Sophomore Receivers

Nick Whalen


The 2014 wide receiver class was amazing for the NFL and for FF owners. The instant production was astounding and the hype has only continued into this offseason as values continue to rise. I have found myself in many debates on Twitter for and against players from this class. Mike Evans and Odell Beckham Jr have been hyped to the point where some people have them as the number one overall dynasty receiver. Donte Moncrief, Jarvis Landry and Davante Adams will have more competition than some had hoped, but other owners are buying. Allen Robinson, Martavis Bryant, John Brown, Brandin Cooks, Sammy Watkins and Jordan Matthews have been on the rise this off-season, but is it too much? Did Kelvin Benjamin only produce because of the targets or did he actually play well? Meanwhile, Taylor Gabriel, Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee have owners hoping they are buying low.

This class has way too many questions and not enough answers. I’m a film guy by trade, but this is going to be my stab at using statistics to break this class down using targets. This will hopefully take out some of the bias we all have with this class. Some rookies saw lots of opportunities, for example Benjamin to the tune of 146 targets – good for sixth-most in the entire NFL. On the flip side, Bryant had limited opportunity with 49 targets, but produced big results. Therefore, I wanted to put each player on a level playing field in terms of targets. The chart below takes each player’s 2014 FF Points in a PPR format divided by the amount of targets to create points per target.

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  • Odell Beckham, Jr. and Mike Evans had great rookies seasons and were very productive per target.
  • I knew Martavis Bryant was productive, but .41 more than any other rookie WR?!?! Maybe his supporters’ claims have more validity than I thought.
  • Brandin Cooks and Jordan Matthews have been gaining steam this offseason thanks to the departures of Jimmy Graham, Kenny Stills and Jeremy Maclin. However, they were very efficient even with those players on their respective teams in 2014. Add in more targets and a bright FF future seems probable.
  • Two of the more hyped players this off-season in John Brown and Allen Robinson are near the bottom of this lis, which reveals that with increased targets, their fantasy production may not outweigh that hype.

Wait, what?

Sorry we have a question in the audience, “What if the target was uncatchable?” Very good point, because not all targets are created equal. Some quarterback throws go over the receiver’s head out of bounds or in the dirt in front of them. Thanks to Pro Football Focus, they created a category of only catchable targets (an amazing source that comes highly recommended). Just like the previous chart, I took each player’s 2014 FF points in a PPR format divided by catchable targets – this provides a FF points per catchable target column that will make it more of an even platform.


  • If you weren’t already impressed by Bryant in the previous chart, then you should be after this one. He was almost a full point more productive per catchable target than any other rookie receiver and this was one of the best classes in recent memory.
  • Evans and Sammy Watkins both climbed up the charts due to poor quarterbacks throwing them many uncatchable passes.
  • Brown was the second worst on the previous chart and is now the fourth best.
  • Cooks and Matthews both fell a bit from the previous chart due to better quarterback play than the competition.

Every breakdown has flaws and I will point out a few of them in this one. First, not every catchable target is equal. Ben Roethlisberger throwing on target to Bryant deep is different than Cooks catching a five yard hitch route. Second, placement of the football or accuracy isn’t taken into account either. Sometimes a receiver has to stop his momentum, and other times they are hit in stride. Lastly, it doesn’t take competition into consideration. The opposing team’s top CB or a double team vs single coverage on a bad nickel CB are very different.

So what can we take away from this for their futures?

Martavis Bryant

He was extremely efficient in 2014 (even more than OBJ) and that’s something to add to the resume. His quarterback situation stays the same and he should be even more comfortable heading into year 2. Even with Sammie Coates being drafted, I think Bryant should almost double his targets. If he kept the same efficiency, which we know is a pipe dream, he would have been WR11 in 2014 at only 98 targets!

Mike Evans

Great rookie season with lots of touchdowns despite poor quarterback play. Adding Jameis Winston should help as they both grow and Evans should be a WR1 for a long time.

Odell Beckham, Jr.

It was a magical run for OBJ and his entire situation stays the same, which is great. He’s a great player that’s efficient and gets quality targets.

John Brown

Surprised many with the amount of targets he saw his rookie year with Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd on the roster. Combining both charts reveals Brown saw a lot of uncatchable targets in 2014 and that makes sense given the injuries at the QB position for the Cardinals. Brown could take off with a healthy Carson Palmer and a head coach that loves smaller receivers in Bruce Arians.

Sammy Watkins

It was a one man show that Watkins couldn’t overcome and live up to the hype in 2014. The quarterback play was bad, but it’s only going to get worse next season as Kyle Orton retired, leaving Matt Cassel, Tyrod Taylor, and EJ Manuel to battle it out for the starting position. Even worse is the fact Head Coach Rex Ryan and Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman haven’t shown a history of heavily targeting a single receiver (check out this tweet from Graham Barfield). The nail on Watkins 2015 coffin is the Bills added Percy Harvin, Charles Clay and Shady McCoy as tougher competition than in 2014 for touches. Watkins is a guy I’m staying away from in 2015, but could be a buy low late in the season for disgruntled owners.

Donte Moncrief

Performed solidly with the limited targets he was shown in 2014, but I don’t have high hopes for 2015 and beyond. The Colts brought in Andre Johnson, Duron Carter and Phillip Dorsett in the off-season to combine with TY Hilton for a crowded WR group. If the Colts had high hopes for Moncrief, they wouldn’t have invested as much capital in the position.

Jordan Matthews

With Jeremy Maclin gone, the WR1 job is wide open for the Eagles. However, he better not waste much time as the Eagles invested a first round pick in Nelson Algholor, but I like Matthews chance to be a high end WR2 in FF in the future. He was solidly efficient and has a big job in a high volume offense, giddy up.

Kelvin Benjamin 

Well look at that, he wasn’t completely dependent on targets. He was in the middle of the pack in terms of efficiency and catchable targets, which makes me more confident about his future. Cam Newton will continue to be his quarterback or the future and hopefully he improves as a passer to provide better quality for Benjamin. Devin Funchess will be an upgrade to the receiving group outside of Benjamin and could take away some targets.

Allen Hurns, Allen Robinson, Marqise Lee 

I doubt many thought Hurns was the most efficient player in Jacksonville last season, even though he had a big week one. Could he be the sleeper to own there? I’ve seen him on waiver wires, so perhaps he’s worth an add. Robinson and Lee were at the bottom of both lists which isn’t a good thing. I’ve been against Robinson’s value since he came out of Penn State, but the second chart takes away poor quarterback play and reveals an inefficient player in 2014. Now he’s coming off an injury with the same quarterback and more competition, but he has a high price tag? No thanks. I was a Lee buyer and still am, but this tempers my expectations a bit. I don’t think he will ever be more than a WR3/4 in FF at best. Julius Thomas is going to eat into their touches and make this a committee.

Brandin Cooks

Was used closer to the line of scrimmage than thought in 2014 and it will be interesting to see if he does well down the field in 2015 and beyond. With no Graham and Stills, more targets are there to be had and the hype train is rolling. However, I would sell Cooks at his current value because it is almost near his ceiling and I would cash out. He’s a good player with high character, but i’m not sure he’s a great player and his numbers from the charts agree with that assumption.

Taylor Gabriel

The pint sized receiver in Cleveland did well for his expectations and he has been gaining momentum with good offseason OTA news. It’s tough to envision any receiver in Cleveland a buy with the current landscape at quarterback and the coaching staff.

Davante Adams

I’m shocked that Adams was inefficient given that Aaron Rodgers is his quarterback! The off-season hype has been there for Adams, but his rookie season was unimpressive. I’m pumping the brakes here, especially with Randall Cobb re-signing.

Jarvis Landry

Quietly produced a good season, but now the Dolphins have more competition with DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills, Greg Jennings and Jordan Cameron all joining the team this off-season. I would expect Landry to still have the slot role in the offense, but fewer targets. Being non-spectacular with his targets in 2014 and the same quarterback in Ryan Tannehill moving forward, I’m pumping the brakes here too. With Landry, you are investing in the volume of receptions, not what he does with them (his average yards per reception in 2014 was nine!)


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