One of the best ways to determine the efficiency of a wide receiver is by looking at their yards per target average. You can find the yards per target average by dividing total receiving yards by the number of times the player was targeted. Using this data, we can see where targets are possibly being wasted, and who quarterbacks should be targeting more frequently.
Below is each wide receiver and tight end who was targeted at least 80 times last season.
The “+/-“ column on the far right refers to how many yards each player is above or below the average yards per target among all qualifying players. The average for all qualifying pass catchers is 7.88 yards per target.
The most efficient wide receiver in the NFL last season was Julio Jones. Helped out by an uber-efficient offensive that featured great quarterback and running back play, Jones averaged 10.92 yards per target with 1,409 receiving yards on just 129 targets. For comparison, Demaryius Thomas had 326 fewer receiving yards than Jones while being targeted 15 more times.
Adam Thielen was a pleasant surprise last season. Despite coming into the season with just 31 career targets, Thielen actually outperformed teammate Stefon Diggs – registering 64 more receiving yards on 20 fewer targets. The two should continue to prevent each other from drawing consistent defensive attention.
Big play threat DeSean Jackson is frequently on this list, but the small number of targets he receives is a consistent concern. With a change of scenery, he should less competition for targets on the Bucs.
Also changing teams is Brandin Cooks, who will be joining the Patriots this season. A talented playmaker in his prime, Cooks is a valuable addition to any offense. While many are clashing about his fantasy value this year, few can disagree that he’ll be a major factor on an offense that has a good chance of leading the NFL in points scored this season.
Jimmy Graham made an unbelievable recovery from a typically devastating patellar tendon injury to register 9.72 yards per target. Seemingly looking to return to their old brand of football, the Seahawks have signed Eddie Lacy. With Seahawks potentially not throwing the ball as frequently, the concern for Graham is volume.
Not much has changed for perennial stud AJ Green. Heading into 2017, he’s as good of bet as any to lead the NFL in yards per target.
Travis Kelce has always generated yards when being targeted – averaging 9.32 yards per target for his career. With Jeremy Maclin’s release, Kelce could receive the targets necessary to finish as the league’s top tight end.
Michael Thomas had an incredible rookie year by every measure. After trading Cooks, the Saints will now count on Thomas to be their top option through the air.
Leading the NFL in receiving yards, TY Hilton was heavily targeted by Andrew Luck. Not much has changed for Hilton heading into 2017.
Despite mediocre quarterback play, Cameron Meredith played impressively well. Even with Mike Glennon as his QB, he’s probably undervalued.
Pierre Garcon performed well in 2016, finishing 1.25 yards above average. In 2017, he enters a situation where he could be a target hog on a 49ers team that will be playing from behind frequently. His volume will likely rise while his efficiency drops.
Kenny Britt also performed very well last season despite playing with Jared Goff. If the Browns can get even average quarterback play from Cody Kessler and/or DeShone Kizer, maybe he can have the breakout year that we’ve all been waiting for.
Tavon Austin comes in at the bottom of the list, it’s the second straight year that he’s finished as one of the league’s least efficient receivers. With his continuously low average depth of target, I wouldn’t expect this change anytime soon.
Jermaine Kearse was underwhelming last season; if his underwhelming play continues sleeper Paul Richardson may see an uptick in snaps.
Allen Robinson badly underachieved with 5.85 yards per target in 2016 but some of that may have to do with erratic quarterback play. Many are expecting a bounce-back campaign and 2016’s 9.27 yards per target helps produce optimism. Prior to last year, Robinson was the golden boy.
Antonio Gates’ 5.89 yards per target left a lot to be desired and lends credence to the fact that Hunter Henry should receive more playing time. The issue for Henry is the number of mouths to feed on the Chargers’ offense.
Brandon Marshall disappointed with 6.16 yards per target last season. On the Giants with Odell Beckham Jr., he will be on a team that scores more frequently and has better quarterback play. I expect his volume to decline while his efficiency rises.
While DeAndre Hopkins was only a little above average in 2015, he is another player that was affected by erratic quarterback play last season. While his quarterback play may not improve much this year, his value benefits from volume.
If anything else from the table jumps out at you, let us know on Twitter!