As Jacob Rickrode(@ClutchFantasy) has shown, year after year the same Wide Receivers finish in the top 24 in PPR scoring. Largely, they do at least. I promise to stop stealing Jacob’s hard work shortly. But he’s also shown that on average there are 3 receivers that fall out of the top 24 every season. In 2015 that number spiked to 7.
With that in mind, fatalist that I am, I decided to determine who exactly from last seasons top 24 scorers will not repeat the feat in 2017. One item of note. Because this is based on total scoring and not based on per game scoring, A.J. Green finished outside of the top 24 last season.
Because I am very creative, I came up with some amazing designations for last years top 24 and if they’ll finish in the top 24 this season. (Please don’t try this at home I am a professional)
- Locks to Repeat
- Likely Safe
- The Patriot Way
- Last in
- Outside of the top 24
Again, below are the top 24 finishers in 2016.
|Player||Overall 2016 PPR Scoring Finish|
|Odell Beckham Jr.||4|
“The Patriot Way” means I have 75-79% confidence that these wide receivers finish within the top 24 in 2017. “Last In” wide receivers garner up to 74% of my confidence.
The Patriot Way
I decided to pair Brandin Cooks and Julian Edelman due to their fortunes being inextricably linked. At the beginning of this exercise I was dead set on dropping at least one of these two out of the top 24, if not both. As always though, you shouldn’t come to your conclusion first. Follow the data and let that lead you to your conclusion. Intuitively I believed there’s no way there will be enough targets for Cook and Edelman to succeed right? My mind’s eye told me that the last time the Patriots had two receivers of this caliber had to be the Randy Moss and Wes Welker era. Going back to the 2007 season I found six instances where Brady targeted two receivers/tight ends at least 100 times each. I found on two of those occasions Brady targeted three separate receivers/tight ends 100 times in a season.
I know what you’re thinking. Sure Brady can reach 100 targets to each receiver; you have proved that point exquisitely Shane. But I bet they both need a high amount of targets to produce. First off, thanks. Secondly, not so much. Taking a look a the table below you can see while Edelman does need to dominate target volume for his production, Cooks does not. In fact, in his two seasons finishing as a top 24 scorer Cooks didn’t even broach the 20% target share threshold for the Saints. I think what we have in Cooks and Edelman is “Ebony and Ivory” who will work together in perfect harmony. Still not buying it, okay read “Breaking Down The Targets: New England Patriots” since it agrees with what I’ve stated.
*Edelman played 9 games in 2015. Assuming his 9 game target/scoring pace over a full season
Terrelle Pryor is in a unique situation. Pryor moved on from the Browns to Washington. Washington lost their offensive coordinator with former OC Sean McVay moving to the Rams as the head coach. New OC Matt Cavanaugh hasn’t held that position in 13 years, so there’s not much in way of his tendencies that we can dissect to get a feel for how much Washington will throw in 2017.
Finally, Washington also lost their top two receiving targets from 2016 in Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson vacating 214 targets. New team, a new team has a new OC, a new team lost it’s top two receivers. Did I miss anything? Oh, Josh Doctson is now healthy and poised to play a full season after only suiting up twice in the 2016 season. With Doctson healthy, Jamison Crowder and Jordan Reed still in the fold, I can’t see how Pryor sees 141 targets as he did last year in Cleveland. But he might not be as far off from that 141 as you’d expect.
During the Jay Gruden era in Washington, they’ve averaged 570 pass attempts. If Jordan Reed can avoid a concussion it’s reasonable to assume he sees 80-110 targets. Jamison Crowder sees a slight uptick in targets, also in the 110 range. Chris Thompson has seen 110 targets over the last 2 seasons, I’ll project him for 65 targets. Let’s get wild and crazy and assume Josh Doctson is targeted 100 times, that still leaves 185 targets to account for. That wouldn’t leave much margin for Pryor to hit last years 141 total, but 120-125 targets seem reasonable. So, if Pryor is losing targets how can I expect him to remain a top 24 scorer? Kirk Cousins. Kirk Cousins is the perfect QB for Pryor’s skill set.
Pryor’s 141 targets last season left him with the 12th most in the NFL, but his catch rate of only 54.6% was 74th in the league. Kirk Cousins was 7th last season in completion compared to the conglomerate of Cleveland QB’s who checked in with a 59.6%. Cleveland QBs could only muster 15 touchdowns while Cousins finished 12th in the league with 25. Cousins finished 3rd in passing yards with 4915, Cleveland QBs if they were 1 player would have checked in at about 19th with 3593 yards. So Kirk Cousins is a slight improvement over Cleveland QBs I suppose.
All that is nice, but how does that affect Pryor specifically? Well, I’m glad you asked I happen to have the answer for you.
The first screen shot belongs to Kirk Cousins 2016 numbers, and the second is Cody Kessler. Kirk Cousins ranked 1st in Air Yards in 2016. In contrast, Cody Kessler checked in at 32nd. Cousins ranked 1st in Deep Ball attempts and 5th in Deep Ball completion percentage. Again, contrasting that to Kessler he ranked 20th in attempts and 14th in completion percentage. Plainly speaking, Cousins is excellent on deep passes. Cody Kessler is less than excellent on deep passes. Why does this matter? Terrelle Pryor is an Air Yards monster, ranking 7th last season with 818. Pryor and his 4.41 speed are the perfect replacement to the former deep threat for Washington, DeSean Jackson. Jackson and Pryor’s aDOT were separated by a 1/2 yard last season, Pryor is going to ball in 2017.
Mike Wallace had a 2016 Renaissance and all of the fantasy football community rediscovered our love for him this off-season. At least we did until Jeremy Maclin strolled into Baltimore. Even with Maclin in the nest, it doesn’t change the facts on the ground. The Ravens’s have over 400 targets vacated from last season. Steve Smith, Kyle Juszczk and Kamar Aiken are all gone. In the last month or so the team has lost Dennis Pitta, Kenneth Dixon, and Crockett Gillmore to injury as well. For good measure Darren Waller also got himself suspended for the 2017 season. When perusing the target leaders for the Ravens in 2016 you see nearly every player is either injured, retired, suspended or on another team this season.
The Ravens have led league 2 seasons running in pass attempts, and have finished in the top in 3 out of the last 4 seasons. Yes, the Ravens added Jeremy Maclin and Danny Woodhead. Yes, Breshad Perriman is moving into his 3rd season. But outside of a disastrous 2015 season with the Vikings Wallace has been the model of consistency. Wallace has finished in the top 24 in 2014 and 2016 and 30th in 2013. Joe Flacco’s back injury is a situation to monitor. But if Flacco is able to start the season I see no reason that Wallace can’t at least near his 2016 production.
Tyreek Hill is hard to figure out for me. I’m not especially impressed with him as a player. This a player that couldn’t dominate at West Alabama, 19.4% (22nd percentile) dominator rating. Hill is the only receiver to finish in the top 24 without at least 100 targets. Hill’s 61 receptions were also the least among the top 24. Lastly, Hill’s 593 receiving yards weren’t even in the same zip code of the rest of the top 24. So how did Hill finish in the top 24? Touchdowns. Hill averaged a touchdown every 9.44 offensive touches. Touchdowns are not sticky, so you can bank on the fact Hill won’t score one every 9.44 touches in 2017. But just as you can expect negative regression for Hill in the touchdown department you can also expect positive regression for him in a multitude of areas.
Hill only saw a 43.5% snap share last season. His 83 targets ranked 55th in the league. With additional snaps and targets, Hill should see significant increases in both receptions and receiving yards.
When the Chiefs unexpectedly cut Jeremy Maclin for no other reason than poor cap management, this frees up additional targets for Hill. Maclin, injured most of the 2016 season, saw 76 targets in 12 games last year. That works out to 101 targets over a full 16 games. When healthy in 2015 Maclin garnered 124 targets. Where do you think these targets are going to go? I fully expect a good number of those targets will end up in Travis Kelce’s hands, but not all of them. Chris Conley? I love Conley, but he’s just not a fit for whatever it is that Alex Smith does well. Most of these targets are going to find their way to Tyreek Hill.
When Maclin missed time last season the way the Chiefs used Tyreek Hill fundamentally changed. Hill’s targets, receptions, receiving yards, and most importantly his PPR scoring increased. The PPR scoring increased significantly in the four games Maclin was unable to play. The Chiefs added rookies Kareem Hunt and Jehu Chesson in the NFL Draft, but nothing in free agency. All signs point to Hill being a target hog in 2017 which should more than make up for any loss in touchdown scoring that Hill might see. When the Chiefs become Patrick Mahomes’ team in 2018? We’ll talk about that next off-season.
Thank you for taking the time to read. Please give me a follow @DFF_Shane and we can talk fantasy football, movies, music or whatever. Check back tomorrow when I start breaking down the receivers who will not repeat their top 24 scoring from the 2016 season.