Welcome to the 2018 Game Level Similarity Projections (GLSP) for wide receivers, a weekly column designed to help you identify high-upside standouts and set your season-long lineups.
GLSP uses historical matchup, team, player, and Vegas lines to generate situation-agnostic projections. The low projection is equivalent to the 25th percentile point total from the comparable matchups. The median projection provides a benchmark, with even odds of the player producing more or less. The high projection is equivalent to the 75th percentile point total from the comparable matchups.1
Remember, the most valuable way to incorporate GLSP into your lineup-setting process is to identify surprisingly high and low projections, then strategically start or fade the outliers. These are the projections from Dave Caban. They’ll be available each week on Wednesdays as part of the Weekly Explorer.
Surprisingly Strong Projections
Juju Smith-Schuster has the highest floor, median, and ceiling projection this week2 despite posting a disappointing 10 points versus Baltimore last Monday night. Antonio Brown is still the receiver to own in Pittsburgh, but a repeated discussion point of this column has been Smith-Schuster’s ascension this season. One of the benefits of GLSP is that it is a purely objective projection. The raw numbers from this year have pegged Smith-Schuster as a top-12 receiver every single week.3
Remarkably, Smith-Schuster has underperformed his volume from a fantasy standpoint but is still the WR12.
The RotoViz Screener highlights that Smith-Schuster’s upside greatly surpasses his current production clip. Tyreek Hill was the only WR who had higher per target fantasy efficiency than Smith-Schuster last season. When Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh offense start clicking again, the upside will be crazy.
Smith-Schuster and Brown rank second and third in total targets through four weeks. It is completely realistic that both Pittsburgh superstars can finish as top-five WRs this year if they start producing at their career efficiencies while maintaining their volume.
Julio Jones also claims a lofty projection. Atlanta versus Pittsburgh has an astronomical 57.5 Vegas total that should generate peak production for all parties involved.
Amari Cooper and Corey Davis are new entrants to the top-12 ceiling projection group. Undeniably, both have immense upside every single week. Davis seems like a stronger bet than Cooper, though, as the Explorer helps illustrate his elite volume profile.
There is still reason for skepticism behind Davis’ outlook. The reasons for Davis’ lack of production are cloudy. Yes, he was frequently banged up and Marcus Mariota was ineffective, but, until last week, Davis’ efficiency was historically bad. Remember, he has had literally one week in his career in where he has capitalized on his volume.
Nevertheless, receiving volume is skill-based, so I am in on Davis for the time being. Just be wary of paying a price for him that is in line with his top-five volume since his production sample is still questionable.
Cooper is settling into a situation in which he is playing well yet will likely be inconsistent on a weekly basis. The RotoViz AYA app illustrates the evenly spread usage of Oakland receivers to start the season.
Cooper has room to grow as Jared Cook’s volume is slightly inflated by his target totals versus Los Angeles and Cleveland, teams that are notorious for surrendering production to tight ends. Cooper should remain the highest-ceiling play on Oakland every week, but temper expectations of consistent top-12 production.
John Brown’s downfield usage has reinvigorated Joe Flacco’s “elite” deep ball. Brown has the deepest average depth of target (aDOT) for receivers with 10 or more targets. Brown’s aDOT is 22.1 yards down the field. The next closest slew of receivers is in the 17-yard range.
For his efforts, Brown is rewarded with a top-18 ceiling by GLSP this week. Usually deep threats like Brown come with a low floor, but Baltimore’s top-five passing volume significantly raises Brown’s. With a low score of 13.5 PPR this year, consider Brown a fixture in starting lineups until further notice.
Tyrell Williams has the 26th-highest ceiling this week despite performing as the WR64 thus far. Tyrell had multiple downright disgusting deep ball drops in Week 1 and the Mike Williams hype train is running full speed ahead. Nevertheless, Los Angeles still favors Tyrell over Mike. Tyrell has out-snapped Mike every week, and the two have similar target volume.
Average Snap Rate
Targets Per Game
If you are in a pinch for a starter this week, Tyrell Williams offers hefty upside.
Taywan Taylor is another low-owned option who can step in as a high-upside starter in Week 5. The attention is all on Davis after his breakout game, but Taylor was also a strong second-year breakout candidate whose usage has been steadily increasing.
Taylor’s snap rate and targets have risen each week.
The door is open for Taylor to provide starter value fantasy production with Rishard Matthews and Delanie Walker gone for the year. Consider using him as early as Week 5.
Calvin Ridley’s projection is completely overshot because of his absurd touchdown rate in the last two games. Ridley’s usage has still been behind Mohammed Sanu’s. Sanu out-snapped Ridley in both games and has 16 targets to Ridley’s 14 over this span. Ridley’s true floor is that of Sanu’s this week – 6.7 PPR.
Sanu and Ridley are both fine starts in an ideal matchup, but understand that Ridley has not yet received any degree of volume which suggests he will continue this pace. It is entirely possible that this volume develops as the season progresses, but understand that Ridley’s floor is low – even in this matchup – until his volume spikes. I mentioned a similar concept last week with Mike Williams. Williams posted 10 and 25 PPR lines on the back of three TDs but then crashed down to earth with a 1.5 PPR box score in Week 4 because the volume signals were absent all along. Such a significant letdown is less likely in this matchup, but it is still in the range of outcomes for Ridley.
Doug Baldwin and Alshon Jeffery both have low floors as they face difficult matchups in their return from injury.
Jeffery looked to be all-systems-go last week, though, with a 24.5 PPR outing. Minnesota showed again last week that their defense might not be as formidable as it was last season, so do not shy away from Jeffery here.
Baldwin garnered a 27 percent target share last week but produced a meager 9.1 PPR box score. Similar to Jeffery, Baldwin’s volume suggests he should be started as normal.
Be sure to check out the Explorer for more detailed projections and a wealth of information on every player.
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- Please note that the model is run three times: 8 weeks back, 6 weeks back, and 3 weeks back and that the results are averaged. As a result, rookies that are trending well will be somewhat overstated and second-year players who did not score well last year will be underprojected. (back)
- Calvin Ridley’s projection is still noisy – more on this later. (back)
- Accurately, too, as Smith-Schuster is the WR12 thus far (back)