Using Vacated Targets to Identify Opportunity (2021)
Opportunity is one of the biggest factors I consider as I evaluate free agent signings and trades, and attempt to identify impact rookies in any given season. For years, I gauged this opportunity holistically—e.g. Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones left Detroit, so there’s major opportunity there—but a couple of years ago I thought I’d go through the process of actually calculating vacated targets to see if it would identify opportunity that wasn’t readily apparent. I found that a few surprise teams would pop up.
Be sure to check out the other part of John's series: Using Vacated Touches to Identify Opportunity
Below is a list of the teams ranked by the number of their vacated targets per game. The Lions and Titans have a ton of targets up for grabs while Washington and the Browns do not. I also included the percentage of vacated targets and the team’s implied fantasy points—calculated by multiplying the team’s vacated targets per game by the quarterback’s half-PPR fantasy points per pass attempt over the last two seasons—since not all targets are created equal. For teams who will likely start a rookie quarterback—at this point, I'm assuming the Jaguars, Jets and 49ers—I used 1.21 fantasy points per pass attempt since that’s what the last 19 first-round quarterbacks (who started at least 12 games) averaged as rookies.
|Team||Vacated Tgts/G||Vacated Tgts %||Key Additions||Implied FP (Half-PPR)|
|DET||21.9||58.5%||Tyrell Williams, Breshad Perriman, Jamaal Williams, Kalif Raymond||27.8|
|JAX||16.0||41.0%||Marvin Jones, Phillip Dorsett, Carlos Hyde||19.4|
|CAR||12.8||36.4%||David Moore, Dan Arnold||14.9|
|HOU||11.0||31.4%||Andre Roberts, Chris Conley, Phillip Lindsay, Mark Ingram, Chris Moore||16.7|
|ARI||10.4||28.6%||A.J. Green, James Conner||13.3|
|NYG||7.5||22.6%||Kenny Golladay, Devontae Booker, Kyle Rudolph, John Ross||9.0|
|NE||7.3||26.2%||Nelson Agholor, Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith, Kendrick Bourne||8.3|
|LVR||6.9||19.7%||John Brown, Kenyan Drake, Willie Snead||9.7|
|NYJ||6.3||20.3%||Corey Davis, Keelan Cole, Tevin Coleman, Tyler Kroft||7.6|
|BUF||5.1||13.5%||Emmanuel Sanders, Jacob Hollister, Matt Breida||7.1|
|BAL||4.5||17.1%||Sammy Watkins, Brandon Powell||7.0|
|MIA||4.2||11.5%||Will Fuller, Robert Foster, Malcolm Brown||4.9|
|WAS||0.6||1.6%||Curtis Samuel, Adam Humphries, DeAndre Carter||0.8|
Here is the same data, presented visually, courtesy of Sam Hoppen (@SamHoppen):
Players/Situations to Consider
The departures of Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola open up a ton of work in Detroit. They’ve added Tyrell Williams and Breshad Perriman at receiver. Both players are intriguing, though they’re not high-usage targets. T.J. Hockenson and D’Andre Swift could see a spike in targets. Detroit might draft a receiver early too.
Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith are out, so look for Josh Reynolds to see a career-high in targets if the Titans don't draft a receiver early. Reynolds averaged 5.0 Tgts/G in 2020 but could take over Davis’ 6.5 Tgts/G. Remember, the Titans’ passing game has been incredibly efficient, so targets are worth more in Nashville than just about anywhere else in the league. (The departure of OC Arthur Smith may cause the offense to regress.) Anthony Firkser is a sleeper at tight end, since he’ll likely take over Smith’s role.
Keelan Cole (88 targets) and Chris Conley (63 targets) were replaced by Marvin Jones, who should run plenty of routes for likely QB Trevor Lawrence. Laviska Shenault (5.6 Tgts/G) and D.J. Chark (7.2 Tgts/G) could also see their roles grow.
Some people wonder how George Kittle, Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel can co-exist when they’re all healthy, but with 14.5 Tgts/G up for grabs after the departures of Kendrick Bourne, Jordan Reed and Jerick McKinnon, there should be enough work to go around.
David Moore could be a sneaky late-round pick if he fills that WR3 role vacated by Curtis Samuel. Christian McCaffrey will certainly soak up a lot of targets if healthy, but there’s room for Moore to produce as well.
Even with Josh Reynolds (81 targets) gone, it’s hard to get excited about DeSean Jackson given his recent inability to stay healthy. Van Jefferson is also in the mix. Tyler Higbee should turn in a TE1 season with Gerald Everett (62 targets) out of the way.
There are 7.3 Tgts/G available in New England, though the Patriots signed Nelson Agholor, Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith and Kendrick Bourne. Unless the Patriots really crank up the pass attempts—and these signings are a strong indicator that they will—one or more of these players will disappoint.
With 7.1 Tgts/G available in Seattle, Gerald Everett should have a chance to finish as a TE1, provided he plays enough snaps.
Emmanuel Sanders is a good real-world fit with Buffalo, but I wonder how much usage he’ll see with only 5.1 Tgts/G available after the departure of John Brown. Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis aren’t going anywhere.
Will Fuller is an exciting signing for the Dolphins, but with only 4.2 Tgts/G up for grabs, they’ll have to increase the size of the passing pie for everyone (Fuller, DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki) to get a slice.
Washington’s lack of vacated targets is a bit worrisome, but Curtis Samuel should be fine since J.D. McKissic’s 110-target role is likely to diminish. Samuel is also a significant upgrade over Cam Sims (48 targets) and Steven Sims (37 targets). Washington can find him 100 targets if they look hard enough.