For wide receivers, volume is necessary. These are the ones I project to see the most targets in this weekend’s four-game Divisional Round slate. Please note these aren’t rankings, just volume projections:
1. Antonio Brown, SteelersBrown appears fully recovered from the calf injury he sustained in Week 15. The bigger concern is this generational Jaguars pass defense that led the league in pass yards allowed, pass defense DVOA and fantasy points allowed to wideouts. When these two teams met in Pittsburgh Week 5, Brown got his 10-157-0 but it came on 19 targets as the Steelers got trucked. We’ve seen Brown win in difficult matchups before, and he certainly could this week, but his floor/ceiling projection in this matchup isn’t close to what it normally is. Projection: 11 targets
2. Julio Jones, FalconsGoing into Philly to face an aggressive and talented Eagles defense is never easy, but the Eagles have struggled at the corner position for years now. Julio will get plenty of chances against inconsistent Ronald Darby and highly flammable Jalen Mills. Jones’ volume also has stabilized during the Falcons’ must-win games down the stretch, as he’s averaged 10.2 targets per game over the last five. And of course, his red-zone role has always been bigger than the narrative – he ranked fourth in the entire league in targets inside the 10-yard line during the regular season and added an 8-yard TD in the wild-card round. Projection: 10 targets
3. Michael Thomas, SaintsThomas goes from one of the best possible matchups last week (home vs. CAR) to one of the worst possible this week (at MIN). The Vikings ranked first in passing yards per attempt allowed and didn’t’ allow more than 19 points in a home game all season. That’s in large part due to strong shadow CB Xavier Rhodes, who didn’t shadow Thomas when these teams met in Week 1 but is likely to Sunday. Still, Thomas has the raw talent to overcome Rhodes, and we know the volume will be there. Drew Brees’ favorite target has seen at least eight targets in 11 straight healthy games. Projection: 9 targets
4. Adam Thielen, VikingsWhen the Vikings hosted the Saints way back in Week 1, Thielen popped off for 9-157-0 on 10 targets from Sam Bradford. Stefon Diggs went 7-93-2. Since then, the Saints’ pass defense has made huge strides forward thanks to standout first-round rookie Marshon Lattimore and solid play from Ken Crawley. Still, Thielen runs 51 percent of his routes from the slot, where he’ll avoid Lattimore. Thielen wasn’t needed as the Vikings blew out the Bears/Packers/Bengals to end the regular season, but he likely will be needed for more volume against Drew Brees. Projection: 9 targets
5. Mohamed Sanu, FalconsWith Austin Hooper and Taylor Gabriel barely involved in the passing game these days, the volume is concentrated in Julio Jones and Sanu. Over the last five games, they’ve combined for 89 targets on 169 Matt Ryan pass attempts (52.6 percent). Sanu, who has 19 targets in the last two must-win games for the Falcons, also should benefit from a pass-centric Falcons gameplan. The Eagles are third in rush defense DVOA. Projection: 7 targets
Figuring out the top-end guys is relatively easy. The low-end wideouts are much harder – and more valuable. Here are three wide receivers who cost under $5,000 on the DK main slate and whom I project for at least five targets.
1. Nelson Agholor, Eagles ($4,800)In Nick Foles’ two full games this season, Agholor saw 16 targets for a healthy 21 percent share. Note that he caught 11 balls on those 16 targets while Alshon Jeffery posted just four catches on 12 targets. Agholor will work out of the slot, where he has a plus matchup against Falcons slot CB Brian Poole (Pro Football Focus’ No. 85 CB among 120 qualifiers). Expect a conservative game plan from the Eagles as they try to hide Foles, setting him up with quick-hitting passes and first reads. That meshes well with Agholor’s role.
Projection: 7 targets
2. Corey Davis, Titans ($3,400)The Titans continue to run a lot of three-WR formations featuring Rishard Matthews (58-of-67 snaps last week), Corey Davis (53) and Eric Decker (52). Tight end Delanie Walker also is heavily involved in the passing game as he’s at 7.4 targets per game over the last five. So while Rishard Matthews ($4,500) is an option, he’s a tough sell at that price given a committee-based pass attack on a team ranked 28th in pass attempts. Saving $1,100 with Davis, who has seen 5.8 targets per game over the last five, gives us a similar target projection and strong athleticism.
Projection: 6 targets
3. Dede Westbrook, Jaguars ($4,400)Marqise Lee (ankle) is not on the injury report this week, suggesting he’s finally back at 100 percent. That means he likely will regain the No. 1 wideout role with Dede Westbrook opposite him. Allen Hurns is back healthy as the slot man, and Keelan Cole projects as the No. 4 wideout. Westbrook’s struggles have been well-documented lately, but he has seen at least seven targets in three straight games and should benefit from Lee drawing some defensive attention away. Blake Bortles can’t play as poorly as he did last week, and he will be forced into more volume given the spot (at Pittsburgh). Bortles attempted just 23 passes against the Bills after averaging 32.6 attempts during the regular season.
Projection: 6 targets
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