Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire
Heading into Week One, wide receiver breakout candidates were a dime a dozen. You could pick any combination of available targets in an offense, athletic ability, quarterback chemistry, coaching changes, and many more statistical offseason anomalies to make your case for why a player will break out in week one.
Now, we have football. Statistics (albeit very small sample size), game tape, regular season scheme information, and play calling. It’s all here. Now, we can start to really analyze who’s going to break out.
Some receivers who put up mediocre or even bad stat lines in week one are still clearly start-worthy options moving forward. Some receivers who had amazing games still should be sticking around on your bench. First, let’s take a look at some must-starts prior to Week One that didn’t quite get it done.
Chris Hogan (NE Patriots)
Chris Hogan destroyed some poor lineups this week, posting a miserable one catch for 11 yards. So what’s the deal? Is he not the WR1 on the Patriots that we expected him to be? I don’t think that’s the case. Yes, Phillip Dorsett inserted himself into the conversation of WRs that should be rostered. However, coach Bill Belichick has pulled this move before. He has often heavily utilized a player that many thought would be a very minimal factor during a specific game that tailored to that player’s strengths. Dorsett had the best game of his career on Sunday, and it may stay that way for some time. The worry on Hogan is not about Dorsett eclipsing him as a go-to target, which is the reason why Dorsett does not have his own section of this article.
The worry on Hogan is actually what he was able to do with the targets he had. He was credited with five targets, but he technically had six as one was a defensive penalty that became a ‘no play’ instead of a deep target. So, of his six targets, only one came in the red zone and there was only one catch. Why?
Well, a few reasons. When we review the tape, there’s a real possibility this game could have turned out very differently for Hogan. The incompletions weren’t Hogan’s fault, but they also weren’t just uncatchable, errant throws. Hogan’s target share was fine, and he could have walked out of this week with 50-60 yards and a TD without a whole lot of luck swinging his way.
The last thing to note about Hogan is depth of target. He had one of the highest depths of target in the NFL in Week One, and you expect a player receiving deep shots like that to have the occasional bad game. However, Hogan was a major part of the mid-yardage offense last season and should be fine here moving forward. Keep starting him, and perhaps buy him if an owner is unhappy with his production.
Corey Davis (Tennessee Titans)
Corey Davis wasn’t technically a ‘bad play’ on Sunday of Week One, with six catches and 62 yards, but a lot of owners were fearful during the long game delay that he wasn’t going to have a very productive day for fantasy purposes.
Davis had what I would consider an extremely interesting day. His quarterback switched in the middle of the game from Marcus Mariota (who looked bad) to Blaine Gabbert (who looked worse), and Davis sort of benefited from the switch and sort of didn’t. Gabbert took over near the end of the third quarter. Once he was in, Davis was targeted six times (that’s good!) and caught two passes for 33 yards (that’s bad). Gabbert also threw the ball 20 times in the fourth quarter, so even though the target number was high for Davis it isn’t really pointing in an amazing direction.
However, I will give Davis credit moving forward. Despite the weird stat line and final target share stuff, Davis is poised to be the most important pass-catcher on the offense that is now lacking Delanie Walker, presumably for the rest of the season. He’s still someone I like more as depth than as a starter, but in PPR leagues especially you probably won’t regret having Davis around moving forward.
Those are our WRs that were already starting on a large portion of rosters. Now, moving forward, let’s talk about some players that you wouldn’t have thought to start in Week One that might be finding their way into your starting line-up for Week Two.
There are three characteristics of players we look at for this: high target share, good match-up, and high ceiling. Let’s start it off with the first segment:
Chasing the Targets
Ryan Grant (Indianapolis Colts)
Ryan Grant was a commonly overlooked commodity in the off-season, a byproduct of Andrew Luck‘s potential health concerns and a myriad of other potentially fantasy relevant options on the team. However, for the few who sang his praises, Grant appears to be a legitimate part of this offense. Grant had 8 receptions on 9 targets for 59 yards against the Bengals in Week One. Although the Bengals defense isn’t incredible, it is a pretty solid unit overall, so it’s a pretty decent line for a player that was owned by less than 10% of fantasy teams coming into Week One.
Are the targets going to stick around moving into Week Two? I vote yes. Getting to 9 targets is a tall task, as Luck had to throw the ball 53 times against the Bengals to get there, but looking at 5-6 targets a game is very reasonable here. On top of that, Luck throwing the ball 40+ times in any given week shouldn’t surprise anyone. On top of that, Grant’s targets mostly came early in possessions on the Colts’ side of the field, so something like being stifled by a strong defense shouldn’t stop Grant from being targeted.
Another good thing for Grant is the spread of those targets between quarters. In the second quarter he only received one target, but he was at two or more in every other quarter. That makes it seem to me like he is expected to be an important role player in the offense on a consistent basis. As a potential high floor play, Grant is pretty solid.
Chris Godwin (TB Buccaneers)
Chris Godwin only received four targets on Sunday, so why is he in this segment?! …is the question I’m sure you’re all asking, waving your fist angrily at the screen and demanding explanation from the unseen author on this side of the text. Well, fine, I suppose an explanation is necessary.
Godwin only received a few targets, but this ended up being a very weird game. Godwin had three targets in the first half which was a very good sign before the team switched to targeting DeSean Jackson. In their defense, Jackson was doing great. However, in Godwin’s defense, Jackson left the game with a concussion late in the game and may be in concussion protocol for awhile. Remember that the Chasing the Targets section is about finding out who is going to have targets moving forward, and Godwin is a great candidate to end up in deeper starting rosters, or if you’ve just got no one else good to plug in.
Cole Beasley (Dallas Cowboys)
There were four potential players to become the main target on the Cowboys this season, and I still think Michael Gallup will end up being the receiver to own down the stretch. However, at the moment and for the foreseeable future, Cole Beasley is the man to own.
There isn’t much to say here. Beasley was targeted nine times, caught eight, had reasonable levels of success with his catches, was used heavily on Dallas’ side of the field, and did well on first down situations. There’s no reason to expect much different in terms of usage, at the moment, so go ahead and fire up your Cole Beasleys until something changes.
Chasing the Match-Up
Willie Snead(Baltimore Ravens)
Willie Snead only had one target in the second half against the Buffalo Bills in Week One, which is actually really good news for him moving into Week Two as it means most of his six targets came before the blowout began. He was heavily utilized in the first half, targeted five times, when it was still a game. After the Ravens started to go ahead by extraordinary amounts, Snead was no longer used, with just one target (albeit a red zone target caught for a touchdown) in the third quarter, and zero in the fourth quarter.
The Bengals, who the Ravens play in Week Two, are clearly a better offense than they were given credit for (and certainly better than the Bills). The Ravens will need to keep their players in the game for most of it, and that means Snead’s first half pace of five targets might translate into double digit targets in Week Two. Also, the Bengals allowed two players to break the five catch, 50 yard barrier in Week One. That looks good for all Ravens receivers, but if you have Michael Crabtree you’re probably already starting him, and I like Snead over John Brown going into Week Two.
Allen Robinson (Chicago Bears)
Another team that struggled to defend against the receiver in week one was the Seattle Seahawks. A long time lock-down defense, the Seahawks (after losing most of that long time lock-down defense) looked lost against Case Keenum and his band of merry men. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders both torched this secondary, going 6 for 63 yards and 10 for 135 yards respectively, both scoring a TD through the air.
Allen Robinson, on the other hand, had great chemistry with Mitchell Trubisky in Week One against a pretty decent Green Bay Packers Defense. Robinson’s final line of 4 for 61 yards on 7 targets wasn’t excellent, but he looked good and Trubisky surprisingly looked like a very capable quarterback.
Robinson is a bit of a stretch here as a ‘break out’ as about 80% of teams that rostered him started him, but he’s here to keep scared owners from benching him over a flash in the pan from their bench.
I wouldn’t expect the 10/135/1 line of Sanders in Week Two for Robinson, but earning a few more targets from his seven in Week One and breaking 100 yards both seem very reasonable for him.
Risk It for The Biscuit
Travis Benjamin (LA Chargers)
Travis Benjamin is this week’s Risk It for The Biscuit receiver, and for very good reason. There were ten players in the NFL whose average depth of target was over 25 yards and only two of them drew more than three targets. One of them, Chris Hogan, is someone you should probably be starting regardless of situation. The other player is, obviously, Travis Benjamin. Benjamin has been the Chargers go-to deep threat for years and continues to be that this season. Philip Rivers looked to him deep multiple times in Week One, and there’s no reason that won’t continue. His two catches for 15 yards (despite 17 yards after catch on the game) make it difficult to start him. Also, the fact that the Bills who they play in Week Two aren’t good enough to make Rivers throw the ball 40+ times is alarming. And hey! The reason he didn’t get more than 15 yards is because he kept dropping long bombs. But, that’s why he’s a risk! And sometimes, you have to risk it… For the biscuit.