by Ray Lin
Being skilled at fantasy sports doesn’t just mean who you draft, but when you draft them. It’s also not only about the opportunities you get but how you take advantage of them. Fantasy football in particular is all about being efficient with opportunities. NFL players play the least amount of games compared to the NBA and MLB, so drafters are often looking for guys that will cost them little but be effective in their limited opportunities.
I’m going to make up a fantasy football metric for the sake of identifying some PPR values called Target Value Rating, based on the following three criteria:
1) Total 2013 targets
2) Current 2014 ADP
3) Catch rate % (catches divided by targets)
I’m going to calculate this with the following formula: (2 x Targets + ADP) x Catch % = Target Value Rating (TVR). Now, I’m not saying that in a vacuum players with similar TVRs are worth the same in fantasy overall. I’m simply making an argument that value can be had with these players given their price, looks drawn from QBs and their effective use of those targets.
All of the players I examine below finished in the Top 30 in targets and can be had this year in the later rounds of your fantasy drafts (current ADP of 65 or later as averaged according to FantasyPros across Yahoo! Sports, ESPN, Fantasy Football Calculator and NFL.com). Here’s my five:
Michael Floyd, ARI (2013: 65 rec, 1041 yds, 5 TD)
2013 Targets: 112
2013 Catch Rate: 58%
2014 ADP: 65
TVR: 168 (just ahead of Keenan Allen, Torrey Smith, Roddy White)
Maybe it’s because he’s in Arizona and still plays second fiddle to Fitzgerald, but Floyd still doesn’t seem to have the household fantasy recognition he’s been deserving of the past couple of seasons. The former 13th overall pick out of Notre Dame has racked up nearly 200 targets his first two years in the league, so he’s clearly a huge part of the Arizona passing game.
With a year under his belt catching passes from Carson Palmer plus an improved running game with the dynamic Andre Ellington bound to give secondaries fits in space, there’s no reason to think Floyd can’t push 75-80 catches and easily put up back-to-back thousand yard seasons. He’s still the priciest player on this list, but I bet not many people would know that he scored more total fantasy points than Marques Colston, Mike Wallace and Victor Cruz.
Emmanuel Sanders, DEN (67 rec, 740 yds, 6 TD)
2013 Targets: 112
2013 Catch Rate: 60%
2014 ADP: 79
TVR: 181 (just ahead of Hakeem Nicks, Dwayne Bowe, Wes Welker)
The moment the ink dried on Sanders’ 3-year pact in Denver, his arrow has shot straight up as he steps into a Peyton Manning offense that produced the 3rd, 9th, 22nd and 37th highest-scoring pass catchers in fantasy last season. Sanders’ ability to play both the outside and inside receiver spots combined with Wes Welker’s age and concussion concerns (110 targets) and the departure of Eric Decker (137) probably guarantees that Sanders will easily finish in the Top-15 in targets this season.
Considering he’s 34 lbs lighter and 4 inches shorter than Decker, I wouldn’t expect Sanders to crack double-digit scores. However, a 1,000-yard season should be a piece of cake for Sanders and should make his ADP well worth the cost.
Eric Decker, NYJ (87 rec, 1288 yds, 11 TD)
2013 Targets: 137
2013 Catch Rate: 63%
2014 ADP: 86
TVR: 229 (just ahead of Steve Smith, Brandon Marshall, Marques Colston)
Speaking of receivers in a Peyton Manning offense, Decker is moving from the most prolific pass offense in NFL history into one of the most dismal. The OTA position “battle” between Geno Smith and Michael Vick will hardly inspire any confidence in owners on draft day looking at Decker. However, I think there’s actual value to be had here with a player who finished 2013 as the #9 fantasy receiver (ahead of Dez Bryant and DeSean Jackson) but is regularly getting drafted in the 8th round or later in standard leagues right now.
Sure, Decker now finds himself in the 2nd-worse passing offense in the league, but even on such a poor passing team there were 480 targets to go around. Only one Jets receiver topped 36 catches last season, and now Decker is far and away the #1 receiver on a team that still runs a ton (5th-most rushes) but isn’t nearly as effective on the ground as they used to be (10th in YPA). Rex Ryan and new OC Marty Mornhinweg, who does have a more wide-open passing approach to his offense, would be crazy not to throw it to Decker at least 160 times (which, if he were to replicate his 2013 catch rate, would put him over 100 receptions). His TDs will obviously take a nosedive, but there is certainly excellent PPR value to be had with Decker once you’re in WR3 territory in your draft.
Kendall Wright, TEN (94 rec, 1079 yds, 2 TD)
2013 Targets: 140
2013 Catch Rate: 67%
2014 ADP: 84
Target Value Rating: 245 (just ahead of Anquan Boldin, Andre Johnson, Antonio Brown)
Of the 7 players who caught 94 passes or more in 2013, can you guess how many did it at a higher catch rate than Wright? Just one — Julian Edelman (the lone player to crack 70%). For all the misconceived notions that Wright is only a short-yardage type of receiver, he actually had more catches of 20+ yards (17) than Brandon Marshall, Pierre Garcon and Keenan Allen (all of whom had 16). And got any idea who was 5th among WR in yards after the catch? Mr. Wright is indeed the right answer.
On the other side of the argument, Wright does have his flaws that make his low ADP not surprising — the 11.5 YPC, the questions around Jake Locker’s health and retooling at tailback, to name a few. However, the fact of the matter is that there’s finally no more Kenny Britt, Justin Hunter is quickly emerging as a solid complementary WR2 and Locker still has a cannon of an arm when healthy. Call it bold, but I would take Wright over Edelman in 2014 PPR value without hesitating, especially given the 17-spot bargain in ADP.
Brian Hartline, MIA (76 rec, 1016 yds, 4 TD)
2013 Targets: 134
2013 Catch Rate: 57%
2014 ADP: 193
TVR: 262 (just ahead of Julian Edelman, Pierre Garcon, Anquan Boldin)
Hartline is the quintessential Rodney Dangerfield of PPR. Despite snagging over 74 catches in back-to-back seasons while racking up 262 targets, he still gets no respect in fantasy circles. Miami hired a new offensive coordinator in the offseason in Bill Lazor, who as a QB coach in Philly turned Nick Foles into a Top-10 QB and milked fantasy value out of guys like Riley Cooper. I like Lazor’s chances of having similar success in molding Ryan Tannehill into an emerging, fantasy-serviceable QB who can turn his receivers into valuable fantasy options.
The emergence of Charles Clay as a red zone target will continue to limit Hartline’s TD potential, but of all of the players currently being treated as borderline waiver wire material, I think none have more dark horse potential to reach 100 receptions than Hartline. It’s incredibly rare to get much of a higher floor player than Hartline beyond picks 150. Nobody will applaud you for snagging him as an endgame option in your draft, but it’ll be the cheapest 75 receptions you’ll ever buy.
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Make sure to check out all of our 2014 rankings: