Volume is king when it comes to fantasy football. Whether it’s touches per game for a running back or targets for a wide receiver, usage is the biggest indicator of potential fantasy production. And sometimes it’s in unexpected places that we find meaningful usage rates for the WR position.
Weighted Opportunity Rating, or WOPR, is a metric created by Josh Hermesmeyer that measures a receivers opportunity weighted by what really matters for production. It mixes target share with market share of air yards to produce an accurate representation of the receiver’s usage. And thanks to his sortable data over at AirYards.com, we’re able to quickly sort receivers by their true usages.
Expected Points is a metric that calculates the expected value of a player’s touches based on where they occurred on the field. We can track a player’s EP with the RotoViz Screener.
Using this information, we can identify players who were targeted frequently and whose ADPs don’t match their opportunity.
The release of Theo Riddick may cause a slight bump in Jones’s ADP, but it appears that Kenny Golladay is the only Lions WR that drafters are targeting in bestball leagues. And while Golladay is a RotoViz favorite because of his tremendous upside, Jones should be far from the forgotten man in Detroit. In just 9 games, Jones had 62 targets, but he had a 0.53 WOPR which ranked 26th among all WRs in 2018.
His nine game season likely soured drafters from taking a chance on him in the early rounds, but his efficiency remains a notable positive. In 2018, Jones’s average depth of target (aDOT) was 14.6 yards and according to his career RACR, he’s an above average receivers on deeper throws which suggests that continuing his usage downfield will be a positive for the team and for fantasy production.
With Golden Tate now completely gone and Riddick’s release, Detroit is now forced to distribute their weekly target loads onto others and the first iteration of the team depth chart indicates that Jones should be in-line for a big workload.
First Lions depth chart of the summer pic.twitter.com/HRxrnfYygR— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) August 4, 2019
Tate and Riddick’s departure has turned Golladay into a top-20 WR in ADP going in the fourth round — and often earlier — while Jones can be had 40 picks later. Golladay’s EP clearly presents a level of upside that Jones is unlikely to match, but in terms of usage, they’re not as different as their ADPs would suggest.
Jones’ 11.7 reEP per game ranks as his best season with Detroit and his 6.9 targets per game is tied for the most in Detroit. With even more volume available and his proven efficiency, Jones could be a steal in the seventh round.
As a prospect, I loved Zay Jones and while it’s weird to say in hindsight, but I loved his landing spot in Buffalo when he was drafted. The opportunity appeared to be present and they, at the time, had a stable veteran QB in Tyrod Taylor, but things haven’t really panned out during his first two seasons in the NFL. He posted an egregiously low 36.5% catch rate during his rookie campaign which was cut short, but he followed that up with a WR35 season in 2018 and showed positive signs with a 54.9% catch rate.
Robert Foster’s emergence in the back half of the season may cause concerns for Jones’s workload, but in three of Foster’s four notable games, Jones received more targets.
Jones posted a 0.48 WOPR in 2018 which ranked 32nd among WRs. Unlike Marvin Jones, Zay Jones hasn’t proven to be an efficient receiver and it’s his potential for continued improvement where he could improve his production.
Jones’ competition may come from newcomers, however. The addition of John Brown and Cole Beasley present the potential for setbacks for Jones. His upside, however, comes from a low ADP. Currently being drafted as the WR65 on Fanball, he’s the epitome of a buy-low player with a chance for improvement. While it’s likely that a full offseason with Brown and Beasley will help them develop a necessary rapport with QB Josh Allen, Jones was clearly a favorite option for the rookie as he averaged six targets per games in weeks where Allen played.
Comparable seasons from other WRs provides some optimism for Zay, as well. Using the Similarity Search tool in the RotoViz screener, Jones’s most similar season on a per game basis was Steve Smith in 2002. On similar target volumes, both scored 10.6 PPR points per game while Jones had 10.2 expected points and Smith had 10.1. In Smith’s next season, he jumped up to 15.1 PPR points per game. And Smith wasn’t the only similar season to improve the following year.
There’s a chance that Jones loses the bulk of his volume to Brown and Beasley, but with a 15th-round ADP, he’s an inexpensive asset that you won’t rely on. In non-best-ball formats, he’s a perfect last man on the bench who can be discarded quickly, if needed. But if he maintains his volume, a third-year breakout may be on the horizon.