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Fantasy Football: 2013 WR Review – The Target Multiplier

Rich Hribar

Rich Hribar is a husband, father, sports meteorologist and a slave to statistics. A lifelong sports fan and fantasy gamer.
Josh Gordon
Browns receiver Josh Gordon. Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

Right after the official fantasy football season ended, we looked back at the most consistent performers of each position and how we may see each position playing out for drafts headed into 2014.

Over the next couple of weeks, I want to go back and review performers from the past season in a slightly different light from overall points scored and weekly performances to see who were and weren’t the most efficient players. In that review, finding what may carry over and what we can likely leave behind as noise heading forward.

If you follow me on the Tweet machine, you know I largely obsess over receivers. The receiver position takes up most of your roster space since you need to start more of them and by nature they are volatile performers, so you’re more inclined to play matchups. So for me, there’s no better place to start than there.

For this post, we’re focusing strictly on which players were the most efficient targets for their team.

The Target Multiplier

The target multiplier is simple; in short it’s how much better off that the receiver’s quarterback was targeting him based on fantasy production than anyone else on the field.

Since we’re looking at points created by receivers from a quarterback perspective, the points are altered to match standard quarterback scoring (25 yards = 1 point, 4 PT TD, -2 for INT).

Also, with the help of the football wizards at Pro Football Focus, we’re also including interceptions thrown while targeting the receiver. Interceptions may or may not be a receiver’s fault, but for this exercise, we’re treating them as 50/50 proposition since the ball may have been dropped, tipped, or there was a miscommunication that wasn’t necessarily on the passer. Everyone is guilty by association here.

Here’s a detailed example so we don’t have to clog up the rest of the post going forward.

Player

Targets

Rec

Yds

TD

QB INT

REC. PTS

PT/TGT

PT/OTHER TGTS

TGT X

Anquan Boldin

129

85

1179

7

0

75.16

0.58

0.39

1.49

 

Using Anquan Boldin as our example, you can see how many points and points per target he provided for San Francisco quarterbacks.

The second to last column is how many points per target that 49er passers averaged while targeting other players, thus creating our multiplier. When throwing to Boldin, they scored an average of 1.49 times more fantasy points than when throwing to anyone else on the team.  The higher you score above one the better, and below is worse since one is neutral here.

Got it?

Excellent.

Let’s look at the top 12 targets that had over 90 targets on the season.

Player

Team

Targets

  REC. PTS

PT/TGT

PT/OTHER TGTS

TGT X

Josh Gordon

CLE

159

97.84

0.62

0.25

2.48

Calvin Johnson

DET

156

89.68

0.57

0.36

1.58

Jordy Nelson

GB

127

74.56

0.59

0.38

1.55

Victor Cruz

NYG

122

47.92

0.39

0.26

1.50

Anquan Boldin

SF

129

75.16

0.58

0.39

1.49

Torrey Smith

BAL

137

55.12

0.40

0.27

1.48

Rod Streater

OAK

99

39.52

0.40

0.28

1.43

Dez Bryant

DAL

159

95.32

0.60

0.43

1.40

Antonio Brown

PIT

166

85.96

0.52

0.38

1.37

Larry Fitzgerald

ARI

135

64.16

0.48

0.35

1.37

Keenan Allen

SD

104

67.84

0.65

0.48

1.35

DeSean Jackson

PHI

126

85.28

0.68

0.51

1.33

 

The first thing that jumps out is there are no Denver Broncos on this list and the reason why is pretty clear. Peyton Manning is so good that he makes nearly all of his targets similar. Every wide receiver on Denver was positive with the exception of Wes Welker (we’re getting there).

So if a great quarterback levels out the playing field, in the cases of Victor Cruz (WR29 overall) and Torrey Smith (WR20) we can see just how a good receiver can be damaged by poor quarterback play and/or lack of surrounding talent from an overall fantasy perspective.

Jordy Nelson may have taken a hit without Aaron Rodgers, but he was still the best Green Bay receiver for any of his replacements to throw to and it shows. Streater is intriguing because he doubled his fantasy output going from Carson Palmer to Terrelle Pryor and Matt McGloin and will be entering the fabled year three for a receiver next year.

2013 Josh Gordon in Perspective

Of course the other thing that screams out is that Josh Gordon is just dwarfing everyone here that had a significant amount of targets.

The trio of Browns quarterbacks were two and half times better throwing towards Gordon this year than any other Browns player which in turn created a high amount of volume for him. Just for good measure I went back and compared the 2013 multiplier of Gordon to the other top five (Gordon is fifth) highest scoring receiver seasons of the past 10 years.

Player

YEAR

Team

Targets

REC PTS

PT/TGT

PT/OTHER TGTS

TGT X

Josh Gordon

2013

CLE

159

97.84

0.62

0.25

2.48

Muhsin Muhammad

2004

CAR

160

120.2

0.75

0.33

2.27

Steve Smith

2005

CAR

150

110.5

0.74

0.33

2.24

Calvin Johnson

2011

DET

158

123.24

0.78

0.42

1.86

Randy Moss

2007

NE

159

151.72

0.95

0.54

1.76

 

Any suspicions you had about the Browns quarterback play and talent level outside of Gordon in the passing game are confirmed. He was in the worst spot for a receiver to perform on the level he did and was pretty much a fantasy rose that grew in the concrete.

His overall points and points per target are not as high as the others on the list because he had such lower touchdown totals (9). Everyone else here had at least 12 scores in the air and outside of Smith’s 12, the other three had 16 or more. Moss in 2007 was the stuff of fantasy folklore, as Tom Brady averaged almost a full point per target to him,  but even he came with great quarterback play and a solid team around him.

Gordon was largely ineffective near the end zone, catching only one of his 11 targets inside of the opponent’s 10-yard line for a touchdown.

His profile fits someone that should excel there, so if he can improve along with the Browns consistently getting trips to that area of the field; his potential is off of the charts when you factor in he’s only going to be 23 years old next season.

The Bad

We looked at the 12 best targets with over 90 looks, but see the worst.

Player

Team

Targets

 REC PTS

PT/TGT

PT/OTHER TGTS

TGT X

Wes Welker

DEN

111

65.12

0.59

0.61

0.97

Steve Johnson

BUF

101

29.88

0.30

0.31

0.97

Harry Douglas

ATL

132

46.68

0.35

0.38

0.92

Emmanuel Sanders

PIT

112

43.6

0.39

0.43

0.91

Cecil Shorts

JAX

123

31.08

0.25

0.28

0.89

Kendall Wright

TEN

139

45.16

0.32

0.39

0.82

Steve Smith

CAR

110

37.8

0.34

0.46

0.74

Mike Wallace

MIA

141

39.2

0.28

0.37

0.76

Hakeem Nicks

NYG

101

21.84

0.22

0.31

0.71

Nate Washington

TEN

105

28.76

0.27

0.40

0.68

Jerome Simpson

MIN

100

21.04

0.21

0.33

0.64

Greg Little

CLE

99

12.6

0.13

0.37

0.35

 

The players on this list that made any real fantasy impact were mostly carried by volume. Welker shows up and he’s damaged a little by the surrounding talent Denver has, but he was really ineffective outside of scoring touchdowns, something all of the Broncos did anyways.

He didn’t eclipse 100 yards in any game this season and I would be very worried about investing into him next season at his likely draft day price.

An interesting name here is second year breakout Kendall Wright, who Titan gunslingers were 18 percent worse when targeting. He had only two touchdowns, but he doesn’t have a profile that ever screams red zone producer either. Outside of PPR leagues he’s likely to be very over drafted.

Nicks compared to Cruz is completely laughable and he didn’t score at all in a free agent season. Good luck to whoever is signing him, and if they are, it better be a short “show me” deal.

Little may have had the worst receiving season in NFL history. He ran the second most routes (668) in the league this season and only produced 12.6 points for Browns quarterbacks.

On the same team, Gordon accounted for 85 more points on 53 fewer snaps in route. Browns quarterbacks were on average 65 percent worse just by throwing towards Little than anyone else on the team.

We’ll revisit this later in the offseason and target potential breakouts that could thrive with expanded roles, but for now it was fun looking back at the 2013 season aftermath. We’ll have more on receivers still, looking at per route effectiveness and usage near the end zone.

*Stats were provided from ProFootballReference.com and ProFootballFocus.com