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Boom, Bust, and Everything In Between – Wide Receivers (2019 Fantasy Football)

by Mike Tagliere | @MikeTagliereNFL | Featured Writer
Aug 6, 2019

Davante Adams was the most consistent wide receiver in fantasy last year and it wasn’t all that close

They say the third time is a charm, right? Wouldn’t that make the first two less appealing? That definitely wasn’t the case, as the traction on this series has been greater than I could’ve ever hoped and that’s why we’re back with the third installment of “Boom, Bust, and Everything In Between.”

There are many articles out there that discuss situations changing, coaches changing, career arc, and everything else underneath the sun. What this series was meant to do is present pure, untainted, untarnished numbers that fantasy football players from every level could understand.

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When someone mentions to me that “Player X recorded five WR1 performances last year,” it kind of irks me. It’s close to the spectrum of saying that someone was a top-20 wide receiver because that’s what the year-end totals say. Ask anyone who owned Jarvis Landry last year if he was the 19th best wide receiver (where he finished). The answer would be an emphatic “no.” Stating where someone finished for a particular week doesn’t do us any good, either, because variance is a real thing.

To help you better understand what I’m talking about, the average top-12 wide receiver performance in 2018 was 20.0 PPR points. What you don’t know is that Amari Cooper scored 21.6 PPR points in Week 2, yet wouldn’t have received a top-12 performance because it just happened to be a high-scoring week for wide receivers. On the flip-side, Julian Edelman scored 16.0 PPR points in Week 15 and received a top-12 performance because it was a low-scoring week for wide receivers. The player’s performance should not be graded on a curve, because we have no control on predicting what that curve is for any particular week. Our goal as analysts is to predict who will have WR1 performances in any given week, which stood at 20.0 PPR points in 2018.

The numbers vary from year-to-year, which is where the research comes into play. While the WR2 number was 15.3 PPR points in 2017, it lowered to 14.9 PPR points in 2018. Every position is different, but know that I’ve gone through each year, each position, and each player, charting how many top-12, top-24, top-36 performances they’ve had according to that year’s stats. Not just that, though, as I’ve added boom and bust categories, which showcases their ceiling and floor on a week-to-week basis. This research is done on PPR leagues because it’s the format that presents the most consistency, which makes it the most predictable.

The number to achieve boom or bust status varies per position, as some have it harder than others. With wide receivers, the number to “boom” wound up on 25.0 PPR points because it would have amounted to eight receptions for 120 yards and a touchdown. That number can obviously be accomplished in a variety of different ways, but again, we just want them to reach that number. A “bust” on the other hand amounted to less than 8.0 PPR points. Below, you can find the chart with the parameters for each position.

Position Boom Bust
QB 26.0 13.9 or less
RB 25.0 6.9 or less
WR 25.0 7.9 or less
TE 20.0 6.9 or less

 

To give you an idea as to something you may find below, here’s an example: Mohamed Sanu performed as a WR3 or better in 43.8 percent of his games, yet is going undrafted, while Robby Anderson hit that mark in just 28.6 percent of his games, but is going inside the top-30 wide receivers.

For the third time, welcome to Boom, Bust, and Everything In Between. Here are the wide receivers, while the other positions will be released throughout the rest of the week. You’ll be able to find the links below once they go live.

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Tight Ends

Wide Receivers

Top-10

Let’s start by taking a look at the target hog receivers being taken inside the top-10, highlighting which ones stand out, as well as which look like they don’t belong. This same is from the 2018 season and it’s important to note that for a player to accumulate a game played in this study, they had to garner at least one target. If he was on the sideline starting the year and not getting any targets, it shouldn’t affect his percentages.

ADP Player Tgt/gm WR1 % WR2 % WR3 % BOOM % BUST %
1 DeAndre Hopkins 10.2 43.8% 68.8% 100.0% 31.3% 0.0%
2 Davante Adams 11.3 60.0% 100.0% 100.0% 20.0% 0.0%
3 Julio Jones 10.6 62.5% 68.8% 81.3% 31.3% 6.3%
4 Odell Beckham Jr. 10.3 41.7% 66.7% 83.3% 16.7% 0.0%
5 Michael Thomas 9.2 43.8% 56.3% 68.8% 31.3% 12.5%
6 JuJu Smith-Schuster 10.4 37.5% 56.3% 75.0% 18.8% 6.3%
7 Antonio Brown 11.2 53.3% 93.3% 93.3% 26.7% 0.0%
8 Mike Evans 8.7 43.8% 62.5% 75.0% 31.3% 6.3%
9 Tyreek Hill 8.6 50.0% 50.0% 75.0% 31.3% 12.5%
10 T.Y. Hilton 8.6 28.6% 64.3% 71.4% 14.3% 7.1%

 

The first thing you should notice is “Holy Davante Adams,” who didn’t have a single game with less than 16.0 PPR points last year. Keep in mind that’s while Aaron Rodgers had a “down year.” He’s just as safe as Hopkins and might come with more upside if Rodgers gets things back on track. The top tier of Adams, Hopkins, Julio Jones, and Odell Beckham Jr. is apparent. Some will wonder if Beckham may not be in that tier with a new team, but don’t forget, the career totals below of his are with Eli Manning, while being compared to the best of this century. There’s an argument for him to be taken as the first wide receiver in drafts.

Player WR1 % WR2 % WR3 % BOOM % BUST %
Odell Beckham Jr. 47.5% 72.9% 78.0% 30.5% 6.8%
Julio Jones 43.6% 64.5% 74.5% 24.5% 12.7%
Antonio Brown 40.6% 64.1% 76.6% 25.0% 14.8%
Michael Thomas 36.2% 61.7% 76.6% 17.0% 8.5%
A.J. Green 30.9% 59.1% 76.4% 17.3% 16.4%
Calvin Johnson 36.3% 58.5% 71.1% 22.2% 18.5%
Mike Evans 33.8% 55.8% 66.2% 16.9% 11.7%
DeAndre Hopkins 27.4% 54.7% 68.4% 14.7% 12.6%
JuJu Smith-Schuster 34.5% 51.7% 69.0% 17.2% 13.8%
Larry Fitzgerald 32.1% 48.7% 65.8% 14.1% 19.7%

 

Opposite of Odell Beckham, who is getting an upgrade at quarterback, Antonio Brown is moving in the wrong direction from Ben Roethlisberger to Derek Carr. His numbers have been elite through his career, but he’ll need the targets to remain sky-high to reach the elite tier.

Something a bit surprising was to see Michael Thomas and JuJu Smith-Schuster with just 56.3 percent of games with WR2 or better numbers, while Tyreek Hill brought up the caboose with just 50 percent, though most understand what they’re getting when they draft him; an inconsistent WR1 with week-winning upside. Knowing that Smith-Schuster saw as many targets as he did, it’s tough to say his consistency will get better with Antonio Brown gone, meaning he’ll see more top-end cornerbacks.

The player who doesn’t belong in this range is T.Y. Hilton, who has lacked elite upside throughout most of his career, finishing as a top-10 wide receiver just once in his seven years in the league. The Colts have added both Devin Funchess and Parris Campbell, which will bring his target ceiling down a bit more, and he didn’t have much of a WR1 ceiling (28.6 percent) even without them last year.

11-20 Range

Once you get outside the elite range, you start looking for players who are consistent and ones who are still near the double-digit target-mark. With the way the NFL has gone with more spread offenses, you’re going to find it more and more difficult to find guys who are seeing those massive target totals, but fortunately, there’s still a few in this range who are available at a discount.

ADP Player Tgt/gm WR1 % WR2 % WR3 % BOOM % BUST %
11 Adam Thielen 9.7 50.0% 62.5% 87.5% 31.3% 12.5%
12 Keenan Allen 8.5 33.3% 53.3% 80.0% 6.7% 6.7%
13 Amari Cooper 7.1 26.7% 33.3% 46.7% 20.0% 46.7%
14 Stefon Diggs 10.0 40.0% 53.3% 66.7% 20.0% 13.3%
15 A.J. Green 8.6 11.1% 77.8% 77.8% 11.1% 11.1%
16 Brandin Cooks 7.8 33.3% 53.3% 66.7% 13.3% 13.3%
17 Kenny Golladay 7.9 20.0% 46.7% 60.0% 6.7% 20.0%
18 Julian Edelman 9.0 25.0% 75.0% 83.3% 0.0% 0.0%
19 Robert Woods 8.1 18.8% 50.0% 87.5% 12.5% 12.5%
20 Cooper Kupp 7.0 25.0% 62.5% 75.0% 12.5% 12.5%

 

The first thing that jumps out is that Stefon Diggs averaged 10.0 targets per game in his first season with Kirk Cousins. He also caught a touchdown in six of the last eight games he played. The argument can be made for him to slide up into the top-10 over T.Y. Hilton. The same can be said for Adam Thielen, though it did seem like Cousins and Diggs worked better as the year went on. You can see why A.J. Green was considered one of the best values in fantasy football prior to tearing ligaments in his ankle, though that injury clouds everything. The other name that truly stands out among this group is Julian Edelman, whose numbers can go toe-to-toe with many of the top-10 receivers, though he’s now 33 years old and already has a broken thumb. But understand that when he’s on the field, he’s been practically bust-proof and gives you WR2 or better consistency behind only Davante Adams, Antonio Brown, and A.J. Green last year.

Looking at this chart, we can see why fantasy owners are frustrated with Amari Cooper and writing him off, but this should help. Here’s the splits from his games with the Raiders and Cowboys in 2018:

 TEAM WR1 % WR2 % WR3 % BOOM % BUST %
With Raiders 33.3% 33.3% 33.3% 16.7% 66.6%
With Cowboys (incl. playoffs) 18.2% 45.5% 63.6% 18.2% 27.3%

 

Swapping teams and quarterbacks mid-season isn’t something many have had success with, but Cooper turned into a strong fantasy option with Dak Prescott almost immediately. His numbers with the Cowboys would compare to receivers like Stefon Diggs, Brandin Cooks, and Kenny Golladay. If you anticipate more growth after a full offseason, Cooper belongs in the high-end WR2 conversation.

21-30 Range

For those waiting on drafting their No. 1 or No. 2 receiver until this point, you may want to look away, as the names receiving double-digit targets are gone, as are the higher percentages.

ADP Player Tgt/gm WR1 % WR2 % WR3 % BOOM % BUST %
21 Chris Godwin 5.9 12.5% 37.5% 43.8% 6.3% 37.5%
22 Calvin Ridley 5.8 18.8% 37.5% 43.8% 6.3% 43.8%
23 Tyler Lockett 4.4 6.3% 43.8% 68.8% 0.0% 12.5%
24 Mike Williams 4.1 12.5% 25.0% 37.5% 6.3% 43.8%
25 Tyler Boyd 7.7 42.9% 50.0% 57.1% 21.4% 14.3%
26 D.J. Moore 5.1 6.3% 18.8% 37.5% 6.3% 50.0%
27 Jarvis Landry 9.3 25.0% 37.5% 68.8% 6.3% 25.0%
28 Alshon Jeffery 7.1 30.8% 46.2% 46.2% 7.7% 38.5%
29 Allen Robinson 7.2 7.7% 23.1% 38.5% 7.7% 23.1%
30 Robby Anderson 6.6 21.4% 28.6% 28.6% 14.3% 57.1%

 

The name who stands out here is Tyler Boyd, who delivered WR1 numbers 42.9 percent of the time, which ranked ninth in the NFL last year. Knowing he posted those numbers with just 7.7 targets per game is rather impressive, though he was a bit boom/bust with just 57.1 percent of his games netting WR3 or better marks, which ranked 28th among receivers. With a new head coach in town, it’s going to be interesting to see if he continues to progress, though his marks were worse with A.J. Green out of the lineup last year.

The biggest shocker on this chart is likely seeing Tyler Lockett average just 4.4 targets per game, but also posting WR3 or better numbers 68.8 percent of the time, which tied for 18th best among receivers. Each of the 17 wide receivers above him averaged at least 7.0 targets per game, highlighting just how improbable his numbers were. Do you know how many times Lockett saw seven targets in 2018? Once. Doug Baldwin gone definitely helps, but we mustn’t forget that Lockett has never topped 71 targets in any of his four seasons.

Despite seeing 9.3 targets per game (ninth among receivers), Jarvis Landry ranked 26th in WR2 or better percentage. His inefficiency as the top receiver in Cleveland is likely what led to them trading for Odell Beckham this offseason. While his target share is likely to drop significantly, he should be much more efficient while playing second fiddle. Allen Robinson was another one who stands out as not doing much with all his opportunity, but knowing he averaged 7.2 targets per game in his first season under Matt Nagy is a good thing.

The others in this group are the ones fantasy owners are expecting to breakout in 2019. Chris Godwin, Calvin Ridley, D.J. Moore, and Mike Williams are leading that charge, though Moore is the only one who doesn’t have a clear-cut No. 1 in front of him. With that being said, the Panthers have the most diverse group of pass-catchers, which may mean there is no true alpha, and it’s evidenced in Moore’s numbers from last year. In fact, look at Moore compared to his teammate Curtis Samuel last year, who is going 50 picks later.

Player WR1 % WR2 % WR3 % BOOM % BUST %
D.J. Moore 6.3% 18.8% 37.5% 6.3% 50.0%
Curtis Samuel 0.0% 33.3% 58.3% 0.0% 25.0%

 

31-40 Range

This would be considered the tail-end to the starting wide receivers on fantasy squads, as most leagues are starting three at the position, and maybe four if there’s a flex spot. What you’re looking for is startability in this territory, as someone who performs 33 percent of the time isn’t going to do you a whole lot of good.

ADP Player Tgt/gm WR1 % WR2 % WR3 % BOOM % BUST %
31 Sammy Watkins 5.5 10.0% 30.0% 40.0% 10.0% 40.0%
32 Will Fuller 6.4 42.9% 57.1% 71.4% 14.3% 28.6%
33 Dante Pettis 5.0 11.1% 22.2% 55.6% 11.1% 44.4%
34 Christian Kirk 5.7 0.0% 25.0% 41.7% 0.0% 33.3%
35 Corey Davis 7.0 18.8% 18.8% 37.5% 12.5% 43.8%
36 Marvin Jones 6.9 11.1% 33.3% 44.4% 11.1% 22.2%
37 Sterling Shepard 6.7 18.8% 25.0% 25.0% 27.3% 27.3%
38 Courtland Sutton 5.3 0.0% 12.5% 12.5% 0.0% 37.5%
39 N’Keal Harry DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
40 Larry Fitzgerald 7.0 6.3% 25.0% 43.8% 6.3% 31.3%

 

The good news? You can find four receivers in this range who average near seven targets per game. The bad news? Just two receivers performed as a WR3 or better in more than 45 percent of their games. One of them was Will Fuller, who is going to be coming off a torn ACL and now has Keke Coutee to syphon targets from him. It seems hard for Fuller to keep this pace up, but fortunately, he doesn’t have to considering the range he’s being drafted in. Think about it, the numbers he posted here belong in the 11-20 range of receivers.

The player who appears out of place in this range is Courtland Sutton, who was a usable fantasy asset just 12.5 percent of the time. His quarterback situation didn’t get much better with Joe Flacco and he’s playing for a first-time head coach who’s defensive-minded. It’s hard to see him taking the leap into a viable fantasy starter this year. Sterling Shepard was another one who was a shocker, as he finished as a WR3 or better just 25 percent of the time, which is horrible when you consider his 6.7 targets per game.

41-60 Range

This is now the beginning of the bench tier, though after looking through it, you may find yourself feeling somewhat comfortable with someone in this range.

ADP Player Tgt/gm WR1 % WR2 % WR3 % BOOM % BUST %
41 Dede Westbrook 6.3 12.5% 25.0% 43.8% 0.0% 37.5%
42 D.K. Metcalf DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
43 Golden Tate 7.5 20.0% 26.7% 40.0% 6.7% 33.3%
44 Emmanuel Sanders 8.2 33.3% 50.0% 58.3% 16.7% 8.3%
45 Geronimo Allison 6.0 0.0% 40.0% 80.0% 0.0% 20.0%
46 James Washington 3.2 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 75.0%
47 Curtis Samuel 5.4 0.0% 33.3% 58.3% 0.0% 25.0%
48 Keke Coutee 6.8 16.7% 33.3% 50.0% 0.0% 50.0%
49 Marquez Valdes-Scantling 4.8 0.0% 6.7% 33.3% 0.0% 60.0%
50 DeSean Jackson 6.2 16.7% 33.3% 50.0% 8.3% 41.7%
51 Devin Funchess 5.6 0.0% 21.4% 28.6% 0.0% 50.0%
52 Tyrell Williams 4.1 13.3% 13.3% 20.0% 6.7% 53.3%
53 Parris Campbell DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
54 Anthony Miller 3.9 7.1% 7.1% 21.4% 0.0% 50.0%
55 Mecole Hardman DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
56 Marquise Brown DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
57 Michael Gallup 4.5 0.0% 6.7% 20.0% 0.0% 66.7%
58 Donte Moncrief 5.6 6.3% 12.5% 31.3% 0.0% 50.0%
59 Marquise Goodwin 3.9 9.1% 9.1% 27.3% 9.1% 63.6%
60 Deebo Samuel DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP

 

Your eyes will open large when you see a player with a 50 percent WR2 or better rate in this tier, but it makes a whole lot of sense when that player (Emmanuel Sanders) is coming off an Achilles tear at 32 years old. The other player in here who posted a high mark was Geronimo Allison, though his season came to an abrupt halt after just five games. He’s going to be playing the ‘big slot’ role in the Packers offense and Aaron Rodgers has always loved his slot receivers.

A potential third-year breakout player is Curtis Samuel, as he posted arguably better numbers than his teammate D.J. Moore last year. Posting a WR3 or better performance in 58.3 percent of games ranked 25th among receivers, and that was while Cam Newton was playing through a shoulder issue. DeSean Jackson posted usable fantasy numbers 50 percent of the time while with the Bucs, but is now back to the Eagles. For as hard as I’ve been on Dede Westbrook, he kind of belongs in this tier, though it’s hard to see him improving significantly in the Jaguars run-heavy, low-scoring offense. Best case scenario, he’s a WR3 more than half the time.

61-100 Range

This is the remaining bunch of wide receivers who may or may not be drafted in your league, though some of them are much better than you’ve given them credit for.

ADP Player Tgt/gm WR1 % WR2 % WR3 % BOOM % BUST %
61 Josh Gordon 5.9 8.3% 8.3% 58.3% 0.0% 16.7%
62 John Brown 6.1 12.5% 18.8% 31.3% 6.3% 56.3%
63 Kenny Stills 4.3 13.3% 20.0% 26.7% 13.3% 66.7%
64 TreQuan Smith 3.4 15.4% 15.4% 23.1% 15.4% 69.2%
65 A.J. Brown DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
66 DaeSean Hamilton 5.8 0.0% 25.0% 25.0% 0.0% 50.0%
67 Mohomed Sanu 5.9 12.5% 31.3% 43.8% 0.0% 31.3%
68 Andy Isabella DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
69 Devante Parker 4.3 0.0% 9.1% 18.2% 0.0% 72.7%
70 Jamison Crowder 5.6 0.0% 11.1% 33.3% 0.0% 44.4%
71 Demaryius Thomas 5.9 6.7% 20.0% 33.3% 0.0% 40.0%
72 Randall Cobb 6.8 11.1% 22.2% 22.2% 11.1% 66.7%
73 Nelson Agholor 6.1 18.8% 18.8% 37.5% 0.0% 37.5%
74 Marqise Lee DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
75 Zay Jones 6.4 18.8% 25.0% 31.3% 6.3% 56.3%
76 Robert Foster 4.0 9.1% 27.3% 45.5% 0.0% 45.5%
77 Ted Ginn 6.0 20.0% 20.0% 60.0% 0.0% 40.0%
78 Adam Humphries 6.6 6.3% 31.3% 37.5% 6.3% 37.5%
79 Albert Wilson 5.0 28.6% 28.6% 42.9% 14.3% 42.9%
80 Antonio Callaway 4.9 0.0% 18.8% 31.3% 0.0% 50.0%
81 Cole Beasley 5.4 12.5% 12.5% 25.0% 6.3% 50.0%
82 Danny Amendola 5.3 6.7% 6.7% 26.7% 0.0% 66.7%
83 J.J. Arcega-Whiteside DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
84 Trey Quinn 5.0 0.0% 0.0% 50.0% 0.0% 0.0%
85 Quincy Enunwa 6.3 0.0% 18.2% 18.2% 0.0% 54.5%
86 Hakeem Butler DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
87 Taylor Gabriel 5.8 6.3% 12.5% 25.0% 6.3% 50.0%
88 D.J. Chark 2.9 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 80.0%
89 John Ross 4.5 0.0% 0.0% 21.4% 0.0% 57.1%
90 Equanimeous St. Brown 3.3 0.0% 0.0% 18.2% 0.0% 72.7%
91 Paul Richardson 5.0 0.0% 0.0% 14.3% 0.0% 42.9%
92 David Moore 3.8 7.1% 21.4% 28.6% 0.0% 64.3%
93 Deon Cain DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
94 Demarcus Robinson 2.4 0.0% 7.1% 7.1% 0.0% 71.4%
95 Josh Doctson 5.3 0.0% 0.0% 26.7% 0.0% 60.0%
96 Willie Snead 5.9 0.0% 7.1% 21.4% 0.0% 28.6%
97 Kelvin Harmon DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
98 Emmanuel Hall DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
99 Josh Reynolds 4.8 18.2% 27.3% 36.4% 0.0% 63.6%
100 Chris Hogan 3.4 0.0% 6.7% 33.3% 0.0% 66.7%

 

Want to see something truly amazing that not many people realize? Mohamed Sanu might be fantasy football’s best kept secret the last few years. Here are his Boom, Bust, and Everything In Between marks since joining the Falcons:

YEAR WR1 % WR2 % WR3 % BOOM % BUST %
2018 12.5% 31.3% 43.8% 0.0% 31.3%
2017 20.0% 26.7% 66.7% 0.0% 33.3%
2016 13.3% 26.7% 40.0% 0.0% 53.3%

 

While it may not seem like too much, those numbers actually belong in the 31-40 range. So, when most people see that Sanu was the WR29 in 2017 and then the WR31 in 2018, they figure it was just a big game or two, but it’s been quite the opposite. While Calvin Ridley brought down his upside a tad, if there were an injury to either Ridley or Julio Jones, Sanu could be an every-week starter. He’s severely undervalued right now.

Other names that pop off the page in this range include Josh Gordon – though I don’t think he gets to play this year – and Ted Ginn, who both posted WR3 or better numbers in over half their games. Gordon’s fall is strictly due to his suspension, while Ginn is fighting with Tre’Quan Smith (who had more ‘boom’ games than Keenan Allen and A.J. Green last year) for the No. 2 job behind Michael Thomas. Whoever wins that job is going to have great value in the late rounds. If you want to snag both Smith and Ginn with your final two picks, I wouldn’t argue against that strategy.

TAKEAWAYS

In case you missed it, target-hog wide receivers are getting just as hard to find as workhorse running backs. There were just seven wide receivers who averaged double-digit targets in 2018 and though the league continues to progress to a more pass-heavy attack, the targets will continue to be spread out as more teams run three and four wide receiver sets. Snagging one of the top eight wide receivers would likely be a smart thing to ensure some consistency. If you don’t, you’re going to have to take on some injury risk to get it. If Julian Edelman stays healthy, he can provide the stability of top-eight wide receivers at a fraction of the cost.

When building your roster, you need to understand the type of fantasy owner you are. Can you live with minimal upside in order to maintain stability, or do you want to shoot for the stars and hope to find the next superstar? The 21-30 range is the area for those looking for a potential breakout, while there’s plenty of somewhat stable options available outside the top-30. Some of the better values in the late rounds include Larry Fitzgerald, Geronimo Allison, and Mohamed Sanu.


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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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