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WR Stat Sleepers - Fantasy Points Per Target

When building a fantasy football team, one of the most important things to consider is a players opportunity. There is not much brain exercise to do when drafting a quarterback and assessing the number of times he will be tasked to lead the offense. If we're talking about a QB1 for his team, he'll probably end seeing 99% of the team's snaps during the season barring injury. But for running backs and most of all wide receivers the equation changes. Not only are running/passing team splits important when drafting runners and receivers. Inside those varying team tendencies that can favor the running or the passing game, the playing time and chances are further chopped. There might be a true-leading RB carrying the ball 80% of the time. There might be a backfield-by-committee in place. There will more than probably be three wide receivers with different roles on each offense. Add the presence of one or two tight ends here and there, and you end with four or five potential targets per snap to end with the ball.

The number of catches any receiver finishes his season with might not differ much from what others do in a totally different role and usage pattern. Why is that? Well, it comes down to the fact that we should value a receiver's true ability based on the number of passes he's thrown (targets) and catches, not just his raw receptions alone. Targets represent opportunities. The more opportunities a receiver has, the better chance he has at putting up huge numbers. If you can find someone that combines both a massive number of targets with a high catch percentage, then you can say you've found a true gem at the wide receiver position. And if that receiver had low target numbers but still got good outcomes, expect a bump in his points if he sees more balls this upcoming season.

In this article, I go through a few receivers who are low in terms of ADP but who put up great points per target (PPT) last season, thus raising their value and making them candidates for serious consideration to roster this season. Keep in mind that we're discussing sleepers here, so although players like Tyler Lockett (ADP 54), Mike Williams (ADP 63), and Will Fuller (ADP 75) posted great PPT marks I've not considered them given their high price. Instead, let's look at three WR with a low ADP and high PPT.

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Albert Wilson, Miami Dolphins

ADP: 228
PPT: 2.77

Truth be told, Wilson's ADP can be understood given the circumstances. He only played seven games last season for the Dolphins. Injuries kept him out of the lineup for so much time. Even with that, in the seven games he saw the field he excelled.

He caught 26 passes on 35 targets for a total of 391 yards. That is quite a small sample, yes, but pro-rated to a 16-game season (which we can only hope he achieves in 2019) it translates to 59 receptions on 80 targets for 894 yards. Of players targeted at least 35 times in 2018, Wilson's 2.77 PPT ranks second only behind Tyler Lockett's 3.18.

Wilson was a very reliable receiver during the first half of the season for Miami. He was able to put up a 74% catch rate and even scored 4 touchdowns. If he can keep up that efficiency while keeping injuries at bay it wouldn't be too crazy to think he can maintain his PPT production.

With both Fitzpatrick and Rosen entering Miami's quarterback rotation, and high-volume target Danny Amendola leaving, Wilson should be the WR2 or WR3 of the Dolphins alongside Devante Parker and Kenny Stills. Speaking of whom...


Tre'Quan Smith, New Orleans Saints

ADP: 175
PPT: 2.29

I must admit it. I'm excited about Tre'Quan Smith and his upcoming 2019 season. Yes, New Orleans has two opportunity-eaters in Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara. Yes, Drew Brees might be regressing and will probably rely on his two proven stars more than any other player. But what Smith did in 2018, as a rookie, merits the QB's attention as much as any other player on offense.

Although Smith wasn't expected to be a big part of the offense last season, he was forced into a featured role due to Ted Ginn losing time to injury. He played 15 games, was targeted a mere 44 times (less than three targets per game) yet still finished with 427 yards, 5 touchdowns and a catch rate of 64% (3th-best of New Orleans' receivers with at least 30 targets).

The addition of Jared Cook in the wake of Benjamin Watson departure shouldn't affect Smith's opportunities a lot. There has also not been any movement in the receiving corps. If Smith can outplay Ted Ginn now that he's back from injuries he will definitely see an uptick in his targets and chances.

As a late-round pick, Tre'Quan Smith profiles as one of the receivers with the highest upside and potential ROI. His 175 ADP and current WR63 ranking will see him available deep in most drafts if you want to bet on him. And you should. Putting up 2.29 PPT was only possible for eight WR last season (min. 35 targets), and Smith will still have an elite QB in Drew Brees throwing to him. His catch rate is already above average and if he can improve his yards per target and keep up with the touchdown scoring pace he's a must-add for his value.


Emmanuel Sanders, Denver Broncos

ADP: 113
PPT: 2.02

In a totally different situation to Smith, we find Emmanuel Sanders. The veteran poses more than a risky proposition after finishing last season with an Achilles injury. He has now missed four games in both 2017 and 2018. Even with that limited playing time, though, he finished the season as the WR23 in PPR points with 198.2 He is the only wide receiver with an ADP over 100 right now to finish with that many points last season. Which is to say: bargain alert!

Case Keenum targeted Sanders the most among his receivers with 99 passes thrown his way. He caught an impressive 73% of them for 877 yards and 4 TD. Pro-rated to a 16-game season that would yield 132 targets for 1,170 yards. Only 13 players were able to have more yardage this past season, and just three had a better Catch% than Sanders.

The most impressive thing about Sanders for the purposes of this article, though, was his PPT. Sanders had the second-highest PPT among receivers targeted less than 100 times. If there is anyone who can maintain the opportunity rate this season, that's Emmanuel Sanders. He's a veteran, he's a trusted receiver, and Joe Flacco will rely on him as one of his more reliable targets.

I don't think posting a higher PPT is out of reach for him in 2019 if he plays the full 16 games. Sanders is one of the most productive receivers in football, can amass yards like no one, and his TD numbers are bound to improve just because of his expected higher volume of chances.

Sanders might be a little more pricey than the other three WR presented here, but he's definitely the most valuable of them and will see his ADP rise once fantasy players figure out what they're missing in him.

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