Merry Christmas, and welcome back to the target share report, where we look at player usage and how it’s changed.
You can find all my 2020 data here.
You can also join my live on stream every Monday (on Twitch, Youtube and Periscope) while I collect and discuss first impressions of each week’s stats.
I know there’s always a lot going on in my tables. I’m including information about the stats I utilize most at the end of the article if you’d like to know more about any of them.
With most of the fantasy season over, and start/sit columns doing far more relevant work for more immediate decisions, I’ve decided to turn towards a “year in review” style tone for this column. This week I’ll take a look at rookies in 2020, and compare them to last year’s class. Next week I’ll take a look at usage league-wide and any trends and changes we may want to notice.
Enough preamble, nerd up!
Comparing Rookie Seasons
Below you can see the top 12 rookie players in target share for 2020.
This doesn’t mean much without a way to compare them so let’s pull up 2019 rookies to get a better perspective.
Justin Jefferson, WR MIN
Jefferson has had the best rookie season of anyone since 2009 as best as I can tell. Does this mean he’ll be the best wide receiver since 2009? No, not at all. But it’s as positive as it can possible be and he should be a top tier dynasty player. I’m all in.
Tee Higgins, WR CIN and Brandon Aiyuk, WR SF
For some reason, this comparison is really upsetting people on Twitter. But it’s a really striking comparison and is a good thing for all players involved.
Deebo Samuel and Tee Higgins didn’t have great quarterback situations. Higgins’ team has struggled more, but also offered more volume. Samuel was more efficient, Higgins more dominant. This doesn’t compare the players, their role, or their upside well. But it seems to highlight a few things. Samuel is likely suffering a value loss from recency bias right now and Higgins has had a great rookie season. These seem to be the most important take always for dynasty.
Aiyuk is currently the sixth-highest drafted rookie wide receiver according to DLF ADP. That’s too low. Does this mean San Francisco will dominant next year? I’m not so sure about that. But I do think both their best wide receivers are a little underrated right now and that’s worthy of note. I would have Aiyuk over Samuel (and Terry McLaurin), but right now he’s valued below them according to ADP, so that’s neither here nor there.
Honestly, the real different between Aiyuk and Samuel seems to be that when we look at Aiyuk, we see AJ Green, and when we look at Samuel we see Tyler Boyd. Our typecast of the players virtually screams that “Aiyuk is six foot tall, Samuel is “only” five-foot-11!”
Here’s the thing, Aiyuk is an inch or two taller, sure, but Samuel is ten pounds heavier. Aiyuk is athletic but he has a 98.6 speed score (adjusted for height) and Samuel has a 103.3 (AJ Green’s is 107.1). Stefon Diggs, TY Hilton, Antonio Brown, and Chris Godwin also exist, not to mention the ghost of Odell Beckham in 2014. Some of these players are six foot, some are thicker, some are slower, but most operate in and around an aDot of 10, and have been considered smaller or more “volume type” players at some point. All have been great for fantasy. Samuels operates closer to the line of scrimmage than Higgins – Higgins aDot this year is 11.7 whereas Samuel has an aDot of 10.3 his rookie year and 10.5 in 2020 – but Aiyuk has an aDot of 8.9!
So, what are we doing here?
We don’t have to compare any of these players directly in terms of talent to see that we know less than we think we do about “who” these players are, and typecasting only goes so far. The simple fact is all of these players are very different. In reality no two NFL players are very alike physically (especially once you shrink the sample to “productive” players).
I don’t disagree that Higgins “feels” better. I like Higgins more than Samuel, who has struggled with injuries, and there’s more reason to be hopeful about Cincinnati as a team. But I think it’s worth considering that we don’t know as much as much as we “feel” we do about the roles in San Francisco.
Good players are few and far between, so buy all of them, sure. But Samuel seems to be the one discounted for things we “feel” rather than anything he’s done on a football field. He’s also the lowest valued of all three according to DLF’s ADP comparison tool right now.
Denzel Mims, WR NYJ
He’s on my buy list. I don’t like the Jets either, okay? PPG and EPG both beat out yards per team attempt and target share for predicting year two. But YTMA and target share are not far behind, and I think most will underestimate how significant his 23% target share is. I do wish he’d been more efficient on it, but he has the draft capital to sustain usage and the college productive to expect him to grow in that role.
His rookie season compares well, just to get the full hype going, to DK Metcalf… unfortunately his second-year ceiling is probably half that because Russell Wilson does a lot for you and the Jets, as a team, take away a lot more. But, you know… hype is fun.
Jerry Jeudy, WR DEN
I wasn’t the biggest fan of his college profile, but it was nowhere near “bad.” I think in a great rookie class his value may be softer. But his rookie season, compared to average, was actually very good. If you liked him before, no reason to stop now.
CeeDee Lamb, WR DAL
In a three-way monster of opportunity competition, Lamb is still ranked as the highest drafted wide receiver per DLF ADP. I don’t disagree. I think he easily has one of the highest ceilings in this class, and, like Jeudy, the quality of his rookie seasons production may be underrated because of how well Higgins and Jefferson have done this year.
Tight Ends (hold, or buy at a value)
Real quick, there are only three tight ends in the 2020 class who had good rookie seasons. But most tight ends don’t have good rookie season at all, to be fair, and these three all had less draft capital than most who do.
All three require a wait-and-see approach. Add them if the cost is a low second-round rookie pick.
Harrison Bryan and Cole Kmet have older, perhaps better, and more proven fantasy players ahead of them on the depth chart. But, in case you didn’t know, situations change. So don’t let that affect you too much.
In the same way, you shouldn’t be too disappointed that Noah Fant is ahead of Albert Okwuegbunam, who actually had the best rookie season of anyone in this class in terms of volume. This makes it even more impressive, to be honest, and when you think about it hard enough.
Situations change. It’s a mantra we will need to whisper to ourselves a lot while speculating at this position.
Well, that’s about all I have time for this week. Hope you found some of it useful, interesting and entertaining. Be sure to let me know about it in the comments below or on Twitter, anytime.
Merry Christmas, and I’ll see you again next week.
Addendum: The Stats explained
Real quick, here are the stats I’m using this week and what they are good for.
YD/TM Att: Yards per team pass attempt
This takes the Pass and Rush attempts of the player’s team each week and divides the player’s total yards against it. It’s a simple, yet powerful combination of efficiency and volume. It has a high R squared value in stickiness (it stays relatively consistent week over week and year over year).
It’s a good statistic to sort players by within a position.
PPG: PPR points per game
Fairly common stat that’s often undervalued these days. Depending on the sample, PPG is actually the stickiest and most accurate stat for predicting production.
EPG: Expected Points per game
This is based on rotoviz.com’s expected points formula (which I don’t know) but essentially measures how “valuable” the touches a player has received. It can be seen as a more accurate volume metric removing the player’s “efficiency” from the equation and just looking at how much value they are “given” by the team for fantasy points.
FPOE/G: Fantasy points over expected per game
Also a rotoviz stat, it gives us an idea of if a player is underperforming (negative number) or overperforming (positive number) their “given” volume. In other words, how efficient they have been.
TD Rate: Yards per Touchdown
Players typically average between 100 and 200 yards per touchdown. To be more accurate, if you’re like that, in 2020 (with more than 20 targets) wide receivers are averaging around 175 yards per touchdown, RBs are averaging 130 yards per touchdown, and tight ends are averaging 160.
Essentially, outside of this range, it tells us who may “regress” in touchdowns in the coming weeks.
Percentage of games with seven targets or more:
This one is fairly self-explanatory. I use it as a context check for target share. A high target share in a low passing offense isn’t as “good” as a lower target share in a high passing offense in terms of expected targets.
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