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When looking at wide receivers for fantasy football, there are many variables you have to consider. We talked about in Advanced Research in the Daily Academy that targets are what you want to look at most, with a couple caveats of course. Instead of walking through some generic examples of why targets are important and how they can benefit you more going forward than strict production, let's take a look at a concrete example in this piece, Kelvin Benjamin of the Carolina Panthers.

Let's first take a look at his per game averages last season compared to one of last season's most popular “cash game plays" in Andre Johnson.

Name

Targets

Receptions

Yards

TDs

Kelvin Benjamin

9.1

4.6

63.1

0.6

Andre Johnson

9.7

5.7

62.4

0.2

As you can see, both were heavily targeted at over nine targets per game, which ranked fifth and sixth in the league in targets respectively. However, both struggled with catch rate at time, neither catching more than 60% of the passes thrown their way. While this is often attributed to quarterback play for Johnson due to the Texans lackluster array of quarterbacks last season, Benjamin has taken the full brunt of the blame despite Cam Newton being known historically as an inaccurate passer. We'll get to that more a bit later. As you can see with both players though, target volume can easily make up for efficiency, as both players finished around 1,000 yards on the season despite a well below league average catch rate.

While huge targets scream cash game play though, you can to be careful. Targets are great for cash game plays when the player is hauling in a huge number of them like Antonio Brown did last year, racking up 129 catches on 182 targets to easily lead the league in receptions. However, these players aren't Antonio Brown, who was probably last season's easiest cash game plug and play and wide receiver. Benjamin on the other hand, despite being pretty solid on a per game basis, thanks to the heavy targets, was much more volatile. As we look at his week-to-week production below, it's obvious he was hit or miss despite being heavily targeted due to his low catch rate.


Benjamin finished last season 87th in the NFL in catch rate, which is what is going to give him this inconsistency, even on heavy targets and made him heavily reliant on the big play. He scored five touchdowns from outside of 20 yards and despite being one of the league leaders in red-zone targets with 18, caught just four of them for touchdowns inside the 20. The league average expected value on those targets is much higher, so he was actually underperforming even for a guy with his low overall catch rate.

The really weird thing about Benjamin, is he's not a guy that has a lot of trouble making tough catches. He made many impressive catches throughout the season and many of his drops were on plays that he simply shouldn't have been dropping. It seemed to be a lack of focus more than anything and he did admit he became “mentally tired" as the season went on last year, both due to the rigors of his first NFL season and the Panthers offensive struggles at times. If you watch tape from last season though, he proved he has the ability to make tough catches. Let's view some of his highlights below.

If he can continue to use his combination of size and speed in conjunction with the big arm of Cam Newton, there should be plenty more touchdowns to come from this duo. As you can see, there is no shortage of impressive plays here. If he can even bring his catch rate to near the league average, he could have a really dominant season if his targets remain even close to the numbers he had last season. The Panthers continue to try to add talent around Newton, but their biggest problems were defensively last season that forced the offense to throw more than they wanted, racking up big comeback and garbage time numbers for the passing game.

The real question with Benjamin is if he will improve in his second season. Many of the concerns about him coming out of college, such as low catch rate and poor routes manifested themselves early and often last season. However, with a full season under his belt to learn the ropes, as well as his first full offseason with an NFL coaching staff and Newton, there is hope for him to take some important next steps for improvement. His maturation should be obvious in the preseason though as hands and route running are two of the easiest aspects of a receiver to access on tape.



Comments
JasonG4s
Great info, I am hoping Benjamin gets it together. With Devin Funchess and Greg Olsen lineup up around him, they have an opportunity to put up a ton of points.