Five WRs That Could Lose Targets in 2016

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In the first part of this series of analyzing target regression, we looked at five RBs that could lose targets in 2016. Next, we turn to the WRs.

In review, there are at least five factors that we must consider in projecting target totals:

1. Emergence/Health of Teammate(s)

2. Unsustainable Target Rate

3. Quarterback Situation

4. Offensive Coordinator Mindset

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5. The Cliff

Friendly Reminder: We must remember that fantasy football drafting comes down to value. In other words, DeAndre Hopkins is certainly an astounding player who I rode last year as a fantasy star with some unbelievable weeks as a target hog displaying incredible leaping ability. Exclamations aside, remember last year you could get him in the third round while this year you are looking at a top 10 pick. Drafting players is about finding value and that comes finding those on the ascension rather than expected regression.

Here’s a look at the five WRs I selected last year as prime candidates for target regression. I was four-out-of-five in terms of predicting regression as T.Y. Hilton remained fairly static in terms of his target volume.

Last Year’s Regression Candidates

Player 2014 Targets 2015 Projected Targets 2015 Targets
Golden Tate 142 110 129
T.Y. Hilton 132 116 134
Rueben Randle 127 69 90
Anquan Boldin 130 109 103
Kendall Wright 93 84 60

Here are five names to consider for 2016…

Prime Wide Receiver Candidates for Regression

DeAndre Hopkins (2015 Targets: 192)

Nuk was an absolute animal last year as the lone vertical passing threat for the Texans despite being thrown the ball from an all-star cast of Brian Hoyer, Brandon Weeden, Ryan Mallett, and T.J. Yates. Yikes! And yet he caught 111 balls for 1,521 yards and 11 TDs. His talent demanded that he was fed the ball early and often highlighted by a Week 4 garbage time game against Atlanta in which he drew 22(!) targets. Hopkins saw double-digit targets in all but three of his games, a three-week stretch of Weeks 12-14 when the Texans won mostly with stingy defense. So what gives selecting one of the best WRs in the game as a prime candidate for target regression? First off, the team looks much different from last year’s squad adding QB Brock Osweiler, RB Lamar Miller, and drafting WR Will Fuller in the first round along with Braxton Miller as a jack-of-all-trades project. In fact, the Texans’ offense resembles something much more like a traditional NFL offense as opposed to 2015’s “throw it up to Nuk and hope our defense scores” team. But what is the clear red flag for regression is a number of targets from 2015. Guys, 192 targets is tied for the fifth-most targets in a single-season EVER by a WR in the last 15 years of fantasy sports (that’s as far as my data goes back). It’s a total I can’t see him repeating with the cast of players around him in 2016. I still have Hopkins rated as a first round player and someone I consider a cornerstone of any fantasy team. But if you’re looking for a target monster that you can grab a round later, I’ll recommend Keenan Allen.
Projected 2016 Targets: 171

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Jarvis Landry(2015 Targets: 167)

Landry was clearly a PPR assassin throughout the 2015 campaign and a player whose consistent floor was something owners appreciated week-to-week. He finished the year with 110 catches for 1157 yards and a measly four TDs. He was targeted in the double-digits in 11-of-16 weeks of the year, a total only six other WRs could boast about. However, I have a hard time signing up again to 167 targets for a couple of reasons.  The offense is under a new regime with head coach Adam Gase as well as the impending emergence of second-year threat DeVante Parker and the drafting of Leonte Carroo. Landry will still be able to get open on the short-to-intermediate routes but TE Jordan Cameron could also gobble up some of those short Ryan Tannehill dump-offs that Landry has been feasting on the last couple of seasons. If you’re looking for an up-and-coming PPR guy for a cheaper price, try out Seattle’s Tyler Lockett almost 50 picks later.
Projected 2016 Targets: 143

Randall Cobb (2015 Targets: 129)

Cobb was one of the most frustrating players in fantasy to own in 2015 as his opportunity to seize the role as the No. 1 option in the Packers passing game was bust-worthy. And yet despite the bad taste we all carry in our mouths from last year, Cobb set a career high with 129 targets. He caught 79 balls for 829 yards and six TDs, a far cry from 2014’s version in which he finished with 12 TDs as fantasy’s WR6 in standard and WR8 in PPR scoring. So it should come as no surprise that as teammate Jordy Nelson returns to the field this year, Cobb is due for an expected regression in his targets. We also could see the mix of Jared Abbrederis, Jeff Janis, Ty Montgomery, and newly acquired Jared Cook eat into that target total. However, it is also highly likely he could be a more efficient receiver this year while coming at a greater value as he’s currently selected as the 19th WR off the board in drafts.
Projected 2016 Targets: 115

Michael Crabtree (2015 Targets: 146)

Signed basically off the scrap heap as many teams assumed he was past his prime, Crabtree had a major resurgence in 2015 as Derek Carr’s 1A option alongside rookie teammate Amari Cooper’s 1B status in the passing game.  His 146 targets were tenth best in the league as he surpassed even the most staunch Crabtree supporters’ wildest expectations. He hauled in 85 catches for 922 yards and nine TDs finishing as WR16 in PPR formats. During this offseason, he was rewarded with a 5-year deal with $19 million guaranteed. Moving forward it seems like his upside is capped as a possession receiver and his nine touchdowns last year feel like his ceiling moving forward. In fact, Derek Carr completed only 20% of his red-zone looks to Crabtree, the lowest mark in the league to anyone with 15+ targets. With Cooper’s maturation and his expectation ascension as the No. 1 threat for the Raiders, it seems Crabtree will take a step back in terms of his volume of targets. According to FantasyFootballCalculator.com, his current ADP of 7.03 in PPR leagues still presents a value for those who understand there’s slight regression coming.
Projected 2016 Targets: 112

Pierre Garcon (2015 Targets: 111)

Garcon provides one of my favorite fantasy football trivia stats as he shockingly led the league in 2013 with unreal 184 targets. In fact, that season ranks eighth ALL-TIME for wide receivers. However, in 2015, Garcon was a mere shadow of his former self as he hauled in 72-of-111 targets for 777 yards and six TDs finishing as WR47 in standard and WR31 in PPR formats, where he’s always been more useful. At this stage in his career, he is a steady, if unspectacular possession receiver who seems to be trending downward on the team’s target priority list in the passing game. Jordan Reed emerged as the legitimate target hog on the team, DeSean Jackson should return with a clean bill of health and the drafting of stud rookie receiver Josh Doctson signals the fact the team is moving in a new direction. In fact, Jamison Crowder’s rookie season was underrated by most media pundits as he looked liked the cheaper alternative to Garcon as Washington’s possession receiver. All of this adds up to Kirk Cousins finding less and less WR sets with Garcon being on the field. Some writers have even gone so far to say that he could be cut at some point. I’d rather pass on a guy who could be the third or fourth option at best moving forward this team.
Projected 2016 Targets: 60

For a look at other “Regress or Impress” candidates, check out Episode #209 with special guest Jamey Eisenberg of CBS Sports.

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