By Adam Reid
Welcome to Week 6! Hopefully this article finds you on the top of your game and your fantasy football league. If not, don’t sweat it too much; there is still plenty of time to right the ship and make a playoff run provided you stay informed and make the right moves going forward. A common expression in fantasy football is: “Once is chance, twice is coincidence, and three times is a trend.” With five weeks of data in the books we can now start to dive into the numbers with the hopes of uncovering these 2013 trends.
In football, the value of a wide receiver is often measured by his weekly targets; you’ll often hear people cite targets and receptions as one of the key wide-out metrics. However, it’s a little too easy to simply assume that more targets automatically results in more fantasy production. This week, I’ll be using ProFootballFocus.com’s Points-Per-Opportunity (PPO) metric and my own Points-Per-Target (PPT) metric to highlight the best and the worst of four wide receiver tiers: WR1, WR2, WR3/Flex & WR4/Bench.
If you are not familiar with PPO, it is calculated by taking a player’s total fantasy points scored, and dividing it by his carries plus his pass routes run, while PPT divides the total fantasy points by the number of times that player has been targeted in the passing game. The goal here is to point out those players who may be over or under performing in their current standing.
Week 6 WR1:
Here is the data for the top-12 ranked WRs for Week 6, according to FantasyPros Expert Consensus Rankings (Standard Scoring):
A few things stand out to me here. With Calvin Johnson banged up and Julio Jones out for the season, Dez Bryant has emerged as the clear #1 WR in fantasy football. He’ll look to continue his torrid pace against defenses in the NFC East that rank amongst the most favorable for wide receivers in the league. Wes Welker has also been making a huge impact as part of the potentially record-breaking Broncos offense. Welker leads all other elite options with a whopping 0.42 points-per-opportunity, and 1.75 fantasy points-per-target. Welker, Torrey Smith and Pierre Garcon have all been very pleasant surprises for fantasy owners this season, rocketing up the rankings board from their preseason allocations as WR2s. The slumping players on this list include A.J. Green and Andre Johnson. Green leads the entire elite group in targets, but these extra looks have not translated into fantasy production since his big first outing in Week 1. Similarly, the struggles of Matt Schaub have hurt Johnson, who currently ranks 30th in fantasy points scored by wide receivers. While owners will still be starting these players each week, they’ll clearly be hoping for a rebound going forward.
Week 6 WR2:
As you can see, Josh Gordon and Justin Blackmon have come off their suspensions with a vengeance, rewarding the fantasy owners who were patient enough to await their return. While Blackmon’s sample size is much smaller than the rest on this list, it is clear that he figures to be a main “garbage time” weapon for the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars, posting 2.18 PPT on 9 targets in Week 5. DeSean Jackson, Antonio Brown and Alshon Jeffery have all been producing more than 0.3 PPO and greater than 1.3 points per target; a great sign for things to come. Cecil Shorts leads the league with 61 targets, but he has not been able to translate his more than 12 looks per game into the fantasy production owners are hoping for, at only 0.77 fantasy points per target. Marques Colston, Vincent Jackson, Larry Fitzgerald and Danny Amendola round out the list of big name players that have had an underwhelming start to the season, with V-Jax only averaging 0.7 PPT and Colston posting a woeful 0.2 PPO. Look for these two players to rebound in the very near future.
Week 6 WR3/Flex:
Leading this list with 1.77 points-per-target is one of my favorite waiver wire pick-ups of the week, Terrence Williams. Provided Miles Austin remains sidelined with hamstring issues, Williams figures to be a great compliment to Dez in the Dallas offense. Similarly, James Jones has been a stellar WR3, posting 45 fantasy points and a catch percentage of 73% on 26 targets through 5 games. Denarius Moore, Anquan Boldin and TY Hilton have all been able to produce more than 0.3 points-per-opportunity and very respectable points-per-target numbers. On the contrary, it’s possible that better days are behind Steve Smith, Hakeem Nicks and Dwayne Bowe. These three have been in ranking free-fall since the season opener. They are at or below 0.2 points-per-opportunity, and have combined for only 3 touchdowns through 5 Weeks. If you happen to see future promise any either of these players, their respective owners would likely sell them to you for a sack of magic beans at this point.
Week 6 WR4/Bench:
Now we’re getting deep! Truthfully, this is one of my favorite tiers to analyze because several of these players are available in a majority of leagues and could potentially emerge to be difference makers on your team. While Greg Jennings and Nate Washington lead this list with PPO’s of 0.29, both are simply too erratic to be relied upon in standard formats at this point. Players I particularly like in this tier include Keenan Allen, Stephen Hill and Austin Pettis. The word is out on Allen, and he’s been a hot waiver wire target of late. Through 5 weeks he has posted a stellar 1.62 PPT despite having 2 TDs called back on Sunday, and has emerged to become a big part of the revitalized Chargers offence, as discussed in this recent TopTeamFantasy article. With Santonio Holmes sidelined, look for Hill to step up as the Jets top vertical threat, having caught 71% of passes directed his way for 1.47 points-per-target. Lastly, Pettis has quietly become the Ram’s leading red zone threat. With numbers like 1.36 PPT and a 0.23 PPO, look for Pettis to emerge as one of Sam Bradford’s most trusted targets moving forward.
Keep on the look-out for weekly updates to this article as I continue to track the progress of these players through the season. As always, stay frosty and best of luck in Week 6!