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Bull Rush - Players Whose Target Share Will Increase

As anticipation continues to build for the onset of training camps, the reality of a rapidly approaching regular season has prompted a steady surge in momentum that will culminate when Week 1 matchups begin. This has propelled owners toward increased participation in Best Ball leagues, while roster alterations are continuing in Dynasty leagues, and redraft owners have accelerated preparations for their upcoming drafts.

The team at RotoBaller is fully aware of your efforts to build championship rosters regardless of the format. That is why we deliver an array of material that contains valuable statistics, comprehensive analysis, and thoroughly researched recommendations that are all designed to boost your opportunity of winning your leagues in 2019.

That includes this breakdown of six players that appear primed to receive an increase in their target shares when compared to the percentages that they were allocated during 2018. This select group includes a pair of performers at running back, along with two wide receivers and several second-year tight ends. They are expected to benefit from enhanced target totals due to a projected increase in their proficiency, vacated targets following the departure of former teammates, or the transformation of their team’s offensive approach.

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Running Backs 

Kerryon Johnson, Detroit Lions

Johnson represents the one player in this article who experienced a premature conclusion to his 2018 season as the result of a season-ending health issue. His situation stands in contrast to other performers who had already achieved a desirable target share in their careers before their injury-shortened season. A perfect example of this scenario is Jack Doyle, who is just one year removed from finishing fifth at his position in total targets (108) and targets-per game average (7.2). However, a combination of hip and kidney issues conspired to limit his 2018 season to six games and 33 targets. In the case of Johnson, we are witnessing a second-year player who has yet to accrue an appealing target share but should soon benefit from an expanded workload as both a runner and receiver.

Johnson demonstrated his ability to perform effectively as a featured back by averaging 72.6 yards-per-carry from Weeks 3-11 and was progressing down the path toward accumulating 1,000+ yards before his season-ending knee issue. His opportunities as a receiver also expanded after his insignificant three-target-per-game average from Weeks 1-7 improved to 6.3 per-game in Weeks 8-10. While that pace might be unlikely over a 16-game season, Johnson should easily surpass his overall 3.5 per game average that was impacted by his constrained usage as a receiving weapon until mid-October. 114 of Johnson’s 213 receiving yards were also generated during that three-game span, (53.5%), as he displayed a proficiency that Theo Riddick cannot match. Riddick became the beneficiary of consistent targeting once Johnson was jettisoned from the lineup and finished 12th among all backs with 75 targets. But his production was uninspiring, as he finished 18th in yardage (384), averaged just 27.4 yards-per-game and failed to generate a touchdown.

Johnson will return to a backfield that currently offers more congestion that owners would desire. C.J. Anderson provides an obstacle that can impede Johnson’s workload as a rusher, while Riddick theoretically looms as a threat to siphon targets. However, Anderson’s role is not a factor in this target examination, and Riddick’s lurking presence may be temporary. Johnson is significantly more productive with the ball in his hand than Riddick and should experience a rise in target share while operating as Detroit’s primary pass-catching back.

Kenyan Drake, Miami Dolphins

Drake’s impending scenario for 2019 contrasts the other players included in this article because his 2018 target share was favorable. However, many owners would consider his production to be a disappointment in the aftermath of their investment of a third-round draft pick. That decision was made in hopes that he would sustain the usage and production that occurred during his final five matchups of 2017 (18 attempts-per-game/89 yards-per-game). But despite the belief that Drake's sizable involvement would continue, that optimistic vision was circumvented by Adam Gase for reasons that are fathomable only to him.

Drake's appealing averages from December 2017 (7.5 carries/33.4 yards) plummeted last season, as he had 13 fewer carries (133/120), and experienced a decline in his rushing yardage (644/535). Now, many former owners are not enamored with the concept of trusting him at his current Round 5 ADP. However, he still led Miami rushers with 545 snaps (59.2%) and has paced the backfield in that category for two consecutive years.

That was still sufficient for Drake to finish at RB14 in PPR leagues, which was achieved in great part through his receiving prowess. His career-best 73 targets placed him 13th among all backs, as he also secured a 16% target share. Even though that level of opportunity eclipsed the majority of backs, his potential to surpass last year's target total provides the rationale for including him among the most likely candidates for an expanding share.

Questions surrounding how head coach Brian Flores and coordinator Chad O’Shea will deploy their offensive personnel is matched by the uncertainty concerning their capabilities of implementing their approach. However, Kalen Ballage is currently Drake's only legitimate competitor for touches. It is difficult to envision Ballage vaulting into a major role as the Dolphins’ primary pass-catching back. He was targeted just 11 times last season and exceeded 20 receptions only once during his four seasons with Arizona State. Drake currently dwells in prime position to perform as Miami's feature back, while also commandeering enough targets to propel his market share upward.


Wide Receivers

Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

The impending statistical surge that awaits Godwin is hardly a secret at this point of the offseason, due to the expected increase in targets and final production that awaits him. However, this article would be incomplete without his inclusion. Godwin's current ADP continues to hover at the threshold of Round 4, which is a dramatic departure from one year ago when he was selected at WR55 in Round 12.

This underscores the degree to which owners are aware that a reasonable percentage of the 179 targets/29% market share that had been allocated to the now-departed DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries in 2018 will be redistributed to Godwin. The opportunities that had been confiscated by Humphries are most applicable if Godwin operates inside as projected.

Godwin's looming opportunity to run routes in a Bruce Arians offense does not diminish anticipation of his enhanced role, and expectations intensified following Arians' assertions that he is “going to be close to a 100-catch guy because I think he can play in the slot," and "he's never coming off the field." While Godwin’s 2018 output included a tie for 13th in touchdowns (7) and a finish of 25th in yardage, a passageway has been cleared for Godwin to improve upon last year's target share and ignite statistically in an unquestioned WR2 role for the Buccaneers.

Godwin also finished 16th among wide receivers with 16 red-zone targets, with six of those opportunities being accumulated during December. His 11 targets inside the 10 were third highest behind only DeAndre Hopkins and Michael Thomas while his 30.6% target share inside the 10 placed him sixth.

A healthy portion of the 19 red zone opportunities that were commandeered by Jackson and Humphries last season should be earmarked for Godwin, which will only cement the likelihood that he will achieve a favorable increase in target share.

Mike Williams, Los Angeles Chargers

In 2018, he initiated a process of overcoming the lingering negativity surrounding his discouraging 2017 rookie season (10 games/11 receptions/95 yards/ touchdowns). Soon, the 6'4" Williams should eviscerate any remaining concerns regarding his ability to function as a dependable resource for owners, as he should garner an expanded market share throughout the season.

Williams collected an anemic 23 targets during his forgettable first season, which was negatively impacted by a protracted back issue. But his involvement increased in 2018, as he tied for second on the Chargers with 66 targets, including 6+ in six different contests. That contains the 24 that he captured during Los Angeles final four games, as his six per-game average during that span exceeded his 4.1 average for the season.

Williams also received eight of his 14 red-zone targets from Weeks 12 to 17, while nine of those were distributed inside the 10. His escalating red zone usage also resulted in five touchdowns during that sequence, which propelled Williams to a season-long total that tied him for fifth overall in that category (10). He also finished just ahead of former teammate Tyrell Williams in target share (13%), and Tyrell’s exodus to Oakland will unleash 65 targets for redistribution.

Even though Tyrell’s departure is partially offset by the return of Hunter Henry, Mike should commandeer a considerable percentage of the vacated targets. If he is allotted 40% of those opportunities, his overall total will rise to 92. That would not place him adjacent to the league leaders but would represent a sizable surge in his target share for a second consecutive year. Williams should comfortably ascend into a consistent role as the Chargers’ WR2, while also approaching the periphery of weekly WR2 status for his owners.


Tight Ends

Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens

After being selected with the 86th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Andrews proceeded to finish second among tight ends in Football Outsiders’ DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average -36.2%), and fourth in DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement-159). He was also second in yards-per-reception (16,2), eighth with eight receptions of 20+ yards, and assembled those numbers after ascending atop Baltimore's crowded collection of tight ends.

Any enthusiasm toward securing Andrews for your rosters might be tempered initially due to the Ravens' dedication toward running the ball. They ranked 30th in pass play percentage during 2018 (52.3%) and ran the fewest pass plays of any team during the final three weeks of the year (45.3%). Greg Roman’s elevation into offensive coordinator responsibilities will further entrench the offense into a continuation of last year’s ground-oriented approach.

However, only six teams utilized the tight end position with greater frequency last season, and Roman’s resume also contains effective deployment of play-action passing. Both of those factors alter what might otherwise appear to be an unfavorable situation for Andrews. Roman should also utilize route structures that will maximize Lamar Jackson’s strengths, while also streamlining his pre-snap read process. This should help alleviate a degree of concern regarding ongoing development as a passer.

Andrews should confiscate Baltimore’s TE1 role, even though former first-round pick Hayden Hurst did add 20 pounds of offseason muscle, and cannot be completely disregarded in the overall equation. The Ravens will also blend Mark Ingram, Justice Hill, Marquise Brown, and Miles Boykin into their collection of weaponry, but the Ravens do not need to unleash a relentless aerial onslaught in order for Andrews to receive an increase from last season’s 9% target share. The enticement of including him on your rosters increases substantially when you consider the minimal investment of his current ADP and the dearth of comfortable options at this nightmarish position.

Dallas Goedert, Philadelphia Eagles 

You are already well acquainted with the benefits and the potential for peril that is customary when attempting to locate a dependable tight end position. That can partially explain why Goedert’s prospects for a more expansive role within Philadelphia’s passing attack has been among the more prevalent topics during the offseason. Owners are in a perpetual and relentless search for any additional source of production at this troublesome position, and the 6’5” Goedert possesses enough attributes to instill hope that he can vault onto a loftier tier this season.

Any emergence as a viable fantasy option will not occur at the expense of Zach Ertz, who remains one of the few elite performers that can provide owners with a sizable positional advantage in their matchups throughout the season. But even as Ertz will confiscate a mammoth number of targets once again, Goedert can also capture a larger share of opportunities than he was allotted during his rookie season.

The Eagles’ escalating use of 12 personnel as  2018 progressed helped boost Goedert’s snap count percentage from an average of 42% in Weeks 1-11, to 58% in Weeks 12-17. Goedert also collected 33 of his 44 targets, accumulated 334 yards, and generated four touchdowns. All of which was accomplished even as Ertz continued to stockpile targets (156), finished second overall in receptions (116), and assembled 1,163 yards. 

It is reasonable to believe that Philadelphia could expand their usage of 12 personnel even further after Goedert captured 75% of his targets last season. He possesses too much size and athleticism for the Eagles to dismiss their opportunity to exploit the matchup nightmares that can be created through deployment of both tight ends.

This is not a suggestion that Goedert will become a borderline TE1 this season, or that Ertz will experience a massive decline in his opportunities. But the end result should be more targets for Goedert, which will boost his overall share.

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