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NFL Usage Report for Week 3: Pass-Catching Weapons Around the League

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Michael Dolan

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In last week’s Usage Report, I did a breakdown on the snap shares in each team’s backfield for fantasy football. This time around, I’m shifting my attention to the passing game and looking at the receivers and tight ends.

 

Because the pie is sliced up across more individuals, fantasy production in the passing game can be a bit more volatile compared to the run game. Still, some of the core principles used for player evaluation remain the same. Rather than chasing raw fantasy point production, to ensure long term success, you need to identify the players with the greatest opportunity to score points moving forward. To help you find these players, I’ve placed each team’s pass catchers (WRs & TEs only for this piece) into tiers based on their target shares within their respective offenses. 

Of course, it’s worth noting that not all opportunities are created equal. No one is going to claim that the value from Stefon Diggs’ 33.8% target share is remotely close to that from Jakobi Meyers’ 32.8%. The point of this article is to find value where your leaguemates may not be looking. While the offenses and structure around these players varies greatly, seeing how large of a role they play in their respective offenses needs to be considered as well. 

Tier 1 – Ball Hogs (30% Target Share)

Player Team Target Share Targets
Cooper Kupp LAR 38.7% 29
A.J. Brown PHI 38.2% 21
Amon-Ra St. Brown DET 36.9% 24
Mark Andrews BAL 34.0% 18
Drake London ATL 33.9% 19
Stefon Diggs BUF 33.8% 23
Davante Adams LV 32.9% 24
Jakobi Meyers NE 32.8% 19
Diontae Johnson PIT 31.9% 22
CeeDee Lamb DAL 31.4% 22
Brandin Cooks HOU 31.4% 22
Tyreek Hill MIA 31.3% 25
Justin Jefferson MIN 31.1% 23
Jaylen Waddle MIA 30.0% 24

It appears the Amon-Ra St. Brown truthers were right after all. Detroit’s second year receiver has gotten off to an explosive start in the 2022 season, and his role in the suddenly high-powered Lions’ offense appears to be legitimate. Through two weeks, St. Brown ranks third in the league in target share, which has placed him in a tier alongside some of the game’s best receivers. 

While St. Brown’s presence near the top of this list may be a surprise to many, seeing names like Cooper Kupp, Stefon Diggs, CeeDee Lamb and Justin Jefferson shouldn’t catch anyone off guard. These guys were all drafted with first- or second-round picks, and the role they play in their team’s offenses is exactly what you want to see. Diontae Johnson and Brandin Cooks didn’t quite cost the draft capital of the other four guys, but the portion of the pie they’re demanding is just as impressive.

Meanwhile, a change of scenery doesn’t appear to be slowing down A.J. Brown or Davante Adams. Both receivers got the bag this offseason and appear well poised to be the alpha dogs in their team’s passing offenses. Both Brown and Adams saw a much higher target rate in Week 2 compared to Week 2, so this could be something to keep an eye on moving forward. Still, it’s unlikely these two remain anything less than the center pieces of their passing games moving forward.

Another receiver who changed teams this offseason was Tyreek Hill, and it’s nice to see both Hill and his teammate Jaylen Waddle in Tier 1. There were concerns this offseason that these two would cannibalize one another, but through two weeks it appears this duo is going to soak up nearly all the passing work in Miami.

Jakobi Meyers Week 3 Fantasy Football Usage Report

Two more surprises on this list include our only rookie — Atlanta’s Drake London — and Jakobi Meyers in New England. London appears to be getting the workload many hoped Kyle Pitts would get, and the rookie has wasted no time getting acclimated to the NFL game. Considering his involvement in the preseason was limited due to injury, London’s early involvement in this offense can’t be ignored. Meyers’ name on this list is also a surprise. The Patriots didn’t see much turnover in their pass catching group this offseason, but the fourth-year receiver appears to have developed a strong connection with sophomore quarterback Mac Jones.

Finally, the last name to cover in this tier is the only tight end. Mark Andrews being on this list shouldn’t surprise many, as Baltimore’s passing offense was largely expected to go through their No. 1 tight end and second-year receiver Rashod Bateman. Still, this usage rate indicates that Andrews’ No. 1 TE finish last year is sustainable, and he may be fantasy football’s new TE1 for the foreseeable future.

Tier 2 – The Near Elites (25% Target Share)

Player Team Target Share Targets
Equanimeous St. Brown CHI 29.2% 7
Amari Cooper CLE 29.1% 16
Ja’Marr Chase CIN 28.4% 25
Deebo Samuel SF 28.3% 13
Courtland Sutton DEN 26.9% 18
Tyler Lockett SEA 26.8% 15
Tyler Higbee LAR 26.7% 20
Christian Kirk JAX 26.5% 18
Sterling Shepard NYG 26.4% 14
Curtis Samuel WAS 25.0% 20

While Tier 1 had a few surprises in it, Tier 2 is where we really start to see a mixed bag and need to give more consideration to context. For example, Equanimeous St. Brown’s tier-leading 29.2% target share may seem impressive at first glance, but when you look at the target total, you quickly realize it’s not that impressive and is in fact an indictment of Chicago’s low volume passing attack. The usage for St. Brown provides the perfect example of a guy you want to keep your eyes on but likely don’t need to roster in the short term. If Chicago ever opens up the offense more and lets Justin Fields throw the ball more frequently, snagging St. Brown while the rest of your league chases Cole Kmet and Darnell Mooney could be a savvy low-risk move.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we see Ja’Marr Chase, whose No. 1 role in a pass-happy Bengals’ offense has him producing like the first-round talent you drafted him to be. Other highly drafted players who you’re happy to see in this group include Courtland Sutton, Deebo Samuel and Amari Cooper. Not many surprises here, but still good to get the confirmation that their roles remain stable – especially for Cooper, who saw a change of scenery this offseason.

Another name that stands out here is the second tight end we’ve seen in these rankings – Tyler Higbee. It’s shocking to see Higbee ranked so high on this list, especially considering it hasn’t led to much fantasy success. Still, the volume is there, and Higbee looks like he’ll be in position all season long to capitalize on all the attention Cooper Kupp draws from opposing defenses. With the tight end position being barren, Higbee is absolutely worth adding if available on your waiver wire, or even via a low-cost trade if he’s sitting as a backup on one of a leaguemate’s roster. 

To round out this tier, we have another few players who are at least somewhat surprising. At this point we probably shouldn’t be surprised when we see Tyler Lockett’s name here, but being ranked ahead of DK Metcalf may raise an eyebrow or two. Then we see guys like Curtis Samuel, Sterling Shepard and Christian Kirk, who could finish the season as the target leaders for their respective offenses.

 

Tier 3 – Valuable Role Players (20% Target Share)

Player Team Target Share Targets
Pat Freiermuth PIT 24.6% 17
Robbie Anderson CAR 24.5% 13
Brandon Aiyuk SF 23.9% 11
Michael Thomas NO 23.6% 17
DK Metcalf SEA 23.3% 13
DJ Moore CAR 22.6% 12
Richie James NYG 22.6% 12
Rashod Bateman BAL 22.6% 16
Travis Kelce KC 22.5% 16
Garrett Wilson NYJ 22.4% 22
Chris Olave NO 22.2% 16
Hunter Renfrow LV 21.9% 16
T.J. Hockenson DET 21.5% 14
Treylon Burks TEN 21.2% 11
Darnell Mooney CHI 20.8% 5
Marquise Brown ARI 20.5% 17
Noah Brown DAL 20.0% 14
Donovan Peoples-Jones  CLE 20.0% 11

In Tier 3 we really start to see a wide range of player types. We see some 1-2 punches on the same team who are grouped together in this tier. Both Robbie Anderson and DJ Moore in Carolina and Michael Thomas and Chris Olave in New Orleans fit the bill as their teams’ top pass-catching options, but they aren’t quite as central to their offenses as some of the duos we’ve seen earlier in this list.

This is also where we start to see a few more tight ends pop up. Travis Kelce’s target share is much lower than many would have expected, but he’s still found a way to produce well in Kansas City’s high-powered offense. Meanwhile Pat Freiermuth and T.J. Hockenson owners should be happy with their tight ends’ respective roles in the passing game.

Outside of the aforementioned Chris Olave, we also see a few other rookies pop up on this list. Both Treylon Burks and Garrett Wilson look like the No. 1 options in their respective passing attacks, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see them climb a little higher in these rankings as they continue to gain NFL experience. Another No. 1 option we see who isn’t a rookie is Marquise Brown. Many expected Brown to start the season demanding tons of targets while DeAndre Hopkins is out, but he’s yet to become the target hog that many were hoping for.

Finally, we round out this tier with a handful of second fiddles who have seen their teammates appear in either Tier 1 or Tier 2. There have been mixed results in this group, as Rashod Bateman owners have been ecstatic with his start to the season while guys Richie James and Donovan Peoples-Jones are likely sitting on your waiver wire. Sandwiched between those two categories we see DK Metcalf, Brandon Aiyuk, Darnell Mooney, Noah Brown and Hunter Renfrow, all of whom have important, but non-essential roles in their respective offenses.

Tier r – The Best of the Rest (17.5% Target Share)

Player Team Target Share Targets
Jarvis Landry NO 19.4% 14
Darren Waller LV 19.2% 12
Kyle Philips TEN 19.2% 10
Zay Jones JAX 19.1% 13
Nelson Agholor NE 19.0% 19
Dalton Schultz DAL 18.6% 13
Mike Evans TB 18.3% 11
Dallas Goedert PHI 18.2% 10
Zach Ertz ARI 18.1% 15
Mike Williams LAC 17.9% 14
Gerald Everett LAC 17.9% 14
Kyle Pitts ATL 17.9% 10
Ashton Dulin IND 17.6% 13
Michael Pittman IND 17.6% 13
Evan Engram JAX 17.6% 12
Darren Waller Week 3 Fantasy Football Usage Report

Here, we start to see a ton of big-name tight ends. Those who drafted Darren Waller or Kyle Pitts with early picks in the draft were surely hoping to see a little more out of their investments. Meanwhile, Dallas Goedert, Zach Ertz and Dalton Schultz are meeting expectations, and finally Gerald Everett and Evan Engram managers are surely pleased with the late-round fliers/waiver wire adds they used to obtain these guys. 

We also see a handful of names on this list who deserve an asterisk due to missed time. Mike Evans only played part of the game in Week 2 after being ejected, while both Ashton Dulin and Michael Pittman find themselves in this tier because Pittman completely missed Week 2 to injury.

The biggest name we see here is certainly Mike Williams. After a disappointing first week, Williams smashed in Week 2 with Keenan Allen out of the lineup. You’d like to see more volume for such a highly drafted receiver, and his usage being this low even with Allen out of the lineup has to raise a red flag.

To round out this tier we find a handful of supplemental receivers. Guys like Zay Jones, Jarvis Landry, Kyle Philips and Nelson Agholor likely aren’t cracking many starting lineups, but they’re doing enough to warrant a watchful eye moving forward.

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