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Opening Drive Week 11: Taking a Step Back to Reset

Michael Waldo

The last several weeks, we have dug into targets at a very granular level. From red zone target analysis to positional targets allowed, at the foundation of all this data is regular passing targets. At times, it's easy to get so wrapped up into the details of individual plays that you can sometimes overlook general themes as a whole. The same can be said about our perceptions of players based on YTD averages. We've now completed 10 of the 17 total weeks of the regular NFL season and we've found ourselves forming certain opinions about players based on the games we have seen over the last two and a half months.

For this week's opening drive, I wanted to talk a step back and review our average target leaders from a year-to-date basis and then take a deeper look into how things have changed over the last 5 weeks.

Targets Per Week - YTD Avg
Name Pos Avg YTD
Evans,Mike WR 10.6
Brown,Antonio WR 10.4
Fitzgerald,Larry WR 10
Green,AJ WR 9.9
Jones,Julio WR 9.7
Sanders,Emmanuel WR 9.5
Robinson,Allen WR 9.4
Pryor,Terrelle WR 9.2
Marshall,Brandon WR 9.2
Nelson,Jordy WR 9.1
Beckham Jr,Odell WR 9.1
Hilton,TY WR 9
Hopkins,DeAndre WR 8.9
Cooper,Amari WR 8.8
Thomas,Demaryius WR 8.5
Crabtree,Michael WR 8.1
Diggs,Stefon WR 8.1
Olsen,Greg TE 7.8
Landry,Jarvis WR 7.7
Benjamin,Kelvin WR 7.6
Matthews,Jordan WR 7.5
Tate,Golden WR 7.4
Adams,Davante WR 7.4
Austin,Tavon WR 7.3
Wallace,Mike WR 7.2

As you can see from the table above, we see a lot of "the usual suspects". We know Mike Evans and Antonio Brown have dominated targets this year and generally most of the players who appear on the Top 25 YTD Target Average leaders probably shouldn't surprise anyone. What happens, however, if we slice this data in half and only take the last 5 weeks?

Targets Per Week - Last 5 Weeks
Name Pos Avg Last 5 Weeks YTD Avg Rank YTD Avg Avg Diff YTD vs L5
Jones,Julio WR 11.2 6 9.7 1.5
Robinson,Allen WR 10.6 8 9.4 1.2
Fitzgerald,Larry WR 10.4 4 10 0.4
Thomas,Demaryius WR 10.2 16 8.5 1.7
Nelson,Jordy WR 10.2 11 9.1 1.1
Adams,Davante WR 10 23 7.4 2.6
Brown,Antonio WR 9.6 3 10.4 -0.8
Hopkins,DeAndre WR 9.4 14 8.9 0.5
Green,AJ WR 9.4 5 9.9 -0.5
Diggs,Stefon WR 9.4 17 8.1 1.3
Pryor,Terrelle WR 9.2 9 9.2 0
Evans,Mike WR 9.2 2 10.6 -1.4
Matthews,Jordan WR 9 22 7.5 1.5
Sanders,Emmanuel WR 8.8 7 9.5 -0.7
Tate,Golden WR 8.6 23 7.4 1.2
Gates,Antonio TE 8.6 56 5.7 2.9
Jeffery,Alshon WR 8.2 26 7.2 1
Cooper,Amari WR 8.2 15 8.8 -0.6
Snead,Willie WR 8 52 5.8 2.2
Hurns,Allen WR 8 33 6.7 1.3
Johnson,David RB 7 45 6.2 0.8
Beckham Jr,Odell WR 8 11 9.1 -1.1
Bell,Le'Veon RB 7.8 58 5.6 2.2
Thomas,Michael WR 7.6 31 6.9 0.7
Marshall,Brandon WR 7.6 9 9.2 -1.6

To be honest, this sample size shakes up the data considerably more than I was expecting. Of all the 25 players listed above, only 1 player (Terrelle Pryor) is averaging the same number of targets over the last 5 weeks as he has over the season's entirety. Most interesting to me are the players that have gained significant targets over the last several weeks. Davante Adams and Demaryius Thomas are two of the biggest movers and these types of movement are really important to finding DFS value. Due to the way many site's algorithms are built, they're often slow to react to role changes. In Adams' case, he is now a top 5 wide receiver in total targets with one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL throwing to him. While his price has risen substantially, he's still fairly underpriced because he doesn't carry the same long track record as a Julio Jones or Odell Beckham Jr. Also interesting to me was the addition of 2 running backs to the top-25 list over the last 5 weeks as well as a switch with the tight end. Both Le'Veon Bell and David Johnson are obviously top plays at the running back position, but this view is just one more demonstration that there's becoming an even greater divide between those two players and the rest of the backs at the position, especially in terms of PPR value.

Good luck this week!

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