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Michael Thomas Sets Records As Surprise WRs Make Their Case to Dynasty Owners

Shawn Siegele looks at all the top wide receiver performances from Week 16, including big games from Sterling Shepard, Diontae Johnson, and Steven Sims Jr.

Championship weekend featured a title-winning fourth-down score from Tyler Boyd and monster performances from two legends. Michael Thomas and Julio Jones combined for 22 catches and 58 points.

Beyond the three studs, the finals were littered with big performances from low-profile names. We’ll dive into these key dynasty stashes after a quick look at Michael Thomas’ record-setting season.

145

With 12 more catches against the Titans, Thomas broke Marvin Harrison’s record of 143 receptions in a single season. Over the last 20 years, here are the best reception seasons through Week 16.

He’s still behind Calvin Johnson’s yardage pace, but the overall profile is stunning.

As it happened . . .

There will be much more to write about Thomas once the season concludes. For now, let’s take a look at the improbable heroes from Week 16.

Wide Receiver Fantasy Points Over Expectation Leaderboard – Week 16

Tajae Sharpe

The leaderboard normally features all of the receivers with double-digit FPOE, but Sharpe was the only receiver who hit that threshold this week. The fourth-year receiver is a former Jon Moore favorite who immediately flashed in training camp as a rookie in 2016. He entered that season as a major player in the offense.

Unfortunately, he was Corey Davis before Davis. Although not buried with the same draft expectations, he was another promising youngster ruined by poor coaching and quarterback play.

We haven’t heard much from him in the interim, but it’s good to see him stick around. His two-TD explosion against the Saints provided his first career 20-point game and his fifth double-digit game since his rookie season. This type of resilience should put him on your fifth-year breakout radar for 2020.

Hunter Renfrow

It’s been a tale of two seasons for the Raiders rookie. Over the first seven weeks he averaged 4.2 PPG. That jumped to 14.3 over the last six, a stretch punctuated by injury. During the hot streak, he’s hauled in everything thrown to him, averaging 4.8 receptions on 6 targets.

Renfrow is an underneath receiver, but he’s a possession guy with great hands and elite after-catch ability.

Only six receivers in football are averaging more yards after the catch. We’ve seen this profile work for fantasy, especially if you can dominate over the middle as he has this season.

Sterling Shepard

Concussions robbed Shepard of a dynamic fantasy season, but he made an impact when available, averaging 5.8 receptions per game on a 24% target share. He’s also averaging over 13.5 PPG with both Daniel Jones and Eli Manning, impressive totals considering the quality of QB play.

Only 15 receivers rank ahead of him in Expected Points (EP) per game, and he jumps to WR21 on a per-game basis.

Diontae Johnson

Johnson is another young receiver who appeared on the verge of a breakout rookie campaign before a scary concussion stalled his progress.

Johnson didn’t miss time after his Week 11 injury, but he took a back seat to James Washington.1 Although he was likely on fantasy benches in the quarterfinals, Johnson has re-emerged in a big way during the playoffs. He flourished with a 19.6 average during these three critical weeks, and did so as the Steelers juggled QBs.

Johnson’s location profile doesn’t stand out, but the 18% share and solid efficiency numbers (1.5 reFPOE/G) suggest Pittsburgh will field a young, Cereberus-style receiving corps in 2020.

DaeSean Hamilton

Hamilton was the expected beneficiary of the Emmanuel Sanders trade, but it didn’t come to fruition immediately. Brandon Allen only targeted him once in three games, but that all changed with Drew Lock under center.

The Broncos may try to upgrade on Hamilton and Tim Patrick in 2020, but their other needs make him a deep dynasty hold.

Steven Sims Jr.

Sims Jr. has been target hog over the last three weeks. Only a quintet of stars have been more heavily involved.

Of course, his numbers do stand out in this group. He trails by a wide margin in yards per target and reception. His previous struggles make the breakout Sunday even more exciting.

Good Luck and Happy Holidays

The RotoViz staff is rooting for you tonight as you try to take home your title. It’s been a blast to share 2019 with you. The season has once again come and gone too quickly. As we close one year and prepare to embark on another, we thank you for sharing the journey with us and wish you a safe and happy holiday season.

I’m constantly impressed at the depth and breadth of the information in tools built by Mike Beers, Dave Caban, and Anthony Shook. If you enjoyed some of the visualizations used in this piece, make sure to check out the NFL Stat Explorer, the NFL Pace app, the Best Ball Win Rates tool, the Game Splits app, the RotoViz Screener, the Strength of Schedule Streamer, and the Weekly Stats tool.

Image Credit: Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Michael Thomas.

  1. The second-year pro emerged in Week 10 and averaged 14.9 PPG over the ensuing six-week span.  (back)

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