For wide receivers, volume is necessary. That’s especially true in cash games, where we sacrifice depth of target and ceiling in exchange for a lot of chances.
TOP-10 WR TARGET PROJECTIONS
These are the receivers I project to see the most targets in Week 16 (Sunday/Monday main slate only):
1. Antonio Brown $9300 at Ravens: 13 targets – The matchup can’t get much better for the white-hot Brown. The Ravens have the league’s No. 29 DVOA pass defense (vs. No. 9 run defense). Outside corners Shareece Wright and Jimmy Smith are weekly burn victims. AB’s 16-game pace in the 10 he’s played with Ben Roethlisberger is 158-2,161-14, also known as the best wideout season in the history of the NFL.
2. Jarvis Landry $6400 vs. Colts: 11 targets – Landry’s knee was healthy enough for him to practice Monday. Given the matchup against Colts slot man Darius Butler (PFF’s No. 91 coverage CB), we can expect Landry to be featured even more than usual. He’s had at least 10 targets in five of his last seven games, averaging 11.4 during that span. Just be aware that he rarely runs routes more than 8-10 yards down the field, capping the ceiling.
3. Mike Evans $7300 vs. Bears: 11 targets – Vincent Jackson (knee) is not expected to return. Evans averages 14.5 targets per game when Jackson sits vs. 8.0 when V-Jax plays. On top of that, Evans has a decent matchup at home against Tracy Porter.
4. Demaryius Thomas $6800 vs. Bengals: 10 targets – In six games with Brock Osweiler, Thomas is averaging 10.5 targets per game. His numbers haven’t been overly impressive, but he’s also had some really strange drops. DT’s floor remains solid because he gets manufactured catches on screens and quick slants.
5. Julio Jones $8300 vs. Panthers: 10 targets – When Jones squared off with Josh Norman two weeks ago, he posted 7-88-0 on 10 targets. Given how uncreative the Falcons have been with Julio lately, that’s near the top end of expectations. Jones ran just two routes out of the slot in that game.
6. Brandon Marshall $7600 vs. Patriots: 10 targets – Bill Belichick figures to identify Marshall as the Jets’ most dangerous weapon and attempt to neutralize him. That’s what happened in Week 7, when Marshall was held to his worst fantasy game of the season (4-67-0).
7. DeAndre Hopkins $8400 at Titans: 10 targets – We’re not sure if it’s going to be Brian Hoyer (concussion) or Brandon Weeden at quarterback. Either way, Hopkins will be the featured player on offense. He went 8-94-0 on 11 targets last week despite getting shadowed by Vontae Davis on 34-of-39 routes (via PFF).
8. Eric Decker $6500 vs. Patriots: 10 targets – With the Patriots focused on slowing down Brandon Marshall, Decker should find some openings. He’s seen at least nine targets in seven straight games as part of the Jets’ concentrated offense. Marshall and Decker have combined for a whopping 50.3 percent of the team’s targets.
9. Kamar Aiken $5400 vs. Steelers: 9 targets – Pittsburgh quietly has a top-7 DVOA run defense that ranks fifth in rush yards allowed per game and seventh in YPC allowed. They also have an elite offense that will force the Ravens to be aggressive. It’s a perfect storm for Aiken to get work against a very burnable secondary. The big concern is quarterback, with either Ryan Mallet or Jimmy Clausen starting.
10. Allen Robinson $7500 at Saints: 8 targets – With Allen Hurns, Julius Thomas and Marqise Lee all healthy, A-Rob has seen just nine total targets over the last two weeks. But he’s also had to face Vontae Davis and Desmond Trufant. A-Rob will see some Delvin Breaux this week, but he’ll also get some Brandon Browner. Drew Brees (foot) suiting up would be a good thing as it would lead to a likely shootout.
CHEAP PRICE, HIGH VOLUME
Figuring out the top-end guys (above) is relatively easy. The low-end wideouts are much harder – and more valuable. Each week this season, I’m going to discuss wide receivers under $5000 who I project for at least five targets.
Note: The Following projections are based on the Main Slate Sunday/Monday games only.
1. Rueben Randle $3500 and Dwayne Harris $3000 at Vikings
With Odell Beckham suspended, the Giants will likely run out Rueben Randle and Myles White/Hakeem Nicks on the outside with Dwayne Harris in the slot. Note that White, who started the year on the practice squad, has five catches all year and the broken-down Nicks has four catches on 97 snaps this year. Also be aware that Harris (shoulder) was in a sling Wednesday and has been limited by the injury badly of late. So the best options for Eli Manning will be Randle and tight end Will Tye. Randle hasn’t seen more than six targets since Week 8, but that projects as his floor with Beckham’s 10.8 targets per game on the sideline. Randle is one of the week’s chalkier value plays at $3500.
Projection: Seven targets and five targets
2. Willie Snead $4500 vs. Jaguars
Snead proved his calf’s health and vital role against the Lions on Monday night, setting a season-high with 90.0 percent of the snaps. He also piled up 12 targets, giving him an averaging of 9.3 over the last three weeks. With underwhelming Tim Hightower in the backfield and facing a Jags’ funnel defense that ranks 11th in run DVOA and 30th in pass DVOA, we can expect a very pass-centric gameplan out of the Saints. Of course that depends on the health of Drew Brees, who is nursing a torn plantar fascia. If Matt Flynn or Garrett Grayson start, Snead is out of play.
Projection: Eight targets if Brees starts
3. Michael Floyd $4900 vs. Packers
Floyd was a little disappointing in Week 14, registering a 5-70-0 line in an ideal matchup against an fastbreak Eagles team that struggles with perimeter wideouts. But he still saw eight targets and came up about one foot short of a touchdown. Thanks to a unique skill set that excels both in the red zone and on deep balls, Floyd has a big ceiling for a player priced below $5000. The issues are a lack of target concentration (Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown, Darren Fells, Jaron Brown, J.J. Nelson and possibly Andre Ellington are all in involved) and a snap count that won’t go above 70 percent.
Projection: Seven targets
4. Markus Wheaton $4100 at Ravens
Wheaton has flubbed major opportunities in the past to show out as a starter in arguably the league’s premier passing offense. Perhaps he’s found his role as a No. 3/slot man. Wheaton has stepped up his game over the last month, seeing 9.2 targets per game and turning in four straight outings with at least 50 yards. He scored a touchdown in three of them. Now comes a matchup with a broken Ravens pass defense. Wheaton will have the toughest matchup among all the PIT receivers as Ladarius Webb plays in the slot a majority of the time. But he’s also the cheapest and will come with the lowest ownership.
Projection: Six targets
5. Stefon Diggs $4400 vs. Giants
In last week’s version of this article, we discussed how Diggs was in a plus matchup (home vs. Bears) after facing a couple of tough ones (vs. SEA, at ARZ). He responded with a 3-55-2 line. The concern is that mini-explosion came on just four targets as the ultra-conservative and slow-paced Vikings sat on a lead and limited Teddy Bridgewater to 20 attempts. This week presents an up-tempo spot as the Giants are third in pace (25.4 seconds per play). The matchup against Prince Amukamura and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie isn’t ideal, but the Giants give up the most pass yards per game in the league.
Projection: Six targets
6. Dorial Green-Beckham $4000 vs. Texans
The key to last week’s Dorial Green-Beckham optimism was Kendall Wright’s absence and a matchup against the Patriots that would almost certainly lead to garbage-time opportunities. This week is a little different. Wright (ribs) could return, Marcus Mariota (knee) is out and the Titans will have a good chance to get a lead in a home game against the Texans. We could also see DGB’s ownership elevated after he put 6-113-0 on the Patriots last week. All that said, we have a physical freak playing with an aggressive, vertical thrower in Zach Mettenberger. Green-Beckham is at least on the radar.
Projection: Six targets
7. Anquan Boldin $3700 vs. Lions
I don’t want to roster 35-year-old wide receivers who are playing their 13th game of the season as part of an offense that scores the fewest touchdowns in the NFL (1.4 per game). But we can’t deny that Boldin continues to get one of the bigger workloads in the league. He’s seen double-digit targets in three of his last four games and is averaging 8.5 since Blaine Gabbert took over six games ago. Old man Boldin is a very strong bet to catch 5-7 underneath balls against the Lions.
Projection: Eight targets
Honorable mention: Donte Moncrief (seven targets), Tavon Austin (five targets), Travis Benjamin (seven targets), Brandon LaFell (six targets), Ted Ginn (six targets)