As our survey of the league’s target opportunities in 2016 rolls on, we now turn towards the AFC East Wide Receivers and their fantasy football prospects. The division is mostly middling in terms of target opportunities acquired by receivers. The Dolphins lead the way, with the loss of Rishard Matthews, but have an in-house replacement ready to go. The Patriots and Bills are middling, without a solid wide receiver option to soak up those targets. The main beneficiary in New England will be a tight end. The Jets issues run deeper than targets lost. Let’s take a look at the AFC East’s Wide Receiver Opportunity Index for 2016.
The Dolphins’ lost almost exactly 100 targets in the offseason, and will likely turn most of these targets inward, to a player that was already on the roster last season. A good chunk of the targets lost with the departure of Greg Jennings and Rishard Matthews are going towards DeVante Parker. Parker was decently productive in his limited opportunities last season, pulling in 26 of his 50 targets for 494 yards. His catch percentage is a worry, but given that he’s averaging nearly 20 yards per catch, you can forgive him as he is productive enough when he gets the ball. With the running game suddenly losing identity and turning to the all-potential Jay Ajayi, expect Ryan Tannehill to get a ton of passes in him this season. It would be extremely difficult to force feed Jarvis Landry even more targets, so expect Parker to take a huge step forward. Unfortunately, he’s not a huge fantasy football draft day value, as his ADP is wide receiver 32, and the #70 off the board overall.
The Bills coming in at number eleven is somewhat misleading. They lost a lot of junk targets that went to Chris Hogan and Percy Harvin at various points in the season. The simple fact is that the Bills’ passing game isn’t all that great outside of Sammy Watkins. With two quality, frequently-used running backs in tow, and the oft-injured Sammy Watkins, there isn’t a huge opportunity for receivers not named Watkins in Buffalo. Robert Woods inexplicably received 80 targets, but did next to nothing with them (6.9 yards per target), and 80 is probably at or near his ceiling for 2016. Likely what will happen is a bump in targets to Sammy Watkins (if he is healthy for week one) and maybe 60 or so to Marquise Goodwin. Don’t look towards the Bills’ WR corps outside of Watkins. They simply don’t pass enough to support two fantasy football options at wide receiver.
New England Patriots
The Patriots lost a lot of ineffective targets to Brandon LaFell, and there is a lot of buzz that the Patriots will turn those targets towards new receiver Chris Hogan. If Hogan gets LaFell’s target count, we can’t look at LaFell’s total targets (he only played in 11 games). Instead, he will get the benefit of a full season worth of targets. Pure math puts that at 107 targets at LaFell’s rate, but we have to dial that back a bit. Don’t forget, Touchdown Tommy is going to be out for the first four games. Also don’t forget that the Patriots acquired Martellus Bennett, meaning that those 80 targets are likely going to go towards Bennett, who is a much better player. Listen to those wanting to take a flyer on Bennett, I’m one of them. Don’t fall for the hype on Chris Hogan. Please don’t take a flyer on Hogan.
New York Jets
I doubt you have to worry about the Jets overcoming the loss of 26 targets to Jeremy Kerley and half as many to Chris Owusu. This will have next to no impact on either of the fantasy-quality receivers on the Jets. The target opportunities afforded to those on the team will be minimal, as the team distributes the ball a ton to both wide receivers and running backs (the tight ends are basically non-existent). There is almost zero opportunity to be mined here. Get Marshall, get Decker, but be wary. The Jets are currently embroiled in intense contract negotiations with Ryan Fitzpatrick. If Geno Smith is the leader of this offense, strap in; the target quantity and target quality will both decrease. Once Fitzpatrick signs his contract, feel free to count on Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall as you normally would on your fantasy football squads.
The AFC East is a mostly blah division in term of target opportunities afforded to incoming or incumbent wide receivers. The Dolphins really are the only team that have anything to offer in terms of the WROI. The Bills simply do not pass enough, the Patriots are going to give most of their missing targets to Martellus Bennett and the Jets have Marshall and Decker, who eat up far too much of the pie for any other wide receiver to thrive for Gang Green.
This is the sixth in an eight-part series. The other articles can be found here:
Come back tomorrow as we turn our sights at the AFC West, a division that was surprisingly stable at the wide receiver position.