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Fantasy Points-Per-Target Wide Receiver Sleepers for Fantasy Football Drafts - Diontae Johnson, Deebo Samuel, Michael Pittman Jr.

Diontae Johnson - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, NFL Injury News

Fantasy points per target (FPPT) is a great indicator of an NFL player’s efficiency throughout a particular season. When a receiver achieves a high average in this category, it leaves fantasy managers wondering how much more productive their numbers would have been with additional opportunities. It's worth noting that FPPT numbers don't always carry over from year to year because the league’s best receivers generally vacuum up significant target volume, which can drive down their average.

In many cases, FPPT can also serve as a red flag for potential negative regression in a player. This is because the statistic tends to highlight players who made their mark on big plays. This includes deep catches and touchdowns, which aren’t always easy to predict on a weekly basis. Sometimes it’s hard to replicate a strong FPPT average since it can be very situationally driven.

On the other hand, a low FPPT average can signify potential positive regression candidates. Receivers with this profile likely had a high level of target volume opportunity, indicating the likelihood of more favorable results if those targets carry over into the following year. Let's analyze some of fantasy football's least efficient wide receivers in 2022 and why they might constitute draft values in 2023.

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Diontae Johnson, Pittsburgh Steelers

FFPC ADP: 64

It's fair to wonder if Diontae Johnson, listed at 5-foot-10 and 183 pounds, would benefit by functioning more often from the slot. However, that's not to say he isn't a capable weapon when lined up on the outside. Perhaps Pittsburgh's acquisition of the big-bodied Allen Robinson will act as the impetus for Johnson to take on a more versatile role. Despite his limited experience in the slot, Johnson has never handled more than 14% of his snaps from that position. The former third-round pick posted a minuscule 1.23 fantasy points per target last season, securing 882 scoreless receiving yards.

Johnson, who is typically a PPR stalwart in fantasy, finished as the WR39 in full-PPR fantasy points per game. He logged just 208 yards after the catch despite a strong juke rate of 15.1% and an average of 1.44 yards per route run. The third-year wideout finished the season with at least five receptions in 12-of-17 games, so the volume was there.

His production was hampered by the quarterback play of Mitch Trubisky and Kenny Pickett as he didn't convert one of his 18 red zone targets into a touchdown. Johnson should be a popular buy-low draft choice this upcoming season after rounding up the second-most unrealized air yards (875) among wide receivers. It’s hard to fathom how the 26-year-old didn’t achieve a top-24 season at his position when considering his opportunity metrics.

Despite receiving double-digit targets in eight games last year, the target hog was unable to reach the 100-yard threshold or finish as a top-10 WR in any single week. He produced better mean results with Trubisky at quarterback, averaging 6.3 receptions and 59.3 receiving yards compared to 4.2 receptions and 45.2 receiving yards with Pickett. Some argue that Johnson's teammate George Pickens developed more of a rapport with Pickett on far less target volume, averaging 3.5 receptions and 52.5 receiving yards. Perhaps that narrative is overblown.

Johnson ranks fifth in the NFL in targets since the 2020 season, so a seventh-round ADP in 10-team leagues can't help but feel extremely intriguing. While there will be more target competition on the Steelers this year with the arrival of third-round rookie tight end Darnell Washington as well, Johnson sits sixth among all pass catchers in red zone targets since 2021. The workhorse wideout, who is still just 26 years old, is a prime positive regression candidate for '23.

 

Deebo Samuel, San Francisco 49ers

FFPC ADP: 41

After an absurdly-efficient '21 season where he placed first in fantasy points per target, Deebo Samuel experienced dramatic regression in '22. The continued emergence of Brandon Aiyuk, George Kittle's late-season scoring binge, the addition of Christian McCaffrey, and a stout 49ers defense all contributed to Samuel’s big dip in per-game production.

Additionally, he struggled with lingering lower body injuries during the second half of the year. The 27-year-old's yards per reception came down drastically from 18.2 to 11.3 as well. The "wide back" remained extremely dangerous as a ball carrier, though, with the highest juke rate (35.7%) and yards after the catch (8.9) in the league among qualifiers. Even so, Samuel recorded a lowly 1.77 fantasy points per target.

Samuel's fantasy points per route run number of 0.50 placed him inside the top-16 wideouts. Encouragingly, Samuel mostly delivered in half-PPR formats, reaching double-digit fantasy points in 8-of-13 games. What separates Samuel from the pack is his unique ability as a rusher, leading all WRs with 42 rushing attempts.

Everyone seems to be running for the hills at the sight of his per-game splits with McCaffrey (6.9 touches and 54.7 yards) and without (8.3 touches and 80.2 yards) from last year. However, Samuel maintained a modicum of rushing volume, averaging 2.7 carries per game and fortifying his fantasy floor.

Samuel also produced a staunch 4.14 yards after contact per carry and an electric 56.9% breakaway run rate. With the WR1 spot in what could be the NFL's most high-powered offense, it’s hard to pass up on Samuel in the fifth round of 10-team formats.

Additionally, Samuel’s average depth of target (ADOT) was comically low at 4.5. Considering his current ADP is more reasonable compared to last year’s inflated second-round cost, the former All-Pro suddenly appears to be a convincing value pick. I expect to have more shares of Samuel in fantasy this year due to his new depressed cost, and I suggest you should consider targeting him as well.

 

Michael Pittman Jr., Indianapolis Colts

FFPC ADP: 87

Although Michael Pittman Jr. notched a career-high in receptions last year, his potential for a higher ceiling suffered from the limitations of noodle-armed QB Matt Ryan. Pittman's yards per reception were tight end-esque at 9.3 yards. Additionally, he received only five deep targets. His average depth of target was a lackluster 6.9, further limiting his upside. As a result, Pittman only registered 1.54 fantasy points per target despite tallying a career-high 141 looks.

The third-year pass catcher scored in double figures in full PPR formats in 11-of-16 games played last season. Pittman's current ADP puts him near the end of Round 9 in 10-team leagues as the undisputed alpha wideout in the Colts' offense.

While Anthony Richardson’s immediate installation into the offense likely impairs Pittman’s floor, it should enhance his fantasy points per target potential. Pittman checks in as a volatile WR3 with the all-upside Richardson leading the offense. Despite the potential scoring volatility of a run-heavy offense, Pittman should dominate targets given the lack of strong competition at his position.

If star running back Jonathan Taylor's (ankle) injury/holdout extends into the regular season, expect Indy's attack to be pass-heavier than they may prefer. That would bode well for Pittman's floor/ceiling combination as the offense's clear-cut centerpiece, no matter how Richardson's perceived rawness may adversely affect him.

Pittman led wideouts with an unwavering 97.1% snap rate and represents a matchup nightmare for opposing defensive backs. The tall and speedy receiver had a dominant 46.6% win rate versus man coverage last season. Despite catching passes from QB castoffs, the 25-year-old still managed two top-five weekly finishes among WRs. Last season, most of Pittman’s PFF grades floundered due to the lack of reliability at the QB position. There’s nowhere to go but up for a receiver who is entering his prime at the age of 26 this October.



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