YAC: 100.
    TDs 2.

    Tony Romo, still Captain Checkdown Jr, behind only Trent Edwards.

  7. LestersLegends
    October 16th, 2009 at 5:21 pm #

    I think you’re on to something.

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