Each week of the NFL season, we will be highlighting some players who have seen an increase in targets and/or touches. We will be diving deep to find players whose offensive roles are trending upward in order to find high floor and high upside plays for your DFS lineups each week.
Sterling Shepard, New York Giants
AVG Targets/Game: 7.3
AVG Receptions/Game: 5.4
Targets in Week 10: 13
Catches in Week 10: 11
Shepard has seen a massive boost in his offensive role over the last two weeks, hauling in 14 of 22 targets for 212 yards against the Rams and 49ers. Injuries to the likes of Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall (seemingly) opened the door for Shepard to break out, but a porous offensive line and non-existent running game slowed down his rise.
With Orleans Darkwa posting decent numbers out of the backfield, the Giants have (somewhat) of a running game, which has opened the door for Shepard’s recent surge. Over his first four full games in 2017 (prior to an ankle injury Week 5 against the Chargers), Shepard averaged just under 7 targets and 5.5 catches per game, which resulted in a 63.5 YPG average.
His average of 7 catches on 11 targets for 106 YPG over his last two put him on a quick path to DFS relevancy moving forward. The only thing holding him back from massive upside is the Giants’ lack of offensive consistency. They have scored over 20 points just five times this season, with a high mark of 24.
With a matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs and their 22nd ranked pass defense (per Football Outsiders) in Week 11, Shepard should be rising to the top of your list of reasonably priced targets in DFS. Did I mention that the Chiefs also rank 29th against #1 WR this season? While Shepard isn’t the true #1 in a healthy Giants offense, he is finally beginning to embrace this role in the absence of OBJ and Marshall.
Josh Doctson, Washington Redskins
AVG Targets/Game: 3.2
AVG Receptions/Game: 1.66
Targets in Week 10: 7
Catches in Week 10: 4
DraftKings Salary: $4,000
FanDuel Salary: $5,200
Although he has found the end zone three times in 2017, Doctson has been a ghost most weeks, topping the 40-yard mark just twice with a high of 59 yards in a game (Week 9 vs. Seattle). He has a total of 29 targets this season, but 12 of them have come in just the last two weeks (7 catches, 89 yards), both in fairly tough matchups (Seattle, #7 Pass Defense, Minnesota, #12).
One mark of a WR who has taken over as the top threat in an offense can be which DB they draw in coverage. In Week 10, Doctson was shadowed by Xavier Rhodes, who is widely known as one of the best shutdown corners in the NFL (just ask Antonio Brown, Michael Thomas, the list goes on). This week he draws yet another tough matchup against the Saints, who rank 4th against the pass in 2017. That said, the volume has been ramping up for Doctson, who has been taking on a bigger role in the absence of Jordan Reed (Questionable for Week 11) and the absence of any sort of playmaking ability from Terrelle Pryor.
Washington has thrown the ball on 59.15% of offensive plays in 2017 (14th in the NFL), but that number has increased to 65.97% over the last three weeks (3rd). Part of the reason for the dramatic shift has been a complete lack of a rushing attack. This offense had already struggled to the tune of just 96 rushing YPG on the season, but that number has dipped to just 60 YPG over the last three, which is ahead of only Cincinnati over that span. With Robert Kelley banged up as well, we can continue to expect Kirk Cousins and company to air it out in the coming weeks. The increase in attempts through the air bodes well for the former TCU standout Doctson, who remains ridiculously cheap across the industry.
Corey Davis, Tennessee Titans
AVG Targets/Game: 7
AVG Receptions/Game: 3.33
Targets in Week 10: 10
Catches in Week 10: 4
DraftKings Salary: $4,200
FanDuel Salary: $5,600
If it weren’t for an unfortunate mistake at the goalline for Davis in Week 10 against Cincinnati (fumble into the end zone for a touchback), then we would have seen the former #5 overall pick find the end zone for the first time in his career. Alas, we weren’t so fortunate, but that mistake may just lead to lower ownership as we move forward. Davis draws a less than ideal matchup on Thursday night against the Steelers (#5 Pass Defense) in Week 11, but follows that up with matchups against the Colts (25th) and Texans (16th).
Davis started his rookie campaign strong, as Marcus Mariota looked his way 10 times in the opener, and he finished with a solid 6-69 line. Unfortunately, Davis fell victim to a hamstring injury in Week 2 that ended up costing him nearly half of the season (seven weeks) before his return in Week 9.
In the three full games that Davis has played, he has averaged 8.33 targets and 4 catches per game. The inconsistencies of Mariota have played a part in Davis’ inefficient numbers in the passing game, but the former Western Michigan star looked every bit of a #1 WR against the Bengals in Week 10 (aside from the gaffe at the goalline, but we can chalk that one up to a young player simply trying too hard to make a play).
Davis’ stock isn’t rising in the way that Doctson and Shepard’s are, since he was instantly effective in the opener prior to his injury, but being a #1 WR at his current DFS price tag is a steal, even for a Titans offense that throws the ball on just 54.96% of plays (22nd in the NFL).
Check out a full list of WR targets here, WR targets
C.J. Fiedorowicz, Houston Texans
AVG Targets/Game: 5
AVG Receptions/Game: 3
Targets in Week 10: 6
Catches in Week 10: 2
DraftKings Salary: $3,100
FanDuel Salary: $4,600
While this offense is the polar opposite of what it was with Deshaun Watson under center, Fiedorowicz is the type of TE who plays the “safety blanket” role perfectly. In 2016, he saw 89 targets (tied with Jordan Reed for 10th-most among TE) and parlayed those into 54 catches and 4 scores, all while playing on an offense that was largely inefficient (17.9 PPG).
Fiedorowicz started off his 2017 campaign with a decent 4-46 line before leaving the Week 1 game with his second concussion in just a few weeks midway through the game. Returning to an offense that has Tom Savage under center (again) certainly doesn’t inspire much confidence, but for a team that is throwing the ball on 60% of plays over the last three weeks, he is very much in the “value play” conversation. This offense is a shell of what is was with Watson under center, but with a struggling defense, we can expect plenty of opportunity for the big 6’5” TE moving forward.
In Week 11, the Texans face an Arizona team that ranks 18th against the pass, and is allowing 245 YPG through the air, which is the 10th-worst in the NFL. Fiedorowicz will see a nice floor most weeks, and while he lacks big-play ability (especially in this offense), he should dominate the red zone and third down looks at the TE position for Houston moving forward.
Check out the full list of TE targets here, TE targets
AVG Targets/Game: 2.6
AVG Receptions/Game: 2.1
Targets in Week 10: 5
Catches in Week 10: 5
DraftKings Salary: $4,500
FanDuel Salary: $5,200
For those of you old enough to remember the glory days of Darren Sproles in San Diego (I know, I know, it’s Los Angeles now…), Ekeler looks like he may just be ready to take on that role in this offense. Coming off the biggest game of his NFL career where he hauled in all five of his targets for 77 yards and a pair of scores, Ekeler also saw 10 carries, which marked his second game of the season with at least 11 touches.
Ekeler’s 82.6% catch rate (23 targets) this season is the 8th-best in the NFL, and for an offense that has targeted a RB on 27.2% of passing plays this season (7th-highest in NFL), his potential is massive, especially if his snap number continues to increase (season-high 23 in Week 10).
The Chargers have had plenty of issues with consistency in the passing game this season, in fact, fellow RB Melvin Gordon and Ekeler have combined to catch seven of the 15 passing touchdowns thrown by Philip Rivers this season.
He is anything but a safe option, as evidenced by his lack of snaps, targets, and touches early on in the season, but his playmaking ability was on full display in Week 10, and he draws matchups against the Bills (#31 run defense) and Cowboys (#26) over the next two weeks.
As he continues to show his consistency and upside, we can expect the Chargers to look for a spark on offense, especially as the team is coming off consecutive losses that have dropped the team to 3-6.
Duke Johnson, Jr.
AVG Targets/Game: 6
AVG Receptions/Game: 4.66
Targets in Week 10: 6
Catches in Week 10: 6
DraftKings Salary: $4,400
FanDuel Salary: $5,600
Another RB who has upside in the passing game, Johnson is an odd case of an efficient pass-catcher out of the backfield who never seems to get the number of looks he deserves. His 54 targets on the season rank 4th among RB, and his 42 receptions are tied with Alvin Kamara and Carlos Hyde for 3rd-most.
As far as full-PPR formats go (hello, DraftKings), Johnson has been a consistent, albeit unspectacular option in 2017, having reached double-digit scoring in six of his nine contests this season.
As a member of the (second edition) Cleveland Browns, there is instantly one positive and one negative for Johnson. The good? The Browns have lost all but one game since the beginning of 2016 (yes, twenty-SIXteen), which instantly puts a pass-catching back like Johnson in a positive game script. Throw in the fact that the Browns target a RB in the passing game on 25.5% of attempts (9th-highest in the NFL), and Johnson seems to have a safe floor.
The bad? The Browns are among the worst offenses in the NFL (15.1 PPG), so scoring opportunities will continue to be few and far-between. Another bad is that Johnson has just four catches of 20+ yards and one of 40+ (41).
If you can sacrifice the potential upside, most weeks shape up for a positive outlook for Johnson and his uber-consistent floor and role in the Browns offense.
Check out the full list of RB touches here, RB Touches