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Opportunity Is (Almost) Everything: Part II

Opportunity Is (Almost) Everything: Part II

Author: Matt “TheJerk” Morrisson (@DynastyJerk)

Hey y’all.  Today I’m going to be discussing the second part of my “Opportunity” article series.  If you didn’t catch Part I on Wednesday (11/11), I suggest you go back and read it before reading this as it’ll make more sense.  I’ll go over a few of the main concepts before we jump into it.

I have been working with a couple of underused stats for the past few years.  I’m sure these stats can be found elsewhere, but I haven’t come across them yet.  They try to bridge the gap between player opportunity and production.   Players are often unfairly compared to each other for a variety of reasons including injury, bye weeks, and just overall lack of playing time.  What I’m attempting to do is find a player’s raw efficiency.  I’m trying to see how we can use this to predict future usage and maybe even predict when a breakout is about to happen.  In Part I, I discussed quarterback and running back efficiency.  We found that most of the top performing quarterbacks are the most efficient ones.  Yes, I know that statement should go without saying, but we also found a couple of outliers in Dak Prescott and Josh Allen.  There is no doubt both of them are elite, but they are just middle of the road as far as efficiency goes.  The difference maker for them is that they each have/had league leading volume.  We also talked about running back efficiency and how D’Andre Swift is pound for pound the most efficient running back this season.  If/when Swift receives 70 plus percent of Detroit’s carries, he will become a top ten running back.  Well, now it’s time to break down the wide receivers and tight ends.  As was the case with last week’s article, I will not be using the most recent week’s stats for this article.  All numbers I’m dealing with today are through Week 9 only.  Also, these ranks are limited to my Top 100 overall players.  Today I will be talking about player’s…

  • Total Opportunities
  • Opportunities per Snap
  • Fantasy Points per Opportunity
  • Salary Compared to Opportunity

Wide Receivers

Wide receivers have the same definition for opportunities as running backs.  A wide receiver gets an opportunity when they are targeted or have a carry.  I’ll be comparing my Top 43 ranked wide receivers.

(WR Opportunities = Targets + Rush Attempts)

As I mentioned in the opening, a player’s opportunity is a good indicator of how much their team relies on them throughout the season.  The receiver that has the most opportunities through nine weeks is Stefon Diggs.  This may be a little surprising from a pre-season perspective as Diggs’ role in Buffalo’s offense had yet to be seen.  Diggs leads the league in targets (91) and receptions (63).  There is no doubt he is Josh Allen’s number one target and there is no reason to think he won’t continue to be.  It’s also worth noting that all of the receivers in the Top 5 of opportunities make over $11 million per year.  Here is the complete Top 5…

Player, TeamSalaryOpportunities
Stefon Diggs, BUF$14,400,00091
Allen Robinson, CHI$14,000,00087
Amari Cooper, DAL$20,000,00086
Keenan Allen, LAC$11,250,00086
Tyreek Hill, KC$18,000,00080
Swipe for more on mobile.

I don’t see any surprises here.  As I said, all players are on “expensive” contracts.  There is no doubt in my mind that Davante Adams would be in the Top 5 had he not missed two games due to injury.  Now let’s look and see which receivers are getting the most opportunities when they are on the field.

Player, TeamSalaryOpp/Snap
Davante Adams, GB$14,500,0000.20
Diontae Johnson, PIT$1,070,2410.18
Stefon Diggs, BUF$14,400,0000.17
Keenan Allen, LAC$11,250,0000.17
Calvin Ridley, ATL$2,725,1780.17
Swipe for more on mobile.

Well look at that.  Davante Adams leads the list of receivers who are involved when they are actually on the field.  In the games that he has played, Adams has a 59 percent target share among wide receivers on his team, and a 34 percent target share between all pass catchers on his team.  Adams is seeing historic volume to the tune of 11.7 targets per game.  On a 16 game pace that equals 187.2 targets.  Therefore, it isn’t surprising that he is getting an opportunity on a fifth of his snaps.  Allen Lazard returning in the next few weeks would surely lighten Adams’ workload, but his production should remain largely unchanged.

Diontae Johnson has the least number of total opportunities of these five players and that is due to injury.  I hate to see players get injured, but I also hate when they receive unfair dynasty outlooks because of it.  Another term I hate to use is “injury prone”.  I feel like that is an unfair title to give any player especially in such a physical sport.  I would not consider Johnson injury prone.  I would say he’s been unlucky and has had some unfortunately strange injuries this year.  Johnson has shown that he is Big Ben’s most trusted receiver as he is averaging more targets and receptions per game than JuJu or Claypool.  In fact, Johnson is the only one of these five players who is not currently in the Top 10 wide receivers for Dynasty Owner.

As we did with running backs last week, let’s now see how efficient some of these pass catchers are…

Player, TeamSalaryPoints/Opp
Justin Jefferson, MIN$3,280,7012.66
DK Metcalf, SEA$1,146,5132.54
Will Fuller, HOU$2,541,0782.47
Davante Adams, GB$14,500,0002.45
A.J. Brown, TEN$1,413,0922.42
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There is an interesting similarity between these five receivers.  Yes, they are all the most efficient, but they also seem to be a perfect balance of possession and deep threat receiver.  All five of these receivers are above average route runners, and they are all “deep threats.”  (Adams is a top three route runner) In addition to being deep threats, they all are reliable possession receivers.  This combination of skills is what allows players to be the most efficient.  These players receive deep shots and in turn, a lot of air yards, but they also have a high volume of targets.  Atop the list of most efficient wide receivers this year is Justin Jefferson.  Through nine weeks, Jefferson only has 44 opportunities.  That number is much less than receivers like Amari Cooper (86), Tyreek Hill (80), and DK Metcalf (68).  He has the same number of opportunities as Travis Fulgham yet has posted 20 more fantasy points.  If Jefferson’s efficiency remained unchanged and he had as many opportunities as Metcalf, he would be the number one wide receiver in football.  This is a very similar trend to what I mentioned in Part I of this article.  D’Andre Swift is the most efficient running back this season and would be leading all running backs in points if he had the same volume as Alvin Kamara.  Jefferson may not be leading all rookie wide receivers in points, but I could make a strong argument that he is the best rookie receiver this year.  Like Swift, I will be bumping Jefferson up in my rankings.

It may be surprising that a rookie could be the most efficient receiver through nine weeks, but it’s worth noting that three of the five are rookies or second year players.  Adams is the only wide receiver in the Top 5 in efficiency that has a salary over 3.3 million dollars.  This is a very similar trend to running back efficiency where all of the Top 5 most efficient running backs are making less than 2.2 million dollars this year.  The only explanation I can think of for this is the fact that, on average, younger running backs and receivers are the ones that make less money.  While youth isn’t necessarily the only factor, it can allow players to be more efficient as they, on average, have less wear and tear on their bodies.  Just a thought.  Finally, here are the least efficient wide receivers in my Top 43.

Player, TeamSalaryOpportunitiesOpp/SnapPoints/Opp
Michael Thomas, NO$19,250,000110.121.36
Diontae Johnson, PIT$1,070,241560.181.43
Jerry Jeudy, DEN$3,798,243610.151.44
Michael Gallup, DAL$880,995550.091.49
Deebo Samuel, SF$1,811,869280.151.50
Swipe for more on mobile.

These five players are putting up disappointing fantasy points per opportunity.  Michael Thomas’ stats include only two games.  That is an incredibly small sample size, but I actually believe his efficiency gets worse if you include Week 10.  In Week 10, MT put up two receptions for 27 yards.  Time will tell if his injuries inhibit his production for the rest of the season, but all things considered, he is off to a very inefficient season.

The most surprising player on this list is Diontae Johnson.  We’re well aware that Johnson’s total opportunities and points are down this year due to injuries, but I would not have guessed that he is this inefficient.  The main reason is a little odd.  Through nine weeks, he has 65 targets for 37 receptions or a 56.9 catch percentage.  While he is receiving over eight targets a game, he is bringing in only 4.6 receptions a game.  It seems (even though he’s been productive) that he is having some early season connection issues with Big Ben.  I look for those issues to be worked out prior to the fantasy playoffs, and if they are, Johnson could be a league winner if he becomes even a little more efficient.

Tight Ends

The players I will be comparing here are limited to my Top 5 ranked tight ends.  Tight end opportunities are defined in the same way as running back or wide receiver opportunities.

(TE Opportunities = Targets + Rush Attempts)

This section is going to mostly be me talking about Travis Kelce.  How could I not?  Through Week 9, Kelce leads all tight ends in opportunities, targets, receptions, yards, touchdowns, and (most importantly) DO fantasy points.  The closest tight end to Kelce is Darren Waller who has 58 less fantasy points.  Unreal.  Kelce is leading all but three wide receivers in points this year.  (Hill, Metcalf and Adams) The advantage that the Kelce Owner has over all other Owners is nearly priceless. I would say there are less than three players in Dynasty Owner that I would consider truly untouchable, but Kelce is one of them.  Let’s dive deeper and look at these stats closer.

Player, TeamSalaryOpportunities
Travis Kelce, KC$9,368,40080
Darren Waller, LV$7,450,00071
George Kittle, SF$674,57251
Mark Andrews, BAL$863,29044
Jonnu Smith, TEN$776,57237
Swipe for more on mobile.

I want to first start off by saying that I feel bad leaving T.J. Hockenson off this list, but he just barely missed my Top 100 players.  He comes in as my 104th player overall.  I just wanted to mention that he deserves a spot at the table here, and I’ll most likely be bumping him up in my rankings.

I already spoiled it, but I think everyone already knew that Kelce leads tight ends in opportunities.  He is averaging nearly 9 per game.

Mark Andrews and Jonnu Smith have been rather disappointing this year as far as opportunity goes.  We knew coming into the season that neither of these players are on high volume passing teams, but their utilization has been baffling none the less.

Kittle remains third in this Top 5 tight end opportunities even though he played only six games.  Kittle was the only tight end that was close to Kelce’s tier.   There is no change in how these players rank when we look at opportunities per snap.

Player, TeamSalaryOpp/Snap
Travis Kelce, KC$9,368,4000.16
Darren Waller, LV$7,450,0000.15
George Kittle, SF$674,5720.14
Mark Andrews, BAL$863,2900.13
Jonnu Smith, TEN$776,5720.09
Swipe for more on mobile.

All five of these tight ends are closely bunched for this stat.  Kelce wins again, but by a small margin.  Kelce is receiving an opportunity on 16 percent of the snaps that he takes.

Jonnu has remained a Top 10 tight end this year in total points.  That may not be saying much as the tight end position is incredibly scarce, but even so, he has been putting up decent performances.  The issue I have with Jonnu is the lack of opportunities he is receiving.  Jonnu is getting an opportunity on only nine percent of his snaps.  This number isn’t terrible for a tight end, but obviously it’s nowhere near elite.  Jonnu will continue to be started as a low volume, touch down dependent tight end.

Player, TeamSalaryPoints/Opp
Jonnu Smith, TEN$776,5722.43
Travis Kelce, KC$9,368,4002.10
George Kittle, SF$674,5721.92
Mark Andrews, BAL$863,2901.91
Darren Waller, LV$7,450,0001.55
Swipe for more on mobile.

Finally, we come to tight end efficiency, and what a surprise we have here.  Jonnu has jumped to the top of the list.  There are a few reasons why.  First, Jonnu’s overall lack of opportunities drives his efficiency up compared to a high-volume player like Kelce.  Through Week 9, Kelce has more than twice as many opportunities as Jonnu, but Kelce does not have more than twice as many fantasy points.  Therefore, Jonnu is the more efficient tight end.  In addition, if Jonnu remained as efficient and had as many opportunities as Kelce, he would have 26 more fantasy points on the year.  Don’t misinterpret what I’m saying.  Kelce is the better tight end, and it’s not close.  The reason Jonnu has been more efficient this year is partly due to a small sample size and partly due to his high touchdown rate.  Through Week 9, Jonnu has six touchdowns on 24 touches.  That means he is scoring a touchdown on 25 percent of his receptions.  I would say this efficiency can’t continue, but in Week 10, Jonnu scored a touchdown on three touches.  Remarkable.

As always, I thank you for reading my article and for reading all of the Dynasty Owner content.  I’ll be back with another article in a couple of weeks.  Take care, be safe and Happy Holidays.


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