When making a selection from the wide receiver position in your fantasy leagues, looking at each player’s target volume is a smart and beneficial way to go about it.
It’s common sense, right? The more a quarterback throws towards a wide receiver, the higher percentage of catches he will make, resulting in more fantasy production. Obvious guys like Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall are no-brainer draft picks, without even looking at targets. But then, when you do take a glance and see 205 and 194 respectively, it only adds to their elite status. So, I thought I’d take a look at some of the more overlooked wideouts and showcase their fantasy potential, especially when you look at their targets.
Mike Williams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (126 targets): Quarterback Josh Freeman and I have something in common, after all. We both target Williams a ton. He does it on the football field, while I do it on the computer. It seems that in every mock draft I participate in, I always find myself drafting Williams. Over the past two or three seasons, he has been one of the most underrated wideouts in the game. While he hasn’t put up monster numbers, Williams has been involved in the Bucs offense, seeing target totals of 127,124 and 127 over the past three seasons. He’s also played in 16 games in every season in the majors and has been an absolute touchdown machine, finding the endzone an impressive 23 times during that span. To put that productivity into perspective, that touchdown total during the last three years is tied for ninth in football among wideouts, more than Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and teammate Vincent Jackson to name a few. Despite Jackson’s size, he isn’t the red zone threat in this offense. Instead, it’s Williams, who saw a healthy 19 red zone targets in 2012, which was more than a guy by the name of Calvin Johnson. Williams can only get better. At 26-years old, he is a top touchdown option, but imagine if he can begin to produce 1,000-yard seasons each year. It will only add to his burgeoning fantasy value. The upside is tremendous with the former Syracuse product. Now if only Freeman can play up to his potential.
Stevie Johnson, Buffalo Bills (148 targets): Quietly, Johnson finished 8th among all receivers in targets a season ago. Another often overlooked guy, Johnson has posted three straight 1,000-yard seasons with at least six touchdowns in each of the last three seasons. The impressive part is that he is doing it with lackluster quarterbacks tossing him the ball. The addition of a run-friendly head coach in Doug Marrone may take a few looks away from Stevie, but rumblings out of camp indicate that he has been operating out of the slot, which could be a constant headache for opposing linebackers. This year, it’ll be either Kevin Kolb or rookie EJ Manuel under center. Either way you slice it, Johnson will see an upgrade at the quarterback position. Last season, he saw seven games of double-digit targets, and with two new guys at quarterback, I’d imagine they will look for their new toy early and often. Also, if the Bills don’t run it in from the red zone, there’s a terrific chance that Johnson will score, seeing as he saw a healthy 17 targets from in close last year. He will quietly produce another strong season, and considering he is being drafted as the 35th receiver off the board according to Fantasy Calculator, that, my friends, is a steal.
Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia Eagles (122 targets): Maclin has the skills and athleticism to be great, as well as the targets. In both 16-game seasons he’s played, Maclin has seen targets of 116 and 122, pretty healthy numbers. He also saw 17 targets in the red zone, which is a bit surprising when you consider the type of receiver he is. If sophomore quarterback Nick Foles manages to leave camp with the starting job, it may actually bode well for Maclin’s fantasy value. After taking over as the team’s signal caller in last season, Maclin was targeted an impressive 69 times in just seven starts. However, new head coach Chip Kelly wants to implement a fast style of offense, and despite being battered and bruised, Michael Vick fits that role better, and will likely win the job. Still, Maclin could be heavily featured in this new, exciting offense. Plus, 2013 is the final season of Maclin’s rookie contract, so perhaps there is some extra incentive for him to break out as a true number one like Eagles’ fans have been waiting for. Maclin is going off the board as the 39th wide receiver, and to me, that’s incredible value for a guy with his massive upside.
Justin Blackmon, Jacksonville Jaguars (133 targets): It took us a little while to witness just exactly why Blackmon was selected with the fifth overall pick in 2012’s draft. He was almost non-existent through the first few weeks of the season, but finally became relevant around Week 8. Since that week, Blackmon was targeted a whopping 88 times, ultimately finishing with 133 on the year. His fantasy value went up after Chad Henne was under center. During the nine games in which Henne was the starter, Blackmon saw target totals of 4, 8, 14, 6, 6, 12, 11, 12 and 13. We still aren’t sure who will be the Jags Week 1 starter, but it seems as if they still aren’t willing to part ways with the disappointing Blaine Gabbert. Still, the fact that Blackmon has been suspended for the first four games of the season is making fantasy owners steer clear, so owners may be able to get him at a bit of a bargain.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.