We recently launched our MyInsider Plus package and one of the stat features is receiving targets and more specifically, red zone targets. A target is how many times the quarterback attempted to throw to a particular player, whether they caught it or not. A red zone target is as the name suggests, how many times the quarterback threw to a particular player in the red zone.
Obviously this is valuable information to fantasy owners. As whether or not your receiver actually caught a touchdown the previous week is not always a true indicator on whether or not he will nab one in the upcoming week.
When we first analyzed the data several weeks ago, it was eye opening. Not so much that Freddie Barnes had the ball thrown to him 231 times and 50 times in the red zone; his production speaks for itself.
But some of the receivers high on the red zone target list weren't expected. With that I've taken a look at some of the receivers that had disproportionate catch-to-TD ratio as well as their red zone targets in an effort to see who might see a big spike in 2010.
Damaris Johnson, Tulsa - Johnson increased his receptions from 53 to 78 in 2009, but his touchdowns dropped from 10 to three. Something doesn't add up here. Scanning our red zone target list, Johnson was targeted 22 times last season, putting him in the upper echelon of players. When you look at those numbers, a dramatic turnaround in touchdown production seems like a reasonable expectation and a reason why we have Johnson rated so highly this year.
Keith Smith, Purdue - Smith had 91 catches for 1100 yards but only six touchdowns in 2009. Again, something doesn't add up here so it's time to check the red zone target list. Smith was only targeted 12 times in the red zone, which would account for his low touchdown output. However, Aaron Valentin (20 red zone targets) graduates. True they are breaking in a new quarterback, but with Valentine out of the picture, Smith should become even more of a focal point om the passing offense, including the red zone. Look for a dip in the overall production, but a rise in TD output.
Ryan Whalen vs. Chris Owusu, Stanford - If what most are predicting does come true, quarterback Andrew Luck will have his coming out party in 2010. And if that happens Whalen and Owusu will be the beneficiaries. Whalen caught 57 passes for 926 yards, but only manged to score four times (21 red zone targets). Owusu, on the other hand, had six touchdowns on just 37 catches (12 red zone). Obviously Owusu made the most of his opportunities. Many seem to be predicting a breakout year for Owusu, and are quick to dismiss Whalen. Owusu may be the more dynamic of the two, however a quick look at the red zone targets and actual production shows us that Whalen is the preferred choice of quarterback Andrew Luck.
Bert Reed, Florida State - The most puzzling statistic of 2009 has to be Reed's touchdown output...or should I say lack thereof. Reed caught 60 passes in 2009 and zero went the distance. A deeper look at the numbers and the reason becomes clear. The overall lack of touchdown production out of the Seminoles receivers wasn't due to the lack of trying. In all receivers were targeted 69 times in the red zone, producing just 16 touchdowns. This article was originally written to highlight Jarmon Fortson as a breakout player for 2010. Fortson was a favorite of Seminole QBs, targeted 23 times in the red zone, with Reed seeing just 10. Alas the 6-foot-3 wide out was dismissed from the team yesterday.
Now we are left putting the pieces back together. Reed is their best receiver, but on the small side at 5-foot-10 and 165 pounds. Taiwan Easterling slides into the starting lineup with Fortson out (17 red zone targets in 2009), but he's only 5-foot-11. Both he and Reed should see a spike in touchdown production this year, but neither is an ideal red zone target. Which brings us to a few sleeper candidates. Willie Haulstead and Rodney Smith have the size to threaten around the goal line, but won't get the looks between the 20s like Reed and Easterling will. The guy that sticks out to me is tight end Beau Reliford. FSU has never highlighted the tight end, but this could be the year that they look to the big 6-foot-7 tight end around the goal line. Of the 20 times Reliford was targeted in 2009, seven of those were in the red zone. With the lack of overall tight end production, Reliford looks like a decent sleeper option in BCS-only leagues.
Obviously there are many more scenarios and players to analyze. If you are a stat nut like me, dive in and get dirty. Maybe you'll uncover a hidden gem or help choose which Texas Tech, Houston, Cincinnati or Hawaii receiver to select to give you a leg up on your competition.