We've approached a tipping in the fantasy football season. For those of you playing in season long leagues, you know by now if you're going to be a playoff contender or if you're going to be sitting on the outside looking in with your closest friends (AP, RGIII and Megatron to name a few). For those of you in the latter category, you don't necessarily have to give up on fantasy sports until baseball starts up again. Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) leagues give you a second chance to win back the money you lost from your buddy's fantasy football league. For those of you that have already been grinding away in the daily scene, it's coming down to crunch time if you want to qualify for one of many end-of-season tournaments happening at DraftKings, FanDuel or one of the many other DFS sites.
Setting a lineup can be a daunting process. As a numbers guy myself, I love trying to weigh the expected production of each player versus their cost of ownership given a finite salary cap. To others, however, it's sometimes a little overwhelming to digest all this information and it's sometimes difficult to find a place to begin. Sure, you can build a lineup by selecting the players that are perceived as being the most valuable or have a matchup against a weak defense. But to be successful in DFS, it's imperative to have a basic understanding of not only the overall talent of a player but also team offensive tendencies, upcoming matchups and player usage. Anyone with a cable subscription can watch ESPN and know that Julius Thomas is an absolute monster in the end zone and one of Peyton's favorite targets near the goal line. But does that reason alone make him a worthy top play over other tight ends like Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham? Any player can have a good matchup week-to-week but a favorable matchup might only be useful if the player is getting the opportunity to produce on the field. The most successful players are those who see a high amount of volume AND then convert this volume into tangible results for your team (i.e. red zone conversion). Each week, your fantasy players compete not only against the opposing team but also against their own teammates. Volume is everything in fantasy football and for receivers at all positions, it takes targets to start getting results. Players who see a high percentage of their team's targets are more likely to consistently produce than players who lack the opportunities. To better make this comparison, below you will find the wide receivers, tight ends, and running backs ranked by total targets per game.
As you can see, the more green you see next to a player's name, the better chance they have at providing a productive fantasy day. The ideal situation is to target the players who not only have a high number of targets per game but also see the majority of targets on their respective teams. If a player can see both a large number of targets and be the main receiving target for his quarterback, big time statistical games can occur. In general, if a player has a high volume of targets but lacks red zone chances, he would be an okay option in cash games since his production will generally be more stable but I would avoid playing him in tournaments. Conversely, a player with a high red zone opportunity percentage but lower total target percentage would make a better tournament play due to the high touchdown upside.
- Antonio Brown and Jordy Nelson headline the top "elite" options for volume plays based on total targets and red zone targets
- Despite being teammates, Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders both managed to see more than 25% of the total targets on their team. Since the Broncos offense is so efficient, both players are solid plays week-to-week.
- Conversely, neither TY Hilton nor Reggie Wayne have captured more than 20% of the total targets on their team. As a result, they are bit riskier plays on a weekly basis because their usage is not as predominant in the passing attack.
- Andre Johnson and Mohamed Sanu are both solid "value" options from a target volume perspective
- The Bears passing attack is split between 4 targets - Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett, and Matt Forte, making all of them compete against one another for targets. Marshall and Jeffery are each a usage risk going forward due to competition from teammates.
- Mike Evans and Roddy White both lose targets each week to their number one receivers
- Cecil Shorts missed several weeks at the beginning of the year, driving down his overall target percentage. Since he has returned, he has seen the majority of targets but has struggled to catch the passes, barely having a completion percentage exceeding 50%.
- Julius Thomas barely made the "Top-15" Tight End list in terms of targets per game and he sees just 14% of the total targets from Peyton Manning. That's not a good combination but he makes up for it by leading in red zone looks, right? Wrong. He's second on his team in RZ opportunities behind Demaryius Thomas. After the hot start to the year, his production has been dwindling yet his price remains high around the industry. He is clearly affected by the presence of his teammates.
- Rob Gronkowski leads all tight ends in targets per game and has one of the highest target percentages among all players at the position. He is featured predominantly in the Patriots offense alongside WR Julian Edelman. For a tight end, a 21% target percentage is fantastic, although his 10% RZ opportunity rate does raise eyebrows since he has scored on an incredible 78% of his RZ chances this season.
- Martellus Bennett and WR Brandon Marshall are clearly the top 2 threats in the Bears offense in terms of volume (outside of Matt Forte) but Bennett provides nice value at the TE position considering his usage is similar to Marshall's on the season yet his price is lower on most daily sites.
- Matt Forte is an absolute target monster in the Bears offense and leads the team in total targets as well as red zone targets. His 18% red zone conversion rate is nothing spectacular but running backs typically have lower numbers so it's not totally unexpected.
- Arian Foster and Matt Asiata each stand out with fantastic 38% RZ conversion rates
- Le'Veon Bell has a poor 8% red zone conversion rate yet has seen 24 red zone touches to LeGarrette Blount's 12.
- Any running back listed on this list are usually decent plays on websites with full point PPR's.
This was a just a small sample of teammate competition using the top targeted players in the league. The issue becomes even more prevalent as you move down towards the WR3's and FLEX plays where the usage becomes more erratic. Playing time and opportuntiies are such a critical factor to long-term success in fantasy football and it's absolutely necessary to take this information into consideration when deciding if a player is worth the salary. Don't fall into the trap of blindly assuming that a "favorable" matchup will magically gaurantee success for all receivers of a team's offense.