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Week 8 Opening Drive: Re-Visiting Target & Red Zone Analysis

Michael Waldo

Welcome to Week 8 of MyFantasyFix's Opening Drive! Throughout the season, I enjoy using this space to educate our readers on various DFS principles. As a football analyst, one of my favorite things to do is share my knowledge and the techniques that I use to identify great plays. I want to TEACH people how to create strong lineups, not just TELL them exactly who to play. As the Chinese proverb says "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." If the DFS game is a pond, then my goal is to give you the fishing pole.

Our projections are based on a multitude of different factors - from opponents to coaching schemes to Vegas projections - with each providing different but valuable information that you can use when building your daily fantasy lineups. While much of this information is publicly available and easily accessible to the general public, we actually spend the time doing the dirty work so you don't have to invest your time. Unfortunately, with all this publicly available information, it's often difficult to find any differentiation from the rest of the field when everyone is analyzing the same data. That's why we want to give you the tools that you can't find anywhere else. With these in hand, we have found that it's much easier to differentiate your lineup from the rest of the pack while simultaneously increasing your odds of cashing in your next large GPP tournament.

Today's article will highlight one of the most important factors we consider making our weekly projections - passing targets and red zone usage. Success in DFS is largely tied to heavy usage. After all, think about all of the weekly contests that are won or lost in garbage time as a team feverishly attempts to stage a late-game comeback. We know we can't count on garbage time points, but we can target the high volume offenses and high volume players. Similarly, we can target the defenses that tend to yield higher volume of plays.

For this week, let's start with the basics. In Table 1 below, you'll find the top-15 wide receivers ranked by average targets per game through Week 7 (minimum of 2 games played). The second column is called "Target %" and represents the percentage of targets each player sees on his individual team. Total targets is really important but it's also extremely important to look for the players who are their team's top options for their quarterbacks. Without consistent targets on their own team, it's difficult to project future targets to come their way.

TABLE 1: Wide Receiver Targets

WRTargets.png

Not surprisingly, there are a lot of big name wide receivers on this list and you don't need me to tell you that DeAndre Hopkins is a good play this week. You also have to factor in injuries when looking at the Target %. For example, Alshon Jeffrey has seen a huge number of targets per game yet has only accounted for 11% of his teams total targets. The reason? He has only played in 2 of the Bears' 6 games. What this does identify for us are the offenses that tend to spread the ball around (Patriots) versus those that rely heavily on one player (Houston). As you can see, DeAndre Hopkins and Julio Jones lead the group in Target % and it's not really a surprise since both teams lack a legitimate #2 receiving option. The point here is that heavy usage (especially players without a solid WR2) is generally a good thing in DFS and targets are probably one of the biggest (and easily accessible) factors the general public uses when looking at DFS.

Now that we've mastered the concept of targets, let's add in red zone targets into the mix and expand our selection to cover the top-30 targeted wide receiving. In Table 2 below, you will find the players sorted by their red zone conversion rate. This percentage is calculated by taking their total number of red zone touchdowns scored divided by their total number of red zone opportunities.

Table 2: Wide Receiver Targets & Red Zone Opportunities

WRW8Targets2.png

Targets are good in DFS but they can only take you so far. The real points are scored when players can score touchdowns. Obviously, you want to target those players that have both a high number of red zone targets and a high red zone conversion rate. In this case, Allen Robinson has clearly been the most efficient wide receiver, scoring 5 touchdowns on 8 red zone targets on the year. Similarly, Donte Moncrief has caught 4 touchdown passes in just 7 red zone targets. So how can you differentiate between the two? In this case, you need to look at the entire picture. Both players average between 8-9 targets and 1 red zone target per game. However, while Robinson captured 29% of his team's targets, Moncrief sees just 22% of his team's this year. With Allen Hurns looking clearly locked in as the WR2 (but with a knack for zone conversions), Robinson continues to see big usage in the middle of the field while also garnering his own share of red zone chances. In Indy, Moncrief has to fight a crowded receiving corps (TY Hilton, Andre Johnson, Phillip Dorsett) and nearly signed passing down back Ahmad Bradshaw. With less competition for targets, Allen Robinson gets the nod. Near the bottom of the list, we see names like TY Hilton and Jarvis Landry, both of whom appeared in the top-15 in average targets per game yet fall to the bottom when sorted by RZ conversion rate. Based on these player's size and skillsets, they're typically not involved much around the red zone, so it shouldn't come to a surprise that their conversion rates are also low. However, you can use this bit of knowledge to your advantage. For players who blindly select based on targets, they may be over looking (and overvaluing) a guy like TY Hilton in tournaments. If you play him, you have to make sure you can expect to return value from his price point without scoring a touchdown. Another guy you may notice that is near the bottom of this list is Keenan Allen. Despite having nearly 97 targets on the year, Phillip Rivers has targeted him near the goal line just 6 total times, with Allen scoring a touchdown on just 1 of those targets. My advice on Allen would be to continue deploying him in cash games. After all, he's been extremely consistent and will continue to rack up the yardage, keeping his floor much higher than other players at the position. Unfortunately, his prospect of scoring touchdowns is certainly inhibited by his lack of red zone looks, making him a risky tournament option.

Table 3: Tight Ends Targets & Red Zone Opportunities

TETargetsW8.png

Finally, we get to tight ends! The most surprising thing in this table in the fact that Rob Gronkowski isn't in the top 3 of most targeted tight ends through the season's first 7 weeks. A big reason for this has been the injuries to the Bears and Panthers top wide receivers. As a result, both Greg Olsen and Martellus Bennett have been asked to play bigger roles. Moving forward, I'd expect Alshon Jeffery to eat into some of Bennett's targets but with Kelvin Benjamin out for the season, the future remains bright for Greg Olsen. Outside of high targeted tight ends, the single most important attribute I look for when selecting a value play FanDuel or DraftKings is touchdown probability. Up until this point in the season, Tyler Eiffert has been the most consistent tight end at scoring touchdowns in the NFL. Through 6 games, Tyler Eiffert has 6 touchdowns and ranks 3rd among tight ends with 9 total red zone targets. Equally impressive has been his solid 24% target rate from his team's perspective. With Greg Olsen and Rob Gronkowski commanding huge price tags, the statistics compel you to give Tyler Eiffert a try. He's been provided elite statistics without the elite price tag.

Final Say:

I love using red zone conversion rates when finding my plays. Not many people dig deep enough into the red zone target statistics to truly make the data as meaningful as it's presented here. Having success around the goal line is a skill and red zone conversion is as close as we can currently get to measuring a player's "clutch" performance. To see more analysis like this along with our weekly DFS positional plays and site-specific cheatsheets, try out MyFantasyFix for a free 7 day trial by visiting this link.

Follow me on Twitter: @MichaelWaldo

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