Using Vacated Targets to Identify Opportunity

Using Vacated Targets to Identify Opportunity

Opportunity is one of the major factors I consider as I evaluate free agent signings and trades, and attempt to identify impact rookies in any given season. Typically, I’ll gauge this opportunity holistically—e.g. Antonio Brown left Pittsburgh so there’s huge opportunity there—but this season I thought I’d go through the process of calculating vacated targets to see if it would identify opportunity that wasn’t readily apparent.

Others have studied this in the past and I’d just leverage their work to double-check my aforementioned holistic findings, but I thought I’d do the legwork this season to see if there was anything I could add to the process. Given injuries, trades and Week 17 weirdness, I realized that it’s a little tricky to calculate total vacated targets, but I think the numbers below provide a good roadmap to find 2019 opportunity in the passing game.

Included are targets through Week 16, though I made the exception for one team, the Cowboys, due to the midseason trade of Amari Cooper. More on that below the table.

Vacated Targets (2018)
Team Vacated Tgts/G Vacated Tgts % Key Additions
OAK 23.3 70.3% Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams 
BAL 19.2 55.8% Mark Ingram
JAX 16.7 50.4% Chris Conley, Geoff Swaim
PIT 15.0 35.7% Donte Moncrief
TB 14.9 38.0% Breshad Perriman
NE 14.4 41.2% Demaryius Thomas, Bruce Ellington, Maurice Harris, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Matt LaCosse
DET 12.3 35.0% Danny Amendola, Jesse James
BUF 12.2 40.1% Cole Beasley, John Brown, Andre Roberts, Tyler Kroft
NYJ 11.6 36.6% Jamison Crowder, LeVeon Bell, Josh Bellamy
KC 9.6 26.8%  
IND 9.5 23.7% Devin Funchess
WAS 9.0 29.2%  
NYG 8.8 24.7% Golden Tate
DAL 7.1 20.3% Randall Cobb
GB 7.0 18.1%  
LAC 7.0 21.8%  
PHI 7.0 18.8% DeSean Jackson, Charles Johnson
MIA 6.7 24.7% Ricardo Louis, Dwayne Allen, Clive Walford
DEN 6.4 18.6%  
CAR 5.7 16.5% Chris Hogan
HOU 4.9 16.1%  
NO 4.8 14.7%  
SEA 4.4 17.4%  
SF 4.2 13.1% Tevin Coleman, Jordan Matthews
ATL 4.1 10.9%  
CHI 3.9 12.2% Cordarrelle Patterson, Marvin Hall
MIN 3.9 10.3%  
CLE 2.9 8.5% Odell Beckham
ARI 2.3 8.0% Kevin White, Charles Clay
TEN 1.9 7.1% Adam Humphries
CIN 1.5 4.3%  
LAR 0.5 1.4%  
  • The Raiders lead the way in vacated targets with 23.3 per game. Most of those will be absorbed by Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams, and the team has the ability to funnel 12-14 targets per game to Brown if they so choose. I’m not worried about Derek Carr’s ability to deliver the ball—Carr was almost as productive on a per attempt basis as Ben Roethlisberger was when he was throwing to any receiver not named Antonio Brown—though Jon Gruden’s inability to properly utilize Amari Cooper is concerning.
  • The Ravens have 19.2 T/G available, though that number is misleading since the passing volume dropped significantly once Lamar Jackson took over at quarterback. Jackson averaged 23.6 pass attempts per game, compared to Joe Flacco’s 43.4 pass attempts per game. Adjust the vacated targets by the same reduction and we arrive at a more reasonable number of 10.4 vacated T/G. That still puts the Ravens in the top third in terms of opportunity, though it would require a very talented rookie to convince me to buy any part of the Baltimore passing game.
  • Jacksonville is a situation that didn’t immediately jump out, but the departure of both Donte Moncrief (86 targets) and T.J. Yeldon (78) certainly opens up opportunity for Dede Westbrook—who appears to be a good value in early best-ball drafts—Keelan Cole and D.J. Chark, along with any draft picks that land in Jacksonville. Nick Foles should give the passing game a boost both in quality of targets and in overall volume, since he doesn’t run like Blake Bortles.
  • I discussed the Antonio Brown trade in depth here, but suffice it to say that James Washington and Vance McDonald are the primary beneficiaries of Brown’s departure.
  • There are 14.9 T/G up for grabs in Tampa with the departure of both DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries. Mike Evans may see an uptick in targets, though Chris Godwin jumps out as a clear-cut breakout candidate. Justin Watson also deserves a mention.
  • With 14.4 T/G available in New England, there’s no obvious beneficiary, though Julian Edelman and James White seem to be extremely safe picks in PPR formats.
  • Devin Funchess could step into a seven- to nine-target role in Indianapolis, though if both Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron stay healthy, Funchess’s role may not be quite that sizable.
  • The Giants’ available targets are a little misleading since Odell Beckham’s 12-game target share was spread out over 15 games. Golden Tate, Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram figure to pick up the slack as complements to Saquon Barkley, who will serve as the focal point of the Giants’ run-heavy offense.
  • To estimate the available targets in Dallas, I only looked at the nine games (including the playoffs) after the Amari Cooper trade. Randall Cobb will be asked to replace Cole Beasley in the slot and should see 4-6 targets per game in that role.
  • Speaking of Cobb, his departure opens up a starter-type role in Green Bay. I think Geronimo Allison will resume his role as the team’s WR2 with the WR3 spot up for grabs.
  • The loss of Tyrell Williams should cement Mike Williams’ role in the Chargers’ offense. Hunter Henry will also have ample room to grow.
  • The arrival of DeSean Jackson looks like it will put pressure on the targets of the other Philadelphia receivers. Nelson Agholor seems like the most likely candidate to have his role reduced in favor of Jackson.
  • Towards the bottom of the table there are a couple of situations where targets are going to be harder to come by. Unless the Browns really increase their passing volume, Jarvis Landry, David Njoku and Antonio Callaway are going to suffer from the arrival of Odell Beckham, who figures to see 10-12 targets per game. In Tennessee, the arrival of Adam Humphries and the return of Delanie Walker are going to put the pinch on Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor.

Here's the table in chart form:

 

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