You might remember that two weeks ago I dove into the premium stats that we have available at Pro Football Focus to find some interesting numbers on running backs. What I found, coupled with previous evaluations, led me to make conclusions about the 10 running backs who were featured in that piece. You can find that here.
In this piece, I decided to get a little more specific and look at just one premium statistic. I dove into deep passing targets for wide receivers and quarterbacks. A deep pass is defined by our game charters as any pass that travels 20 yards or more downfield. I looked into offensive coaching changes, role changes within the offense, targets, and efficiency. After evaluating the numbers and my previous outlook for each player, I provided a suggestion for how to approach them. These six observations stood out the most to me.
If you’re interested in knowing some of the other observations and takeaways, reach out to me on Twitter.
Get Your Head Out Of The Sanders
I sometimes see the mistake of people taking the lazy approach in fantasy football. Eric Decker put up back-to-back WR1 seasons with Peyton Manning, and now that Emmanuel Sanders is supposedly stepping into his role, people want to target him. In this case, I personally believe that some of this has to do with the bias that people have against Decker from a pure talent standpoint. In many ways Decker is a much better talent than Sanders, and one of those ways is in the deep passing game.
Again, at first glance, Decker’s 4.60 40-time looks terrible compared to Sanders’ 4.41. However, when adjusting for height and weight, Decker’s time starts to look a lot better. While Decker stands tall at 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, Sanders is just 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds.
Decker finished with the best catch rate (60.0 percent) on deep targets, as he hauled in 15 of his 25 targets for 509 yards and five touchdowns. Sanders finished with one of the lower catch rates (26.1 percent), and only caught seven of his 23 deep targets for 212 yards and one touchdown. While Manning was a more accurate passer on deep targets than Ben Roethlisberger, the difference doesn’t add up to the gap in production between the two players. Perhaps more concerning is the fact that Antonio Brown was able to produce on his deep targets. Brown finished with a 35.7 percent catch rate, and he turned 10 of his 28 targets into 313 yards and four touchdowns.
Sanders is a player who I am avoiding in all leagues. He is not the deep threat he was once billed to be, and he offers very little upside inside the red zone.