Fantasy: 42 wide receivers, 42 unique target distributions

| 5 years ago

Fantasy: 42 wide receivers, 42 unique target distributions

If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance you know all about the in-depth, unique statistics we provide you with right here at One of those items is target distribution data for each offensive player. When it comes to charting a pass play, one of the PFF analysts jobs is to chart how far away from the quarterback the receiver is when he is targeted. Additionally, the game charter will consider if the ball was caught, how much yardage was accrued when the ball was caught, how much yardage was accrued after the catch, if a touchdown was scored, if the ball was intercepted, if the ball was dropped, etc.

A majority of that data can be found at other sites, but the main one that can’t is the target location information. Today, I will be investigating and comparing the 42 most heavily targeted wide receivers from 2010 (42 is attained by including only those wide receivers with 90+ targets in 2010, including playoffs). A handful of tight ends accrued 90 or more targets in 2010, but for the purposes of this article, we will only focus on the wide receivers.

20+ yard targets

Rk Player Team %
1 Mike Wallace PIT 31%
2 Calvin Johnson DET 31%
3 Braylon Edwards NYJ 31%
4 DeSean Jackson PHI 31%
5 Brandon Lloyd DEN 28%
42 player Average NFL 18%
38 Lance Moore NO 10%
39 Roddy White ATL 9%
40 Davone Bess MIA 7%
41 Danny Amendola SL 4%
42 Wes Welker NE 2%

The top 5 most targeted are anything but shocking. Mike Wallace and DeSean Jackson are known for their ridiculous yards-per-reception marks, which are a byproduct of many long receptions. The Jets are a run heavy team, but Mark Sanchez wasn’t afraid to chuck it down field to Braylon Edwards when he did throw. There was a bit of a dropoff from four to five, but the Kyle Orton-to-Brandon Lloyd connection was one of long distance passes. The most interesting tidbit from this list of 10 players is the comparison between Calvin Johnson (2nd highest) and Roddy White (4th lowest). Both are among the league’s most talented and productive wide receivers, but they do it different ways.

Focusing on the wide receivers who aren’t targeted deep very often, Wes Welker is the catalyst. We know he is used primarily in underneath routes, but a whopping 97.6% of his targets are within 20 yards of the line of scrimmage. Danny Amendola was a favorite target of Sam Bradford, who threw short passes more than any other quarterback in 2010. Davone Bess and Lance Moore played similar roles for Chad Henne and Drew Brees, respectively.

10-19 yard targets

Rk Player Team %
1 Brandon Lloyd DEN 48%
2 Chad Ochocinco CIN 45%
3 Marques Colston NO 42%
4 Terrell Owens CIN 42%
5 Johnny Knox CHI 41%
42 player Average NFL 30%
38 Mike Williams SEA 21%
39 Percy Harvin MIN 20%
40 Wes Welker NE 17%
41 Mike Thomas JAX 16%
42 Danny Amendola SL 13%

This list really shows how heavily Brandon Lloyd was targeted down field. Some additional math shows that 76% of his targets were 10+ yards down field, which is quite high when you consider that the average is right around 48%. Teammates Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens both landed in the top 4, which is quite impressive for teammates and really shows how much Carson Palmer likes that 10-19 zone. Near 44% of the passes Palmer threw to Ochocinco/Owens were in this range. While Lance Moore is busy being targeted a few yards in front of Brees, Saints slot man Colston is busy in the 10-19 range.

On the flip side, just 17% of Danny Amendola’s targets are 10+ yards down field, 13% of which are in the 10-19 range. Mike Thomas acts as a possession receiver that David Garrard likes to use closer to the line of scrimmage. Similarly, Mike Williams and Wes Welker are among the most heavily targeted players by their respective teams, but most of that comes in the 0-9 range. A receiving and rushing threat, Percy Harvin spends most of his time closer to the quarterback.

0-9 yard targets

Rk Player Team %
1 Wes Welker NE 68%
2 Danny Amendola SL 64%
3 Davone Bess MIA 64%
4 Mike Williams SEA 57%
5 Lance Moore NO 57%
42 player Average NFL 45%
38 Derrick Mason BLT 34%
39 Mike Wallace PIT 33%
40 Mike A. Williams TB 33%
41 Hines Ward PIT 33%
42 Brandon Lloyd DEN 24%

Although I list five names in the “most” list, three of them really stick out. Wes Welker, Danny Amendola, and Davone Bess are well known as heavily-utilized underneath targets and the numbers are further evidence. After the “big 3”, aforementioned Mike Williams and Lance Moore show up with nearly 60% of their targets in the 0-9 range.

The players targeted least often in the 0-9 zone are generally used as down field weapons, but Hines Ward also slips onto the list. Ward, who will show up again in the next group, is as balanced as can be across the three zones closest to the quarterback. Considering the previous commentary on Lloyd, it should be no surprise that he’s dead last on this list. Only one-third of passes to Mike A. Williams (TB), Mike Wallace, and Derrick Mason were in the 0-9 range.

Targets behind the line of scrimmage

Rk Player Team %
1 Eddie Royal DEN 20%
2 Danny Amendola SL 19%
3 Hines Ward PIT 19%
4 Percy Harvin MIN 18%
5 Mike Thomas JAX 16%
42 player Average NFL 7%
38 Miles Austin DAL 1%
39 Dwayne Bowe KC 1%
40 Marques Colston NO 1%
41 Brandon Lloyd DEN 1%
42 Johnny Knox CHI 0%

40th out of 42 in terms of overall targets, Eddie Royal barely made the list. Still, he’s on it and leads the group as the most targeted wide receiver behind the line of scrimmage. Interestingly, the Broncos have Brandon Lloyd being targeted more than anyone 10+ yards down field and Royal targeted more than anyone in the backfield. You awake, 2011 opposing cornerbacks? Considering my previous comments on the two, Danny Amendola and especially Percy Harvin fit the bill here. Hines Ward is one that jumped off the page a bit, but, as mentioned, he had balls thrown to him all over the place between the backfield and 19 yards down field in 2010. Mike Thomas spent many games as the Jaguars #1 option at wide receiver in 2010, which makes him a bit of a surprise, but this certainly shows that they wanted to get the ball in his hands as much as possible.

With Brandon Lloyd being the clear exception, we have a relatively fresh group of faces in the low department. In fact, we could even add Braylon Edwards at 37 and we’d have the only six qualified wide receivers who were targeted behind the line of scrimmage less than 1% of the time. Miles Austin, Dwayne Bowe, and Marques Colston were targeted only once in this zone. Johnny Knox is the only wide receiver of the 42 that did not see at least 1 target behind the line of scrimmage.

The complete list of eligible players:

Rk Player Team 20+ 10 to 19 0 to 9 <0
1 Roddy White ATL 9% 33% 53% 5%
2 Reggie Wayne IND 21% 25% 48% 6%
3 Larry Fitzgerald ARZ 22% 36% 39% 3%
4 Greg Jennings GB 23% 34% 40% 3%
5 Brandon Lloyd DEN 28% 48% 24% 0.7%
6 Santana Moss WAS 15% 22% 48% 15%
7 Steve Johnson BUF 12% 29% 55% 4%
8 Marques Colston NO 13% 42% 44% 0.7%
9 Brandon Marshall MIA 14% 33% 49% 5%
10 Terrell Owens CIN 20% 42% 37% 2%
11 Andre Johnson HST 18% 32% 44% 7%
12 Calvin Johnson DET 31% 28% 39% 2%
13 Wes Welker NE 2% 17% 68% 13%
14 Mike Williams SEA 18% 21% 57% 3%
15 Hakeem Nicks NYG 20% 34% 40% 6%
16 Pierre Garcon IND 22% 26% 47% 6%
17 Dwayne Bowe KC 26% 32% 41% 0.8%
18 Mike A. Williams TB 26% 34% 33% 7%
19 Mike Wallace PIT 31% 25% 33% 10%
20 Davone Bess MIA 7% 23% 64% 7%
21 Chad Ochocinco CIN 14% 45% 38% 3%
22 Miles Austin DAL 16% 28% 56% 0.9%
23 Danny Amendola SL 4% 13% 64% 19%
24 Jeremy Maclin PHI 24% 24% 44% 8%
25 Anquan Boldin BLT 18% 34% 42% 7%
26 Santonio Holmes NYJ 19% 31% 46% 4%
27 Johnny Knox CHI 24% 41% 35% 0.0%
28 Braylon Edwards NYJ 31% 28% 40% 0.9%
29 Jabar Gaffney DEN 18% 36% 41% 6%
30 Hines Ward PIT 13% 36% 33% 19%
31 Percy Harvin MIN 14% 20% 47% 18%
32 Lance Moore NO 10% 26% 57% 7%
33 Derrick Mason BLT 24% 39% 34% 4%
34 Donald Driver GB 13% 28% 49% 10%
35 Deion Branch NE 14% 34% 47% 5%
36 Mike Thomas JAX 25% 16% 42% 16%
37 James Jones GB 23% 24% 46% 6%
38 DeSean Jackson PHI 31% 28% 34% 7%
39 Jerricho Cotchery NYJ 12% 29% 48% 12%
40 Eddie Royal DEN 13% 23% 44% 20%
41 Michael Crabtree SF 13% 34% 46% 8%
42 Jordy Nelson GB 20% 29% 41% 10%

Mike Clay is the Director of Pro Football Focus Fantasy. His accolades include the 2013 Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA) award for most-accurate preseason player rankings and the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) award for the best online article in 2013. Under Mike’s leadership, PFF Fantasy has been nominated for eight industry awards over the past three years, including a 2014 win over the likes of and for Best Single-Sport Specialization Fantasy Site. Mike broke the first unrestricted free agent signing of 2013 (Martellus Bennett to the Bears). A stat-head, Mike has created several advanced football statistics, including average depth of target (aDOT) and opportunity-adjusted touchdowns (OTD). His award-winning offensive player projections power several top fantasy league sites, including Yahoo, RT Sports and Reality Sports Online. One of the most well-known fantasy analysts, Mike has a Twitter following of more than 43,500. Mike also contributes to ESPN Insider and ESPN the Magazine, and is a regular guest on ESPN Radio and the network’s Fantasy Focus football podcast. He has also contributed to NBC’s, Athlon Sports and at Mike was featured as a Virtual Analyst in EA Sports' Madden 25 and Madden 2015 video games. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and is on the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Board of Directors and Hall of Fame voting committee. He makes regular appearances on NFL-related podcasts and shows, including those on Sirius XM and FNTSY Sports Channel. Mike’s work has been referenced on several outlets across the web, including CSN New England, ESPN, Houston Chronicle, and Originally from Pottsville, PA, Mike now resides in Fleetwood, PA with his wife, daughter, and two dogs. You can follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeClayNFL

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