Target Share and the Value Beneath: Week Nine

Peter Howard

Hello and welcome back to our target and snap share article where we look for patterns and trends in player opportunity. In many ways, it’s the doldrums of the season. A couple of teams in every league are already aware they are probably not making the playoffs while others are gearing up for a run at the title.

While we can be a lot more confident in our opinions of players and their projected outcomes this year by now, there is always variance and change in the NFL. So, now might be the most important time to leverage player usage and opportunity around the preconceived ideas the first nine weeks have established in the minds of your competition.

Let’s take a look at how things have been changing recently.

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Christian Kirk, WR ARI

Production at the wide receiver position in Arizona has slumped, however, since he came back from his injury (the last two weeks) Christian Kirk has been the clear target leader on the team. So far, his production has not reflected that. According to UDud, he has a points-per-game average of more than eight points below expected for his target share based on a three-year average. While most people are speculating on the running back position and the new addition of Kenyan Drake, it’s not a bad opportunity to try for some decent value a young WR who’s doing everything we would expect of a future fantasy star in his second year.

Ty Johnson, RB DET

The Lions are not going to feature a running back the way we want them to. That much is clear. It’s also clear that Kerryon Johnson is the favored and best player at the position on the team. However, with the loss of Tra Carson and Kerryon, Ty Johnson has some post-hype breakout potential. They will still find a way to diversify the role most likely, but Ty offers the most fantasy-relevant usage with both a rushing and passing game role.

Mark Walton, RB MIA and Preston Williams, WR MIA

Just like that, the most interesting players from a usage and opportunity perspective on the Dolphins, unless you’re still clinging on to DeVante Parker and Albert Wilson dreams, are now gone. Preston Williams is heading to IR and Mark Walton is suspended for four games. I’m using this space to recommend a low-level investment in Williams for the future, his targets and production was more than enough to have hope for the future -also to point out that Mark Walton had the usage we want and the history we’d hope for in this role, and his production still wasn’t great for fantasy. My hope for those behind him on the depth chart is not high.

Adrian Peterson, RB WAS

Derrius Guice may return this season which could spell the end of Adrian Peterson’s fantasy relevance. However, over the last three weeks, Peterson’s snap share has increased by 19% compared to his season-long average. This helps explain his points per game improvement. He may have flex appeal (for his floor) as long as his usage keeps up.

Mohamed Sanu, WR NE

If you think New England messes with your fantasy team you should try keeping track of target and snap share when players keep jumping on and off a team so frequently. Year-long stats for at least three players are a mess right now and Mohamed Sanu is one of them. Here’s what I know.

  1. It’s too early to make any conclusions
  2. Julian Edelman is still the most consistent and reliable fantasy asset on the team
  3. Sanu was the 11th-highest player in target share in week nine
  4. Sanu is a decent player who can and will produce with volume
  5. James White and Jacobi Meyer’s target share had been trending down before week nine

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Sanu is a startable wide receiver at the moment. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough time to let a trend develop is you need to make start/sit decisions with him. So I’d be comfortable betting on a safe-ish floor based on the player’s history.

Last Week’s Matchup to Watch

Last week I highlighted the Baltimore and New England game as a matchup that would, along with many other examples, help dissect what Adjusted Target Share allowed is able to tell us. New England has been encouraging targets to the wide receiver position and away from the tight end this season. But Baltimore heavily focuses the tight end position and represented the toughest test for the defence so far this season.

So what happened? Outside of it being a great game and a high scoring fantasy outing, the usage for Baltimore was interesting. While their main tight end, Mark Andrews, did suffer for targets, the position itself was still focused. They just popped up in a different place, namely Nick Boyle.

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Does this mean we know a lot more? No, but if this happens over a larger sample size it might be possible to declare two things.

  1. That offenses control which position gets targets more than the defense (this is my base assumption to be clear)
  2. When a matchup is caught between a rock and a hard place (a defense that limits a position versus a talented offense that focuses it), targets to the second-tier player at that position may be more interesting in fantasy

I know a “we don’t know yet” statement isn’t very compelling. However, I hope others may be interested in how we transform games into trends, into conclusions, into actionable advice. So I thought I’d include it.

This week, Baltimore are involved in another matchup I think will be important to understand how defenses do or don’t affect volume on a week to week basis. The Cincinnati Bengals have “encouraged” targets to the running back position at a league-high seven per cent over their opponent’s season average. On the other hand, the Ravens target the position at the second-lowest rate in the NFL.

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Will the Bengal’s defense be able to encourage the Ravens to target the running back position more heavily? The fact that the Bengals are not a very good defense this season makes it hard to suggest a team “has to” focus any particular position when facing them. This could strengthen the idea that the defense has a large effect on the volume of opposing offenses. If a poor defense still encourages a good offense to focus on a position they typically don’t, we want to know that.

Zach Pascal, WR IND

I tried saying this last year to little acclaim, so I thought I’d try again now that he’s had some success: Zach Pascal has the best college profile behind TY Hilton on the Colts. Parris Campbell has the draft capital and film reviews, Deon Cain impresses the size truthers (and has a decent production profile to be fair), but Pascal broke out at 19 years old in college and was more impressive in yardage production. He has now has proven to be the player who can earn a fantasy-relevant share of targets in the NFL. I think he’s a decent add in dynasty, even if the production drops off when and if Hilton returns.

To be clear, lower draft capital players often fade after breaking out quicker than those taken with top-three round NFL Draft picks. Campbell is still a good dynasty target and hold. But for a lower price, I’m more interested in Pascal. With Campbell’s injury on top of Hilton’s absence, he has more time to impress the team. He’ll need all he can get to overcome the league bias against undrafted players.

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Anyway, there is, of course, more to talk about then I can possibly fit inside one article. I encourage you to dig into the data yourself. As always, here is a link to the data I used for this article and the tables above.

Thanks again,

Peter Howard.


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