Available Target Analysis: AFC (Fantasy Football)

by Jody Smith | @JodySmithNFL | Featured Writer
Jun 29, 2018

Most efficiency and opportunity-based football metrics start with an analysis of targets. Chances are that players that are commanding a healthy amount of intended passes are going to end up in a good position to produce fantasy points and that makes studying targets essential.

Coaching changes and roster turnover also have a big impact on predictive football analysis. It’s important to not only keep up with the players that found new teams but also how the targets they left behind will be distributed by their former team.

Previously we examined the available targets for the NFC, so now it’s time to take a look at the opportunities open for the AFC and how those teams are likely to adjust for the 2018 NFL season.

Data courtesy Pro Football Reference

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Baltimore Ravens targets available: 332 (58.6%)

Receiving Inside Red Zone
PLAYER Tm Pos Tgt Rec Yds TD %Tgt Tgt Rec Yds TD %Tgt
Mike Wallace BAL WR 92 52 748 4 16.2% 12 3 23 3 15.6%
Ben Watson BAL TE 79 61 522 4 13.9% 13 8 20 3 16.9%
Jeremy Maclin BAL WR 72 40 440 3 12.7% 4 2 17 1 5.2%
Danny Woodhead BAL RB 39 33 200 0 6.9% 8 8 31 0 10.4%
Michael Campanaro BAL WR 27 19 173 1 4.8% 2 1 6 1 2.6%

 
No team had more open targets than the Ravens, who completely revamped their receiving corps. Four of the club’s top-5 options from 2017 are gone, but overall Ozzie Newsome was aggressive in free agency, bringing in Michael Crabtree, John Brown, and Willie Snead as upgrades. With 60 looks last season, Javorius Allen is the leading contributor that returns for 2018 but could lose playing time to Kenneth Dixon, who missed the entire 2017 campaign. With Ben Watson back in New Orleans, we should see a tight end committee with Hayden Hurst, Mark Andrews, and Nick Boyle all playing. A wildcard for Baltimore is QB Lamar Jackson, who could come in right away in the red-zone and make an impact. If Jackson takes over as the starter, it would likely result in a complete overhaul of the offense and any existing tendencies.

Buffalo Bills targets available: 122 (25.6%)

Receiving Inside Red Zone
PLAYER Tm Pos Tgt Rec Yds TD %Tgt Tgt Rec Yds TD %Tgt
Deonte Thompson BUF WR 69 38 555 2 14.5% 6 2 23 1 9.2%
Jordan Matthews BUF WR 36 25 282 1 7.6% 4 4 16 1 6.2%
Mike Tolbert BUF RB 17 14 78 0 3.6% 2 0 0 0 3.1%

 
While the Bills didn’t lose any notable contributors to 2017’s playoff roster, they have one of the league’s worst receiving corps, an unsettled QB situation, and a lesser offensive line. This spells trouble for fantasy purposes and is going to lead to RB LeSean McCoy seeing a ton of stacked boxes. At 30 years old with over 2,600 career touches, the wheels could fall off quickly. Kelvin Benjamin will return as the No. 1 receiver, with Zay Jones projected to be the No. 2. Jeremy Kerley and Andre Holmes top out the rest of this uninspiring group. TE Charles Clay is a good bet to lead Buffalo in targets this season.

Cincinnati Bengals targets available: 4 (0.8%)

Receiving Inside Red Zone
PLAYER Tm Pos Tgt Rec Yds TD %Tgt Tgt Rec Yds TD %Tgt
Jeremy Hill CIN RB 4 4 16 0 0.8% 0 0 0 0 0.00%

 
The Bengals return completely intact, with only Jeremy Hill–a liability in the passing game–not returning. The biggest change for Cincinnati’s passing game might come when oft-injured TE Tyler Eifert is healthy enough to return. Tyler Kroft played well as Eifert’s replacement and could cause the Bengals to run even more ’12’ sets, which they already utilized 20-percent of the time in 2017. A.J. Green remains a tremendous option in the second round and perennially-underrated Brandon LaFell is worth a late-round look. Tyler Boyd is likely to remain the third wideout, leaving few looks for 2017 disappointment John Ross.

Cleveland Browns targets available: 132 (23%)

Receiving Inside Red Zone
PLAYER Tm Pos Tgt Rec Yds TD %Tgt Tgt Rec Yds TD %Tgt
Isaiah Crowell CLE RB 42 28 182 0 7.3% 3 1 3 0 6.1%
Kenny Britt CLE WR 38 18 233 2 6.6% 4 2 30 2 8.2%
Kasen Williams CLE WR 18 9 84 0 3.1% 2 1 4 0 4.1%
Bryce Treggs CLE WR 18 5 79 0 3.1% 0 0 0 0 0.00%
Sammie Coates CLE WR 11 6 70 0 1.9% 0 0 0 0 0.00%

 
Jarvis Landry’s arrival will totally overhaul Cleveland’s passing game. Landry will spend most of his time inside, leaving a dangerous pairing of Corey Coleman and Josh Gordon outside. The biggest concern, of course, for the Browns will be Tyrod Taylor’s ability to get the ball into the hands of his potential playmakers. Cleveland’s backfield is also in transition, as a committee of newly-signed Carlos Hyde and second-rounder Nick Chubb is shaping up to be a frustrating backfield for fantasy purposes. Duke Johnson’s role as the change-of-pace runner, however, looks secure.

Denver Broncos targets available: 177 (31.3%)

Receiving Inside Red Zone
PLAYER Tm Pos Tgt Rec Yds TD %Tgt Tgt Rec Yds TD %Tgt
Bennie Fowler DEN WR 56 29 350 3 9.9% 9 4 21 2 12.3%
C.J. Anderson DEN RB 40 28 224 1 7.1% 7 7 53 1 9.6%
Cody Latimer DEN WR 31 19 287 2 5.5% 2 0 0 0 2.7%
Jamaal Charles DEN RB 28 23 129 0 4.9% 3 2 5 0 4.1%
Virgil Green DEN TE 22 14 191 1 3.9% 4 1 2 1 5.5%

 
QB Case Keenum should prove to be a huge addition to Denver’s offense, making both incumbents Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders excellent values at their current ADPs. Watch rookies Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton, as one is likely to emerge from camp as the team’s No. 3 wideout and could be fantasy-relevant as early as this season. Third-round rookie RB Royce Freeman has three-down potential and is a sneaky pick to be the second most productive rookie rusher in this talented 2018 rookie class. Virgil Green signed with AFC West rival Los Angeles, leaving Jeff Heuerman and Jake Butt to battle for the starting gig in training camp. If one tight end should emerge, he could be a decent weekly streamer as Keenum’s safety valve.

Houston Texans targets available: 37 (7.1%)

Receiving Inside Red Zone
PLAYER Tm Pos Tgt Rec Yds TD %Tgt Tgt Rec Yds TD %Tgt
C.J. Fiedorowicz HOU TE 22 14 127 0 4.2% 2 0 0 0 3.2%
Andre Ellington HOU WR 9 6 72 0 1.7% 0 0 0 0 0.00%
Cobi Hamilton HOU WR 6 1 8 0 1.1% 0 0 0 0 0.00%
Ryan Malleck HOU TE 1 1 3 0 0.2% 0 0 0 0 0.00%

 
Not one player that departed Houston even has an NFL job, so there are no significant losses to account for other than TE C.J. Fiedorowicz, who was forced to retire. Ryan Griffin is the leader in the clubhouse to take over at TE and is being un-drafted in nearly every fantasy league. With QB Deshaun Watson expected to be healthy, Houston’s offense has explosive potential. WR DeAndre Hopkins isn’t likely to repeat his gaudy target numbers and target share from last season but remains a locked-in fantasy first rounder. Will Fuller had an excellent red-zone chemistry with Watson last season and fourth-rounder Keke Coutee might beat out Bruce Ellington for the No. 3 role.

Indianapolis Colts targets available: 134 (27.5%)

Receiving Inside Red Zone
PLAYER Tm Pos Tgt Rec Yds TD %Tgt Tgt Rec Yds TD %Tgt
Donte Moncrief IND WR 47 26 391 2 9.7% 7 2 26 1 15.6%
Kamar Aiken IND WR 44 15 133 0 9.0% 4 1 9 0 8.9%
Frank Gore IND RB 38 29 245 1 7.8% 3 2 15 1 6.7%
Quan Bray IND WR 4 3 39 0 0.8% 0 0 0 0 0.00%
Matt Hazel IND WR 1 1 1 0 0.2% 0 0 0 0 0.00%

 
Everything rests on QB Andrew Luck’s surgically-repaired right shoulder. So far Luck is trending in the right direction, so optimism is starting to grow. The Colts’ backfield is a mess, with Marlon Mack, Robert Turbin and rookies Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins all vying for touches. T.Y. Hilton is a top-10 fantasy wideout with a healthy Luck under center. Donte Moncrief was a solid source of touchdowns but his potential replacements–Ryan Grant and Chester Rogers–are different types of players. Indy ran the third-most ’12’ sets in 2017 and that rate should only grow with Eric Ebron joining Jack Doyle to form a formidable duo for a signal-caller who loves targeting his tight ends.

Jacksonville Jaguars targets available: 141 (26.8%)

Receiving Inside Red Zone
PLAYER Tm Pos Tgt Rec Yds TD %Tgt Tgt Rec Yds TD %Tgt
Allen Hurns JAX WR 56 39 484 2 10.6% 7 6 38 2 11.7%
Marcedes Lewis JAX TE 48 24 318 5 9.1% 10 5 44 4 16.7%
Chris Ivory JAX RB 28 21 175 1 5.3% 4 2 10 0 6.7%
Jaelen Strong JAX WR 4 3 38 1 0.8% 1 1 5 1 1.7%
Allen Robinson JAX WR 1 1 17 0 0.2% 0 0 0 0 0.00%

 
From a numbers standpoint, the Jags didn’t lose much, but the reality is that Jacksonville will look quite different in 2018. No. 1 WR Allen Robinson was lost for the season in Week 1 against Houston. Allen Hurns was third on the team in targets and Marcedes Lewis led the Jaguars with five touchdown receptions. The Jaguars do have some intriguing talent in their new-look receiving corps, which will be led by Marqise Lee and new arrival Donte Moncrief. Austin Seferian-Jenkins is a massive upgrade over Lewis and a good bet to lead Jacksonville in TD grabs.

Kansas City Chiefs targets available: 71 (13.1%)

Receiving Inside Red Zone
PLAYER Tm Pos Tgt Rec Yds TD %Tgt Tgt Rec Yds TD %Tgt
Albert Wilson KAN WR 62 42 554 3 11.4% 12 7 53 2 15.4%
Akeem Hunt KAN RB 7 4 31 0 1.3% 1 0 0 0 1.3%
Orson Charles KAN TE 2 2 53 0 0.4% 0 0 0 0 0.00%

 
Albert Wilson was fourth on Kansas City with 62 targets last season but the Chiefs signed a massive upgrade via free agency in Sammy Watkins, who is a good bet to lead the wideouts in targets and touchdowns. Accounting for Watkins, Tyreek Hill, and RB Kareem Hunt should lead to even more opportunities for TE Travis Kelce.

Los Angeles Chargers targets available: 129 (22.1%)

Receiving Inside Red Zone
PLAYER Tm Pos Tgt Rec Yds TD %Tgt Tgt Rec Yds TD %Tgt
Hunter Henry LAC TE 62 45 579 4 10.6% 12 5 31 2 16.7%
Antonio Gates LAC TE 52 30 316 3 8.9% 11 3 20 3 15.3%
Branden Oliver LAC RB 11 6 26 0 1.9% 1 1 -2 0 1.4%
Sean McGrath LAC TE 4 4 46 0 0.7% 0 0 0 0 0.00%

 
The biggest blow for the Chargers came during OTAs when Hunter Henry suffered a torn ACL that will prevent him from suiting up for the entire 2018 season. That leaves Los Angeles thin at tight end and likely to explore bringing back Antonio Gates to act as a red-zone specialist. If he re-signs, Gates would be merely a TD-dependant streamer. For second-year WR Mike Williams to gain looks, they’ll come at the expense of Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin.

Miami Dolphins targets available: 290 (48.2%)

Receiving Inside Red Zone
PLAYER Tm Pos Tgt Rec Yds TD %Tgt Tgt Rec Yds TD %Tgt
Jarvis Landry MIA WR 161 112 987 9 26.7% 23 18 85 9 30.3%
Julius Thomas MIA TE 62 41 388 3 10.3% 11 5 43 3 14.5%
Damien Williams MIA RB 28 20 155 1 4.7% 3 2 13 1 3.9%
De’Veon Smith MIA RB 3 3 27 0 0.5% 0 0 0 0 0.00%

 
The biggest question for Miami is what wideout will step up to offset the massive target share vacated by Jarvis Landry’s departure. Many are calling for DeVante Parker to finally put it all together in his fourth NFL season, but the Dolphins spent $36 million to bring in Albert Wilson and Danny Amendola. Meanwhile, Kenny Still has outplayed Parker in each of the past two seasons and can be had 2-3 rounds later in most fantasy drafts. Rookie TE Mike Gesicki has the easiest path to playing time and targets of all rookies at his position.

New England Patriots targets available: 240 (40.9%)

Receiving Inside Red Zone
PLAYER Tm Pos Tgt Rec Yds TD %Tgt Tgt Rec Yds TD %Tgt
Brandin Cooks NE WR 114 65 1082 7 19.4% 12 8 42 4 13.3%
Danny Amendola NE WR 86 61 659 2 14.7% 12 10 54 2 13.3%
Martellus Bennett NE TE 44 30 286 0 7.5% 3 2 0 0 4.5%
Dion Lewis NE RB 35 32 214 3 6.0% 8 8 61 3 8.9%
Bernard Reedy NE WR 2 2 21 0 0.3% 0 0 0 0 0.00%

 
Depending on how his appeal turns out, Julian Edelman’s return to New England’s lineup will mostly offset the loss of Danny Amendola. Brandin Cooks acted mostly as a deep threat, so Bill Belichick will look for other ways to adjust his ever-changing offense. Investing a first-round pick on a running back hasn’t happened since the Pats took Laurence Maroney a dozen years ago, so you can bet that Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, and James White will all be involved in all facets of this offense. Chris Hogan should also see an expanded role but counting on the Patriots to find the next impact X-receiver is always a risky proposition.

New York Jets targets available: 157 (30.8%)

Receiving Inside Red Zone
PLAYER Tm Pos Tgt Rec Yds TD %Tgt Tgt Rec Yds TD %Tgt
Austin Seferian-Jenkins NYJ TE 74 50 357 3 14.5% 11 4 16 3 21.2%
Matt Forte NYJ RB 45 37 293 1 8.8% 5 3 12 1 9.6%
Jeremy Kerley NYJ WR 27 22 217 1 5.3% 1 1 10 0 1.9%
Will Tye NYJ TE 6 4 38 0 1.2% 0 0 0 0 0.00%
JoJo Natson NYJ WR 5 2 18 0 1.0% 0 0 0 0 0.00%

 
The Jets lost half of their top-6 pass recipients from last year and will go to battle with a substandard group of pass catchers in 2018. WR1 Robby Anderson could be facing discipline that could potentially keep him out a game or two. RB Matt Forte was an excellent receiver but retired and will be replaced by Isaiah Crowell, who is less effective in the red-zone as a runner and in the passing game. There’s been some talk of last year’s sixth-round pick RB Elijah McGuire possibly earning a longer look in training camp, so he should be on the late-round radar. TE Clive Walford is also an interesting flyer to keep in mind for those needing help at tight end.

Oakland Raiders targets available: 163 (29.2%)

Receiving Inside Red Zone
PLAYER Tm Pos Tgt Rec Yds TD %Tgt Tgt Rec Yds TD %Tgt
Michael Crabtree OAK WR 101 58 618 8 18.1% 14 7 20 5 26.4%
Cordarrelle Patterson OAK WR 42 31 309 0 7.5% 4 3 15 0 7.5%
Clive Walford OAK TE 13 9 80 0 2.3% 1 0 0 0 1.9%
Jamize Olawale OAK RB 7 6 33 0 1.3% 0 0 0 0 0.00%

 
The real wild card for Oakland is actually their new/old head coach Jon Gruden who promises to re-invent the modern offense by returning to the glory days of 1998. The Flux Capacitor in Gruden’s plan could be Marshawn Lynch, who just might exceed 250 carries, which would keep him in the RB2/flex conversation. Michael Crabtree commanded a healthy 101 targets in 2017 and those looks will be absorbed by newcomers Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant–if the latter plays. Bryant is rumored to be facing another season-ending suspension. Another first-year Raider, Ryan Switzer, stands to benefit if Bryant is indeed disciplined. After a rocky 2017, No. 1 receiver Amari Cooper stands to flourish as Gruden’s top dog and looks like a nice value in the third round.

Pittsburgh Steelers targets available: 120 (20.3%)

Receiving Inside Red Zone
PLAYER Tm Pos Tgt Rec Yds TD %Tgt Tgt Rec Yds TD %Tgt
Martavis Bryant PIT WR 84 50 603 3 14.2% 10 4 28 2 10.6%
Eli Rogers PIT WR 36 18 149 1 6.1% 9 4 37 1 9.6%

 
Martavis Bryant’s role is going to be taken by No. 60 overall pick WR James Washington, who is an underrated pick to lead all rookie wideouts in receiving yards. Over one-third of Juju Smith-Schuster‘s production came in Weeks 15-17 when Antonio Brown was sidelined. Smith-Schuster’s inflated ADP makes him a prime candidate to be a 2018 disappointment. Antonio Brown shows no signs of slowing down and should be among the league leaders in targets, catches, and yards. TE Vance McDonald should also be poised to take a bigger piece of the tight end target share from Jesse James.

Tennessee Titans targets available: 132 (26.6%)

Receiving Inside Red Zone
PLAYER Tm Pos Tgt Rec Yds TD %Tgt Tgt Rec Yds TD %Tgt
Eric Decker TEN WR 83 54 563 1 16.7% 11 8 61 1 21.6%
DeMarco Murray TEN RB 47 39 266 1 9.5% 2 2 13 1 3.9%
Eric Weems TEN WR 2 1 5 0 0.4% 0 0 0 0 0.00%

 
Like the team that plays in their former stomping grounds in Texas, the Titans only voided targets aren’t currently on an NFL roster. The new regime in Tennessee is likely the biggest addition, as new offensive coordinator and play-caller Matt LaFleur has been the architect of the league’s past two scoring leaders in Atlanta (2016) and with the Rams last year. Dion Lewis will be an immediate upgrade over DeMarco Murray and should see 75-plus targets. Derrick Henry won’t be featured much in the passing game, making him a TD-dependant RB2/flex. WR Corey Davis had a strong showing in June and has breakout potential in LaFleur’s potent attack. Rishard Matthews also remains an underappreciated value and new slot receiver Taywan Taylor has a ton of sleeper appeal.

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Jody Smith is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Jody, check out his archive and follow him @JodySmithNFL.

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