Targets Per Route Run Report: Week 4

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The third week of the NFL season is almost complete, and one-week outliers are beginning to give way to trends. That’s the idea, anyway. We’re still analyzing relatively small sample sizes, but the strands of season narratives are being woven together. Targets Per Route Run, or TPRR, is an extra thread to use in your beautiful tapestry of fantasy football dominance. Alexa, play “A Whole New World.”

As such, the format of this report is evolving. We’ll continue looking back with a weekly recap in the realm of TPRR, but the focus of the article now shifts toward season leaders and away from single-week observations. We’re hunting for hidden gems and warning signs in our leagues, and identifying season narratives can help decipher which is which.

Note: Targets per Route Run (TPRR) is an efficiency metric (expressed as a percentage) we use to understand how players are performing relative to their 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. Generally, we’re analyzing players that run a minimum of ten routes each week and maintain a TPRR of 20% or more.

Week 3 Observations

  • After posting a 33% TPRR in Week 2, we said Chris Olave appeared ready to break out. It happened in Week 3, as Olave garnered another 12 targets en route to a top-10 finish and a 31% TPRR. With injuries to Michael Thomas and Jarvis Landry and much attention from Jameis Winston, Olave is a startable option with plenty of upside.
  • Drake London is another rookie whose TPRR has been screaming “start me!” He turned in another solid performance in a week 3 matchup against Seattle where the Falcons ran the ball 58% of the time. That’s the beauty of a high TPRR. Even in a game where London only ran 20 routes, his 30% TPRR gives him a safer floor despite the gameplan. Perhaps most encouraging is that London wasn’t negatively impacted by Kyle Pitts‘ first fantasy-relevant performance (47% TPRR, 5 rec, 80 yds.)
  • Amari Cooper‘s TPRR was 34% for the second week in a row. A bad Week 1 threw us off the scent, but he’s totally redeemed himself and should be on your starting roster in Week 4. It may be tempting to sell high, but I’d argue it’s worth waiting to see if Jacoby Brissett continues to target Cooper at this rate.
  • DeVonta Smith finished as the overall WR1 with 169 yards and a touchdown on eight receptions, and his TPRR has increased every game. If Jalen Hurts continues his Josh Allen-esque breakout campaign, there will be enough opportunity for both Smith and A.J. Brown to thrive in Philly.
  • Romeo Doubs and Allen Lazard both scored in Week 3, but it was Doubs (24%) who led the way. Lazard’s ankle might not be 100%, but Doubs is making good on his preseason hype and has seemingly moved ahead of Randall Cobb in the pecking order. With Sammy Watkins going on IR and Christian Watson nonexistent, Doubs is poised to be the next rookie to break out.
  • I was concerned about Jahan Dotson‘s sub-20% TPRR in the first two weeks of the season, and he came crashing back to earth in Week 3. There’s competition for targets in Washington, and Carson Wentz is about as volatile as it gets at quarterback. Dotson isn’t involved enough to be anything more than a desperation flex play until he is consistently involved in the offense as more than a touchdown threat.

Season Leaders

As mentioned above, three weeks is not a large sample size, and a solid game can rocket these players to the top of the leaderboard. Because this is the first week of season leaders, let’s cover the methodology of how I’m evaluating season leaders after a handful of games.

10 routes run is the minimum weekly threshold for inclusion, so we could start by extrapolating that out to a minimum of 30 routes run after three weeks. However, I don’t want to exclude relevant players who may have missed a game, so the minimum threshold will be determined on a per-game basis. One of the benefits of TPRR over raw target totals is its ability to mitigate the impact of injuries or limited snaps. Because we’re trying to evaluate trends, I also want players who have played in more than one game. To keep our lower threshold consistent, I’m looking at players who have played in 2+ games with at least 10 routes run on a per-game basis. Now that we have our parameters, the season leaders start to take shape.

Here are the season leaders in TPRR among wide receivers (min. 10 routes run/game, 2 games played)
*Note: Week 3’s Monday Night Football is not included in this analysis

With any analysis, we should constantly be asking “so what?” Ultimately, we want our research to bear fruit in our leagues and make our opponents look at us with equal parts disdain and admiration. So the relationship between TPRR and fantasy performance must remain top of mind. I’ve got good news: through three weeks, the correlation in fantasy between TPRR Rank and Fantasy Points Per Game is 0.64. Statistically speaking, that’s a better-than-average correlation, confirming that TPRR belongs in our collective fantasy toolbelts.

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If math isn’t your thing, then the eye test should suffice. This list, with a few notable exceptions, should ring true for what we’ve been watching this season. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle both land in the top 5 despite being teammates. I should be concerned, but I haven’t seen anything to suggest this is fool’s gold.
  • Diontae Johnson continues to prove that he’s one of the best receivers in the league, and any improvement in Pittsburgh’s passing attack (cough cough Kenny Pickett! cough cough) would translate to some big fantasy performances.
  • Mac Jones injury could complicate things in the short term, but Jakobi Meyers is the clear number one in New England when he’s on the field. He’s a trade target for me, especially in 12 and 14-team PPR leagues.
  • CeeDee Lamb is still getting targets in Dallas. Cooper Rush at QB limits his ceiling, but he should still be a WR2 with upside until Prescott is back under center.
  • Richie James Jr. costs you nothing to stash, and he’s making a case to be the preferred receiver for Daniel Jones. Kadarius Toney can’t get on the field, Kenny Golladay is a bust, and Sterling Shephard has a troubling injury history.

Now on to the WRs who we need to raise a red flag for…

  • Allen Robinson‘s 11% TPRR is troubling. With Matthew Stafford and the Rams not firing on all cylinders, the opportunities are limited when Robinson isn’t earning targets. He’s shaping up to be a boom-bust option in 2022.
  • I’m not sounding the alarm bells yet, but Gabriel Davis (10% TPRR) hasn’t separated himself as the clear number 2 behind Stefon Diggs. Davis’ six targets on 70(!) routes run in Week 3 skews his numbers, but Isaiah McKenzie (18% TPRR) is making a stronger case so far as the replacement for Cole Beasley‘s 100+ targets from last season.
  • Finally, in a “they are who we thought they were” moment of disappointment, neither JuJu Smith-Schuster (19% TPRR) nor Marquez Valdes-Scantling (15% TPRR) have been able to take full advantage of Tyreek Hill‘s vacated targets in Kansas City. A week could change things, but both receivers are headed for middling fantasy seasons.

Bonus: What about tight ends?

These are the TPRR season leaders at tight end, with the same parameters applied. For the purposes of this series, I’m not specifically looking at tight ends, but if you’d like to see more analysis for the tight end position, drop a comment below, sound off on our Discord, or let me know on Twitter.

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