The 3 Best Destinations for Wide Receivers This Offseason
As we start to ramp up our offseason coverage with free agency and the NFL Draft approaching, there are some outside factors that can determine if players land in potential winning locations from a fantasy perspective.
It's been said many times, but volume is the lifeblood of any fantasy football player. For wideouts, that means targets, and each NFL front office is working diligently on how to realign their team's target distribution as a result of impending free agents who may leave.
These vacancies can lead to prime opportunities for other free agents or rookies -- or someone currently on the roster who was down on the pecking order in 2016 -- to step in and gain a quick path to fantasy success. While there are only six free agent receivers who netted 100-plus targets last year, some teams have multiple players hitting the market, which can open up quite a bit of available targets. Overall, 16 of the 32 teams have 100-plus collective targets potentially up for grabs.
Players like Terrelle Pryor, who leads the group of available wideouts with 141 targets last season, and Alshon Jeffery (franchise tagged last year) could both be in new uniforms in 2017. As far as making a fantasy impact, do we want them to go to a team like the Philadelphia Eagles, who has zero free agents leaving to open up target opportunities? Or would they be better suited on a team like the Washington Redskins, who have potentially 273 targets up for grabs if they don't re-sign any of their free agent wideouts?
Granted, players of Pryor's and Jeffery's caliber will likely shake up an incoming team's target distribution regardless of where they land, but teams rarely make massive jumps from one year to the next in pass attempts. While the target pie as a whole remains relatively stable, let's check out the individual slices of those pies that may be leaving during free agency. It's likely rare that these teams don't re-sign any of their players, but it's still worth noting where the best potential landing spots could be for this year's free agents and rookies.
Listed below are each team's available targets and the top ensuing free agents (by targets). The percentage of available targets does not factor in quarterback spikes or throwaways.
|Team||Targets Available||Percentage Available||Potential Top Free Agents|
|ATL||91||17.17%||Jacob Tamme (31), Aldrick Robinson (31), Levine Toilolo (19)|
|AZ||81||14.39%||Jermaine Gresham (61), Andre Ellington (19)|
|BAL||99||15.18%||Kamar Aiken (50), Kyle Juszczyk (49)|
|BUF||198||43.04%||Robert Woods (76), Marquise Goodwin (68), Justin Hunter (23)|
|CAR||128||23.19%||Ted Ginn Jr. (95), Fozzy Whitaker (33)|
|CHI||156||28.42%||Alshon Jeffery (94), Deonte Thompson (36)|
|CIN||128||23.66%||Brandon LaFell (107), Rex Burkhead (20)|
|CLE||141||25.27%||Terrelle Pryor (141)|
|DAL||129||26.93%||Terrance Williams (61), Brice Butler (32), Lance Dunbar (24)|
|DEN||45||8.67%||Jordan Norwood (35)|
|DET||124||21.53%||Anquan Boldin (95), Andre Roberts (25)|
|GB||86||14.12%||Jared Cook (51), James Starks (25)|
|HOU||92||15.97%||Ryan Griffin (74)|
|IND||111||19.41%||Jack Doyle (75), Robert Turbin (35)|
|JAX||39||6.28%||Bryan Walters (34)|
|KC||5||0.95%||Knile Davis (5)|
|LAC||27||4.86%||Dexter McCluster (11), Danny Woodhead (8)|
|LAR||209||40.12%||Kenny Britt (111), Brian Quick (77)|
|MIA||127||27.19%||Kenny Stills (81), Dion Sims (35)|
|MIN||125||21.70%||Cordarrelle Patterson (70), Matt Asiata (38)|
|NE||97||17.96%||Martellus Bennett (73)|
|NO||80||12.16%||Travaris Cadet (54), Tim Hightower (26)|
|NYG||161||26.97%||Victor Cruz (72), Rashad Jennings (42)|
|OAK||93||15.84%||Latavius Murray (43), Andre Holmes (25)|
|PIT||130||22.03%||Le'Veon Bell (94), DeAngelo Williams (27)|
|SEA||27||5.30%||Luke Willson (21)|
|SF||244||50.10%||Jeremy Kerley (115), Quinton Patton (63), Shaun Draughn (39)|
|TB||138||24.60%||Russell Shepard (40), Vincent Jackson (32)|
|TEN||57||11.68%||Kendall Wright (43)|
|WAS||273||46.11%||Pierre Garcon (114), DeSean Jackson (100), Vernon Davis (59)|
Let's zero in on some on three of teams who could have the most opportunity available in 2017.
Washington Redskins -- 273 Targets Available
With Washington's top two receiving options available for free agency, there is a massive vacancy of targets up for grabs in Washington. DeSean Jackson could likely net a big contract in free agency, and it wouldn't be shocking to see Washington move on from Pierre Garcon, as well, given the draft capital they spent on Josh Doctson a year ago.
It wouldn't be terribly shocking for Washington to turn in-house with Doctson, Jordan Reed, and Jamison Crowder as their three main targets, but there remains plenty of opportunity available for a team that has ranked top-10 in pass attempts the last two seasons.
San Francisco 49ers -- 244 Targets Available
The San Francisco 49ers have a lot of needs to address this offseason. Targeting a big free-agent receiver or one of the draft's top rookies may be at the top of their list. Jeremy Kerley was the team's leading receiver in 2016 with a final stat line of 64 catches for 667 yards and 3 scores.
There's room for a massive upgrade, and the 49ers have the cap ($81.8 million, second-most, per Spotrac) to make several moves if the new tandem of general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan find a player who fits with their long-term vision for the team. Kerley's 115 targets may be up for grabs, and the team's receiving corps could look a lot different next fall.
Los Angeles Rams -- 209 Targets Available
In his eighth year in the league, Kenny Britt posted his first 1,000-yard campaign and finished with a career year in Reception Net Expected Points (NEP), our in-house metric. He is still somehow only 28 years old. He is set to enter free agency after a big year, and if he bolts, it will open up a large number of targets for the Los Angeles Rams.
The Rams have potentially 40.12 percent of their targets available and could use an influx of talent to help last year's top overall pick, Jared Goff. The Rams passed the ball 60.94 percent of the time last year (11th-most), and new coach Sean McVay, renowned for his offensive work, may want to bolster the receiving depth chart to give Goff all the help he can get.
And Goff needs help.
Here's that same chart but with all quarterbacks since 2000 with 200 or more drop backs in a season. Oh no. pic.twitter.com/cTmcU8bgeV
— JJ Zachariason (@LateRoundQB) January 13, 2017
If the Rams add to their offensive arsenal this offseason, that player could be entering a great opportunity to produce right away. Even if Goff isn't very good, massive volume could propel a talented acquisition to fantasy relevance.
Washington's offenses have gone through a resurrection under McVay and have finished top 10 in Overall NEP and Passing NEP in each of the last two years. A big-time free-agent acquisition for the Rams -- or that plus re-signing Britt -- could go a long way to helping Goff get his career back on track.