Who do you love? Mining QB/WR connections for fantasy opportunity
One of my favorite things about the fantasy football community is our collective desire to quantify narratives and use that information to identify market inefficiencies. In the wake of free agency, I’ve been digging through PFF’s data to attempt to understand the dynamics of NFL passing attacks. Specifically, where do unclaimed opportunities exist, who are each team’s most efficient options, and, for the purposes of today’s exercise, who do quarterbacks trust most?
You’ve likely heard the narrative “Eli Manning leans on Odell Beckham Jr. in the passing game.” Well, we’ve got target and reception data to back that up. But if you wanted to compare Manning’s reliance on Beckham to Matt Ryan’s reliance on Julio Jones, how would you do that?
Tapping into PFF’s snaps-in-route data, I’ve assembled the following leaderboard, which shows the most-targeted players as a percentage of their snaps in route. After that, we’ll get into some team-specific situations where I think the fantasy market is misunderstanding the relationship of established QBs and their receivers.
|Name||Team||Targets||Rec. Yards||Snaps in Route||% targets / route|
|Odell Beckham Jr.||NYG||161||1367||601||26.8|
|Steve L. Smith||BLT||102||799||461||22.1|
Unsurprisingly, PFF’s four highest-graded receivers of the 2016 land among the top six most-targeted receivers on a per-route basis. The point here is to illustrate that the best receivers get thrown the ball on a high percentage of their routes, which provides baseline context for the team-by-team analysis to follow.
|Name||Team||Targets||Rec. Yards||Snaps in Route||YPRR||targets / route|
According to MyFantasyLeague, Amari Cooper is currently the fifth wide receiver off the board in PPR leagues, compared to Michael Crabtree’s ADP as WR29. This seems misguided when you consider that the Derek Carr targets Crabtree at the seventh-highest rate in the league and clearly more often than Cooper. Then there’s the fact that Crabtree has outscored Cooper in each of the past two seasons. Yes, Cooper seems destined to be one of the league’s top receivers for a while, but the reality is that any third-year breakout for Cooper is already baked into his ADP, while the market seems to be under-appreciating the data that point to Crabtree remaining Oakland’s top threat.