Examining The Top-12 Receivers In Fantasy Football

by , October 29, 2020

If you thought Travis Fulgham would be a top-12 fantasy receiver through seven weeks, well, you need to play the lottery. Actually, you might be who we need to finally address (and solve) the pandemic. For the rest of us though, we’ll examine exactly how the top-12 receivers are maintaining production. Davante Adams leads the charge, with Amari Cooper flanking. Notable surprises – based on offseason projections – are A.J. Brown and Jamison Crowder. Now, let’s use PlayerProfiler’s advanced stats, metrics, and analytics to unearth actionable fantasy football takes.

Note: To qualify, a receiver must have played at least four games. Top 12 based on Fantasy Points per Game.

No. 1) Davante Adams 

26.2 (No.  1) Fantasy Points Per Game
36.0 (No. 22) Team Pass Plays Per Game
33.8-percent (No. 1) Target Share
11.5 (No. 1) targets per game
33.2-percent (No. 15) Air Yards Share
8.6 (No. 74) Average Target Distance
34.1-percent (No. 14) Target Rate

Production: 36 (No. 13) receptions, 449 (No. 17) receiving yards, 176 (No. 13) yards after catch, 4 (No. 10) touchdowns.

No. 2) Tyler Lockett

23.5 (No. 2) Fantasy Points Per Game
39.3 (No. 9) Team Pass Plays Per Game
27.8-percent (No. 7) Target Share
9.7 (No. 9) targets per game
30.1-percent (No. 24) Air Yards Share
10.0 (No. 58) Average Target Distance
24.4-percent (No. 44) Target Rate

Production: 45 (No. 6) receptions, 542 (No. 9) receiving yards, 139 (No. 26) yards after catch, 7 (No. 1) touchdowns.

No. 3) DeAndre Hopkins

20.5 (No. 3) Fantasy Points Per Game
37.4 (No. 13) Team Pass Plays Per Game
31.1-percent (No. 3) Target Share
10.4 (No. 4) targets per game
31.0-percent (No. 21) Air Yards Share
8.4 (No. 80) Average Target Distance
28.5-percent (No. 22) Target Rate

Production: 57 (No. 1) receptions, 704 (No. 1) receiving yards, and 317 (No. 1) yards after catch, 3 (No. 15) touchdowns.

No. 4) A.J. Brown

20.0 (No. 4) Fantasy Points Per Game
35.2 (No. 25) Team Pass Plays Per Game
23.0-percent (No. 17) Target Share
8.0 (No. 17) targets per game
32.4-percent (No. 18) Air Yards Share
9.8 (No. 60) Average Target Distance
25.0-percent (No. 36) Target Rate

Production: 23 (No. 44) receptions, 330 (No. 39) receiving yards, 147 (No. 22) yards after catch, 4 (No. 10) touchdowns.

No. 5) Jamison Crowder

19.8 (No. 5) Fantasy Points Per Game
37.7 (No. 12) Team Pass Plays Per Game
31.5-percent (No. 2) Target Share
11.5 (No. 1) targets per game
28.9-percent (No. 27) Air Yards Share
8.2 (No. 85) Average Target Distance
28.4-percent (No. 23) Target Rate

Production: 29 (No. 25) receptions, 383 (No. 25) receiving yards, 190 (No. 9) yards after catch, 2 (No. 30) touchdowns.

No. 6) Calvin Ridley

19.8 (No. 5) Fantasy Points Per Game
43.1 (No. 4) Team Pass Plays Per Game
23.1-percent (No. 16) Target Share
9.1 (No. 11) targets per game
36.8-percent (No. 8) Air Yards Share
14.4 (No. 16) Average Target Distance
24.2-percent (No. 47) Target Rate

Production: 40 (No. 10) receptions, 615 (No. 3) receiving yards, 116 (No. 32) yards after catch, 6 (No. 3) touchdowns.

No. 7) Adam Thielen

19.5 (No. 7) Fantasy Points Per Game
31.5 (No. 31) Team Pass Plays Per Game
29.2-percent (No. 6) Target Share
8.2 (No. 16) targets per game
43.2-percent (No. 4) Air Yards Share
14.7 (No. 15) Average Target Distance
26.1-percent (No. 31) Target Rate

Production: 32 (No. 16) receiving yards, 415 (No. 22) receiving yards, 35 (No. 105) yards after catch, 7 (No. 1) touchdowns.

No. 8) Travis Fulgham

19.2 (No. 8) Fantasy Points Per Game
43.9 (No. 3) Team Pass Plays Per Game
26.1-percent (No. 11) Target Share
9.2 (No. 10) targets per game
34.2-percent (No. 13) Air Yards Share
12.8 (No. 31) Average Target Distance
25.9-percent (No. 32) Target Rate

Production: 23 (No. 44) receptions, 357 (No. 33) receiving yards, 73 (No. 62) yards after catch, 3 (No. 15) touchdowns.

No. 9) Stefon Diggs

18.0 (No. 9) Fantasy Points Per Game
39.4 (No. 8) Team Pass Plays Per Game
27.5-percent (No. 8) Target Share
10.0 (No. 6) targets per game
34.7-percent (No. 12) Air Yards Share
10.8 (No. 45) Average Target Distance
26.3-percent (No. 29) Target Rate

Production: 48 (No. 3) receptions, 603 (No. 4) receiving yards, 113 (No. 33) yards after catch, 3 (No. 15) touchdowns.

No. 10) Amari Cooper

17.7 (No. 10) Fantasy Points Per Game
47.4 (No. 1) Team Pass Plays Per Game
23.7-percent (No. 14) Target Share
10.3 (No. 5) targets per game
26.8-percent (No. 38) Air Yards Share
8.4 (No. 79) Average Target Distance
24.8-percent (No. 42) Target Rate

Production: 53 (No. 2) receptions, 583 (No. 5) receiving yards, 204 (No. 7)  yards after catch, 2 (No. 30) touchdowns.

No. 11) Julio Jones

17.5 (No. 11) Fantasy Points Per Game
43.1 (No. 4) Team Pass Plays Per Game
19.1-percent (No. 39) Target Share
7.8 (No. 18) targets per game
24.1-percent (No. 47) Air Yards Share
11.0 (No. 44) Average Target Distance
23.5-percent (No. 54) Target Rate

Production: 31 (No. 18) receptions, 447 (No. 18) receiving yards, 151 (No. 19) yards after catch, 2 (No. 30) touchdowns.

No. 12) D.K. Metcalf

17.3 (No. 13) Fantasy Points Per Game
39.3 (No. 9) Team Pass Plays Per Game
21.1-percent (No. 28) Target Share
7.3 (No. 21) targets per game
38.1-percent (No. 7) Air Yards Share
16.7 (No. 5) Average Target Distance
18.6-percent (No. 105) Target Rate

Production: 24 (No. 42) receptions, 519 (No. 11) receiving yards, 140 (No. 24) yards after catch, 5 (No. 7) touchdowns.

Davante Adams

While Davante Adams‘ offense ranks in the bottom-half of the league with a 36 (No. 22) Team Pass Plays Per Game average, he outpaces every other receiver in the top-12 with a dominant 33.8-percent (No. 1) Target Share. Averaging 11.5 (No. 1) targets per game, even in a low-volume pass offense, it’s clear Adams will remain a top-3 receiver for the rest of the season.

With Marquez Valdes-Scantling averaging 5.7 (No. 49) targets per game, it’s clear Adams is the alpha. Both receivers narrow the Air Yards share as well, with Valdes-Scantling totaling 35.6-percent (No. 10) and Adams accounting for 33.2-percent (No. 15). Hammering home Adams’ alpha status is the fact that he also outpaces every other receiver in the top-12 with a 34.1-percent (No. 14) Target Rate. Basically, his connection with Aaron Rodgers is unlike any other QB-WR duo in the league.

Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf

In response to the #LetRussCook movement, Tyler Lockett has led the charge among Seattle pass-catchers. While he and D.K. Metcalf are one of two duos to enter the top-12, Lockett commands the higher Target Share. This receiving corps is another consolidated passing tree, with Lockett and Metcalf accounting for nearly 50-percent of Russell Wilson‘s pass attempts. Combined, the duo also accounts for nearly 70-percent of the team’s Air Yards Share.

DeAndre Hopkins

Entering the season, there rightfully was skepticism that DeAndre Hopkins would not continue to be an elite receiver in fantasy football because he switched teams in an offseason with just 10 padded practices. That said, when you trade for Hopkins, and pay him, he has to be the focal point of the offense. We just didn’t think it would to this extent. Among the top-12 receivers, Hopkins is one of three with a Target Share over 30.0-percent.

Hopkins’ short 8.4 (No. 80) Average Target Distance mark allows him to compile a slew of receptions per game. He commands a healthy 31.0-percent (No. 21) Air Yards Share as well. While the top-12 receivers include some duos from the same team, Hopkins is firmly ahead of any other Arizona pass-catcher. Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk each average 5.3 (No. 54) targets per game, but neither offer legitimate concern to Hopkins on a Cardinals team averaging 37.4 (No. 13) Team Pass Plays Per Game.

A.J. Brown

A.J. Brown‘s missed three games, but has been as advertised in his four games played. Though he may deserve the most credit of any receiver to appear on the list. With just a 23.0-percent (No. 17) Target Share on a Titans team averaging 35.2 (No. 25) Team Pass Plays Per Game, his athletic profile proves he’s efficient.

Not only is Brown in a low-volume pass offense, he doesn’t even command an alpha workload – 30-percent Target Share or higher – in said offense. Totaling a 32.4-percent (No. 18) Air Yards Share, Brown has made big play after big play. If the Titans ever shift their offensive philosophy to become more pass-heavy, Brown is in play to be the overall WR1 in fantasy football. No cap.

Jamison Crowder

Apparently Adam Gase-proof, Jamison Crowder quietly checks in as the WR5 on a points-per-game basis. Though he’s producing off of sheer volume. He totals an alpha-level 31.5-percent (No. 2) Target Share, while the Jets average 37.7 (No. 12) Team Pass Plays Per Game.

Considering the Jets usually trail in games late and are winless, Crowder is the perfect garbage-time hero. In fact, he’s the ultimate garbage-time hero, as he’s a good bet for 10-plus targets a week based on playing from behind late. This year though, Crowder’s been reaching paydirt – he’s scored twice in four games. Touchdowns are the hardest metric to predict, while Crowder has missed three games as well. We’re going to project that Crowder won’t sustain WR1 production moving forward, so he’s a sell, especially with Denzel Mims lurking in the shadows and the Chiefs on deck.

Calvin Ridley And Julio Jones

As predicted in the offseason, Calvin Ridley and Julio Jones are both among the top-12 at the receiver position in fantasy football. This one’s pretty simple. The Falcons offense ranks average 43.1 (No. 4) Team Pass Plays Per Game, while Ridley and Jones combine for nearly 45-percent of Matt Ryan‘s targets and 74-percent of his Air Yards. The Falcons pass offense is the perfect storm for fantasy managers: high-volume attack, narrow pass tree distribution, and elite weaponry at both outside receiver slots to ensure optimal production. If your leaguemates are fretting over Jones’ early-season trouble staying on the field, send an offer and see if you can reap the benefits of this aerial attack.

Travis Fulgham

Like an RKO out of nowhere, Travis Fulgham emerged on the scene out of your peripheral vision. After totaling three targets in his first game, he’s commanded double-digit targets in every outing since. The Eagles average 43.9 (No. 3) Team Pass Plays Per Game, while Fulgham has established himself amongst his peers, commanding a 26.1-percent (No. 11) Target Share.

Alshon Jeffery has yet to hit the field this season, but even with DeSean Jackson back last week, Fulgham still totaled 11 targets. Both Eagles tight ends, Jackson, and Jeffery are all set to return sometime this season, so Fulgham is a clear sell. That said, he is legit from a real-life perspective, and though he’ll have more target competition, we expect him to retain WR2/Flex value for the rest of the season. He is not a player we want to toss to waivers, just temper expectations.

Stefon Diggs

When the Bills traded for Stefon Diggs, the initial reaction was that #BillsMafia got fleeced. The NFL Cognoscenti laughed at the overpaying Bills, while Josh Allen and company are laughing at onlookers with a 5-2 record. Linking up with Allen in Year 3 of his development, Diggs has lifted the ceiling of the offense.

Up from the No. 23-ranked offense in Team Pass Plays Per Game to No. 8 this season, Allen is throwing it more. The Bills defense has not been as good as years past, so even though Diggs totals a 27.5-percent (No. 8) Target Share and a 34.7-percent (No. 12) Air Yards Share, it doesn’t disrupt fellow receiver Cole Beasley‘s fantasy relevance. Beasley totals a 19.2-percent (No. 38) Target Share and has parlayed the opportunity into 14.0 (No. 29) Fantasy Points Per Game. John Brown has been in and out of the lineup, but has commanded a 16.0-percent (No. 56) Target Share. What’s good for one is good for all, so with Brown expected back, we don’t expect Diggs to drop off if his usage remains comparable. More on this in a minute.

Amari Cooper

Amari Cooper would be higher on the list if not for Dak Prescott‘s injury. The Cowboys average 47.4 (No. 1) Team Pass Plays Per Game, which is key since they have so many mouths to feed. Still, Cooper is the indisputable No. 1 receiver. He totals a 23.7-percent Target Share, averaging 10.3 (No. 5) targets per game. Here you see how the volume of passes makes a difference in an offense.

While the downgrade to Andy Dalton (and now a rookie QB) hurts Cooper’s efficiency, the volume combined with his athletic profile ensures he’ll remain a top-12 receiver for the rest of the season somehow, someway. Since the Cowboys defense isn’t likely to improve, they will have to throw to keep up most weeks. Now with a rookie quarterback, the Cowboys may be down early and often. Whether he’s a garbage-time hero or just balling, Cooper’s volume is the key to his residency inside the top-12 at his position, and he’ll see aplenty.

Takeaway

There’s a lot of season left, but redraft fantasy football strategy may be inching toward consolidation in the sense that there’s truly only a handful of elite offenses. This can be proven by Football Outsiders’ DVOA. While fantasy managers should always stack in redraft leagues, stacking multiple pass-catchers just may be the new wave. Four of the top-12 receivers are a duo from the same team, while nine of the top 12 are in offenses ranked inside the top-13 in pass attempts.

Basically, based on this limited sample size, it’s better to gain an edge on what offenses we think are truly elite and grab multiple pass-catchers from that offense. If we can’t do that, we need to attack offenses that are volume-based. Simpler put, grab the pass-catchers in the offenses of the handful of elite quarterbacks that average around 30 or more Fantasy Points Per Game.

Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Kyler Murray, Ryan Tannehill, Josh Allen, Dak Prescott, and Carson Wentz are all in the top-12 at their position in fantasy football. As is at least one of their pass-catchers. The other four receivers are prompted up by sheer volume.

To have lineup-specific questions answered,