Opportunity Depth Chart: The Best Wide Receiver Situations – AFC West

Opportunity Depth Chart is a series about Fantasy Points Per Team Attempt, a way to identify high-value wide receiver opportunity.

The introductory article for this concept was published last year.1 This exercise looks at the role of the three main WRs on each team, measured by snap count, as a season-long whole instead of looking at individual players. It is an attempt to remove narratives surrounding injury and talent, and reveal undervalued players that are expected to fill valuable roles.

It is a three-step process:

  1. Calculating which WR roles produced the most fantasy points per team pass attempt in the 2016 season.
  2. Weigh that efficiency against volume to see which roles had the highest value from an opportunity standpoint. This is calculated the same way as the first step, using weekly snaps to determine who the WR1, WR2, and WR3 were, on a game-by-game basis.
  3. Combine the numbers in steps one and two. When the Fantasy Points Per Team Attempt in the first step is combined with the number of targets in the second step,  it creates something we’ll call WR Opportunity (WRO), representing the opportunity that the role provided to a non-specific player.

As a reminder, this process is not intended to predict which roles will be the most valuable in 2017, but rather to see which were most valuable in 2016, and if the player expected to fill that role in 2017 appears priced appropriately.

There are eight parts to this series, one for each division, taking a closer look at the players expected to fill the various roles, and their prices. The three charts below are in all eight articles to show where each team and role ranks leaguewide:

This is receiving fantasy points only, apologies to all of Tavon Austin‘s fan Tyreek Hill‘s clamoring hoard of fanatics.

WIDE RECEIVER PPR FANTASY POINTS PER TEAM ATTEMPT

TEAMPASS ATTFPS/ATT (ALL)WR1 FPS/ATTWR2 FPS/ATTWR3 FPS/ATT
ARZ6461.4930.3580.3120.186
ATL5372.0010.4280.4040.259
BLT6791.4270.2630.2730.109
BUF4741.4590.3450.1930.184
CAR5631.4220.3140.2820.135
CHI5591.5350.3230.3560.286
CIN5631.5390.4030.3440.211
CLV5671.3310.3290.2850.112
DAL4831.7350.4190.3040.359
DEN5701.4520.3570.4250.131
DET5941.5880.3500.3000.319
GB6201.7140.4600.4250.324
HST5831.2940.3090.2560.101
IND5841.6820.3830.3510.136
JAX6261.4150.2620.3120.247
KC5461.5620.2380.2190.251
LA5361.2890.3150.2700.254
MIA4771.7360.4040.4330.328
MIN5881.5610.4500.2410.204
NE5501.8010.3140.3320.246
NO6741.7910.4230.3110.324
NYG5981.5400.3760.3590.253
NYJ5501.3700.3010.2710.303
OAK5961.6080.3830.3710.199
PHI6091.3700.2980.1580.140
PIT5961.6770.5310.2520.192
SD5801.6670.3390.3180.238
SEA5671.6200.4370.2190.163
SF4911.4340.2410.2080.240
TB5781.5940.4390.1960.258
TEN5041.6570.3840.2060.208
WAS6071.7010.2970.3870.256

WIDE RECEIVER MARKET SHARE BY ROLE

TEAMPASS ATTWR1 TGTSWR1 MSWR2 TGTSWR2 MSWR3 TGTSWR3 MS
ARZ64613520.90%12719.66%649.91%
ATL53710619.74%11120.67%5410.06%
BLT67911516.94%10215.02%537.81%
BUF4749520.04%7816.46%5311.18%
CAR56310618.83%8114.39%5810.30%
CHI55912021.47%11420.39%8815.74%
CIN56311921.14%10618.83%8014.21%
CLV56711520.28%10518.52%549.52%
DAL48310321.33%6713.87%8918.43%
DEN57014625.61%12922.63%427.37%
DET59411519.36%11419.19%9816.50%
GB62012920.81%14222.90%9615.48%
HST58313322.81%9616.47%508.58%
IND58412721.75%9616.44%559.42%
JAX62613721.88%11117.73%9114.54%
KC5468916.30%7613.92%8315.20%
LA53611521.46%9918.47%8014.93%
MIA4779319.50%11423.90%7415.51%
MIN58812320.92%9215.65%6811.56%
NE5509918.00%8315.09%7313.27%
NO67413520.03%11216.62%9714.39%
NYG59813622.74%12420.74%7612.71%
NYJ55011721.27%9717.64%10418.91%
OAK59612721.31%14023.49%7212.08%
PHI60910917.90%8413.79%6210.18%
PIT59615826.51%8213.76%6010.07%
SD5809917.07%10317.76%7112.24%
SEA56712021.16%8314.64%6010.58%
SF4919118.53%7314.87%7014.26%
TB57814324.74%8614.88%9015.57%
TEN50411122.02%6913.69%509.92%
WAS60710116.64%10216.80%8714.33%

OPPORTUNITY DEPTH CHART

TEAMWR1 WROWR2 WROWR3 WRO
ARZ48.3639.6711.88
ATL45.4244.8114.00
BLT30.2327.825.77
BUF32.7515.049.75
CAR33.2522.837.84
CHI38.7740.5425.20
CIN47.9636.4316.91
CLV37.8529.946.04
DAL43.1220.3931.97
DEN52.1554.775.50
DET40.2734.2031.25
GB59.3660.3331.11
HST41.0624.625.03
IND48.6333.737.48
JAX35.8334.6322.50
KC21.1916.6520.83
LA36.2826.7420.30
MIA37.5749.3824.29
MIN55.3322.2213.90
NE31.0527.5717.96
NO57.1634.7831.42
NYG51.0844.5019.22
NYJ35.2126.3331.50
OAK48.6751.9814.32
PHI32.5213.278.70
PIT83.8220.6711.51
SD33.5432.7616.91
SEA52.4218.149.78
SF21.8915.1616.77
TB62.8416.8723.20
TEN42.5914.2210.40
WAS30.0039.4622.23
  • FPS = fantasy points
  • TGT(s) = target(s)
  • MS = market share
  • OVR = overall (finish in fantasy ranks)
  • ADP = average draft position

THE AFC WEST

DENVER BRONCOS

PlayerWR1 WeeksWR2 WeeksWR3 Weeks2016 OVR2016 WRO2017 ADP
Demaryius Thomas5101WR15WR7WR14
Emmanuel Sanders1041WR20WR9WR31
Jordan Norwood0111WR110WR95N/A
Jordan Taylor011WR112N/AN/A
Bennie Fowler001WR124N/AN/A
Cody Latimer101WR154N/AN/A

Since Emmanuel Sanders arrived in Denver, he and Demaryius Thomas have benefited mightily from the complete lack of a third receiving option. The middle chart above shows Denver had the fewest WR3 targets and lowest market share of any team after having the fourth-fewest WR3 targets and second-lowest market share last year. The WR3 WRO was accordingly second-worst leaguewide each of the last two seasons.

Both Sanders and Thomas have amassed at least 136 targets and finished in the top-20 overall fantasy WRs each of the last three seasons. No one else on Denver in the last three years has had more than 77 targets, and no other WR has had more than 35, except Wes Welker‘s 64 in 2014.

The entire list of other WRs to finish each of the last three seasons in the overall top 20 is: Antonio BrownJulio Jones, and Odell Beckham. 

Thomas’ five-year string of finishing, in order, as the overall WR5, WR1, WR2,  WR9, and WR15, is one of the most incredible stretches this league has ever seen. It’s so remarkable that he makes Sanders’ string as WR5, WR18, and WR20 almost forgettable.

Last year, there seemed to be a clear shift, however, with Sanders appearing as the WR1, and Thomas as the WR2. Sanders outsnapped Thomas through Week 16, and their stats are nearly identical, with a slight edge in efficiency to Sanders.

 Emmanuel SandersDemaryius Thomas
Targets137144
Receptions7990
Yards1.0321,083
TDs55
Yds/Tgt7.537.52
TD Rate3.7%3.5%
FPS212.2228.3
FPS/Tgt1.551.59

The roles’ WRO, and the players’ seemingly identical usage, makes Sanders appear to be a very cheap arbitrage of Thomas, even with the team’s expected repeat of abysmal QB play.

Demaryius AYA Sanders AYA

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

PlayerWR1 WeeksWR2 WeeksWR3 Weeks2016 OVR2016 WRO2017 ADP
Chris Conley5110WR81WR65WR73
Jeremy Maclin1100WR71WR77N/A
Albert Wilson054WR92WR66N/A
Tyreek Hill0012WR23N/AWR22

Tyreek Hill is a fantasy football Rubik’s cube.2

He finished as the overall WR23 last season as a rookie playing part-time with only 83 targets. The team’s presumed WR1 has been released without any material acquisitions at the position through the draft or free agency. No other WR finished higher than the overall WR45 with fewer than 90 targets, and Hill amassed that many targets and fantasy points only playing 42.2 percent of the team’s snaps.

On the other hand, he only had 83 targets and only played 42.2 percent of the team’s snaps.

Chris Conley played nearly double the snaps that Hill did, 818 to 418. In the five games Jeremy Maclin  played two snaps or fewer, Hill did not outsnap Conley nor Albert Wilson. In the other eleven games, Hill did not outsnap Maclin nor Conley. He finished the year fourth in snaps among WRs on the team, and two of the other three are still there, as well as last year’s overall TE1, who commanded a 21.4 percent market share of the team with the eighth-fewest pass attempts. Kansas City was also bottom-ten leaguewide in plays run and passing touchdowns.

On the other hand, Hill was targeted or handed off to at an incredibly high ratio for the snaps he played. His season is littered with game lines like one rush and four targets on 12 snaps in Week 2, and one rush and 13 targets on 39 snaps in Week 10.

Tyreek Hill game log with snaps

The price for someone coming off a rookie season as WR23 on limited playing time, on a team where the WR1 has left, would normally be a lot higher than WR22. Hill’s price presents a very unique proposition on a very unique situation. Maybe Andy Reid uses him like he used DeSean Jackson, the WR11 in 2009 on only 118 targets; but, that’s probably the best case scenario, and it’s hard to imagine there’s not a fairly low ceiling.

YearAndy Reid's WR1
2016WR23
2015WR15
2014WR57
2013WR42
2012WR22
2011WR29
2010WR14
2009WR11

It’s difficult to understand why fantasy drafters seem to be in such unison on Conley not possibly being the team’s intended WR1 following Maclin’s release. The Chiefs WROs across the board represent why there’s so little enthusiasm for this team, but Conley is entering his age-25 season, and his career trajectory is such that significant improvement at this point would make sense. His price doesn’t make sense for the likelihood that he steps into Maclin’s role as snap and target leader and produces anywhere near his 2015 WR15 finish. It’s an obvious positive that Conley led the team in snaps with more than 800 of them, but it gives pause to realize he was able to do so little with it.

Chiefs WR ADP

OAKLAND RAIDERS

PlayerWR1 WeeksWR2 WeeksWR3 Weeks2016 OVR2016 WRO2017 ADP
Amari Cooper1600WR16WR13WR9
Michael Crabtree0132WR12WR10WR24
Seth Roberts0313WR72WR80N/A
Andre Holmes001WR114N/AN/A

Only 54 WRs played at least 749 snaps last season, and Oakland had three of them. The only other teams with three WRs to play that many snaps were Detroit, New York (G), and New Orleans. Yet even with five touchdowns, Seth Roberts was only able to turn 77 targets, a 12.9 percent market share of the ninth pass-heaviest team, into a completely meaningless WR72 finish.

Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper finished as the WR12 and WR16, with 145 and 132 targets resulting in two of the most valuable WROs. The only other teams with two WROs that high were Denver and Green Bay.

It’s very rare that one WR plays the most snaps for a team every week. Cooper’s 997 were the ninth-most league-wide, and his 89 percent of team snaps played was 11th-highest for all WRs. Those snaps are mighty valuable on Oakland, which as a team scored the seventh-most points and threw the eighth-most passing touchdowns. Cooper and Crabtree combined for a 44.8 percent market share of receiving touchdowns, right in line with their 46.5 percent market share of targets and a sustainable TD Rate of 4.7 percent

The additions of Marshawn Lynch and Jared Cook shouldn’t threaten their scoring opportunity too much, considering Latavius Murray and Clive Walford combined for 15 TDs last season. Crabtree scores the variety of TDs that would presumably suffer the most, with four of his eight last year within the opponent’s five-yard-line, and none longer than 23 yards. Cooper didn’t score a TD shorter than 32 yards last season and hasn’t scored one shorter than 15 yards in his 11-TD career.

It’s interesting that Cooper still had 13 red zone targets to Crabtree’s 21 last season, which if repeated has the possibility of providing Cooper with a boost in TD rate and production. It’s a unique situation that both are really in the position to finish near the very top of WRs this season, but the existence of the other materially lowers that chance for them individually and as a pair, and lowers both of their floors.

 High2016 OVRMedian2016 OVRLow2016 OVR
Michael Crabtree262.4WR6208.0WR22148.8WR51
Amari Cooper236.8WR13206.4WR22185.6WR35

Our Sim Scores oddly give Cooper the narrower range of outcomes and Crabtree the higher ceiling, considering Crabtree’s WR12 finish last season was the best of his career and only four fantasy points shy of what last year’s Sim Scores said was his ceiling. It was easier to call last season, when Crabtree was drafted below his floor at WR36; but, his WR24 price, considering a WR12 finish and relatively unchanged personnel, is generously reasonable, with his top-10 WRO likely to be similar. Cooper at WR9 is tough to justify, even if his true ceiling is the moon.

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS

PlayerWR1 WeeksWR2 WeeksWR3 Weeks2016 OVR2016 WRO2017 ADP
Dontrelle Inman1150WR47WR38N/A
Tyrell Williams5101WR18WR40WR45
Travis Benjamin0112WR58WR74N/A
Griff Whalen002WR179N/AN/A
Isaiah Burse001WR200N/AN/A
Keenan AllenN/AN/AN/AWR163N/AWR17
Mike WilliamsN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AWR59

Keenan Allen is at a very uncertain crossroads in his career as he enters his age-25 season, having missed 23 of the past 24 games with two completely different injures, yet producing like this the last time we saw him active:

Keenan 2015 splits

His WR17 price is mouthwatering considering his ceiling is somewhere around the overall WR1, which neither of the Williamses realistically have.

Similar to Conley and Tajae Sharpe, the box scores would never make you think Dontrelle Inman was the WR snap leader for San Diego last year. The entire list of WRs with more snaps played than Inman last season: DeAndre HopkinsLarry FitzgeraldAllen RobinsonJordy NelsonBrandon LaFellSterling Shepard, Beckham, Brown, and Cooper.

His WR47 fantasy finish isn’t as off-the-radar as it appears, either, just ahead of Jordan MatthewsBrandon Marshall, and DeVante Parker. He also narrowly outscored Tavon Austin and Jeremy Kerley, who had 106 and 115 targets.

Inman was only targeted on 6.0 percent of the snaps he played last season, however, less than half the rate of Tyrell Williams (13.3 percent) or Travis Benjamin (13.7 percent). As if the snaps not matching the targets and production wasn’t confusing enough for prognosticating this offense, Allen is expected to return after tearing his ACL Week 1, the team drafted Mike Williams seventh overall, and offensive architect Mike McCoy is now in Denver.

Ignoring Inman in a fantasy context, despite his 2016 campaign, makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is fantasy drafters presuming T. Williams is the WR2, despite leading the team in targets, receiving yards, catches, and receiving TDs last season.

SD WR ADP

His overall price of WR45 isn’t that expensive, especially considering his finish as WR18, Inman finishing as the WR47, and the Chargers being top-10 leaguewide in points scored, passing yards, and passing TDs. It’s just difficult to project a scenario where he is the clear WR2 if both Allen and M. Williams stay healthy.

The kind of draft capital they invested in M. Williams is rare, as there have only been 16 WRs drafted in the top-15 picks in the last decade. Those WRs consistently are provided a substantial market share immediately, which appears to have severely limited the ceiling of their second-best teammates. Only twice in those 16 times did two of the the rookie’s teammates finish inside the top-45, where Allen and T. Williams are both being drafted (and no one finished higher than WR21 in those two instances).

YearPickPlayerRookie Market ShareRookie OVRBest Teammate OVR2nd Best Teammate OVR
20072Calvin Johnson15.84%WR38WR21WR30
20114A.J. Green21.50%WR17WR45WR82
20144Sammy Watkins22.11%WR27WR45WR70
20154Amari Cooper21.49%WR21WR17WR62
20125Justin Blackmon22.50%WR29WR25WR104
20116Julio Jones16.00%WR22WR5WR75
20147Mike Evans23.00%WR13WR33WR88
20097D. Heyward-Bey8.25%WR117WR66WR84
20157Kevin WhiteN/AN/AWR42WR87
20138Tavon Austin13.64%WR56WR69WR80
20079Ted Ginn12.72%WR74WR29WR62
200910M. Crabtree16.29%WR60WR53WR103
201412Odell Beckham21.42%WR7WR32WR85
201213Michael Floyd14.15%WR65WR33WR34
201514DeVante Parker8.50%WR78WR11WR51
201615Corey Coleman12.88%WR83WR21WR89

Even if Allen or M. Williams were to get injured or underperform, the presence of Benjamin, Inman, Hunter Henry, and Antonio Gates makes it difficult to confidently project any kind of target distribution in hypothetical scenarios.

You can find the other Opportunity Depth Chart divisional breakdowns at the following links:

  1. An extension of evaluating fantasy football through market share, the idea in which RotoViz signature concepts Dominator Rating and Workhorse Score are rooted, last season’s Opportunity Depth Chart can be found here.  (back)
  2. There’s probably a better metaphor, since Rubik’s cubes have a tangible, known-before-hand solution, but I digress.  (back)