Here’s a list of last year’s top five teams with the most vacated targets: Oakland, Baltimore, Detroit, Jacksonville, and Tampa Bay. Notice anything all five of these teams have in common? They all produced fantasy breakouts: Darren Waller (Oakland), Mark Andrews (Baltimore), Kenny Golladay (Detroit), DJ Chark (Jacksonville), and Chris Godwin (Tampa Bay). The logic is that when well-utilized players leave a team, others have a chance to fill the role that is left behind. And generally, opportunity equals fantasy production.
For example, let’s look at the Raiders. In 2018, Jared Cook led the team with 101 targets and Jordy Nelson was second at 88. He was followed by Jalen Richard with 81, and lastly, Seth Roberts with 65. For reference, Darren Waller had only six targets in 2018. Moving into 2019, Richard was the only player to stay with the team. That meant that the Raiders lost their starting tight end and number one option as well as their top two wide receivers. The Raiders’ head coach, offensive coordinator, and quarterback remained unchanged in the offseason as well. This all equated to a fantastic opportunity for Darren Waller and he took full advantage of it. He finished the season with 117 targets and was the number three tight end in NFL.com PPR scoring formats.
Finally, Let’s take a look at the five NFL teams that have the most vacated targets heading into the 2020 NFL season and explore which players might be given the opportunity to become fantasy relevant.
1. Dallas Cowboys: 190
|Status||Player & Targets|
|Still Around||WR Amari Cooper (119), WR Michael Gallup (112), RB Ezekiel Elliott (72), TE Blake Jarwin (41), RB Tony Pollard (20), WR Devin Smith (9), WR Cedrick Wilson (8), RB Jamize Olawale (2), TE Dalton Schultz (2), WR Ventell Bryant (1), WR Noah Brown (0), WR Jon’Vea Johnson (0), TE Cole Hikutini (0)|
|Departures||TE Jason Witten (83), WR Randall Cobb (83), WR Tavon Austin (24)|
|Arrivals||TE Blake Bell (15), WR Tevin Jones (11), WR CeeDee Lamb (Rookie), WR Aaron Parker (Rookie), WR Kendrick Rogers (Rookie), WR Stephen Guidry (Rookie)|
Much of Dallas’ 2020 offense will look similar to 2019. Four of their top six pass-catching options are returning for 2020, and those four players made up almost 60 percent of the target share in 2019 (Cooper, Gallup, Elliott, Jarwin). Additionally, despite firing Jason Garrett and bringing in Mike McCarthy, Kellen Moore will stay on as offensive coordinator and retain play-calling duties. However, with the departure of long-time great Jason Witten and veteran Randall Cobb, there will be opportunities in Dallas. The two most popular choices for a rise to fantasy relevance are new starting tight end Blake Jarwin and rookie wide receiver CeeDee Lamb.
As for Jarwin, matching Witten’s 2019 production would make him a fringe top 12 tight end. To do this, he’d have to see his 2019 targets approximately double. Whatever influence head coach Mike McCarthy is to have on the offense, it’s unlikely to be beneficial to Blake Jarwin. In McCarthy’s 13 years as head coach of Green Bay, the leading tight end prorated for an entire season averaged approximately 48 catches for 543 yards and four touchdowns on 73 targets.
As for CeeDee Lamb, let’s assume Dallas gives him the third-most targets in 2020 (beating out both Ezekiel Elliott and Blake Jarwin). In 2019, the average third option on a team received roughly 75 targets. Additionally, wide receiver 24 finished with around 200 fantasy points in 2019. AJ Brown was the only player to receive less than 90 targets yet score at least 200 fantasy points. He did so with a YPC and TD/Catch rate that were both much better than league average. However, there is the potential for targets in Dallas’ 2020 offense to be condensed into a smaller number of players. Witten, Jarwin, Randall Cobb, and Tavon Austin combined for 231 targets in 2019. That target concentration might get squeezed down to Lamb, Jarwin, and possibly one other player.
2. New York Jets: 172
|Status||Player & Targets|
|Still Around||WR Jamison Crowder (122), RB Le’Veon Bell (78), TE Ryan Griffin (41), WR Vyncint Smith (31), WR Braxton Berrios (13), RB Bilal Powell (12), TE Daniel Brown (11), WR Trevon Wesco (3), WR Quincy Enunwa (3), WR Josh Bellamy (3), WR Jeff Smith (2), TE Chris Herndon IV (2), WR Josh Malone (0), RB Kenneth Dixon (0), RB Josh Adams (0)|
|Depatures||WR Robby Anderson (96), WR Demaryius Thomas (59), RB Ty Montgomery (17)|
|Arrivals||WR Breshad Perriman (65), RB Frank Gore (16), TE Ross Travis (6), WR Josh Doctson (0), WR Jehu Chesson (0), WR Lawrence Cager (Rookie), WR George Campbell (Rookie), WR Denzel Mims (Rookie), RB La’Mical Perine (Rookie)|
Two of the Jets’ top four options have left (Anderson, Thomas). The big one is Anderson, who was second on the team in targets and the Jets’ primary deep threat (15 YPC). Throw in 17 targets from Montgomery, and suddenly there is a significant opportunity in New York. Crowder and Bell will get theirs, but who will follow? The popular opinion at the moment is that the playing time will go to Chris Herndon IV, free-agent signee Breshad Perriman, and rookie wideout Denzel Mims.
Robby Anderson might as well have split himself into two players and named them Breshad Perriman and Denzel Mims. The Jets replaced one speedster with two of them. Perriman’s five years in the league brings experience. However, He has yet to surpass 75 targets or 40 receptions in his career in any given season. Mims brings potential, but not without concerns. Some scouts question both his hands and his route-running ability. These are two things that could hurt his playing time in 2020.
Chris Herndon IV stood out as a rookie in 2018. He received 56 targets, 39 receptions, 502 receiving yards, and four touchdowns. He appeared in only one game in 2019 after serving a suspension and battling injuries. Replacement Ryan Griffin finished 2019 with a pedestrian 41 targets, 36 receptions, 320 yards, and five touchdowns. Herndon will be fantasy irrelevant if he simply repeats what Griffin did. He will need to double his involvement to around 80 targets if he’s to become a start-able fantasy tight end.
3. Houston Texans: 167
|Status||Player & Targets|
|Still Around||WR Will Fuller (71), RB Duke Johnson (62), WR Kenny Stills (55), TE Jordan Akins (55), TE Darren Fells (48), WR Keke Coutee (36), WR DeAndre Carter (14), WR Steven Mitchell Jr. (6), TE Jordan Thomas (3), WR Isaac Whitney (0), WR Chad Hansen (0), RB Buddy Howell (0), RB Karan Higdon (0)|
|Depatures||WR DeAndre Hopkins (150), RB Carlos Hyde (16), RB Taiwan Jones (1)|
|Arrivals||WR Randall Cobb (83), WR Brandin Cooks (68), RB David Johnson (47), WR Isaiah Coulter (Rookie), WR Tyler Simmons (Rookie)|
Despite trading away DeAndre Hopkins and his 150 targets, the Texans are still extremely crowded heading into 2020. Additionally, the second-year offensive coordinator Tim Kelly will take over play-calling duties from O’Brien in 2020. Their wide receiving corps includes names such as Will Fuller, Brandin Cooks, Randall Cobb, Kenny Stills, and Keke Coutee. They still have both tight ends Jordan Akins and Darren Fells. Lastly, they have a crowded backfield with Duke Johnson and now David Johnson.
The popular choices are Brandin Cooks and Will Fuller as option 1a and 1b. Both will go in the 60-80 range amongst names such as DJ Moore, DeVante Parker, and Courtland Sutton. Keep in mind how productive Cooks was before this past season in which he battled concussions and a deflated Rams offense. He posted four straight seasons of 100+ targets, 1000+ yards, and five-plus touchdowns on three different teams.
David Johnson will compete with Duke Johnson for touches out of the backfield.
It would be surprising if David Johnson didn’t far surpass Carlos Hyde’s 16 targets in 2019. However, Duke Johnson will limit his ceiling as a receiver. The pass-catching back finished third on the team in targets in 2019.
4. Carolina Panthers: 155
|Status||Player & Targets|
|Still Around||RB Christian McCaffrey (143), WR DJ Moore (135), WR Curtis Samuel (107), TE Ian Thomas (31), WR Chris Hogan (15), WR Brandon Zylstra (12), RB Reggie Bonnafon (10), WR DeAndrew White (9), RB Mike Davis (8), RB Alex Armah (2), TE Chris Manhertz (1), RB Jordan Scarlett (0), WR Damion Jeanpiere (0)|
|Depatures||TE Greg Olsen (82), WR Jarius Wright (58), WR Donte Moncrief (15)|
|Arrivals||WR Robby Anderson (96), WR Seth Roberts (31), WR Pharoh Cooper (33), TE Seth DeValve (19), WR Ishmael Hyman (4), WR Keith Kirkwood (0), WR TreVontae Hights (0), WR Omar Bayless (0)|
Many changes have taken place in Carolina surrounding their returning pieces on offense. The 2020 Carolina Panthers have a new head coach (Matt Rhule), offensive coordinator (Joe Brady), and starting quarterback (Teddy Bridgewater). After signing Robby Anderson and Seth Roberts, the Panthers didn’t draft a single offensive player in April. One of the most interesting storylines in Carolina is the battle for playing time between returning Curtis Samuel and newcomer Robby Anderson.
It will be challenging for both Curtis Samuel and Robby Anderson to both receive the same amount of targets they did in 2019. Carolina and Jacksonville were the only two teams last year to see three different players with 100+ targets. No team had three receivers with 100+ targets. If it means anything, new 30-year-old offensive coordinator Joe Brady called Curtis Samuel an x-factor in Carolina’s offense for this upcoming season. Currently, Samuel is being drafted a few rounds behind Robby Anderson at the end of the draft.
5. San Francisco 49ers: 142
|Status||Player & Targets|
|Still Around||TE George Kittle (107), WR Deebo Samuel (81), WR Kendrick Bourne (44), RB Tevin Coleman (30), FB Kyle Juszczyk (24), WR Dante Pettis (24), TE Ross Dwelley (22), RB Raheem Mostert (22), WR Richie James (10), RB Jeff Wilson (5), RB Jerick McKinnon (0), WR Trent Taylor (0), WR Jalen Hurd (0), WR Shawn Poindexter (0)|
|Depatures||WR Emmanuel Sanders (97), RB Matt Breida (22), WR Marquise Goodwin (21), TE Levine Toilolo (2)|
|Arrivals||WR Travis Benjamin (16), WR Jordan Matthews (12), WR Chris Thompson (AAF), WR Brandon Aiyuk WR (Rookie), TE Charlie Woerner (Rookie), WR Jauan Jennings (Rookie), WR Chris Finke (0)|
An opportunity has emerged in San Francisco with the departure of Emmanuel Sanders. Their receiving corps includes the following names: Deebo Samuel, Kendrick Bourne, Brandon Aiyuk, and Dante Pettis. While the running backs plus George Kittle will still dominate the offense, there’s room for a wide receiver to emerge.
The obvious favorite is Deebo Samuel. In 2019, Samuel hauled in 57 catches for 802 yards and three touchdowns on 81 targets. He finished as a top 36 wide receiver (he also had 159 yards and three touchdowns on the ground). With the departure of Sanders, Samuel should see an opportunity to improve upon his fine rookie season. Note: Samuel had surgery on his foot in June and claimed he would be ready for week 1.
Here’s the entire league:
|New York Jets||172|
|San Francisco 49ers||142|
|Los Angeles Rams||120|
|Green Bay Packers||116|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||104|
|New York Giants||83|
|Los Angeles Chargers||74|
|New England Patriots||62|
|New Orleans Saints||55|
|Kansas City Chiefs||15|