In a never-ending quest to drown myself in data and spreadsheets, I recently began looking at the target market share of each team to search for trends. My main goal was to determine how often offenses support multiple top-24 pass catchers (wide receiver or tight end) for fantasy, and the variables that are the best indicators of which offenses may be able to do so in any given season.

Note, ‘available targets’ references the number of passes thrown towards a receiver (i.e. not accounting for ‘throwaways’). As such, available targets does not equal total pass attempts for that team. Additionally, while running backs may have been atop a team’s target market share, I did not include them in the data of top-24 pass catchers, as they also have another major factor which breeds fantasy success (rushing). For the tight ends that were atop their team's target market share, I compared their PPR points to the wide receiver position to determine if they were to be included as a 'top-24 pass catcher.'

Looking at the past five years of data, NFL teams have averaged 547 available targets. Much to my surprise, there have been 25 (!) instances in that timeframe where an offense was able to support two top-24 pass catchers. Most recently, the Rams (Woods, Kupp), Cowboys (Cooper, Gallup), and Bucs (Godwin, Evans) achieved this feat just last season. So what does that mean for 2020?

First, this information somewhat debunks the cliche narrative that a player cannot be productive for fantasy because there are ‘too many mouths to feed.’ The fact that over the past five seasons, an average of five teams produced multiple top-24 pass catchers in a given season shows that it is possible for fantasy owners to expect big production from certain offenses. However, how do we determine which offenses those might be? Some things to consider:

  1. Find an offense with ample passing volume. To define ‘ample,’ consider that 84% of the offenses sustaining two top options have been in the top half of the league in pass attempts for the season, and since 2017 11/15 were top-10 in passing volume.
  2. Find a team with a wide receiver that won’t hog TOO many targets. In fact, only 20% of the data set (5/25) had a receiver that accounted for 27+% of the target share and still left enough production for another top-24 pass catcher.
  3. Ensure the offense has a more than competent number two option that can be peppered with lots of targets. This seems obvious, but to drill deeper there were only six receivers in the data set that were a part of a top-24 duo that netted less than 18% target share.

2020 Predictions

A few teams that I feel can meet the above criteria and produce two top-24 pass catchers include in this upcoming season include:

  1. Kansas City Chiefs - Travis Kelce and the Chiefs had produced three straight campaigns supporting two top-24 pass catchers from 2016-2018, and the injury to Tyreek Hill is likely the only reason they failed to do so in 2019. With Hill healthy and Kelce averaging 24% target market share the past four years, it would be more surprising if the duo did not both finish atop this list than if they did.
  2. Atlanta Falcons - Julio Jones has shown no signs of slowing down, finishing as a top-12 wide receiver in every season since 2014. While fellow receiver Calvin Ridley put up a WR22 finish in 2018, he finished as WR27 in 2019 but did miss three full games. On a points per game basis, Ridley was comfortably in the top-20 range and should have no issue joining Jones as a WR1-2.
  3. Detroit Lions - Kenny Golladay has developed into a certified stud, finishing 2019 as WR9 overall despite missing his starting quarterback for half of the season. I fully expect Golladay to maintain his 21% target share in that offense that he has averaged the past two seasons. The darkhorse is Marvin Jones, who if healthy, is more than capable of finishing as a top-24 wide receiver. Jones was WR11 in 2017, then missed seven games in 2018 and three games last year. In 2019, Jones was putting up great numbers with Stafford until both of their seasons were eventually derailed by injury. In fact, his 17 PPR points per game with Stafford would have put him firmly in mid-WR1 conversation. While that type of production seems a bit high, I would not be shocked for Jones to flirt with an 18% target share in an offense that will continue to produce 560 available targets. Health will remain the biggest question mark though, both for Jones himself as well as Stafford.

Marvin Jones production with, and without Matthew Stafford in 2019

4. Pittsburgh Steelers - perhaps considered my 'sneaky' prediction for 2020, I could not possibly pass up the opportunity to talk about Diontae Johnson yet againBen Roethlisberger does have some injury concerns, but there is no denying that when he plays, the Steelers like to throw. They have averaged 625 passing attempts from 2016-2018 where Ben played in 45 of a possible 48 games, finished 10th, 6th, and 1st in the league   in pass attempts in those years, respectively. Juju is unlikely to command much more than 25% of the targets, and Diontae Johnson has the potential to emerge as a strong second option in that offense. With a 19% target share as a rookie, replicating that type of opportunity with higher-quality targets from a better quarterback could be enough to propel both Juju and Johnson into top-24 conversation.

What teams do you believe will be able to produce two top-24 pass catchers in 2020? Let me know who I missed, by finding me on Twitter @_TaylorCornell.