WR Targets and Air Yards: Week 14

Looking at trends like targets, aDOT (average depth of target), and WOPR (Josh Hermsmeyer's weighted opportunity rating, which combines target share and air yards share to capture the fantasy value of a player's opportunity within his offense) can illuminate players in advantageous or bounce-back positions for fantasy football.

For example, among the top 10 wide receivers in WOPR, only two rank outside the top 10 in PPR scoring. WOPR has been correlated so closely with fantasy success that only one receiver with 0.60 WOPR or higher ranks outside the top 25 receivers in PPR scoring (Amari Cooper). With that said, here are a few trends at the receiver position heading into Week 14.

Curtis Samuel, Carolina Panthers

Last week we discussed D.J. Moore’s emergence as the Panthers’ top wide receiver. However, this week, Curtis Samuel made a strong case to remain the Panthers’ number-two option.

With Devin Funchess and Torrey Smith returning from injury, the Panthers not only kept Samuel’s snap share up at 83%, but targeted him a team-high 11 times.
Going forward, Samuel looks like a direct replacement for Smith as the Panthers’ primary deep threat. Coming out of Ohio State, Samuel ran a 4.31 40-yard dash, comparable to Smith’s 4.43 40-yard dash.

Samuel also racked up 160 air yards in addition to his 11 targets. This equates to a 26% target share, 38% air yards share, and 0.66 WOPR. To further improve Samuel’s stock, he retains the highest aDOT (13.5) on Carolina in their last two games.

While he will still compete with Funchess and Christian McCaffrey for targets, Greg Olsen is out again and Samuel's role is growing and he flashes big play upside, pushing him into flex consideration.

Bruce Ellington, Detroit Lions

With Golden Tate traded to the Philadelphia Eagles and Marvin Jones on injured reserve, the Lions needed a receiver to step up next to Kenny Golladay.

In the last two weeks, Bruce Ellington has 17 targets and 55 air yards. With 24% of the Lions’ targets but only 12% of the air yards, Ellington and his 0.44 WOPR have taken over the Tate role in the Detroit's offense.

Ellington’s miniscule 3.2 aDOT in his last two weeks leaves little room for upside, but his large share of the Lions’ targets provides a solid floor. However, the Lions began to incorporate the South Carolina product in the red zone, feeding him 2 targets last week, potentially creating an avenue for additional upside.

With a 4-8 record, game script projects to favor the Lions’ pass attack to close out the season. For those dealing with injuries (perhaps A.J. Green owners), Ellington provides a stable flex heading into the playoffs.

Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks

Seemingly every week, Tyler Lockett tears up fantasy box scores with 100-yard games or a long touchdown. In his last two weeks, Lockett has notched 107- and 52-yard games with a score in each.

Despite the fantastic output, Lockett’s success does not appear sustainable. On the season Lockett has scored 9 touchdowns on a mere 53 targets (17% of targets). In the last two weeks he has a pair of scores on only 7 targets, carrying his fantasy value.

In the last three weeks, Lockett’s 12 targets and 200 air yards equate to a 15% target share, 25% air yards share, and 0.41 WOPR. This ranks below teammates David Moore (21% target share, 38% air yard share and 0.58 WOPR) and Doug Baldwin (25% target share, 23% air yard share and 0.54 WOPR).

In fact, Lockett’s aDOT of 16.7 also ranks below Moore’s (18.6). To make matters worse, Seattle has attempted the second-fewest pass attempts this season (343), and passed at the second-lowest rate (49%).

Lockett should be viewed a risky flex heading into the fantasy playoffs, rather than a surefire WR2.

Jarvis Landry, Cleveland Browns

Buy-low lists across the fantasy industry have featured Jarvis Landry at one point or another this season. Following his strong performance in Week 13, a breakthrough could finally be coming.

Above, it was mentioned that only two receivers in the top 10 of WOPR rank outside the top 10 in PPR scoring. Landry is one of those receivers. To date he owns 27% target share, 31% air yards share, and 0.62 WOPR (9th in the NFL).

Unlike Corey Davis (Landry’s counterpart outside the top 10 in PPR scoring), the Browns’ offense has passed at a 60% rate (14th-most in NFL), giving him a much higher floor. Landry also far and away leads Browns’ pass catchers with 16 red zone targets this season.

Cashing in 9 targets for 6 receptions and 103 receiving yards last week, Landry looks to have finally broken his slump. For fantasy purposes, he appears back on the wide receiver 2/3 map.

Zay Jones, Buffalo Bills

This may seem like a wild statement, but Zay Jones has officially reached flex consideration, following his breakout 8 target, 3 catch, 52 yard, and 1 score game on Sunday. The Bills also thinned out their receiver corps by releasing Kelvin Benjamin, showing additional trust in their second-year receiver.

Over the past three weeks, Jones has target counts of 11,1, and 9. The one target game came in a match where Josh Allen completed 8 of 19 pass attempts. This gives him a target share of 28% and an air yards share of 25%, which breaks down to a promising 0.60 WOPR.

Widely viewed as a possession receiver coming out of East Carolina due to a 7th-percentile yards per reception, Jones’ aDOT has climbed all the way to 14.5 in the Bills’ last three games.

While Jones plays on a Buffalo team ranked 31st in points per game, his high target share and air yards share should keep him in play as a flex option going forward.

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