We know that targets are the lifeblood of wide receiver scoring, so analyzing available targets is a must when forecasting players for the upcoming fantasy season. While we spend a large amount of our time evaluating talent (and rightfully so), evaluating talent in the context of opportunity is even more powerful.
Analyzing Available Targets For 2023
Estimated Reading Time: 7 minutes
What exactly do we mean by available targets? Simple: look at the skill position players who departed from a team during the offseason, and total how many targets and air yards they received last year. Luckily, our friends at 4for4 have already done this work for us – if you do not have a subscription to them, we suggest you consider purchasing one (we get no fee or affiliate commission – they are simply a quality fantasy football website, especially for the accuracy of their rankings).
Here are the teams that have over 200 available targets (we’ve included air yards for contextual purposes) heading into 2023, and what that means for fantasy football purposes (additions and departures as of 5/23):
|Team||Available Targets||Available Target Percentage||Available Air Yards||Available Air Yard Percentage|
|Green Bay Packers||258||47.7%||2575||58.8%|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||238||32.8%||1646||33.5%|
|New England Patriots||214||41.3%||1753||42.6%|
Key Additions: WR Robert Woods, WR Tank Dell, WR John Metchie (2022 illness), TE Dalton Schultz, RB Devin Singletary, QB C.J. Stroud
Key Departures: WR Brandin Cooks, WR Chris Moore, TE Jordan Akins, RB Rex Burkhead
Finally exiting the Davis Mills-led mediocrity (to put it kindly), the Texans have a new hope for the future in C.J. Stroud. They also completely overhauled their passing game weapons, with their top three (and four of their top five) 2022 targets either on a different team or still a free agent.
More and more, however, this appears to be Nico Collins’ WR1 job to lose. John Metchie had to take his rookie year off due to a cancer diagnosis, Tank Dell is a 3rd-round, 23-year-old rookie, and Robert Woods is a 31-year-old receiver coming off of a 527-yard season where he played all 17 games:
the best part is… this isn't just an opportunity-based play. Collins showed a lot of improvement last year.
He jumped from 32 yards/game to 48 and from 1.24 YPRR to 1.68. He also improved from WR81 in ESPN's open score to WR55 and from WR76 in ESPN's overall ratings to WR40.
— Patrick Kerrane (@PatKerrane) March 20, 2023
There are a few signals that show us Collins really improved down the stretch, especially in terms of opportunity. Remember, earning targets is a skill:
Nico Collins is the sneakiest of sleepers right now. He quietly played better than Cooks last year and gradually became Houston's alpha.
2022 Target Share by Week 📈 pic.twitter.com/5GZQdIaNkF
— James Hoge (@hogie777) May 13, 2023
Collins isn’t a truly elite prospect by any means, but he is certainly the best bet to give you Texan wideout production. The vacant targets in this offense look promising, but there are simply too many new mouths to feed here for anyone but Collins and potentially Schultz. Considering this offense is being led by a rookie quarterback and has two established runners (Dameon Pierce and Singletary), Collins looks like the only exciting piece here.
Green Bay Packers
Key Additions: WR Jayden Reed, TE Tucker Kraft, TE Luke Musgrave
Key Departures: WR Allen Lazard, WR Randall Cobb, TE Robert Tonyan, QB Aaron Rodgers
Jordan Love, step right up. Out with the old (Rodgers, Lazard, Cobb, and Tonyan) and in with the youth movement. It’s looking likely that all of their top two tight ends and top three wide receivers are either rookies or sophomores. Certainly, A.J. Dillon and especially Aaron Jones are going to step in and take some of the vacant opportunities here. But it’s the Christian Watson show until proven otherwise.
Despite Rodgers producing (by his standards) at historically low levels in 2022, Watson was a revelation when he became a full-time player in Week 10:
Indeed, Watson was fantasy football’s overall WR4 from Week 10 on last year, and he displayed superstar efficiency and rookie-year production along the way. Here are the only players drafted in the top two rounds since 2005 to achieve 600 yards, 7 touchdowns, and 9 yards/target as rookies:
|Player||Rookie Year||Yds||Y/Tgt||TD||N+1 Year PPR Finish|
|Odell Beckham Jr.||2014||1305||10||12||WR5|
|Ja'Marr Chase||2021||1455||11.4||13||WR11 (WR3 by PPG)|
|Christian Watson||2022||611||9.3||7||N/A (WR19 ADP)|
That list speaks for itself. Putting Watson into context for Rodgers’ career pass-catchers also reveals how historically good he was in 2022 (using RotoViz’s Adjusted Yards/Attempt app), comparable or better than any besides the one-of-a-kind Jordy Nelson (who once finished as the overall WR2 on 96 targets). Remember, this is Watson’s rookie season with a declining Aaron Rodgers:
The Packers have the 2nd-most vacated total targets, vacated air yards, and vacated targets inside the 10-yard line. Christian Watson is going to feast, even if Love isn’t very good: 2022 Rodgers passed for a mere 217.4 yards per game last year, and his 6.8 yards/attempt was the same as Daniel Jones and Mac Jones.
Romeo Doubs is a solid depth option who will see a few more targets, but he may be overtaken by a rookie sooner rather than later.
Since 2006, the Packers have drafted six receivers in the 2nd round: Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Davante Adams, Christian Watson…and Jayden Reed. Here are Reed’s best comparable prospects via RotoViz’s Sim Scores, which taken into account combine measurements, draft capital, and college production:
|100||Jayden Reed||Michigan State|
|96||Devin Smith||Ohio State|
|70||Brian Robiskie||Ohio State|
|66||Christian Kirk||Texas A&M|
|63||Titus Young||Boise State|
Reed is unlikely to be a rookie difference-maker on fantasy teams, but he should be good enough that he can take targets away from Doubs and enough defensive attention away from Watson. A smaller Sterling Shepard/Emmanuel Sanders-type, Reed’s skills in the short and intermediate levels of the field complement Watson well.
This Packers team may not be great, but their young offense will be certainly fun to watch. Unlike the Texans, the vacated targets and air yards here are likely to transform a Packer into a fantasy superstar.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Key Additions: RB Chase Edmonds
Key Departures: WR Julio Jones, WR Scotty Miller, TE Cameron Brate, RB Leonard Fournette, QB Tom Brady
Potentially even beating out the Texans for “least exciting team on the list”, the Buccaneers’ position here is mostly due to their sheer 2022 passing volume. Replacing Tom Brady with Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask is a sure-fire way to project far fewer passing attempts for a team that threw a league-leading 711 times.
To give some context on that insane amount, only four NFL teams were even within 100 attempts of that number. With passing volume regression an absolute certainty, we simply cannot safely project a notable increase for maybe anyone on the team.
Chris Godwin is certainly the best bet for consistent production on the team. He probably won’t be surpassing the 142 targets he saw last year, but he is going to play this season only at age 27 and is now a second year removed from his ACL injury. He’s a high-floor, medium-ceiling player who is a threat to surpass 100 catches again.
Mike Evans, on the other hand, will turn 30 in August and will likely have the worst deep-ball throwers of his career this season. Regardless, a sixth-round price tag for a player who was selected in the second last year remains intriguing.
Cade Otton could be a nice, sneaky low-end TE1 here but the real question is Rachaad White. The list of running backs with his rookie-year efficiency metrics isn’t great, but unless Sean Tucker explodes in camp it’s White’s job to lose. Was the play-calling and blocking that bad last year, or is White just mediocre? He’s got the largest range of outcomes on anyone on the team.
All in all, this is likely a team to avoid on draft day. Because of the sheer volume from 2022 that is guaranteed to decrease, the available targets here are a bit of an illusion.
Key Additions: TE Sam LaPorta, RB Jahmyr Gibbs, RB David Montgomery
Key Departures: WR D.J. Chark, RB Jamaal Williams, RB D’Andre Swift
We’ll start with the obvious here: health allowing, Amon-Ra St. Brown is going to be targeted like crazy in 2023. The targets vacated by Jamaal Williams and Swift are likely to be sucked up by Jahmyr Gibbs (more on him momentarily), but nothing is stopping Amon-Ra from seeing 160 targets. The offense is unlikely to be much different, and promising sophomore Jameson Williams has to serve a 6-game gambling suspension.
Amon-Ra is one of only 27 receivers since 1992 (when targets were tracked) to achieve 250 targets and 2,000 receiving yards in a player’s first 32 NFL games. Take a look at the fantasy studs St. Brown is in company with:
|Odell Beckham Jr.||NYG||339||3114|
|Amon-Ra St. Brown||DET||256||2024|
The most exciting development, however, is the Lions trading up to draft Jahmyr Gibbs and trading away D’Andre Swift. David Montgomery will surely see many early-down and goal-line carries, but Gibbs is almost certainly going to be special:
Why Jahmyr Gibbs?
Well, he's glaringly the best pass-catching RB to enter the NFL in at least five years. pic.twitter.com/MByKd9bcju
— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) April 28, 2023
We’re talking about a running back with 4.36 speed and top-12 draft capital. He may even deserve to be in a tier with Bijan Robinson:
First-round running backs with multiple collegiate seasons with a 15%+ reception share since 2011:
– Christian McCaffrey
– Jahmyr Gibbs
— JJ Zachariason (@LateRoundQB) April 28, 2023
His ADP is climbing into the late 3rd round, but even that may still be too low. Behind one of the best offensive lines and 26-year-old (when the season starts) David Montgomery in front of him, it’s wheels up for Gibbs. We may be looking at the next Jamaal Charles.
New England Patriots
Key Additions: WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, TE Mike Gesicki
Key Departures: WR Jakobi Meyers, WR Nelson Agholor, TE Jonnu Smith, RB Damien Harris
Not too many exciting replacement options here, though we may yet see the release of DeVante Parker and/or Kendrick Bourne to vacate even more targets.
If you’re desperate for a 1-for-1 Jakobi Meyers replacement to get you a scoreless 4 catches for 49 yards, JuJu Smith-Schuster is your guy. If this former “golden child” couldn’t be productive on the 2022 Chiefs while competing with Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Skyy Moore, and Mecole Hardman for Patrick Mahomes’ wide receiver targets, it’s not going to happen on the Mac Jones-led Patriots.
Mike Gesicki is likely to render Hunter Henry even more unusable than he already was, though there is a non-zero chance Gesicki becomes a low-end TE1.
We’ve gone over how good this could be for Rhamondre Stevenson. His healthy floor is top-5 in 2023 running back receptions, and only Ty Montgomery, Pierre Strong, and Kevin Harris are currently competing with him for work. Bill O’Brien – who featured Jahmyr Gibbs in the passing game last year at Alabama – is a huge upgrade over Matt Patricia.
The most interesting wide receiver here is sophomore Tyquan Thornton, who makes for a nice late-round pick:
More encouraged by Tyquan Thornton's post-draft dart-throw value (WR81; 16th/17th round turn)
* little target competition added
* only WR in ADP range with legit shot to lead in team targets
* should actually be healthy
* Bill O'Brien offense a monster upgrade on 2022 circus https://t.co/aJj2hWvaWP
— Pat Thorman (@Pat_Thorman) May 2, 2023
Key Additions: WR Adam Thielen, WR D.J. Chark, WR Jonathan Mingo, RB Miles Sanders, QB Bryce Young
Key Departures: WR D.J. Moore, RB D’Onta Foreman, QB Sam Darnold
The Panthers have a very similar situation to the Texans above. A lot of vacated targets, but a lot of unproven youngsters and over-the-hill veterans to compete for them from a rookie quarterback.
Adam Thielen is a name only at this point. He ran the 2nd most routes in the NFL and was the WR2 on a team that was top-five in passing attempts and passing yards. The result? A WR31 finish on the 42nd most receiving yards in the NFL. He’ll play this season at age 33 and isn’t worth drafting in 2023 fantasy leagues.
D.J. Chark will be 27 when this season begins, and has shifted between injuries and poor performances since his 1,000yd season:
Jonathan Mingo's target competition in Carolina looks crowded but…
-370th/390 in success rate vs man last year in @MattHarmon_BYB 's ENTIRE database.
-387th/390 against zone
-1.16 Yards per route run last season (76th/84 WRs
w 50+ targets).
— Connor Allen (@ConnorAllenNFL) May 3, 2023
Jonathan Mingo doesn’t have the profile of a prototypical alpha receiver, but he may be thrust into that role anyway. The Panthers love him and took him at the beginning of the second round. His draft capital gives him some very interesting comps that make him the most exciting receiver to own on this offense (sorry, Laviska).
|100||Jonathan Mingo||Ole Miss|
|92||Michael Pittman Jr.||USC|
|84||Chase Claypool||Notre Dame|
|65||Deebo Samuel||South Carolina|
|63||Brian Robiskie||Ohio State|