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Wide Receiver Target Variances - Week 2 Report

Your wide receivers remain essential components toward accomplishing your unwavering goal of securing a league championship. As the season unfolds, it is crucial for you to utilize the tools that you have available, in order to maintain an extensive level of knowledge regarding the number of opportunities that are being provided to your wide receivers - both in terms of their snap counts and how often they are being targeted by their quarterbacks.

Each week, this article will examine these specific categories, along with any other noteworthy changes in usage that signal an increase or regression in opportunity. This will bolster your efforts to determine which wide receivers should be in your lineups, and which are worthy of remaining on your rosters. Pro Football Reference and NFL Savant were used to obtain all target and red zone target totals, while snap count information was assembled with information from Football Outsiders.

After using the Week 1 numbers to construct the foundation from which the variance results will be generated, we now are in possession of data from two weeks of game action that will provide the basis for comparison of snap counts and targets for each receiver. This will include the most likely candidates to experience a rise or decline in those numbers in upcoming weeks. Here is a breakdown of the most compelling changes in usage and opportunity from Week 2.

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Overall Targets

Wide Receiver Week 1 Targets  Week 2 Targets Total Targets
Antonio Brown 16 17 33
Michael Thomas 17 13 30
Golden Tate 15 13 28
Julio Jones 19 9 28
Juju Smith-Schuster 8 19 27
Adam Thielen 12 13 25
Odell Beckham Jr. 15 9 24
Jarvis Landry 15 7 22
DeAndre Hopkins 11 11 22
T.Y. Hilton 11 11 22
Nelson Agholor 10 12 22
Kenny Golladay 12 9 21
Quincy Enunwa 10 11 21
Allen Robinson 7 14 21
Demaryius Thomas 10 11 21
Corey Davis 13 7 20
Davante Adams 8 12 20

17 different wide receivers have collected at least 20 targets through the first two weeks of the regular season, while six of them have accumulated at least 25. Six of the top 10 receivers also finished among the top 10 in that category throughout all of 2017 including Brown and Thomas, who currently reside in the top two positions. While Golden Tate finished just outside the top 10 last season (14th) he did amass 122 targets, and has accumulated 527 during his first four seasons with the Lions (2014-2017). All of which makes it less surprising to see him third at this point of the year.

The biggest surprise on this week’s leader list is Quincy Enunwa, who averaged 5.4 targets per game entering the season. Kenny Golladay and Corey Davis are also newcomers to this level of usage after receiving a combined 113 targets during their 2017 rookie seasons (Golladay 48/Davis 65), but they should both sustain a desirable target volume throughout the year. JuJu Smith-Schuster made the most sizable jump in order to attain inclusion among this week’s leaders, which also resulted in the greatest variance for the week.


Greatest Variances

Wide Receiver Week 1 Targets  Week 2 Targets Target Variance
JuJu Smith-Schuster 8 19 11
Amari Cooper 3 10 7
Allen Robinson 7 14 7
Stefon Diggs 6 13 7
John Brown 4 10 6
Mike Evans 7 12 5
Terrelle Pryor 3 8 5
Davante Adams 8 12 4
Keelan Cole 4 8 4
Donte Moncrief 5 9 4
Devin Funchess 5 9 4
Tyler Boyd 5 9 4
Michael Crabtree 6 10 4
Julio Jones 19 9 -10
Jarvis Landry 15 7 -8
Emmanuel Sanders 11 4 -7
Ryan Grant 9 2 -7
Odell Beckham Jr. 15 9 -6
Corey Davis 13 7 -6
Larry Fitzgerald 10 5 -5
Cole Beasley 8 3 -5
Randal Cobb 10 6 -4
Kelvin Benjamin 7 3 -4

Smith-Schuster’s 19 targets in Week 2 easily surpassed his previous career high of 10, while enabling him to stockpile 13 receptions – both of which were the highest totals for the week. That also resulted in the largest weekly increase (+11), which vaulted him to fifth overall in targets for the season. While the presence of Brown will prohibit Smith-Schuster from matching that output on a weekly basis, Robinson's status as Chicago's WR1 should enable him to dwell among the league target leaders throughout the year. He just registered his highest target total since October of 2016 (14) and is the Bears’ definitive leader in receptions (14) and yardage (144) heading into his Week 3 showdown against Patrick Peterson in Arizona.

Adams garnered the fourth most targets in Week 2 and the ascension of his total directly impacted Cobb. The only other receivers who captured at least seven additional targets were Diggs and Cooper - whose 10 targets tied them for the sixth highest total of the week.

Smith-Schuster’s target rise should have been anticipated, as Pittsburgh was hosting a Kansas City pass defense that has surrendered a league-worst 430 YPG, along with six touchdowns. However, Cooper’s output may have been unforeseen for those who subscribed to the lazy narrative that some were delivering regarding his 1 reception/3 target performance in Week 1. A review of tape from the team’s matchup revealed that Cooper gained separation from Aqib Talib on multiple occasions, but Derek Carr simply was unwilling to launch passes in his direction. That changed in Week 2, which triggered the dramatic surge in production.

The most precipitous drop was Julio Jones, who was targeted nine times in Week 2 after receiving a league-best 19 to begin the season. Of course, that should not elicit any concern, since nine targets is a total that owners of many receivers can only dream of. According to nextgenstats, Jones is also the only receiver that is currently eclipsing 55% of his team’s air yards and it’s not particularly close. Jones’ 71.66% is followed by Beckham’s 54.92%, and the 53.08% of Robinson, while no other wide receivers have attained 50%.

Beckham, Jarvis Landry, Emmanuel Sanders, Larry Fitzgerald, Davis and Ryan Grant joined Jones among the five performers that experienced the largest regression. Grant's plummeting usage was expected, but Beckham, Landry, and Sanders have the combination of exceptional talent and an excellent level of opportunity that should allow owners to anticipate satisfactory production in upcoming weeks - providing that Landry can overcome his knee issue.  Fitzgerald was statistically victimized in Week 2 by the abysmal strategic approach that has disabled the Arizona offense. Owners can hope that promises of change by head coach Steve Wilks will actually occur.


Red Zone Targets 

Wide Receiver  Week 1 Red Zone Targets Week 2 Red Zone Targets Total Red  Zone Targets Red Zone Target Variance
JuJu Smith-Schuster 0 8 8 8
Michael Thomas 3 4 7 1
Cooper Kupp 3 3 6 0
Davante Adams 2 3 5 1
Marvin Jones 2 3 5 1
Antonio Brown 2 2 4 0
A.J. Green 1 3 4 2
Demaryius Thomas 1 3 4 2
Phillip Dorsett 2 2 4 0
T.Y. Hilton 3 1 4 -2
Quincy Enunwa 3 1 4 -2
Devin Funchess 1 3 4 2
Nelson Agholor 0 3 3 3
Julio Jones 3 0 3 -3
Keenan Allen 1 2 3 1
Brandin Cooks 1 2 3 1
Taylor Gabriel 1 2 3 1
Anthony Miller 1 2 3 1
Corey Davis 3 0 3 -3
John Ross 1 2 3 1
Odell Beckham 2 1 3 -1
John Brown 2 1 3 -1

In Week 1, 19 different receivers received at least two red zone targets, while six (Thomas, Enunwa, Davis, Hilton, Jones/Cooper Kupp) had three. One week later, 22 receivers have had at least three passes launched in their direction near the end zone, with Smith-Schuster leading the way (8). That gargantuan number instantly propelled him into the league lead, just ahead of Thomas and Cooper Kupp, who have both garnered at least three in each of their first two games, and will be located repeatedly as the season progresses. Adams and Marvin Jones join them in comprising the top five during their first two games.

12 receivers have registered at least four red zone targets during the initial two weeks of the season, while nine were able to garner at least three in Week 2. Dorsett's two-target per game average is not sustainable, although anyone who has decided to retain John Ross on their roster can take some solace in his two red zone targets, which are second only to A.J. Green among all Bengals. Meanwhile, the Tyrell Williams/Mike Williams debate cannot be answered by reviewing this category, as both wideouts have only received one.


Greatest Variances 

The most eye-opening number in this category is unquestionably the eight red zone targets that were delivered to Smith-Schuster after he received none during Pittsburgh's opener. The other noteworthy Week 2 occurrence in this category would be DeAndre Hopkins' failure to receive a single red zone target, which kept his season total frozen at two.

Owners of Nelson Agholor and Devin Funchess should be thrilled with the expanded red zone targeting that occurred in Week 2, and both receivers are destined for more opportunities due to the collective absence of Alshon Jeffery, Mike Wallace, and Greg Olsen. Conversely, Davis captured three red zone targets in Week 1, but failed to register any in Week 2. However, his owners should be somewhat appeased by the fact that Tennessee as a team only has two red zone targets that have not been designated for Davis.


Snap Counts  

Wide Receiver Week 1 Snap Count Week 1 Snap Count Percentage Week 2 Snap Count Week 1 Snap Count Percentage Total Snaps Snap Count Variance 
Antonio Brown 83 99% 77 94% 160 -6
Josh Doctson 70 89% 71 96% 141 1
Jarvis Landry 81 91% 59 95% 140 -22
DeAndre Hopkins 73 99% 67 100% 140 -6
Nelson Agholor 68 94% 72 91% 140 4
Marvin Jones 62 89% 77 100% 139 15
JuJu Smith-Schuster 63 75% 76 93% 139 13
Adam Thielen 68 96% 70 96% 138 2
Kenny Golladay 65 93% 71 92% 136 6
T.Y. Hilton 80 98% 55 90% 135 -25
Davante Adams 59 98% 75 97% 134 16
Odell Beckham 68 96% 66 97% 134 -2
Brandin Cooks 61 97% 72 100% 133 11
Cooper Kupp 61 97% 72 100% 133 11
Robert Woods 61 97% 70 97% 131 9
Allen Robinson 67 96% 63 95% 130 -4
Paul Richardson 61 77% 68 92% 129 7
Jordy Nelson 72 97% 54 83% 126 -18
Michael Crabtree 53 66% 73 86% 126 20
Sterling Shepard 61 86% 65 96% 126 4
Randall Cobb 52 87% 71 92% 123 19
Chris Hogan 68 91% 55 90% 123 -13
Taylor Gabriel 60 86% 63 95% 123 3
Amari Cooper 69 93% 54 83% 123 -15
Stefon Diggs 61 86% 62 85% 123 1
Devin Funchess 57 85% 66 99% 123 9
Antonio Callaway 15 17% 50 81% 65 35
Ryan Grant 65 79% 49 70% 108 -16
Terrelle Pryor 24 40% 44 68% 68 20

The snap count results for Cooks and Kupp continue to be exact replicas in every category, while Robert Woods' numbers remain slightly behind his teammates. Taylor Gabriel deserves mention, as his name appears among the snap count leaders (123). His 12 targets are second to Robinson on the Bears, and he should remain actively involved in the offense for the short-term. However, the usage of Anthony Miller will gradually rise in upcoming weeks.

Josh Doctson is second overall with 141 snaps. Yet, anyone who owns him does not need to be reminded that this has not translated into an acceptable level of production. He is just fourth on his own team with 10 targets, and fifth with a paltry 48 yards. He is now a droppable commodity, in exchange for a player who will actually provide you with fantasy points.


Greatest Variances

There will be weeks in which some of the most noteworthy variances in snap counts will occur because certain players have experienced a sizable change in their role during a particular game, while others will exist as the result of an unwanted injury. But this week, game scripts were the predominant factor in the fluctuation of counts for many of the players that are listed.

Antonio Callaway's situation is an exception, as his count rose significantly when Josh Gordon's exodus elevated Callaway into Cleveland's WR2 responsibilities. Terrelle Pryor's surging snap count also corresponded to a rise in opportunities, which were displayed in the target section. While Ryan Grant should only have been on rosters in the deepest of leagues, his decline in targets was consistent with his decreased snap count.


Five Things I Noticed

1) Tyler Boyd conversation was all but non-existent during the offseason, as he inhabited an area far beyond the fantasy landscape. But even though there was justification for targeting teammate Ross as a late-round flyer throughout the draft process, Boyd has been deployed as Cincinnati's WR2 (14 targets) while Ross has received a mere six targets during the Bengals initial two games. More importantly, Boyd has capitalized on these unexpected opportunities, which should fortify the consistent role that he has obtained so far.

2) Corey Davis easily led the Titans with seven targets in Week 2, although that represented the significant decline from the 13 that he garnered during Tennessee's opener. Still, that was exactly one-third of the team's target share and is consistent with his 34.5% team share for the season. He is also fourth among all receivers in targeted air yards (46.78%), which should enhance the comfort level of his owners.

3) The escalation in usage for Kenny Golladay is gradually entrenching him as an integral component within Detroit’s passing attack. While this represents excellent news for owners, it should also concern anyone who invested an early-round pick on Jones. Golladay has generated 95 more yards (203/108) and collected five more catches (13/8), even though their snap counts are relatively even (93%/95%).

4) Those of you who prioritized John Brown as a late-round flyer have already been rewarded for your decision if you started him in Week 2. His target totals surged into double-digits (10), which was an increase of six over his Week 1 total (4). It was the third highest increase for the week, and Brown's ability to capitalize on his opportunities has made him the most proficient receiver for Baltimore to this point of the season (7 receptions, 136 yards, 2 touchdowns, 14 targets, 115 snaps).

5) The news is less favorable for Chris Hogan owners, as he was allotted five targets for the second consecutive week. He was able to generate two touchdowns, which clearly boosted owners' weekly scoring total. His team target share of 23.5% is a concern, although the arrival of Josh Gordon could actually be advantageous for Hogan. Even though I am not among those who believe that Gordon can recapture his 2013 magic, his touchdown reception in Week 1 was a reminder that he still has the potential to make plays, and opposing defenses will be obliged to account for him. That will compel them to deploy their most effective cornerback on Gordon, while Hogan will operate against defenders that are less forbidding.

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