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Which Wide Receivers Were Better/Worse Than Expected in 2018? (Fantasy Football)

by Mike Tagliere | @MikeTagliereNFL | Featured Writer
Jul 24, 2019

Tyler Lockett scored nearly 84 more fantasy points than an average wide receiver would’ve in 2018

Throughout this offseason, you’ve likely heard some fantasy football analyst tell you to follow the targets or opportunity when it comes to the wide receiver position. While I don’t necessarily disagree with that assessment, there are some targets that are worth more than others. And no, I’m not just talking about which quarterback those targets are coming from.

Each target to a wide receiver is worth roughly 1.46 points in a half-PPR format. Breaking it down further; a red zone target is worth roughly 2.30 fantasy points. But it doesn’t end there, as all red zone targets aren’t the same. Targets inside the 10-yard line are worth more. So, based on where the targets each player received were, they have an expected fantasy output. Today, we’ll find out who was better than the league average with those targets, while also finding out who’s worse with those targets.

In case you missed it, there was an article that went up earlier this week highlighting just how good running backs were with the touches they were given in 2018. Not just carries, but targets as well. You can find that article here. But now, here’s what the results showed for wide receivers.

Outside the Red Zone

There isn’t one statistic or metric that someone will point to that tells the whole story, so stop trying to find it. There is, however, statistics that will separate the men from the boys over a large sample size. It’s not to say one football season is a big sample size, but we have to work with the hand we’re dealt.

Just like the elite players near the top of every list, most bad players end up towards the bottom of lists. If you’re an elite or semi-decent player, you shouldn’t be popping up at the bottom of any list, including the one below. On the chart below, you’ll see a player’s non-red zone points they scored, as well as how many they would’ve scored if they’d simply been average, and the difference between the two numbers. I’ve narrowed it down to those who saw at least 40 or more targets, which was a total of 99 wide receivers.

The Top-36 (Above Expected)

RK NAME NonRZ Diff
1  Tyler Lockett 73.50
2  Tyreek Hill 61.16
3  Mike Evans 43.00
4  Amari Cooper 29.44
5  Antonio Brown 29.24
6  Michael Thomas 29.08
7  DeSean Jackson 28.34
8  Cooper Kupp 27.64
9  Mike Williams 27.12
10  DeAndre Hopkins 26.28
11  T.Y. Hilton 24.78
12  Robert Foster 23.40
13  Josh Gordon 22.28
14  Julio Jones 22.18
15  Will Fuller P 19.90
16  Tyrell Williams 19.58
17  Tre’Quan Smith 17.74
18  Calvin Ridley 16.88
19  Marquise Goodwin 16.48
19  Chris Hogan 16.18
21  Adam Thielen 14.40
21  Doug Baldwin 14.00
23  Dante Pettis 14.00
23  Emmanuel Sanders 13.92
25  Brandin Cooks 13.50
26  AJ Green 12.08
27  Mohamed Sanu 10.98
28  Robert Woods 10.88
29  Tyler Boyd 9.68
30  JuJu Smith-Schuster 8.62
30  Rashard Higgins 8.20
32  Robby Anderson 6.74
32  D.J. Moore 6.44
34  David Moore 5.54
34  Anthony Miller 5.28
36  Chris Godwin 4.64

 

Just to be clear, this chart is stating that Tyler Lockett scored 73.5 more fantasy points on his 65 targets outside the red zone than the average wide receiver would have. His expected output on those targets was just 87.1 half-PPR points, but he turned them into 160.6. That was 12th-most in the league despite ranking 53rd in non-red zone targets. Doug Baldwin was high on this list in 2017 with 24.0 more points than expected, so maybe it pays to play receiver for Russell Wilson? It’s worth noting that Lockett’s number was just 1.8 points over average in 2017.

Tyreek Hill dominated these charts in 2017 and it remained the case in 2018. Over the last two years, he’s scored 125.9 more fantasy points from outside the red zone than an average receiver would’ve. No other wide receiver has scored more than 75.3 points (Tyler Lockett) over average the last two years combined. Hill’s targets outside the red zone are worth a ton, though you likely knew that.

The wide receivers who cracked the top-20 on this list in each of the last two years are Tyreek Hill, Tyrell Williams, Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, T.Y. Hilton, and DeAndre Hopkins. These players have proven they do a lot more than the average player would on targets outside the 20-yard line.

The Bottom-36 (Below Expected)

RK NAME NonRZ Diff
64  Tajae Sharpe -9.08
65  Keenan Allen -9.74
66  Dede Westbrook -9.92
67  Michael Gallup -10.10
68  Jordy Nelson -10.14
69  Danny Amendola -10.18
70  Pierre Garcon -10.58
71  Kendrick Bourne -11.46
72  Ryan Switzer -11.58
73  Demaryius Thomas -11.58
74  John Brown -12.48
75  Antonio Callaway -12.70
76  Keelan Cole -14.12
77  Quincy Enunwa -14.20
78  Ryan Grant -14.50
79  Chris Conley -15.18
80  Taylor Gabriel -15.40
81  Devin Funchess -15.58
82  Maurice Harris -16.22
83  Chester Rogers -16.40
84  Devante Parker -16.78
85  Bruce Ellington -16.92
86  Stefon Diggs -17.58
87  Zach Pascal -18.62
88  Zay Jones -20.10
89  Daesean Hamilton -20.12
90  Josh Doctson -21.74
91  Laquon Treadwell -22.06
92  Chad Williams -24.54
93  John Ross -27.98
94  Willie Snead -28.22
95  Larry Fitzgerald -29.22
96  Kelvin Benjamin -31.52
97  Jarvis Landry -35.30
98  Michael Crabtree -36.86
99  Jermaine Kearse -40.18

 

This is obviously not a part of the list you want to be associated with, as you’ve essentially done worse than the average receiver would have. The most notable names include Jarvis Landry, Larry Fitzgerald, and Stefon Diggs. While Fitzgerald dealt with some serious quarterback issues, Landry and Diggs cannot say the same. It was a similar story for Landry last year, as he finished with 28.3 fewer points than the average player would’ve. So, over the last two years, we’ve seen him score 63.6 fewer points than the average player would have, the worst mark in the league. Yes, his average depth of target is shorter, but in the end, that raises his catch-rate, and this is based on half-PPR scoring.

There are some trends with those who are better outside the red zone, so let’s look at the players who’ve been inside the bottom-20 in each of the last two years. Jarvis Landry, Zay Jones, Larry Fitzgerald, and Devante Parker. Quarterback play was an issue for all of them, but there’s plenty of players around the league who deal with similar issues.

Inside the Red Zone

This is the research that is volatile year-over-year because it’s heavily weighted by touchdowns, and it’s the reason the average target was worth 2.30 fantasy points instead of the 1.34 points outside the red zone. Again, I’ve broken this part down into targets that were inside the 10-yard line as well, which were worth even more. So instead of using this statistic as one to lean on for projecting future success, use it to see who may regress in 2019, because after all, touchdowns are the most volatile thing in fantasy football. Similar to the above charts, I’ve broken it down by those who scored much more than expected in the red zone, as well as those who scored much less than expected.

The Top-36 (Above Expected)

RK NAME TotalRZ Diff
1  Davante Adams 29.41
2  Calvin Ridley 25.41
3  Tyler Boyd 20.28
4  Kenny Stills 19.20
5  Rashard Higgins 18.02
6  Keenan Allen 17.07
7  Mike Williams 16.46
8  Alshon Jeffery 13.24
9  Chris Conley 13.02
10  Dante Pettis 12.31
11  Anthony Miller 11.69
12  John Ross 11.35
13  Tyler Lockett 10.36
14  Larry Fitzgerald 9.98
15  Demaryius Thomas 9.40
16  Antonio Callaway 9.34
17  Phillip Dorsett 8.72
18  DeAndre Hopkins 8.65
19  Jordy Nelson 8.15
20  Adam Thielen 7.58
21  Julio Jones 6.63
22  Stefon Diggs 6.62
23  Zay Jones 5.85
24  Daesean Hamilton 5.37
25  Chris Godwin 4.94
26  Kendrick Bourne 4.72
27  Will Fuller 4.63
28  Sammy Watkins 4.14
29  Tyreek Hill 3.60
30  Brandin Cooks 3.59
31  Jamison Crowder 3.38
32  Zach Pascal 3.16
33  Curtis Samuel 3.07
34  Josh Reynolds 2.72
35  Tyrell Williams 2.59
36  Michael Thomas 2.41

 

It’s no surprise to see Davante Adams atop the list, as Aaron Rodgers threw just 25 touchdowns, though Adams wound-up with 13 of them. This is becoming a trend with Adams, though. He scored 13.6 over average in 2017 and 24.7 over average in 2016. Over the last three years, he easily has the highest mark of 67.7 points over average in the red zone. There’s no reason to think that stops in 2019. Oddly enough, the No. 2 player on the list over the last three years is Jordy Nelson, so it’s clear that Rodgers’ receivers benefit from him in the red zone.

The players who made the top-20 in each of the last two seasons include Adams, Alshon Jeffery, Larry Fitzgerald, DeAndre Hopkins, and Jordy Nelson. It’s fair to say that these guys know how to get open in the red zone and capitalize on their targets. It’s important to note some of the rookies who made this list in 2018 as well, as Calvin Ridley, Dante Pettis, Anthony Miller, and Antonio Callaway all cracked the top-18. Some will undoubtably have regression in 2019, but there could also be some who are simply special in the red zone. There were no rookies on this list during the 2017 season.

The Bottom-36 (Below Average)

RK NAME TotalRZ Diff
64  Kenny Golladay -3.39
65  Taylor Gabriel -3.86
66  Josh Doctson -3.98
67  Dede Westbrook -4.19
68  Robby Anderson -4.63
69  D.J. Moore -5.08
70  Maurice Harris -5.42
71  Ryan Switzer -5.55
72  Danny Amendola -5.62
73  Pierre Garcon -5.65
74  Odell Beckham Jr -6.02
75  Julian Edelman -6.14
76  Tajae Sharpe -6.36
77  Randall Cobb -6.68
78  Josh Gordon -7.22
79  Amari Cooper -7.33
80  Jermaine Kearse -7.65
81  Allen Robinson -8.14
82  Chris Hogan -8.65
83  Michael Gallup -8.88
84  DeSean Jackson -9.19
85  Marquez Valdes-Scantling -9.28
86  Keelan Cole -9.29
87  Emmanuel Sanders -9.47
88  John Brown -9.53
89  Nelson Agholor -9.88
90  Chad Williams -10.03
91  Donte Moncrief -10.09
92  Kelvin Benjamin -10.29
93  Doug Baldwin -10.37
94  Sterling Shepard -11.05
95  Quincy Enunwa -15.01
96  JuJu Smith-Schuster -16.67
97  Corey Davis -16.81
98  Golden Tate -17.32
99  Jarvis Landry -18.91

 

These guys simply didn’t get the job done in the red zone during the 2018 season. If you were to take an average receiver, he would’ve scored 18.9 more half-PPR fantasy points than Jarvis Landry did on his 19 red zone targets, so it wasn’t just outside the red zone that he struggled. There are a lot of slot receivers toward the bottom of this list, which is odd because that’s where they’re supposed to be the mismatch in tight quarters. Some non-slot receivers who stand out in the bottom of this area are Corey Davis and Donte Moncrief, who are both big-bodied receivers that should have no issue boxing out.

The worst red zone player in the NFL over the last two years has been Sterling Shepard, as he’s posted 31.3 fewer points than the average player would have. Just how bad could it be? He’s seen 30 red zone targets and caught 14 of them for 52 yards and four touchdowns. Keep in mind that’s with Odell Beckham there taking attention away from him. He’s the only receiver who’s finished bottom-20 in each of the last two seasons.

Overall (All Targets Combined)

Here’s the combined list of both red zone and non-red zone target differences with each receiver. Remember, this is based on what the average NFL receiver would’ve done with the exact same targets.

The Top-36 (Above Expected)

RK NAME RZ Diff NonRZ Diff Total Diff
1  Tyler Lockett 10.36 73.50 83.86
2  Tyreek Hill 3.60 61.16 64.76
3  Mike Evans 1.08 43.00 44.08
4  Mike Williams 16.46 27.12 43.58
5  Calvin Ridley 25.41 16.88 42.29
6  DeAndre Hopkins 8.65 26.28 34.93
7  Michael Thomas 2.41 29.08 31.49
8  Tyler Boyd 20.28 9.68 29.96
9  Julio Jones 6.63 22.18 28.81
10  Antonio Brown -2.90 29.24 26.34
11  Dante Pettis 12.31 14.00 26.31
12  Rashard Higgins 18.02 8.20 26.22
13  Cooper Kupp -3.02 27.64 24.62
14  Will Fuller 4.63 19.90 24.53
15  Robert Foster 0.18 23.40 23.58
16  Tyrell Williams 2.59 19.58 22.17
17  Amari Cooper -7.33 29.44 22.11
18  Adam Thielen 7.58 14.40 21.98
19  T.Y. Hilton -2.99 24.78 21.79
20  Davante Adams 29.41 -7.72 21.69
21  DeSean Jackson -9.19 28.34 19.15
22  Kenny Stills 19.20 -0.10 19.10
23  Brandin Cooks 3.59 13.50 17.09
24  Anthony Miller 11.69 5.28 16.97
25  Tre’Quan Smith -0.94 17.74 16.80
26  Alshon Jeffery 13.24 2.28 15.52
27  Josh Gordon -7.22 22.28 15.06
28  Marquise Goodwin -2.69 16.48 13.79
29  Robert Woods 1.94 10.88 12.82
30  AJ Green 0.08 12.08 12.16
31  Chris Godwin 4.94 4.64 9.58
32  Mohamed Sanu -2.14 10.98 8.84
33  David Moore 2.41 5.54 7.95
34  Chris Hogan -8.65 16.18 7.53
35  Keenan Allen 17.07 -9.74 7.33
36  Sammy Watkins 4.14 3.00 7.14

 

This is the tier you want to be in as a receiver, as their role should only grow considering they’ve done more than what was expected on their targets. Most of the names atop the list aren’t too shocking, but to see rookie Calvin Ridley do well both in and out of the red zone bodes well for his future success. Fellow rookies Dante Pettis and Anthony Miller also scored positively in both categories, so we can say last year’s wide receiver class was a success.

Some other names that stood out here were Rashard Higgins and Robert Foster, who both finished top-15. Higgins is now buried on the Browns depth chart behind Odell Beckham Jr, Jarvis Landry, and Antonio Callaway. Meanwhile, Robert Foster now has much more competition with the Bills’ additions of John Brown and Cole Beasley in free agency.

The names who showed up on the top-20 of this list in each of the last two seasons include: Tyreek Hill, Antonio Brown, DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Tyrell Williams, and Davante Adams. It’s weird to see Williams in that group, as he’s the only one who’s not considered a top-30 receiver this year. His change in scenery from Philip Rivers to Derek Carr certainly doesn’t help, but it’s possible he’s being undervalued.

The Bottom-36 (Below Expected)

RK NAME RZ Diff NonRZ Diff Total Diff
64  Nelson Agholor -9.88 -2.50 -12.38
65  Dede Westbrook -4.19 -9.92 -14.11
66  Chester Rogers 2.27 -16.40 -14.13
67  Zay Jones 5.85 -20.10 -14.25
68  Marquez Valdes-Scantling -9.28 -5.16 -14.44
69  Randall Cobb -6.68 -7.88 -14.56
70  Daesean Hamilton 5.37 -20.12 -14.75
71  Tajae Sharpe -6.36 -9.08 -15.44
72  Zach Pascal 3.16 -18.62 -15.46
73  Ryan Grant -1.06 -14.50 -15.56
74  Danny Amendola -5.62 -10.18 -15.80
75  Pierre Garcon -5.65 -10.58 -16.23
76  Bruce Ellington 0.54 -16.92 -16.38
77  John Ross 11.35 -27.98 -16.63
78  Sterling Shepard -11.05 -5.72 -16.77
79  Ryan Switzer -5.55 -11.58 -17.13
80  Devin Funchess -2.32 -15.58 -17.90
81  Devante Parker -1.83 -16.78 -18.61
82  Donte Moncrief -10.09 -8.78 -18.87
83  Michael Gallup -8.88 -10.10 -18.98
84  Larry Fitzgerald 9.98 -29.22 -19.24
85  Taylor Gabriel -3.86 -15.40 -19.26
86  Corey Davis -16.81 -4.08 -20.89
87  Laquon Treadwell 0.74 -22.06 -21.32
88  Maurice Harris -5.42 -16.22 -21.64
89  John Brown -9.53 -12.48 -22.01
90  Keelan Cole -9.29 -14.12 -23.41
91  Golden Tate -17.32 -6.54 -23.86
92  Josh Doctson -3.98 -21.74 -25.72
93  Willie Snead -0.69 -28.22 -28.91
94  Quincy Enunwa -15.01 -14.20 -29.21
95  Chad Williams -10.03 -24.54 -34.57
96  Michael Crabtree -2.91 -36.86 -39.77
97  Kelvin Benjamin -10.29 -31.52 -41.81
98  Jermaine Kearse -7.65 -40.18 -47.83
99  Jarvis Landry -18.91 -35.30 -54.21

 

Among the 99 wide receivers who saw at least 40 targets in 2018, these were the worst in the league at scoring what they were expected to, based on where the targets took place. If Jarvis Landry had simply been average with the targets he received, he would have finished as the No. 10 wide receiver instead of the No. 19 receiver. Others notable receivers who fell significantly include Corey Davis (WR21 to WR28), Larry Fitzgerald (WR22 to WR27), and Sterling Shepard (WR23 to WR30).

This is a list that you could make because you struggled to score touchdowns, which we know are volatile. However, winding up on this list two years in a row? That can’t be good. Here’s the players who’ve finished bottom-20 in each of the last two seasons: Jarvis Landry, Corey Davis, Devante Parker, and Larry Fitzgerald.

Are there any wide receivers who went from the bottom-36 to the top-36 the following year? Mike Evans and Mike Williams both accomplished that, as Evans went from No. 101 to No. 3, while Williams went from No. 108 to No. 4, so there is still hope for a select few at the bottom of the list.

Read about the running backs here

 


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Mike Tagliere is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @MikeTagliereNFL.

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