WATCH: MICHAEL THOMAS’ TARGET UPSIDE IN WEEK 17
For wide receivers, volume is necessary. These are the wide receivers I project to see the most targets in Week 17.
TOP 10 WR Target Projections
1. Jordy Nelson: 10 targets – Jordy has either 100 yards or a TD in 12-of-15 games this year. As noted in this space last week, he leads the NFL in red-zone targets by six over 2nd-place Kyle Rudolph. A matchup with Darius Slay is no concern as Jordy operates plenty out of the slot, Slay is coming off a hamstring injury and coverage doesn’t matter much when Aaron Rodgers is locked in.
2. T.Y. Hilton: 10 targets – Donte Moncrief (shoulder) is in doubt, leaving Hilton with a slightly enhanced target projection. It’s not the best matchup against Jalen Ramsey and a quietly strong Jags’ secondary, but Hilton on Indy’s fast track will be tough to handle. He’s averaging 17.66 DK points at home vs. 15.81 on the road over the last three seasons.
3. Mike Evans: 9 targets – Evans hasn’t topped nine targets in any of his last four games as teams sell out to stop him. Cameron Brate’s season-ending injury won’t help that. Still, Jameis Winston will continue to take shots to Evans and provide him with a massive weekly fantasy ceiling.
4. Julian Edelman: 9 targets – Edelman’s snap rate continues to sink, but his target share has held strong. He’s averaging 11.6 per game since Rob Gronkowski’s season-ending back injury. The Patriots need to win Sunday’s game at Miami to clinch the AFC’s No. 1 seed.
5. Brandin Cooks: 9 targets – Cooks has seen at least eight targets in each game since his Week 12 airball and subsequent complaint. The spot this week is strong in Atlanta’s dome against a shaky Falcons’ secondary which hasn’t been tested lately. Their last four games were against Alex Smith, Jared Goff, Colin Kaepernick and a one-armed Cam Newton.
6. Julio Jones: 8 targets – Jones (toe) returned in Week 16 to play on 39-of-63 snaps. He emerged without setbacks and the Falcons need Sunday’s game, so it’s reasonable to expect a bump in role. The matchup against B.W. Webb, Sterling Moore and the Saints’ secondary is green-light.
7. Cam Meredith: 8 targets – Meredith continues to show major chemistry with Matt Barkley. He’s seen 8, 12 and 13 targets across the last three weeks while recording a strong 72.7 percent catch rate. For the second straight game, Meredith has the best matchup among the Bears’ WRs as he’ll run a lot of routes at Vikings slot CB Captain Munnerlyn.
8. Alshon Jeffery: 8 targets – Jeffery has a tougher matchup than Meredith as he’ll likely see a lot of Xavier Rhodes. This week, we can’t expect a mutiny from the Vikings’ DBs like last week’s debacle in Green Bay. Still, the oversized Jeffery has put up two solid games with Matt Barkley since his return (6-89-1 and 5-92-0).
9. Michael Thomas: 8 targets – Thomas has seen 11 and 8 targets in the two games since he’s returned from a foot injury. When he faced the Falcons in Week 3, he went for 7-71-1 on 11 targets. As noted under Brandin Cooks, this Desmond Trufant-less Falcons’ secondary will be tested in ways they haven’t been recently.
10. Allen Robinson: 8 targets – Robinson finally got on track last week, going 9-147-0 on 12 targets. But that was against the Titans, the literal best possible matchup for a wide receiver. Of course, this week’s matchup against the Colts isn’t too bad either – they’re 27th DVOA in pass defense and 29th vs. No. 1 WRs.
Figuring out the top-end guys (above) is relatively easy. The low-end wideouts are much harder – and more valuable. Each week, I’ll discuss five wide receivers under $5,000 who I project for at least five targets.
1. Steve Smith, Ravens: $4,900
The Ravens have very little to play for against the Bengals Sunday as both teams have been eliminated from the playoffs. That’s fine by the Steve Smith narrative chasers. Smitty has said Sunday will probably be his last NFL game after 16 impressively feisty seasons. Given this, I bumped his target projection from around six up to around eight. It’s a rare case where I actually think a team will try to force a player the football so he can go out on a high note. The only issue is a difficult matchup with an elite Bengals’ perimeter defense headed by Pacman Jones and Dre Kirkpatrick.
Projection: 8 targets
2. J.J. Nelson, Cardinals: $4,600
Nelson’s usage continues to be strong in the absence of Michael Floyd. Over the last two weeks, Nelson has played on 73.9 percent of the snaps and averaged 9.0 targets per game. He also leads the team in red-zone targets during that span with three, despite being 160 pounds. With John Brown (sickle cell) limited and 33-year-old Larry Fitzgerald crawling to the finish line, Nelson and David Johnson are now Carson Palmer’s go-to guys. Nelson’s matchup with E.J. Gaines and the Rams’ defense is a plus.
Projection: 7 targets
3. Brandon LaFell, Bengals: $4,500
A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert and Gio Bernard are all out. That has forced Andy Dalton to look toward Brandon LaFell a ton, as he has seen 8.3 targets per game over the last six weeks. Meanwhile, Tyler Boyd is only at 4.7 over the last month. With Cody Core highly unlikely to be force-fed anything near 14 targets again, LaFell is set up nicely against a Ravens’ secondary that isn’t the same without top CB Jimmy Smith (ankle).
Projection: 8 targets
4. Marvin Jones, Lions: $4,200
It’s been a brutal year for Jones, who hasn’t had more than 13 DK points in a game since Week 3. His price has adjusted accordingly as he’s now just $4,200 despite averaging 7.0 targets per game over the last month. Jones is a very low-floor play considering his vertical-stretcher role in the Lions offense, but the matchup is certainly right. Green Bay is 30th in pass TDs allowed, 32nd in yards per pass attempt allowed and 29th in pass yards allowed. With a potential shootout in Detroit for the division on tap, Jones is a flier.
Projection: 7 targets
5. Will Fuller, Texans: $4,500
It’s actually remarkable how bad the Titans are against wideouts. They’ve given up at least 200 yards to the position in three of their last four games despite facing Matt Barkley, Trevor Siemian, Alex Smith and Blake Bortles during that stretch. So even though Will Fuller is dealing with Tom Savage, Fuller’s role must be noted. He played on 61-of-64 snaps last week and has seen at least six targets in five of his last six games. There will be opportunities for big plays in this matchup. Just keep an eye on reports to see how long Fuller and the Texans’ starters will play – they’re locked into the AFC’s No. 4 seed. I suspect they’ll play a lot as they try to build momentum with Savage before the playoffs.
Projection: 6 targets
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