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 9 (Sunday/Monday main slate only):
1. Julio Jones: 12 targets – Here are Julio’s lines in games he hasn’t been hampered by a hamstring injury: 9-141-2, 13-135-0, 12-164-2, 9-92-1 and 12-162-1. The 49ers’ young secondary has no prayer of slowing him down. Of course, these are all reasons why Julio is the most expensive player on the slate at $9300.
2. Antonio Brown: 12 targets – I think DeAngelo Williams will fare just fine, but no Le’Veon Bell means a bit more offensive focus on Brown. His target count in Big Ben games this year is 11, 11, 13, 11.
3. Alshon Jeffery: 11 targets – This one isn’t rocket science. Jeffery has played in three games this year and see 11, 11 and 15 targets in them. A dominator now that Brandon Marshall is gone, Jeffery’s projection moves up even higher with Matt Forte (knee) sidelined.
4. Demaryius Thomas: 11 targets – The Broncos move Demaryius and Emmanuel Sanders all over, so we can’t really say who will see more of Vontae Davis. We can say that Thomas is going to be force fed the ball. Through all of Peyton Manning’s struggles, he has at least 11 targets in 6-of-7 games.
5. Odell Beckham, Jr.: 10 targets – We saw what the Falcons were able to do with Julio Jones against the Bucs last week. Note that OBJ’s bad games this year have come in poor matchups (DAL, BUF, PHL, DAL). His good games have come when we thought they might (ATL, WSH, SF, NO). The Bucs are one of the premier matchups for a wide receiver right now.
6. Julian Edelman: 9 targets – The potential for a blowout against the Redskins wouldn’t scare me off Edelman. He played on 94.7 percent of the snaps last week as the Pats curb-stomped the Dolphins 36-7. Edelman has at least nine targets in 6-of-7 games and is averaging 10.7.
7. Randall Cobb: 9 targets – The top target for Aaron Rodgers Sunday should be Cobb, as Josh Norman doesn’t go into the slot. Note that Cobb’s price has sunk to $6800 after opening the year at $8000.
8. Brandon Marshall: 9 targets – It’s a bit of a tricky spot for Marshall as he sustained minor ankle/toe injuries last week and the Jets have injury issues at quarterback. But if things fall into play right, Marshall will see big usage against the Jags’ No. 25 pass defense.
9. Jarvis Landry: 9 targets – When teams face the Bills, they spread them out and throw. That fits perfectly with Landry’s skill set, as he can be used as an extension of the run game. When the Dolphins played the Bills in Week 3, Landry went 8-67-0. He’s a great bet for another 6-8 catches in this one.
10. Allen Robinson: 9 targets – The Jags have no chance of running the ball effectively on the Jets, which will funnel action toward the pass. The bad news is Robinson projects to see plenty of shadow coverage from Darrelle Revis.
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. Stevie Johnson, Chargers: $3200
Keenan Allen’s unfortunate season-ending kidney injury is Stevie Johnson’s gain. Stevie had been playing a strict slot role, playing 80.9 percent of the snaps and running 88.8 percent of his routes from that spot. But with Allen done, Johnson projects to be outside in two-wide sets and then move inside for three-wides, pushing him toward an every-snap role. He’ll play a major part in replacing the 11.1 targets and 8.3 catches per game Keenan was getting. As noted by Evan Silva, Johnson is in the old Eddie Royal this year. When Allen missed two games last year, Royal went 10-94-1 on 12 targets and 4-95-0 on eight targets.
Projection: Eight targets
2. Michael Crabtree, Raiders: $4900
DraftKings has been really slow to move the price on Crabtree despite his role. The rejuvenated ex-49er opened the year at $4400, so he’s barely gone up despite seeing at least eight targets in 6-of-7 games and averaging 9.7 per day. Crabtree is on pace for 91 catches, 1,104 yards and seven touchdowns. Does that sound like a $4900 player to you? This week, the Raiders’ most targeted player (overall and in red zone) gets a Steelers secondary that sports inept Antwon Blake and burnable Ross Cockrell at corner.
Projection: Nine targets
3. Willie Snead, Saints: $4800
We talked last week in this space about how Snead’s dud against the Colts wasn’t as bad as it seemed. Owners that jumped back in were rewarded as Willie went 6-70-2 against the Giants’ inept secondary. Check out Snead’s snap percentage by week, starting with Week 1: 24.3, 50.0, 61.1, 65.8, 71.0, 70.3, 79.8 and 86.7 Sunday. The matchup against the Titans this week isn’t as strong and Snead’s price has come up a lot, but his role with a suddenly scorching Drew Brees is secure.
Projection: Six targets
4. Malcom Floyd, Chargers: $3900
I don’t think Floyd’s role will change a ton in the wake of Keenan Allen’s injury. There are more targets to go around, which is obviously a great thing. But Floyd’s route tree really doesn’t overlap much with Allen’s – note that Floyd is second in the league with a 19.1 average depth of target (aDOT) and was fourth last year. In other words, he’s a deep streaker and a vertical player – not a precision ball-possession receiver like Allen. I prefer Stevie Johnson if rostering a Chargers WR against the Bears this week.
Projection: Six targets
5. Brandon LaFell, Patriots: $3200
The Patriots haven’t tried to ease LaFell back in at all as he’s returned from his foot injury. He played on 71.6 percent of the snaps in Week 7, getting eight targets. LaFell followed that up with 82.9 percent and seven targets in Week 8. Those games were against the Jets and Miami, two spots that are obviously far, far tougher than the one he’ll face this week. The Redskins’ pass defense has predictably crumbled or late, getting flamed by the likes of Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick before the bye. LaFell is certainly in a nice spot, but we just need to realize that the Patriots have so many weapons that it’s hard to pinpoint exact usage.
Projection: Five targets
6. Rishard Matthews, Dolphins: $4500
I haven’t rostered Rishard Matthews once this year, but I can’t deny his role in the Dolphins’ offense. He’s averaging 6.7 targets per game and is coming off a 12-target outing against the Patriots. That was blowout-induced, but this week’s matchup against the Bills lends itself to a lot of passing volume as well. Opponents call run against Buffalo more often than any other team, mostly because spreading out this talented unit is the way to beat it. I don’t think we need to use Matthews this week given all the other great value options on the slate, but I do think he’ll see volume again.
Projection: Seven targets