Fantasy Football Target Trends for Week 1
Regular season football is back and it feels so good! If you’re like me, you’re probably already looking forward to Week 2. As you begin to set next week’s lineup, I implore you to check out the target trends from the previous week. Targets are arguably the best indicator of opportunity in football, and opportunity is one of the best predictors of fantasy points. Throughout the season, I aim to make this article the go-to place for checking in on target trends each week.
This weekly article won’t be a simple list of the most targeted players from the week. While those players will certainly be mentioned, it’s important to consider the context behind the numbers. Each week I’ll look at the most significant target trends, positive and negative, that you should be aware of as you make your week-to-week fantasy decisions.
It’s tough to identify trends after just one week of data. We can, however, still consider what we saw on the field and in the box scores during the debut of the 2021 season. Let’s dive into the Week 1 target trends.
Darren Waller: 19 targets, 10 rec
Let’s begin at the end, with the wild overtime finish from Monday night. Don’t let the extra 10-minute period fool you, Waller saw all 19 of his targets in regulation. Those 19 targets are the third-most ever seen by a tight end in a single game and the most seen by any player in Week 1 since Julio Jones also saw 19 in his first game of the 2018 season. As the obvious first choice in the Raiders passing game, Waller is the top candidate to lead all tight ends in targets this season.
Amari Cooper: 16 targets, 13 rec
CeeDee Lamb: 15 targets, 7 rec
Deciphering how the targets will shake out in Dallas was a hot topic of the 2021 fantasy football offseason and through one week it’s neck and neck between Cooper and Lamb. While Lamb’s 15 targets were the most of his young career, Cooper’s 16 were the second most of his. Cooper was more efficient with his opportunities, turning them into the WR2 performance on the week. The targets look to be even more concentrated around Cooper and Lamb in the coming weeks as Michael Gallup suffered a calf injury that will force him to miss some time.
Tyreek Hill: 15 targets, 11 rec
The hyper-targeting of Hill, who saw a ridiculous 41.6% target share Sunday, should come as no surprise. There was a stretch last season where he saw 14 or more targets in three consecutive games from weeks 9-11. He’s also the only player to see 15 or more targets in three regular-season games since the 2019 season. When a player as talented as Hill gets that many targets, good things happen for the Chiefs and his fantasy managers.
Chris Godwin: 14 targets, 9 rec
Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski made bigger splashes in Week 1 but when you look at the box score, Godwin was the go-to guy for Tom Brady and the Buccaneers. The 14 targets tied his career-high and the way Brady and the Bucs were chucking the ball around Thursday night, he could be in for a career season. Other Buccanneers may put up bigger fantasy totals some weeks, but Godwin looks to be the steady target leader in Tampa.
Stefon Diggs: 14 targets, 9 rec
Cole Beasley: 13 targets, 8 rec
Josh Allen threw the ball 51 times on Sunday and more than half of those attempts, 53% to be exact, were aimed at either Diggs or Beasley. It should come as no surprise for Diggs, who led the NFL with 166 targets last season. Beasley wasn’t shabby either, logging a career-high 107 targets in 2020. If Week 1 is any indication, they could each set new career highs in 2021.
Keenan Allen: 13 targets, 9 rec
Mike Williams: 12 targets, 8 rec
Allen has been an absolute target hog in recent years, averaging 10 targets/game since 2019. He’s also recorded the most double-digit target games (21) over that time. Meanwhile, Williams put up the second-highest target total of his career. The duo was targeted on 53% of Justin Herbert’s 47 pass attempts, while Austin Ekeler (more on him later) accounted for zero.
D.J. Chark: 12 targets, 3 rec
While the 12 targets are great, hauling in just three of them leaves something to be desired for Chark, Even so, he put up 86 yards and a touchdown while leading Jacksonville in targets. Marvin Jones and Laviska Shenault weren’t far behind with nine targets apiece but after Week 1, Chark is operating as the top target so far for the Trevor Lawrence-led Jaguars offense.
Deebo Samuel: 12 targets, 9 rec
What a week for Deebo! He easily led the 49ers with an absurd 48% target share, which he turned into the overall WR3 performance of Week 1. He may have fallen one target short of his career-high, but the next closest pass-catcher on the Niners, George Kittle, saw just five targets. Brandon Aiyuk meanwhile, who will make an appearance much farther down in this article, went untargeted.
D’Andre Swift: 11 targets, 8 rec
Swift was the most-targeted running back in the NFL for Week 1. Back in August I wrote an article speculating on the potential target breakdown for Detroit and declared that Swift could see triple-digit targets in 2021. I may have undershot, as he’s already more than 10% of the way there with 16 games left. There’s a strong chance the Swift finishes as the most-targeted running back in the NFL this season.
D'Andre Swift was in a route on 63% of the Lions' passing plays today. That is Kamara-esque.
PPR finishes for backs between 60% and 70% routes and at least 40% of attempts (>50% today) since 2011:
16, 3, 4, 5, 9, 1, 3, 5, 1, 2, 3, 9, 3, 1
Huge season coming.#SFvsDET
— Context Matters (@dwainmcfarland) September 12, 2021
T.J. Hockenson: 10 targets, 8 rec
I usually like to group teammates under the same heading, but Hockenson and Swift each deserved their own writeups this week. Hockenson fell just one target short of his career high and if it weren’t for Darren Waller, he’d be the best bet to lead all tight ends in targets this season. Waller aside, it appears Hockenson is on track for the breakout season that so many were predicting this summer.
Adam Thielen: 10 targets, 9 rec
Justin Jefferson: 9 targets, 5 rec
K.J. Osborn: 9 targets, 7 rec
Despite the expectation that was built all offseason, regression did not strike Adam Thielen in Week 1. Meanwhile, as mentioned on Monday’s show, Minnesota ran their offense more frequently than expected out of 11-personnel, with three wide receivers in the formation most of the game. This allowed second-year wideout K.J. Osborn, who didn’t see a single target as a rookie in 2020, to match last season’s record-breaker Justin Jefferson with nine targets in Week 1.
Christian McCaffrey – 9 targets, 9 rec
I’ll make this one quick. As Jason pointed out on Twitter, CMC finished as the RB1 on the week despite failing to score a touchdown.
How good is Christian McCaffrey??? He is currently the #1 RB on the week and he didn't score a TD. I went back over the last 32 weeks and that has only happened once before (hint: it was also Christian McCaffrey in 2019). He's unfreaking stoppable for fantasy.
— Jason Moore (@jasonffl) September 13, 2021
This is what happens when your running back is also basically a wide receiver.
Jonathan Taylor: 7 targets, 6 rec
I’ll keep this one short as well, but I think it’s important to note that JT set his career-high in targets and receptions in Week 1, including a red-zone screen that fell just short of a touchdown. If this kind of passing-game work continues throughout the season, Taylor could be primed for an elite fantasy season.
Antonio Gibson: 5 targets, 3 rec
Gibson didn’t exactly light it up through the air, but it’s worth noting that the former college wideout led the Football Team in targets. It remains to be seen how the offense functions with Taylor Heinicke at the helm, but Gibson appears to be the clear centerpiece of the offense.
Brandon Aiyuk – 0 targets, 0 rec
Upon watching parts of the 49ers game and then checking the box score, my first thought was “What the heck happened to Aiyuk?” Apparently, the combination of his hamstring injury and Trent Sherfield’s pre-season performance was enough to knock Aiyuk down the depth chart. The good news is he still ran 13 routes, which was just one few than Sherfield and two fewer than George Kittle. Aiyuk managers will continue holding their collective breath until we see a performance closer to what we witnessed during his dominating stretch from last season.
Austin Ekeler – 0 targets, 0 receptions
This may be the most shocking target total of Week 1. The last time Ekeler failed to see a target was back in November of 2018 when Melvin Gordon was in his prime and still the lead back in Los Angeles. It’s not time to panic yet, but it’s worth monitoring how Ekeler is utilized in the passing game with the new Chargers coaching staff.
Check here for all the individual target totals from Week 1