Opportunity Report AFC South: Two WR Gems and Some Diamonds in the Rough

Kenny Hyttenhove examines the AFC South in this week's Opportunity Report and finds many opportunities ripe for picking in your draft.

Turn Up the Volume

 

A player’s fantasy value can be measured in two parts: volume and efficiency. The majority of this article will focus on volume. Why focus on the volume statistics? It’s because they are more predictable than efficiency statistics year to year. That means we can take a look at how teams and players performed last season to help get a clearer picture of how they may perform this season. Below are the statistics we will utilize for each team and what they can tell us:

  • Snaps – Any offensive play.
  • Snap Marketshare(MS) – The percentage of total offensive snaps that the receiver was involved in.
  • Targets – A pass attempt that is thrown to a specific receiver. Targets are not just a stat, but a skill. To see targets, a receiver must be able to get open and create separation well enough for the quarterback to deliver the ball to him. For this article, we are looking at receivers to commanded no less than 24 targets–the median in the 2018 season.
  • Target Marketshare(MS) – The percentage of the total targets that were distributed to a receiver.
  • Air Yards – Air yards are how far the ball travels through the air starting at the line of scrimmage and ending at the point of the reception. Air yards include complete and incomplete passes and do not include any yards gained after the catch. It measures the intent of the coach and quarterback on an offensive snap. For more about air yards, check out this article (Air yards Explained) and many others on the topic by Josh Hermsmeyer.
  • Air Yards Marketshare(MS) – The percentage of total air yards a receiver is responsible for.
  • 10 & In Targets – A pass attempt that is thrown to a receiver within the opponents 10-yard line. The most valuable part of the red zone.
  • 10 & In Marketshare(MS) – Percentage of total targets within the opponents 10-yard line that a receiver is responsible.

We will also be looking at the 10 & In statistics through the lens of how frequently a target resulted in a touchdown. Since snaps from this area of the field are the most valuable,  it is important to target players that cash in the most.

 

Houston Texans

 

The Texans ranked 22nd in the NFL in the number of pass plays run by their offense. They called a total of 568 passes last season. This means that they called a pass on 55% of their offensive plays. That percentage was in the bottom of the league. This may come as a surprise to some as the face of the franchise (along with J.J. Watt) is quarterback DeShaun Watson.

 

 

Part of the low passing volume can be attributed to the fact that Houston ran more plays from a positive game script (with a lead) than they did while playing with a negative script (from behind). That can be summed up with the statement that the Texans were a good team with a bad offensive line that let up a league-most 62 sacks. Watson tends to hold the ball looking for a play. Look for Bill O’Brien to help remedy this problem by emphasizing the shorter passing game.

 

 

If the Texans do in fact turn to more short and intermediate routes to help limit sacks and pressures, look for Keke Coutee to have a big season. When healthy last season, Coutee was targeted an average 6-7 targets per game. Coutee is dangerous with the ball in his hands as well as he averaged 7.5 yards per catch per reception.

 

10 & In Tar 10 & In MS 10 & In TD 10 & In TD MS
Will Fuller 3 7% 2 17%
DeAndre Hopkins 15 33% 4 33%
Keke Coutee 2 4% 1 8%
Vacated
Demaryius Thomas 4 9% 3 25%

 

Of course, Houston is the home to one of the best, if not the best, wide receiver in real and fake football, DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins easily led the team and was fifth in the league in targets. Of his 163 targets, he had a whopping 15 targets within the opponents 10-yard line. He made good by scoring four touchdowns within that area. No one else on the Texans was even close to the output of Hopkins. Even if you are looking to own another of Houston’s receivers a positive is that the Texans did throw the ball 54% of the time from within the ten.

 

 

Looking at total air yards, it is quite clear that Houston’s passing game runs through Hopkins. However, Will Fuller played a large role in the Texan’s vertical threat early in the season before getting injured. Even with missing nine games last season, Fuller was second on the team in air yards. With an ADoT of 13.8 yards, Fuller is the downfield receiver that makes explosive plays for your fantasy team. Thus far in his career, Fuller has made the most of his opportunities and has been extremely efficient at scoring fantasy points, however, he does present a boom and bust risk. He has the potential to win a week for your team, but it cannot be expected that he keeps up that efficiency when playing a full season.

 

Indianapolis Colts

 

The Indianapolis Colts ran the third most offensive plays in the NFL last season. Of their 1070 plays, 662 were passing plays (fourth in the league) for a percentage of 62% (seventh in the league).

 

 

The Colts finished above league average in passing play percentage no matter the game situation. It is worth noting that Indianapolis was well above average when playing from behind. This plays a big role in the value of Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines.

 

Only T.Y. Hilton finished above the NFL average for targets per game. He absorbed 22% of the Colts’ targets last season. Hilton made good on his targets finishing fourth in football with 2.54 yards per route run (Y/RR) according to Pro Football Focus.

 

10 & In Tar 10 & In MS 10 & In TD 10 & In TD MS
T.Y. Hilton 10 22% 4 21%
Chester Rogers 1 2% 1 5%
Zach Pascal 2 4% 1 5%
Vacated
Dontrelle Inman 4 9% 2 11%
Ryan Grant 1 2% 1 5%

 

Hilton did underperform in the touchdown apartment based on his yardage. A receiver with his yardage total would be expected to score eight touchdowns, but Hilton only turned in five. Four of which came within the opponent’s 10-yard line. Hilton led the Colts in targets in this area as well. (Next closest being Eric Ebron and Nyheim Hines with six targets apiece.) Look for new arrival Devin Funchess to eat into these totals this season.

 

 

It is no surprise that Colts added Devin Funchess and spent a second-round pick on receiver Parris Campbell this offseason. With Chester Rogers and Zach Pascal getting opportunities early in the season between Weeks 4 through 6, the Colts never really went back to the receivers with any consistency as measured by air yards and targets. They will both be battling for continued opportunities in the 2019 season all preseason.

 

Tennesee Titans

 

The Tennessee offense ran the third least plays in the NFL last season. When it comes to passing the ball, the Titans tried to move the ball through the less than every team, but the Seattle Seahawks.

 

 

When in a neutral game script, the Titans were well below the league average in passing play percentage. It is also evident that once Tennessee gained a lead, they were more than happy to hand the ball off and try and sit on their lead.

 

 

With the passing volume so low, you’ll want to invest wisely in the receivers in this offense. Of the receivers that were targeted at least a league median 24 times, only Corey Davis bested five targets per game and not by much for a team’s number one receiver.

 

10 & In Tar 10 & In MS 10 & In TD 10 & In TD MS
Tajae Sharpe 4 14% 1 17%
Corey Davis 9 32% 1 17%
Taywan Taylor 1 4% 0 0%

 

Davis received 32% of the Titans’ targets within the opponent’s 10-yard line which is positive when considering Tennesse ran the ball nearly as much as they threw when this close to the goal line. Derrick Henry had 22 attempts from this part of the field, which is more than the Titans top three receivers’ targets combined.

 

 

Taywan Taylor became more involved in the offense in the last four weeks of the season getting more air yards than Davis. Taylor was a more efficient receiver last season with 1.87 Y/RR according to PFF.com. Watch to see if Taylor continues to trend upward this preseason, but he will have plenty of competition with rookie A.J. Brown, free agent signing Adam Humphries, and the return of Delaine Walker.

 

Jacksonville Jaguars

 

The Jacksonville offense was middle of the pack when it comes to offensive plays last season. They ran a total of 1005 plays and threw on 59% of those plays which was the league average last season.

 

 

Passing is not what the Jaguars preferred to do last season. When running the offense within a neutral game script Jacksonville ran a pass play only 46% of the time. This may have been a way to neutralize Blake Bortles, but could also speak to their offensive philosophy. The good news for 2019 is the hiring of offensive coordinator John DeFilippo and signing Nick Foles. Both moves lead us to believe that the Jaguars will increase their passing volume this season.

 

 

With Marqise Lee going down with an injury before the season, Dede Westbrook led the team in targets per game. Westbrook finished the year with 101 targets and 19% market share of the targets. Westbrook was not the most efficient receiver finishing in the bottom half of wide receivers with 1.29 Y/RR. Despite this, Westbrook was near the top of the league in receiver separation and above average in yards after the catch per reception. With an increase in volume and better quarterback play, Westbrook could be a steal this year.

 

10 & In Tar 10 & In MS 10 & In TD 10 & In TD MS
Dede Westbrook 7 26% 1 17%
Keelan Cole 6 22% 0 0%
D.J. Chark 2 7% 0 0%
Vacated
Donte Moncrief 5 19% 1 17%

 

Jacksonville tried to get Westbrook the ball within the 10 by throwing it to him 26% of the time they reached that part of the field. Keelan Cole was also someone they looked to often from 10 and in. The Jaguars threw the ball 50% of the time within this part of the field which is league average.

 

 

Keelan Cole was an inconsistent part of the offense last season. He proved to be a focal point of the offense in a few games and then there were games where he could not earn a target in the middle of the season. With the return of Marqise Lee, the signing of Chris Conley, and the Jaguars investing in the position in the draft, Cole’s inconsistency in the offense may hurt him going forward.

 

(Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire)

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