For wide receivers, volume is necessary. That’s especially true in cash games, where we sacrifice depth of target in exchange for a lot of chances. That being said, here’s a list of my top 10 projected WRs in terms of targets this week.
Top 10 WR Target Projections
Note: the following projections are based on the Sunday/Monday games only.
1. Julio Jones: 13 targets — Roddy White is broken and Philly’s front-seven is sneaky good. Expect Julio to eat up Byron Maxwell.
2. Odell Beckham Jr: 11 targets — Little reason to think an Orlando Scandrick-less secondary can contain OBJ.
3. Demaryius Thomas: 10 targets — Expecting DEN to run and play defense a lot this year, but DT will still get his on screens.
4. Calvin Johnson: 10 targets — Quietly very, very healthy right now. Expecting all the jump balls against the Chargers’ tiny corners.
5. Brandin Cooks: 9 targets — Marques Colston is done, Ben Watson is starting at tight end, CJ Spiller is out and Brandon Coleman is a big question mark.
6. Randall Cobb: 9 targets — With Jordy Nelson (ACL) done for the year, Cobb ascends to true No.1 status. No longer 1B.
7. Alshon Jeffery: 9 targets — This assumes Jeffery’s calf renders him able to play and play well. That’s a big question right now.
8. A.J. Green: 9 targets — A bunch of nagging injuries last year means people aren’t talking about him this year.
9. Jarvis Landry: 8 targets — You throw to beat the Redskins and Ryan Tannehill’s strengths fit perfectly with Landry’s strengths.
10. DeAndre Hopkins: 8 targets — Averaged 7.9 targets per game last year. And that was with Andre Johnson still in town.
Cheap Price, High Volume
Studs are generally easier to predict targets, as their volume is pretty consistent week-to-week. You’ll need to find some valuable WRs to pair with your high-priced guys. So, each week this season, I’m going to discuss wide receivers under $5000 who I project for at least five targets. There are a whole slew of them in Week 1:
1. Davante Adams, Packers – $4400
Jordy Nelson has seen 277 targets over the last two years, 25.7 percent of the Packers’ pass attempts. With Jordy done for the season, Adams steps into an every-down outside role. This is a player Aaron Rodgers targeted 11 times in the playoff against the Cowboys last year and one that the Packers relentlessly talked up as the MVP of their offseason program. Even if we take into account Jordy’s superior skill set, 20 percent of Rodgers’ highly efficient targets is more than enough. Looks for Adams to be the most owned player on the entire site Sunday.
Projection: 8 targets
2. Eddie Royal, Bears — $3900
If Alshon Jeffery (calf) wasn’t going to suit up against the Packers, Royal would have bordered on a must-start for me. We already knew he’d be starting and paying just about every snap thanks to Kevin White’s shin splints. Now that it looks like Jeffery is going to be a go, Royal’s projection must come down – Jeffery saw 9.06 targets per game last year, 23.8 percent of the Bears total. We also know Martellus Bennett and Matt Forte will be heavily involved in the pass game. All that said, the game script should allow Royal to get fed plenty even if Jeffery suits up.
Projection: 6.5 targets
3. John Brown, Cardinals — $4500
Michael Floyd (fingers) is questionable for Sunday’s home game against the Saints. If he can’t go, John Brown will be one of the best values on the board. If Floyd does suit up, Brown’s dropoff isn’t as precipitous as Royal’s would be if Alshon Jeffery suits up. That’s because Floyd is more of a deep streaker in this scheme, not a primary wideout. The impressive Brown actually runs more high-percentage routes – and he gets a big efficiency bump with top Saints CB Keenan Lewis (hip) on the shelf.
Projection: 6.5 targets
4. Charles Johnson, Vikings — $4900
A small-school athletic freak whose NFL career was briefly sidetracked by an ACL tear, Charles Johnson emerged to the tune of 6.7 targets per day across the final seven games of last season. He played on a whopping 94.9 percent of the snaps in the last six games, a number that will be the norm after Johnson put his stamp on the every-down “X” role opposite new “Z” Mike Wallace this summer. Adrian Peterson’s return will mean a more effective and voluminous run game, but there’s still room for Johnson to eat – especially against a 49ers defense that has holes at every level following a train-wreck offseason.
Projection: 6 Targets
5. Stevie Johnson, Chargers — $3700
Eddie Royal was the Chargers’ slot man last year, averaging 5.68 targets per game. Johnson steps into that role as a more gifted player, one who has posted three straight 1,000-yard seasons in his career. On top of that, Antonio Gates is suspended and 33-year-old Malcom Floyd already has his eye on retirement. The Chargers are facing a Lions defense that allowed just 69.3 rushing yards per game and 3.16 YPC, both league-best marks. Philip Rivers will be forced to throw early and often in this one.
Projection: 7 targets
6. Allen Hurns, Jaguars — $4000
Julius Thomas (finger) is out and Marqise Lee is deep in the coaches’ doghouse. Allen Robinson will be a target vacuum, but Hurns figures to stick around the 6.06 targets per game he saw last year. I get the feeling a lot of people want to use Hurns in this Week 1 spot as they try to recreate the Week 1 magic from last year, when he put 4-110-2 on the Eagles at minimum price. Just realize he went on to post one of the league’s worst catch rates and yards per route run. Hurns’ volume is mitigated by his sub-par inefficiency.
Projection: 6 targets
7. Kamar Aiken, Ravens — $3000
The Ravens took Breshad Perriman 26th overall to be their new Torrey Smith, a role he will eventually find a lot of success in. It’s just not going to happen in Week 1. Perriman hurt his knee on July 30 and hasn’t practiced since, leaving Kamar Aiken to run as the clear-cut starter. Aiken is a 2011 UDFA, but he’s 6’2/215 and has 4.45 speed. He has played more than 50 percent of the snaps once in his career (Week 14 vs. Dolphins last year), and posted a 6-65-1 line in that one. Aiken’s competition for targets Sunday will be Grandpa Steve Smith, underwhelming No. 3 Marlon Brown and tight end Crockett Gillmore.
Projection: 6 targets
8. Brian Quick, Rams – $4200
Coming off a very serious shoulder injury, Quick was healthy enough to play nine snaps in Preseason Week 3 and 21 in Preseason Week 4. So now he’s set to resume the breakout he started last year, when he was on pace for 64-973-8 through eight games. Quick, another small school Combine monster, is very clearly the top talent in the Rams’ receiving corps. Of course, he’s not really “in play” this week given a matchup against a Seattle secondary that swallows up the bigger/more physical wideouts.
Projection: 5 targets
9. Devin Funchess, Panthers — $3800
Funchess’ hamstring was healthy enough for him to play 29 snaps in the Panthers’ preseason finale. So I thought he would enter Sunday’s game against the Jags as the no-doubt top wideout for Cam Newton, well ahead of sub-average veteran Jerricho Cotchery, deep streaker Ted Ginn and struggling Corey Brown. I still think he’ll see five targets even though Ginn and Brown were surprisingly named starters. Eventually, Funchess will take over that Kelvin Benjamin “sink or swim” role which produced a gaudy 9.1 targets per game. That led to weekly fantasy viability despite a lack of efficiency.
Projection: 5 targets