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Fantasy Football Opportunity: Which Teams Have Vacated Targets?

Fantasy Football Opportunity: Which Teams Have Vacated Targets?
Davis Mattek June 5, 2019 2:28PM EDT

Vacated Targets Present Fantasy Football Opportunity

Finding value in fantasy football is the name of the game. Accurate projections are what we are striving for here at RotoExperts and one of the key ways we are able to generate accurate projects is through looking at vacated targets. Vacated targets is our term for when targets or opportunities need to be replaced year over year. For example, if a team loses two players who combined for 150 targets in 2018 we would say that their team needs to replace roughly 150 targets the following year with new or different players. This list features situations where the year over year vacated targets have likely created some fantasy value that is not being properly gauged by the market.

Oakland Raiders: 23.3 Vacated Targets Per Game

Despite adding Antonio Brown, there is still volume to be found in this offense. No team lost more of their targets from 2018 than the Oakland Raiders. Jordy Nelson and Jared Cook, the teams two target leaders from 2019 are no longer on the team. Seth Roberts is now a Baltimore Raven. Who knows if Martavis Bryant will ever play again? Tyrell Williams and Darren Waller stand to be the beneficiaries of the lost volume, as does Josh Jacobs. In particular, Waller is an interesting sleeper. The former Georgia Tech wide receiver spent some non-descript time with the Baltimore Ravens and was suspended for PED usage before ending with the Raiders. Several beat reporters have indicated that he will be the starting tight end for the Raiders in 2019 and that he has been one of the star players at early OTA’s. Waller ran a 4.46 40 at 255 pounds and averaged 17 yards per reception at Georgia Tech.

Jacksonville Jaguars: 16.7 Vacated Targets Per Game

Dede Westbrook is the only remaining constant in the Jaguars offense. Marquise Lee missed last season with an injury, Donte Moncrief is a Pittsburgh Steeler, Austin Sefarin-Jenkins is a free agent after being cut by the Patriots and Keelan Cole has been relegated to bench duty. Chris Conley and Geoff Swaim were added to the mix in free agency but most of this vacated volume should be expected to funnel to Lee and D.J Chark. Westbrook is still undervalued in a market that has him going off after the 100th pick in 12-team PPR leagues and Chark can be had for free. The same goes for Lee, Conley, and Swaim. It’s fairly unlikely that this offense sustains three startable pass catchers week to week but two starters are viable. With that idea in mind, scattering ownership in best balls between Chark, Lee, and Swaim is backed up by this vacated targets analysis.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 14.9 Vacated Targets Per Game

When discussing Chris Godwin’s 2019 fantasy potential, most of the analysis has surrounded the fact that Godwin’s volume significantly increased when Desean Jackson did not play. Last season, when Jackson didn’t play, Godwin averaged 7 targets per game and .75 touchdowns per game. However, this analysis forgets that Adam Humphries is also gone from the roster. While Cameron Brate and O.J Howard are now both healthy, the vertical passing offense that Bruce Arians runs is highly unlikely to feature two tight ends. Not only does this bouy Godwin’s fantasy football value further, but Justin Watson is likely to play close to starting wide receiver snaps in 11 personnel. The 6’2″, 215 pound Watson ran a 4.49 40 and posted a Dominator Rating north of 60% while at Penn in college. Penciling Watson in for a higher snap and target share makes him look like a legitimate sleeper.

New England Patriots: 14.4 Vacated Targets Per Game

Of all of these offenses with vacated targets, it is probably the most difficult to project what will happen in the New England passing game. The team shifted to a more run-heavy offense last year as a result of Rob Gronkowski’s aging and the drafting of Sony Michel in the first round. It’s also unlikely that James White repeats a career-high in touches after four seasons of being under 100 total touches. White’s 2018 figure was 181 and the under on 150 seems more likely than not in 2019. In addition to replacing Gronk, the Patriots also lost Chris Hogan and Josh Gordon. Their replacements are ostensibly N’Keal Harry and one of Bruce Ellington, Maurice Harris, Matt LaCosse and Ben Watson. The most likely outcome from a projections standpoint is that the offense takes a severe step back in efficiency (Tom Brady is around 1.5  yards worse per attempt when Gronkowski is not on the field) and that the young running backs get all of the work they can handle.

Detroit Lions: 12.3 Vacated Targets Per Game

Golden Tate and Bruce Ellington are no longer on the Detriot roster but this situation goes a little deeper than that. The Lions paid meaningful money to former Steeler Jesse James while also adding rookie T.J Hockenson early on in the 2019 Draft. Detriot also signed Danny Amendola in free agency to be their primary slot wide receiver. The Lions run one of the slowest and most run-heavy offenses in football so I am not expecting any of these players other than Kenny Golladay to be amongst the best at their position. Still, there could be a situation where Danny Amendola settles into a 6 target per game role while Marvin Jones is stuck on the boundary and sees his volume numbers flatten even with the departure of Ellington and Tate.

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