Vacated Targets Leading to Opportunities
Looking at a team’s available targets from a season ago can foreshadow an increased workload for players who remain on a given roster. It's an exploitable edge to focus on during offseason preparation. Here are four players potentially benefitting from vacated targets and air yards on their respective teams.
Dede Westbrook, Jacksonville Jaguars
Quietly one of the biggest winners following the NFL Draft and free agency, Westbrook looks poised to take a big step forward in his third season in Jacksonville. He actually led the Jaguars in targets (101), receptions (66), and receiving yardage (717) in 2018, despite playing in a four-way receiver rotation. Now with Donte Moncrief, T.J. Yeldon, and a slew of secondary players departing this offseason, Westbrook should have enough opportunity to finally push for 1,000 yards.
Looking at the team overall, Jacksonville lost 49% of its targets (257) and 43.5% of its air yards (1,564) from last season, which ranks third and fourth in the NFL, respectively. Westbrook accounted for a 21% target share and a 23.1% air yard share prior to these departures.
With Moncrief out of the picture and Marqise Lee still rehabbing from a torn ACL, Westbrook has an opportunity to take a 2019 jump. Sitting with an ADP of 110.6, he presents a supreme value outside the top 100 picks.
N’Keal Harry, New England Patriots
After another Super Bowl win in 2019, the New England Patriots find themselves in an interesting situation with Rob Gronkowski, Chris Hogan, and a host of secondary players out of the picture. The Patriots currently rank seventh in available targets (165), which jumps to 205 when accounting for Josh Gordon’s indefinite suspension.
Wisely, New England immediately addressed their pass-catching situation by using the final pick in the first round to select Harry. One of the more productive receivers in his class, he also brings prototypical outside receiver size at 6 feet 2 inches tall and 228 pounds. Playing in and out of the slot at Arizona State, Harry should complement Julian Edelman and give the Patriots a much needed weapon following multiple offseason losses and Gordon’s indefinite suspension.
Currently coming off the board at pick 93.2, Harry’s ADP has continued to rise. However, penciled in as Tom Brady's No. 2 receiving option, Harry’s upside remains worthwhile in this area of fantasy drafts.
Michael Gallup, Dallas Cowboys
Despite landing Amari Cooper at the trade deadline last season, the Cowboys quietly lost the 10-most targets (155) this offseason along with 25.8% of the team’s air yards with the departures of Cole Beasley, Geoff Swaim, and a few others. Adding only Jason Witten this offseason, Dallas will likely look inward to soak up the available target share.
Entering his second year in the NFL, Gallup appears the likeliest candidate to pick up an increased workload. In his rookie season, Gallup finished third on the Cowboys with a 13.9% target share, but first on the team with a 26.3% air yards share. Importantly, he also saw targets in important quadrants of the field. The Colorado State product averaged the most air yards per game (59.9) and ranked second on the team in ADOT (13.3) behind only Allen Hurns.
Potentially earning a few more high-percentage targets on top of his field-stretching role, Gallup remains more than worth a flier in the back half of drafts.
John Brown, Buffalo Bills
Finally healthy after an injury-riddled career, Brown started out hot with the Baltimore Ravens in 2018. He ranked inside the top 25 in targets per game (7.6) and air yards per game (141.4) in Baltimore's first eight games prior to Lamar Jackson’s ascendance to starter. Now headed to Buffalo, Brown has a chance to make an immediate impact with gunslinging quarterback Josh Allen.
Losing the seventh-most targets this offseason (169) and 43.2% of their air yards, the Bills wisely spent the offseason adding pass catchers. While they also signed Beasley in free agency, Brown looks most likely to take advantage of these departures. A proven deep ball specialist, Brown’s 141.4 air yards per game (first half of 2018) and 15.4 ADOT mesh well with Allen’s downfield style.
Brown remains an afterthought in Best Ball leagues with an ADP of 142.6, making him an ideal candidate to target in the late rounds.