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NFL Week 16 Opening Drive: Fantasy Points Per Target

Michael Waldo

Welcome to the final installment of the Opening Drive for the 2014 Fantasy Football season!  It seems like this season just flew by and now we're almost into NFL playoff time.  For those of you still alive in your season-long leagues - Congratulations!  For those of you who aren't, it's time to focus your full attention on Daily Fantasy Football.  If you haven't already checked out Fantistics' sister site, MyFantasyFIx.com, now is the perfect opportunity to let our analysts guide you to real money as you dip your toes into the world of Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS).  Each week we publish our top play analysis, team positional matchup matrix, and player projections as well as site specific cheatsheets with our top plays to help you win in both cash games and tournaments.  You can sign up for a free trial here.

This space all season has been devoted to both target and red zone analysis.  We have tried to present the data in ways that are not generally available on other websites while also providing useful information that you can use when setting your lineups each week.  The final edition of "The Opening Drive" will be no different. Whether you're using this research to set your championship lineup in a season long league or you're trying to go after the top prize in FanDuel's $2M Tournament this weekend, the topic we're discussing today is one of my favorite ways to find values in fantasy football.  We've spent countless hours analyzing the statistics of players that lead to scoring points and have paid special attention to the number of targets receivers at any position will see.   We're finally putting all of that together and looking at fantasy points per target. 

Introduction to Fantasy Points Per Target (FPPT):

As I mentioned earlier, fantasy points per target is one of my favorite ways to look at player values. It's one thing for a player to see a lot of targets but it's another thing to see those targets actually get translated into fantasy points.  Conversely, good value can be found by identifying the players who performed when given the opportunity but just lack the necessary chances to be able to make a difference. To tie this back to DFS, players with a high FPPT but low TPG (targets per game) make for decent cheap options in large tournaments because they carry significant risk but they're also much more likely to be under-owned.  Since we're in Week 16 and the majority of people will be focusing their attention on DFS, I broke the views into two separate tables - one for specific to FanDuel and one specific to DraftKings.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the scoring, FanDuel rewards half PPR while DraftKings is a full PPR. As a result, players with high RZ usage and touchdown upside are often more valuable than a high-volume target (i.e. Cecil Shorts).  As a disclaimer, this view looks only at a player's receiving statistics (receptions, receiving yards, receiving touchdowns, and fumbles) and it does not take into consideration any points gained on the ground or by passing.  As a result, some of the running back data can be misleading. However, if used as a tool in conjunction with other analysis, this can be a useful stat to use to identify values at the running back position on sites with a form of PPR. 

Figure 1: DraftKings FPPT

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Figure 2: FanDuel FPPT

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FPPT Observations:

-The ideal situation is to have a player with both a high FPPT and high targets per game.  The list is sorted by FPPT so look for the players with green highlight in TPG that also appear high on the list.  The best example of this type of player is Odell Beckham Jr.  Beckham has single-handedly carried some teams to fantasy football championship games the last several weeks and he continues to be one of, if not the best, at his position right now.  Since he missed so much time, he's not appearing on the top total target lists but he ranks out at #17 on the targets per game ranking and has been flat out unstoppable.  He's also been seeing a huge number of targets in the red zone with 9 over his last 2 games and 11 over his last 4. 

-Noticeable players who see a lot of targets but do not appear within the top-25 FPPT include (TPG in parenthesis): Julio Jones (11.3), Andre Johnson (9.1), Josh Gordon (9.0), Calvin Johnson (9.0), Julian Edelman (8.9), Golden Tate (8.6). These players can miss the cut-off for many different reasons.  He could be playing injured (i.e. Johnson & Johnson), low red zone opportunities (Edelman & Tate), or simply inconsistent performance (Jones & Gordon).  Just know that these players are great plays in full PPR leagues but they carry less point upside since their output is a bit more inconsistent. 

-On the surface, you might be surprised to see running backs have double, even triple, the FPPT of their wide receiver counterparts.  However, if you think about the types of targets running backs see versus the types of targets wide receivers or tight ends see, it makes sense.  Most passes to running backs are short in nature and have a high percentage chance of being caught.  As a result, their lack of incompletions can make their FPPT significantly higher than a wide receiver who sees more difficult passes to catch.  When utilizing the charts above, compare players within their position but avoid making comparisons between running backs and wide receivers or between running backs and tight ends. 

-At the top, I'll admit that I was a little surprised to see Martavis Bryant lead all wideouts in FPPT on both FanDuel and DraftKings. Digging a little deeper, however, it's not THAT surprising.  With Antonio Brown dominating the targets, Bryant doesn't see quite the volume he would if he played on an offense that spread the ball around more.  What's unique about Bryant is his ability to get behind the defense and that's precisely when Big Ben likes to target him.  Bryant leads all receiver in the NFL with a 38.6% deep pass target percentage, with 4 of his 17 deep pass targets resulting in touchdowns.  Even more impressive is the fact that 4 of his 6 deep pass receptions have resulted in scores (PFF). 

-Eleventh on the wide receiver list is Devin Hester. With Julio Jones' injury and his strong performance (and usage) against the Steelers, there has been quite a bit of buzz around Devin Hester leading up to Week 16.  His price point on daily sites is still really cheap and as we've seen and as this stat shows, he's a play maker when he gets opportunities.  The Falcons have a big matchup on the road against the Saints this weekend and their secondary has been burned pretty bad lately.  If Julio is out again, Devin Hester deserves consideration as a cheap play this week.

-Marshawn Lynch gets a big time boost from his 3 receiving touchdowns during Weeks 2-4 of the season but he did score another in Week 14 and is on pace to finish with the most receptions in his career since his rookie season in 2007.  As a result, he actually ranks out as the 3rd best running back in terms of FPPT on FanDuel despite leading on DraftKings.  The matchup against Arizona this week isn't great between the tackles but the Cardinals have allowed the 6th most receptions to opposing running backs over the last 8 weeks, making Lynch a sneaky contrarian option in large tournaments or even as a RB option in standard season-long PPR leagues. 

-Julius Thomas tops the TE charts despite a sub-par 4.9 targets per game.  Thomas obviously receives a fair share of his value by catching TD passes and if you look at a RZ targets per game view, Thomas would be among the league leaders.  After missing nearly a month with an ankle injury, he was quiet in his return on Sunday and played on less than 50% of the snaps.  Given the playing time uncertainty and less than ideal matchup against Cincinnati, he's a tough player to recommend.  It's going to be all eyes on Rob Gronkowski against a Jets defense that has struggled all season at defending tight ends.  Gronk is the only tight end averaging more than 8 targets per game.

Wrap-Up:

Fantasy points per target gives us an easy-to-see view of how effective a player can be when they get the ball in their hands via a pass.  We all know that Jordy Nelson and Le'Veon Bell are great players week to week but we may not realize just how effective Kenny Stills or Matt Asiata can be when they get the ball.  It's an important week in fantasy and finding the hidden gems on the waiver wire or the cheap plays on DFS can be the difference between walking home with a check and walking home empty handed.  Good luck this week and thanks for being such loyal followers this year!  @MichaelWaldo 

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