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For wide receivers, volume is necessary. These are the five wide receivers I project to see the most targets during Wild Card Weekend:
TOP-5 WR Target Projections
1. Odell Beckham: 10 targets – Beckham’s matchup is even better than Antonio Brown’s. The Packers have allowed 3.9 more DK points per game than salary-based expectation to opposing WRs, the most on this slate by a massive margin. They’re 28th in pass defense DVOA vs. No. 1 WRs, 31st in pass yards per game allowed, 29th in pass TDs allowed and dead last in yards per attempt allowed. Odell averaged 10.5 targets per game this year, slightly ahead of Brown’s 10.3.
2. Antonio Brown: 10 targets – It’s a very plus matchup for Brown thanks to Ben Roethlisberger’s striking home/road splits and an injury-plagued Dolphins’ secondary. He’s seen at least 11 targets in 9-of-15 games this year. It’s worth noting that Big Ben has predictably leaned on Brown heavily in his last two playoff games, targeting him 14 and 12 times.
3. Jordy Nelson: 10 targets – Nelson has the most difficult matchup of this week’s top tier trio as he’ll see a lot of Janoris Jenkins, PFF’s No. 7 CB among 120 qualifiers. Jenkins has had majority coverage on A.J. Green, Antonio Brown and Dez Bryant (twice) this season – none of them got over 68 yards. And when Jordy goes into the slot, he’ll see Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (PFF’s No. 3 CB). Jordy can certainly win in tough spots thanks to elite red-zone usage and chemistry with white-hot Aaron Rodgers, but there’s no doubt his matchup is harder than Beckham’s or Brown’s.
4. Davante Adams: 7 targets – With Jordy Nelson likely to see a lot of Janoris Jenkins (see above), Adams will have the far better matchup against rookie Eli Apple. When these two teams met in Week 5, Adams went 5-85-1 on eight targets while Jordy had 4-38-1 on 13 targets. Note that Adams has seen at least six targets in 11 straight games.
5. Doug Baldwin: 7 targets – Baldwin took it easy in last week’s regular-season finale and only ended up with two catches on four targets. The week before that, he piled up 19 targets and has seen at least six in nine of his last 11 games. The matchup this week is ideal against a Lions’ secondary which ranks dead last in DVOA vs. the pass.
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Figuring out the top-end guys (above) is relatively easy. The low-end wideouts are much harder – and more valuable. Each week, I’ll discuss five wide receivers under $5,000 who I project for at least five targets.
1. DeVante Parker $4,200 and Kenny Stills $3,800, Dolphins
It’s difficult to separate Parker and Stills, who will each play on at least 85 percent of the snaps and have each averaged six targets per game in Matt Moore’s three starts. Stills has scored nine TDs on the season compared to just four for Parker, but the more physical and bigger Parker leads in red-zone targets 9-6. Ultimately, both are among the better “punts” on the slate as they project for plenty of volume. With Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers likely to light up the scoreboard at home, game flow should be on the side of Moore’s receivers.
Projection: 7 targets
2. Paul Richardson, Seahawks: $3,400
In Seattle’s first game without Tyler Lockett (broken leg) last week, Paul Richardson played 66.2 percent of the snaps and tied for the team lead with seven targets. He’s essentially stepping into the Lockett role, which means he won’t be on the field as much as Jermaine Kearse but will get plays run for him – this time against the NFL’s No. 32 DVOA pass defense. While Richardson isn’t nearly at the same talent level as Lockett, he is a former second-round pick who is now healthy after battling injuries for much of his career.
Projection: 5 targets
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3. Sterling Shepard, Giants: $4,800
As noted in the Odell Beckham section, the Packers’ pass defense is a horrific dumpster fire. So even though Shepard hasn’t toped 61 yards since Week 3, he’s at least a matchup-based consideration here. Shepard’s usage continues to be strong as he’s played on 94.3 percent of the snaps over the last five weeks and is averaging 6.6 targets during that span.
Projection: 6 targets
4. Eli Rogers, Steelers: $4,000
Rogers has cemented himself as a trustworthy option for Ben Roethlisberger out of the slot. He’s seen at least five targets in three straight games and has eight games this year with at least four catches. The concern this week is the likely return of Ladarius Green (concussion), who will certainly eat into some of Rogers’ opportunity. If Green does end up missing, then Rogers’ target projection would be boosted.
Projection: 5 targets
5. Randall Cobb $4,000 or Geronimo Allison $3,300, Packers
With Cobb (ankle) out the last two weeks, Allison has played on 77.4 percent of the snaps and posted a 8-157-1 line on 13 targets. This week, Cobb is practicing and appears to be on the good side of a questionable tag ahead of Sunday’s difficult matchup with the Giants. It creates a potentially messy situation where we could see Cobb out there at less than 100 percent, a major issue for a player who has been wildly unproductive all year. The cleaner situation would be if Cobb ends up ruled out, which would give Allison a strong projection at just $3,300.
Projection: 5 targets for Cobb if he starts, 6 targets for Allison is Cobb is inactive
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