There are many areas you can examine when trying to determine what players to target in the off-season. Lately, I’ve been thinking about pass attempts and targets. While looking at every team’s passing tendencies and target availability, I’ve highlighted a few situations where I think an opportunity exists for players to excel in 2017. All target and pass attempts stats were compiled using data from sportingcharts.com.
Baltimore Ravens – 42.4 Pass attempts per game (1st)
The Ravens are an offense that likes to throw and throw a lot. They led the league in 2016 with 42.4 pass attempts per game after also leading the league in 2015 with 42.2 attempts. With Steve Smith retiring, 101 of those targets will be available for another receiver. An additional 116 targets could become available if the Ravens decide to cut ties with Mike Wallace in order to save $2.5 million in cap space. Kamar Aiken is also an unrestricted free agent who garnered 50 targets this season. If Wallace is cut and the Ravens decide not to resign Aiken, that leaves 267 targets up for grabs. It’s doubtful that Baltimore would want that much turnover at one position so let’s assume that Wallace will return next season, that still leaves 151 targets.
Target: Breshad Perriman:
Perriman contributed 33 receptions (on 66 targets) for 499 yards and 3 touchdowns in essentially what was his rookie season. Most importantly for Perriman’s continued development is that he was able to suit up for all 16 games this season. With full health, Perriman will also be able to fully participate in the off-season practices. Despite what Allen Iverson may think about practice, it is vital to the development of a young wide receiver. With a height adjusted speed score in the 99% percentile, Perriman is a size/speed freak going into his 3rd season (the long assumed breakout year for wide receivers) who has both the skill and opportunity to ascend to the #1 option in the Ravens offense. If I can pry Perriman away from another owner for a rookie 2nd or even a back end 1st, I’d be apt to pull the trigger.
Philadelphia Eagles – 38.1 pass attempts per game (6th)
The Philadelphia Eagles’ 2016 passing offense was certainly a mixed bag. Carson Wentz did set a new rookie record for completions with 379 (7th in the league) during his rookie campaign, which is nice, I suppose. But Wentz only threw for 16 touchdowns (25th in the league), his average yards per attempt was 6.23 (good?/bad? enough for 29th in the league) and his total passing yards were only good enough for 18th in the league. My point being there is room for some positive regression in yards and touchdowns to be had in the Eagles’ offense. Some believe the Eagles may throw less next season but I can’t see that happening. The Eagles’ defense is bad and not likely to be fixed this off-season. There are just too many holes to fill team-wide to focus on one side of the ball. Even if the Eagles were to improve slightly on defense and the Eagles decided to utilize a more balanced attack, as stated earlier, there’s more than enough room for positive regression in yards per attempt, touchdowns and yardage which should help the receiving threats.
Target: Jordan Matthews:
Matthews had a disappointing season, as anyone that owns him in dynasty can attest to. If you follow me on twitter you recognize this JMatt photo, which I think encapsulates how JMatt’s season went. His season total 73/804/3 was not what we were looking for when we drafted or traded for him this offseason. A few factors do need to be taken into account when looking at Matthews overall stat line. Although Matthews ended 2016 as the WR44 based on his 171.4 fantasy points scored, on a per game average he was the WR37 with 12.24 fantasy points per game. Matthews had little time in pre-season to develop much if any rapport with Carson Wentz due to being injured during camp and Wentz not being named the team’s starting QB until a week before the season. Additionally, after severely spraining his ankle in Week 12 against the Packers, Matthews ended up missing 2 of the final 5 games, while being noticeably limited in the 3 games he did play in. Lastly, both Wentz and Head Coach Doug Pederson were rookies in 2016 and I’d expect both to improve with a year of experience under their belts.
1-3 round draftee
If the Eagles do use any early draft picks on a WR, specifically their 1st round pick (looking at you Mike Williams, Corey Davis) I’m buying in on that player as well. The Eagles will throw a lot and beyond Jordan Matthews the current wide receiver corps is devoid of anyone worth mentioning (damn you Dorial Green-Beckham).
Washington Redskins – 37.9 pass attempts per game (7th)
This one comes with a caveat. If Washington fails to resign Kirk Cousins for some reason then all bets are off. It’s basically a fait accompli that DeSean Jackson and his 100 targets will not be returning to Washington in 2017 due to his expected price tag in free agency. Pierre Garcon and his 114 targets will also be following Jackson out the door. That is a whole slew of targets just sitting there waiting for someone to claim. Fortunately, the Washington football team has 2 receivers waiting in the wings to snatch up those targets.
Clocking in as the 40th wide receiver on a points-per-game average with 12.03 fantasy points, Crowder had a very good sophomore season. The slot receiver is an efficient receiver bringing in 67% of his targets, so even a modest increase from his 99 targets in 2016 could push Crowder into high-end WR3 or even low-end WR2 territory.
Everything we loved about Doctson prior to his rookie season being derailed due to injury still holds true today. He’s big, physical, explosive, has decent speed that he combines with excellent hands and body control. The only thing that’s changed from the beginning of this season to next will be the amount of available targets due to the expected departures of Jackson and Garcon.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 36.1 pass attempts per game (16th)
Mike Evans led the league with 173 targets this season. The next closest Buc was Adam Humphries with 83, followed by Cameron Brate with 81. Mike Evans, rightfully so, will remain the top dog in Tampa Bay for the foreseeable future but there is a need for a secondary receiver. Humphries had a few nice weeks but it’s clear he is not a WR2 for a winning NFL franchise. Brate was targeted as much as he was out of necessity more than any other reason in 2016. The Bucs, at one point or another, trotted out Russell Shepard, Josh Huff, Freddie Martino, and the corpse of Vincent Jackson during the season. They need an actual number 2 receiver in the offense.
Target: Cameron Brate:
I’m not sure how good Brate actually is but if the Bucs fail to sign anyone of note during the free agency period or draft a wide receiver with an early round pick then Brate is the de facto 2nd receiving option in the offense. Brate is a superb red-zone option, finishing 19th in the league with 16 targets in the red-zone and finishing 2nd in the league with 8 red-zone TD’s.
If the Bucs do snag a high priced free agent or expend early draft capital on a wide receiver I’d expect them to be the new #2.
Chicago Bears – 34.9 pass attempts per game (22nd)
The Bear’s wide receiver position should look very different at the start of the 2017 season. Alshon Jeffery, Marquess Wilson and Deonte Thompson are all free agents and are not expected to return to the Bears. Eddie Royal is a prime candidate to be cut due to his $5m 2017 salary and no dead cap hit if he is cut. At one point or another during the 2016 season every one of those players lead the Bears in receiving yards, targets and/or receptions.
When deciding who to target from the Bears remaining wide receivers I decided to go with Cameron Meredith. Kevin White might be the choice for others but I don’t know that his current owners are ready to throw in the towel yet on him and sell him at a reasonable cost. Based on White’s injury history I’d be hard pressed to feel comfortable enough to offer anything more than a mid 2nd rookie pick. If you can buy White at that price I’d suggest you pull the trigger. Assuming, a giant assumption based on his injury profile, he has all the physical tools to be a dominant receiver in the NFL.
Cam Meredith may not become the Bears #1 wide receiver, but he will be a productive piece for a winning dynasty team next season and beyond. Meredith finished 2016 with career highs in receiving yards, receptions and targets. Meredith was targeted 97 times snagging 66 of those targets for 888 yards and 4 scores. Bear in mind these numbers were compiled while battling Jeffery, Royal, Wilson and Thompson for snaps and targets. Meredith is only 24 years and should be entering his prime seasons. I’d easily part with a mid to high 2nd round rookie pick to acquire Meredith.
These are some of the offenses and/or players I’ll be targeting in the off season, let me know who you’ll be targeting @DFF_Shane.