Targets Per Route Run Report: Week 11 (Fantasy Football)

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20th-century British economist and Nobel laureate Ronald H. Coase posited, “If you torture the data long enough, it will confess to anything.” The dilemma we face as analysts (a generous title, in my case) is how to filter through the raw data to provide real insight. There’s a difference between eliminating noise and pushing a narrative.

Something has been bothering me the last few weeks, and maybe you’ve noticed it too. Some players are showing up on this list who have no business being anywhere near anything called a “leaderboard.” For example, Laviska Shenault should be #2 on our Week 10 leaderboard below after receiving four targets on ten routes run. Ten. The only person I’d recommend Shenault to would be my home league nemesis and fellow writer Kyle Borgognoni.

Team situation has an outsized impact on player opportunities. Matt DiSorbo’s (@datavizuals) weekly Stats & Expectations series has a wealth of information to help put a player’s situation in perspective. A team’s Pass Rate Over Expectation (PROE) provides invaluable context to a player’s TPRR (Shenault’s Panthers, for example, rank 27th in PROE this season. Yuck.).  In the past five weeks, only Zach Pascal (WR23 with 12.7 pts in the mega-bye Week 8) finished in the top 24 with fewer than 15 routes run.

The correlation between TPRR and fantasy finish jumps when we raise the weekly minimum, as well, so I don’t think Mr. Coase would find us guilty of torturing the data. We’re still looking for hidden gems, so I’ll continue to highlight any outliers moving forward.

Ok, I had to get that off my chest. Do you feel better? I feel better.

Note: Targets per Route Run (TPRR) is an efficiency metric (expressed as a percentage) used to highlight the correlation between performance and opportunity. With TPRR, we can look deeper than raw target totals to find players poised for breakouts or breakdowns. To learn more about TPRR and why it’s a useful tool, check out Kyle Borgognoni’s primer and my 2022 season preview

Week 10 Recap

Here’s a look at Week 10’s top 15 in Targets Per Route Run (minimum 🎉 15  🎉 routes run):

*Route and Target Data via PFF.com

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Lots of Takeaways

  • Remember that big week we said Amon-Ra St. Brown had coming? He finished as the WR10 on the back of a league-best 41.4% TPRR, all without scoring a touchdown. The Wonkavator can go higher.
  • Christian Watson (38.1% TPRR) won’t score three touchdowns every week, but the Packers have been quick to get him involved whenever he’s been healthy. With eight targets and plenty of opportunity to be Aaron Rodgers‘ top receiver moving forward, Watson is poised for a back-half rookie breakout.
  • Parris Campbell (33.3% TPRR) just loves to catch passes from Matt Ryan. With #JeffSunday at the helm and Ryan under center, Campbell is worth a look in Week 11. Philadelphia is a tough matchup, but Campbell could thrive if Michael Pittman is stuck on Darius Slay island.
  • If you take away the wacky “fumble” at the end of Monday Night Football, DeVonta Smith had a nice fantasy day. Unfortunately, he can’t play the Commanders every week, but his 34.8% TPRR is worth noting. The Eagles have a lot of options on offense, so Smith needs to string together another game or two like this one.
  • It was a rough week for Amari Cooper, who saw only three targets and an 8.1% TPRR. Donovan Peoples-Jones (nine targets, 24.5% TPRR), on the other hand, continues to rise and should be a trade-for target for Cleveland’s run-in. Deshaun Watson aka “Voldemort” returns from suspension in Week 12.
  • Nico Collins could be a sneaky good play against a bottom-10 Washington pass defense in Week 11, especially if the Brandin Cooks situation continues to go south.
  • JuJu Smith-Schuster, who was on his way to a good performance, left Week 10 with a scary-looking concussion. I’d expect him to miss at least one week. Kadarius Toney (29.4% TPRR) has a real chance to win a championship for some teams out there as Patrick Mahomes‘ new Tyreek. Oh boy.

The Season So Far

To eliminate irrelevant data, I’ve raised the season minimum to 35 targets. The right-hand column shows the change in rankings from the previous week.  Here are the season leaders in TPRR among qualified receivers through Week 10:

*Route and Target Data via PFF.com

Positives

  • Correlation update: the relationship between positional and TPRR ranks increased by 4% and stands at a 64% correlation through Week 10. When you look at fantasy points per game (to take out the impact of uneven bye weeks), the correlation is even stronger at 69%.
  • Tampa Bay heads into their bye in Week 11, but Chris Godwin is poised to dominate for the rest of the season. If you can afford to stash him for a week and his current manager cannot, Godwin is a top target as the fantasy trade deadline approaches.
  • Marquise Brown is reportedly nearing a return. Before his injury, Brown was a regular on the leaderboard, so it will be interesting to see how the targets break down with DeAndre Hopkins competing with him for targets.
  • Terry McLaurin is coming off an 11-target performance and faces Houston in Week 11. His season TPRR is now up to 18%, and McLaurin could continue to climb if Taylor Heinicke remains under center.

Negatives

  • Chris Olave still leads all eligible rookies in TPRR, but quarterback play is hampering his outlook substantially. He’s risky as long as Andy Dalton is playing like this.
  • P.J. Walker is out in Carolina with a high ankle sprain and will be replaced by Baker Mayfield. Thus likely ends the glimmer of hope for D.J. Moore. Show someone this chart and see if they’ll trade you for him.

Bonus: What do we do in LA?

With Cooper Kupp likely to miss a few games and the team underperforming already, the Rams look like their season is over.  Matthew Stafford has underwhelmed and didn’t clear concussion protocol in Week 10, and Allen Robinson has been a disappointment. So who stands to benefit from Kupp’s absence? It’s hard to say, but TPRR could give us a bit of a hint.

Matthew Stafford over-targets his WR1, so Ben Skowronek and Allen Robinson are the logical choices here. Both should see an uptick in targets, but neither has shown the ability to command a 20% TPRR this season. Van Jefferson is unlikely to be more than a boom or bust option, and the running back options don’t instill much confidence. In this writer’s opinion, that leaves Tyler Higbee as the most likely Ram to see significantly more targets while Kupp is sidelined.

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