In the previous installment of Vacated Expected Points, we looked at RBs to target based on the amount of vacated rushing expected points. In this installment, we’ll see which wide receivers are in situations where they can command a high volume of receiving expected points. Be sure to check out the previous article for an explanation of vacated expected points.
The first thing that’s clear when looking at the vacated expected receiving points versus rushing points is that integrating expected points to vacated volume impacts receiving less. However, the overall amount of vacated expected points is immensely in favor of the receiving game. One available target is worth significantly more than a vacated rushing attempt.
So, which situations does vacated receiving expected points lead us toward as values in fantasy drafts this year?
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The Raiders are the obvious choice in terms of simple vacated targets. They have a league-leading 343 available targets via the departures of Martavis Bryant, Jordy Nelson, Jared Cook, and Seth Roberts. That makes four of their top-five reception leaders all on new teams or retired. On top of this, their 1.63 expected points per vacated target were top-10. Not only do the Raiders have volume to spare, but they also have valuable volume.
Antonio Brown is the most valuable player to soak up this volume but he’s also the most expensive. Tyrell Williams is the best way to mine value using vacated expected points. According to the RotoViz Screener, Williams has been the second wide receiver on the Chargers based on target market share. Last season, Williams recorded the highest yards per target (10.2) of any Chargers receiver with 20 or more targets. Williams is a viable No. 2 receiver entering a situation primed for fantasy success.
Bonus: Foster Moreau was drafted by the Raiders, who currently have no viable replacement for Cook, in the fourth round of the NFL Draft. Moreau is a top-three tight end in this class based on John Lapinski’s model. He’s a guy worth a roster spot in deeper dynasty leagues or a long-shot stash in leagues with premiums placed on the tight end position.
New England Patriots
The losses of Rob Gronkowski and Josh Gordon — assuming his indefinite suspension stands — would cripple any normal franchise. Tom Brady has been playing for roughly as long as I’ve had object permanence. In that time he’s thrown more than 30 targets to 42 players. Brady only has an adjusted yards per attempt (AY/A) of 11 or more when targeting two players: Gordon and Gronk.
However, the Patriots aren’t a normal franchise. This makes their 379.7 vacated expected receiving points, fourth most in the NFL, a highly coveted trove of opportunity. The Patriots made a number of acquisitions in free agency and the draft that can soak up this volume.
Despite the volume of new players on the team, few are likely to make an impact for fantasy purposes. They signed:
- Matt LaCosse, TE
- Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, TE
- Ben Watson, TE
- Maurice Harris, WR
- Dontrelle Inman, WR
- Demaryius Thomas, WR
Take away Thomas and that ragtag bunch of free agents has a combined zero 900 yard seasons. Thomas hasn’t crossed the millennium mark in four years, and is coming off a late-season Achilles’ tear. That leaves first-round draft pick N’Keal Harry as the best addition to make waves in fantasy on this team.
Harry’s closest comparable player, based on the Box Score Scout, is Mike Evans. On top of this, Harry was a productive rusher at Arizona State, where he ran 23 times for 144 yards and three scores. Because of the loss of rushing wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, the Patriots were also a team with considerable vacated rushing expected points. Harry is poised to take over as the second receiver in New England and his skillset as a rusher should allow him to add a few extra fantasy points on the ground.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers only lost two players worth mentioning in free agency: Tyrell Williams and the ghost of Antonio Gates’ past. The duo was a crucial part of the Chargers’ red-zone offense though. They combined for 18 targets and 43.1 expected receiving points in the red zone alone.
This leaves an opening for Hunter Henry in the exact area of the field that they leaned on him frequently in his first two years. In those two campaigns, he was second on the Chargers in red-zone targets. This was despite finishing fifth and sixth on the team in targets.
The Chargers have a red-zone void and a player who they have frequently looked to when they want to score. Henry will start the season at just 24 years old. Going as the sixth tight end in season-long and dynasty leagues, he’s a value in all formats.
Available expected receiving points can be used for good or for evil. In this section, we’ll focus on the later. Some teams have available targets that are trap doors in reality. The overall volume is appealing but there’s a discount not being priced in right now.
This one may be obvious but it may need reaffirming for many drafters. The passes Ravens players were receiving in the second half of the year were not very valuable. John Brown is the perfect example of this.
The Ravens drafted Marquise Brown to replace Smokey Brown as a deep threat and as a playmaker in short areas of the field as well. However, Marquise does not have the physical profile of a successful receiver in the NFL. He has five comparable players with Sim Scores of 10 or greater and not one of them has been a top-24 receiver in their careers. Only Dede Westbrook still stands a chance to do so.
In fact, a WR under 170 pounds (Brown weighed in at 166 pounds at the combine) has not recorded a 1,000-yard season in over 25 years.
The Ravens are one of just four teams to be ranked lower in available expected receiving points than in available targets. Add in Brown’s lack of successful comparable players and his ADP fo 14 in rookie drafts still seams unrealistically bullish.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers are the only team to fall multiple spots in league-wide rankings when looking at vacated targets versus vacated expected receiving points. They lost over 100 targets in the off-season but its easy to see where the value dissipates.
Randall Cobb, Lance Kendricks, and Ty Montgomery make up all of their vacated targets. They also consist of three of the bottom five Green Bay pass-catchers in terms of average depth of target and combined for just seven red-zone targets. These three players were thrown the ball within the ten yard-line a single time in 2018. That’s just one time more than you or me (unless you are one of the 299 players to receive a target within the 10).
This means that the Packer’s offense, in terms of expected points, shouldn’t be expected to change much from last year. There’s nothing wrong with Davante Adams in the late first round but don’t expect his teammates to make any great leaps forward. This receiving game will be a one-man show or the foreseeable future.
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