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Negative Target Regression Candidates (2020 Fantasy Football)

Jul 23, 2020

I’d argue that targets are the most important statistic for projecting and understanding a receiver’s production. I don’t start panicking about wide receiver or tight end production until their targets plummet — if I have an unproductive receiver who is still seeing eight targets per game, I’m not really all that worried. Similarly, I’d probably be looking to sell high on a receiver putting up good yardage or scoring numbers on limited targets, as it usually isn’t sustainable.

Put simply, targets are important. If your guys don’t get the opportunity to catch the ball, they can’t catch the ball. Crazy logic, I know.

Here are some guys that put up solid target figures in 2019 that will likely see a reduction in 2020.

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Michael Thomas (WR – NO)
2019 targets: 185 (No. 1)

The most obvious regression candidate is usually the one with the most in the prior season. Thomas’s 185 targets were the most any receiver has seen in the past three seasons, and while I still expect him to be heavily involved in the offense, I think his production dips a little from his superhuman 2019 campaign. Emmanuel Sanders joined the Saints this season, and it’s the first time that the Saints have had a true strong receiving duo since Brandin Cooks was there in 2016. That season, Thomas saw 121 targets, Cooks saw 117, and Willie Snead (surprisingly) had 104. Thomas should still return high WR1 numbers, but I wouldn’t expect a full repeat of 2019.

DeAndre Hopkins (WR – ARI)
2019 targets: 150 (No. 5)

Hopkins heads to Arizona this season, and he is one of the more intriguing players for me in 2020. He has an exciting offense with an extremely talented young quarterback, but the targets may be hard to come by. Hopkins will be competing with Christian Kirk and Larry Fitzgerald. Kyler Murray only had five games last season with over 300 passing yards, and he had ten games with 35 or fewer pass attempts. This offense seems to be evolving in front of our eyes, but I think Hopkins will find himself in the 120-130 range instead of the upper echelon like he was in Houston.

Tyler Boyd (WR – CIN)
2019 targets: 148 (No. 7)

Boyd benefited massively from A.J. Green’s absence in 2019, recording the seventh-most targets in the league and breaking the 1,000-yard mark. Unfortunately for him, Green looks to be ready to roll in 2020, and that means that Boyd’s share of the offense should take a hit. I wouldn’t be surprised if Boyd is more productive than Green, but they will eat into each other’s opportunities assuming they stay healthy. Beyond Green, the Bengals have an extremely talented John Ross and rookie receiver Tee Higgins, so there will be a supply issue somewhere.

Zach Ertz (TE – PHI)
2019 targets: 135 (No. 12)

Ertz has been the preferred weapon on the Eagles for a few years now, but I think that may change in 2020. Dallas Goedert will continue to emerge, plus they added Marquise Goodwin and drafted Jalen Reagor, both of whom seem to be in line for work. The Eagles’ passing attack used to be Ertz and a carousel of receivers around him, but I think that Ertz joins the mess with everyone else next year.

D.J. Moore (WR – CAR)
2019 targets: 135 (No. 12)

Moore, like Hopkins, is a very intriguing player heading into 2020. He seemed to take a leap forward in 2019, but the arrivals of Robby Anderson at wide receiver and Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback have me a bit cautious. Bridgewater isn’t known for throwing downfield (he only has 10.4 yards per completion in 2019 when he started), and I genuinely wouldn’t be surprised if Christian McCaffrey has 20 receptions per game as a result. I’m not really on board with Moore taking another leap forward in 2020.

Jamison Crowder (WR – NYJ)
2019 targets: 122 (No. 19)

I think Crowder has a shot at coming close to this in 2020, but the Jets’ offense is so hard to nail down that I can’t say that confidently. I really included him just because I was shocked to see him that high. I won’t be drafting him, however, as I put a hex on him in 2018 after he burned me every season of his career. Never again.

Cole Beasley (WR – BUF)
2019 targets: 106 (No. 33)

Beasley — everyone’s favorite bye-week Points Per Reception (PPR) streaming play — will probably see a big production hit this season. The arrival of Stefon Diggs is going to massively eat into the target availability, and I think Beasley misses out before John Brown does. Their running back duo of Devin Singletary and Zach Moss doesn’t help either, as there are just a lot of mouths to feed in Buffalo.

Leonard Fournette (RB – JAX)
2019 targets: 100 (No. 37)

Prior to last season, Fournette’s career-high in targets was 48, set back in 2017. He more than doubled that in 2019, as he suddenly turned into a PPR darling. Put simply, I think the target totals were an anomaly, and they should fall off significantly. I am very curious, though, if Gardner Minshew simply targets his running backs often. If that’s true, Fournette may continue to be involved in the passing game.

Targets are an absolutely massive part of understanding what to expect from your players on a week to week basis, so be sure to keep an eye on them like you would with yardage or touchdowns. As things stand today, these guys should see a reduction in involvement this season, so consider that come draft season. During the year, go buy under-performing players with high target counts, and look to offload players crushing it without being consistently involved.

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Donald Gibson is a correspondent at FantasyPros. For more from Donald, check out his archive and follow him @DonaldGibsonFF.