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Passing Game Shuffle

Examining available targets by NFL team

The fantasy football production cocktail is a blend of talent, situation, and opportunity. They are connected like a triangle as talent can force their way into a prominent role regardless of being blocked or not. Even a baseline-level talent can be fantasy-viable on a great offense or with a wide open opportunity (as we see with multiple running backs being the last man standing in December due to injuries). Here is a look at the passing games around the NFL, including the departed wide receivers and tight ends of note, available targets, and potential benefactors in 2016:

2016 Passing Game Opportunities

Team 2015 TGTs Departed Targets Available Benefactor(s)
Baltimore 674 None 0 None
San Diego 668 Malcom Floyd, Ladarius Green 132 Travis Benjamin, Hunter Henry
New Orleans 667 Marques Colston, Ben Watson 177 Mike Thomas, Coby Fleener, Brandon Coleman
Detroit 632 Calvin Johnson 150 Marvin Jones, Eric Ebron
New England 629 Brandon LaFell, Scott Chandler 116 Chris Hogan, Martellus Bennett
Philadelphia 623 None 0 None
NY Giants 622 Rueben Randle 90 Sterling Shepard
Atlanta 621 Roddy White, Leonard Hankerson 116 Mohamed Sanu, Justin Hardy
Indianapolis 619 Andre Johnson, Coby Fleener 161 Donte Moncrief, Phillip Dorsett, Dwayne Allen
Houston 617 Nate Washington 94 Jaelen Strong, Will Fuller
Cleveland 609 Travis Benjamin 125 Corey Coleman, Rashard Higgins
Jacksonville 607 Bryan Walters 45 Marqise Lee, Rashad Greene
Denver 606 None 0 None
Oakland 605 None 0 None
NY Jets 603 None 0 None
Pittsburgh 589 Martavis Bryant, Heath Miller 173 Sammie Coates, Markus Wheaton
Miami 589 Rishard Matthews 61 DeVante Parker, Leonte Carroo
Green Bay 573 James Jones 99 Jordy Nelson, Jared Cook
Arizona 563 None 0 None
Washington 555 None 0 None
Tennessee 552 None 0 None
Tampa Bay 534 None 0 None
Dallas 529 None 0 None
San Francisco 526 Anquan Boldin 111 Torrey Smith, DeAndre Smelter, Quinton Patton
Chicago 523 Martellus Bennett 80 Zach Miller
Cincinnati 504 Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu 152 Brandon LaFell, Tyler Boyd, Tyler Kroft
Carolina 503 Jericho Cotchery 55 Kelvin Benjamin, Devin Funchess
Seattle 489 None 0 None
Kansas City 472 None 0 None
LA Rams 468 Jared Cook 75 Lance Kendricks, Tyler Higbee
Buffalo 465 Chris Hogan, Percy Harvin 89 Sammy Watkins
Minnesota 454 Mike Wallace 72 Stefon Diggs, LaQuon Treadwell

highlight players

Travis Benjamin

A regression downward as a Chargers passing game whole is a concern with 668 targets a year ago, but 132 targets are available between Malcom Floyd and Ladarius Green departed. Rookie tight ends are typically very slow starters, so Benjamin as the No.2 receiver to Keenan Allen's lead status is a solid bet for 100 targets or more.

Coby Fleener

Ben Watson was a revelation as a starting-caliber fantasy tight end a year ago, emerging for a career year. Coby Fleener heads to New Orleans after a generally underused rookie contract stint in Indianapolis. While Fleener will be more expensive than Watson was a year ago, 100+ targets make a tight end a top-8 to top-10 lock annually.

Chris Hogan

The Patriots have a poor history of drafting wide receivers, but the free agent signing results are much better. Chris Hogan was hand-selected by New England and the former Buffalo receiver has thickness, athleticism, and enough production to project a upside with a quarterback and offensive upgrade. Track Julian Edelman's recovery as his absence could unlock Chris Hogan's opportunity upside.

Donte Moncrief

Moncrief more than doubled his rookie year targets to 105 in 2015. However, Moncrief's efficiency difference from Andrew Luck to Matt Hasselbeck was jarring. In addition to Andre Johnson soaking up targets early in the season, Moncrief's breakout was put on hold with Andrew Luck's extended absence. With Luck back in 2016, the Moncrief watch is on with prototypical traits and only missing sustained volume to-date.

Sammie Coates, Markus Wheaton

With Martavis Bryant suspended in 2016 and Heath Miller retired, 173 targets are vacant from an explosive Pittsburgh passing game. Markus Wheaton has been largely inefficient compared to other Ben Roethlisberger targets over recent seasons, making Wheaton the ho-hum bet to see an uptick in the offense. Sammie Coates (and Ladarius Green) are the high-upside leverage plays. Coates barely played in his rookie season, but has a well-rounded metric profile and athletic upside.

Marvin Jones, Eric Ebron

Like Coby Fleener, Eric Ebron is an easy breakout candidate at tight end in 2016. The tape for Ebron through two years has been inconsistent at best, but Round 1 drafted tight ends plain do not miss from a fantasy perspective. Ebron enters Year 3 and Calvin Johnson's retirement leaves a massive target vacancy. Marvin Jones stands to benefit as a slotted-in receiver starter, but Ebron's 70 targets from 2015 could easily surge by 50% or more. 

Zach Miller

Continuing the theme of undervalued tight ends with usage upside in 2016 is Zach Miller. A wild card is Kevin White as no wide receiver saw even 100 targets for the low-volume Chicago passing game a year ago, but Miller is yet another tight end with 100+ target potential. Miller had 46 targets last year and is actually the most efficient per-target weapon paired with Jay Cutler in recent years.

Sammy Watkins

Without notable additions to the Buffalo passing game, Watkins is the logical benefactor with 89 targets gone between Chris Hogan and Percy Harvin. Watkins has been a high-efficient, but low-volume receiver with Tyrod Taylor under center. Robert Woods and Charles Clay are unlikely surging weapons as Watkins enters Year 3.