By Adam Reid
Welcome to Week 9! The NFL Trade Deadline has come and passed without too much fanfare. In the world of fantasy football, owners still have at least a few weeks left to try and wheel and deal their way to a championship; knowing who to target and who to avoid can give you a big leg up in this process. This week we continue our series on the analysis of wide receiver targets and opportunities as they pertain to fantasy point production. With Calvin Johnson, Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, Eric Decker, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, Rueben Randle, Justin Blackmon, Cecil Shorts and Anquan Boldin all on bye, this is a very thin week at wideout. Please note that these players are absent from this week’s analysis because they are unranked, but look for their return with a vengeance in Week 10.
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 tier groupings. 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. As an example, last season top-tier wideout Dez Bryant posted 0.32 PPO and 1.57 PPT. By comparison, Wes Welker, who ended up as a solid WR2, had 0.27 PPO and 1.01 PPT. The goal of this analysis is to point out those players who may be over or under performing in their current standing. I’ll be using Boris Chen’s Week 9 Wide Receiver ECR Tier Analysis to create four wide receiver analysis groupings.
Week 9 – Tier 1
With so many elite-level players on bye this week, there are only a handful of true studs at the wide receiver position. Dez Bryant, Jordy Nelson, A.J. Green and Brandon Marshall are all clear WR1′s at this point. At an astronomical 0.38 PPO and 2.06 PPT, it’s Jordy who stands out among the four as the player making the most of his opportunities. This is bolstered by the fact that Randall Cobb and James Jones have both been sidelined for multiple weeks with injury, though I expect Nelson’s numbers to come back down to earth a little when Jones gets back in a week or two. We here at TopTeamFantasy.com have been talking up Keenan Allen since Week 6. Hopefully, you were able to hop on that train before it left the station, as Week 9 finds Allen (0.26 PPO 1.55 PPT) now ranked as a Tier-1 wideout. I don’t expect Allen to remain here rest of season, but I do think he will provide owners with decent WR2 value from here out, with an occasional game at the WR1 level. Antonio Brown (0.26 PPO, 1.11 PPT) and Pierre Garcon (0.24 PPO, 0.87 PPT) are hanging in the elite tier by a thread. Both of their fates are tied to QBs Ben Roethlisberger and Robert Griffin III who have been inconsistent in the passing game through the first half of the season.
Week 9 – Tier 2
Like Allen, I’ve been talking up Terrance Williams for four weeks now, and I similarly hope you were able to get in on the ground floor. At 0.30 PPO and 1.80 PPT, Williams continues to be the stand-out in his tier, and it looks as though he’s supplanted the seemingly perpetually injured Miles Austin as a main component of the Cowboys aerial attack. Look for Denarius Moore (0.35 PPO, 1.49 PPT) to rebound from his less than stellar Week 8 performance with a nice match-up at home this Sunday against the porous Redskins secondary. It’s looking like James Jones is questionable at best for Week 9, so look for Jarrett Boykin (0.29 PPO, 1.48 PPT) to continue to make the most of his opportunities against the Bears. On the flip side of things, Mike Wallace has been the picture of inconsistency for fantasy owners this season. With at dismal 0.16 PPO and 0.76 PPT, Wallace has not found the endzone since Week 2 and continues to be up and down for fantasy owners. With 48 receptions, Andre Johnson (0.23 PPO, 0.85 PPT) has been a top-20 option in PPR, but that really doesn’t help you in Standard leagues. Johnson is still without a touchdown in 2013, so owners will be hoping that he and Texans QB Case Keenum had a chance to build some chemistry during the bye week.
Week 9 – Tier 3
If you owned and played Marvin Jones this past Sunday, my hat goes off to you. With that 4-TD performance, Jones has sky-rocketed up the stat-sheet and is now WR #10 this year in standard scoring, ahead of Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker and Josh Gordon! At a ludicrously unsustainable 0.55 PPO and 2.49 PPT, Jones leads this tier by a wide margin, but a word of caution to owners chasing points: he will never do that again. Say what you will about Golden Tate‘s on-field taunting, if you were like me and played him in a pinch last week, he came through in a big way. With Sidney Rice now out for the season and Percy Harvin still dealing with setbacks from his off-season hip surgery, look for Tate (0.28 PPO, 1.32 PPT) to provide WR3/Flex value going forward, provided Russell Wilson can continue to progress in the passing game. Conversely, what looked to be a potential break-out match-up for Marques Colston (0.16 PPO, 1.01 PPT) turned out to be yet another dud. It’s a bad sign for fantasy owners when Drew Brees throws 5 touchdowns and Colston gets none of them. Similarly, at 0.15 PPO and 0.53 PPT, the oft-injured Danny Amendola laughed in the face of owners patient enough to await his return by posting 1.5 fantasy points in Week 8. Owners have some reason to be nervous here, as Tom Brady has been a shadow of his former self this season and the schedule down the stretch does not get any easier.
Week 9 – Tier 4
Hopefully you don’t have to play anyone from Tier 4 this week, because from a fantasy perceptive it’s not looking all that pretty. Kenny Stills missed the memo on Marquis Colston’s supposed breakout and decided to go for 2 TDs instead. Stills (0.25 PPO, 2.32 PPT) now has three touchdowns in his last 2 games, but is tough to trust in a Saints offense that likes to spread the ball around. Ted Ginn (0.34 PPO, 1.67 PPT) has been quietly putting together some decent fantasy production this season, largely under the radar. Through 7 games, Ginn has posted 0.24 pts/snap, good for T-3rd in the league. As Allen rises, it seems Vincent Brown (0.13 PPO, 0.90 PPT) has been regressing, and is not wroth a roster spot in 12-team leagues at this point. Similarly, Roddy White (0.07 PPO, 0.59 PPT) continues to frustrate and disappoint, though I would advise owners to hold on for now and hope that he can rebound in the second half of the season.
Keep on the look-out for Friday 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 9!