Odell Beckham, NYG – No player saw a higher percent of his team’s red zone targets than Beckham. He also ranks third inside the 10-yard line at 36.0 percent. When you move down to the second receiver, fourth player overall, and see Brandon Marshall, you obviously start to have some concerns. After all, if both repeated last year’s percentages, Beckham and Marshall would account for 64 percent of the Giants red zone targets. With Sterling Shepard seeing 20 percent last year, it’s nearly impossible for all three to repeat. The good news is that Beckham doesn’t need that percentage to have the same touchdown success. Beckham was actually mediocre in catch percentage, and Eli Manning had a down year. Improvements from both will not only have Beckham repeat his five red zone touchdowns, but rebound to his 2015 numbers: 61.1 catch percentage, six touchdowns. For comparison, Beckham saw just 21.7 percent of the Giants red zone targets in 2015, so a percentage decrease doesn’t mean a dip in production. Additionally, Marshall is going to see a significant boost in quarterback play now that he is playing with Manning. Just as with Beckham, he will be more effective with less. Marshall is a Top 25 receiver, and you need to keep OBJ inside your Top 5… and tell him to unblock me! #OBJunblockallinkid
Allen Robinson, JAX – Robinson was the third highest wide receiver in red zone target percentage (28.4), which was a bump from 2015 (23.9). He was also the league leader inside the 10-yard line at 43.5 percent, 6.7 percentage points higher than second placer Kenny Britt, which was another increase from 2015 (34.9). Robinson also caught 12 of his 22 red zone targets for touchdowns (54.5 percent). All of these numbers prove that Robinson is clearly Blake Bortles’ top weapon. Those numbers also show us that Bortles hurt Robinson’s potential (although, there were a few instances where Robinson was as much to blame), as Robinson saw a decrease in production despite higher target percentages. I am taking this all as positive and so should you. Everything went right for the Jaguars’ passing game in 2015 and just about everything went wrong last year.
The true offense and numbers for Bortles lie between the two seasons, and if Robinson nears his red zone target share from last year, he’s a guarantee for a bounce-back season. I’ll happily draft Robinson at his mid-fourth round ADP as my WR2 and possibly even WR3. You should, as well.
Demaryius Thomas, DEN – The Broncos quarterback play stunk! Thomas wasn’t healthy most of the year. Thomas is meh. Fine. Leave him for me in every draft! Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders (underrated alarms should be going off) are the only teammates to finish inside the Top 10 for team red zone target percentage. After all, who else can the Broncos quarterback turn to? Thomas caught a much higher percentage of his red zone targets compared to 2015 and even increased his touchdown percentage. Think about how impressive it is to say Thomas’ worst season over the last five years was 90/1,083/5. Even if Thomas only repeated those numbers, he’s arguably the most consistent and safe WR2 in Fantasy Football. If the Broncos see a slight bump in quarterback play, Thomas can get back to his four-year average of 101/1,447/10, which would make Thomas a WR1 and another great value like Robinson.
Doug Baldwin, SEA – Before I break down Baldwin, you should sense the theme with the two previous receivers and Baldwin: lack of respect. Here’s where assumptions can cost you. Too many Fantasy Football owners don’t view Baldwin as a “real red zone threat.” How mistaken they are. While Baldwin doesn’t rank among the best in team’s red zone target percentage, he doesn’t need to thanks to his efficiency. Baldwin caught 73.3 percent of his targets (15), converting six for touchdowns. Step inside the 10-yard line, and Baldwin had seven targets, four catches and three touchdowns. Baldwin was pretty dang good in 2015 too with 15 targets, nine receptions and six touchdowns in the red zone. Despite Jimmy Graham surprising everyone in his return to football, he didn’t hurt Baldwin’s red zone potential at all. In fact, he heightened it according to the numbers. Baldwin was a Top 10 receiver in both standard and non-PPR each of the last two seasons and is on track to make it a three-peat.
Michael Thomas, NO – “Drew Brees spreads the ball around.” “Can Thomas handle No. 1 attention?” “Brandin Cooks’ departure will hurt.” So what? Yes. Wrong. Do people not realize how much of a beast Thomas is and that he’s the new and improved Marques Colston? Thomas saw “just” 17.8 percent of the Saints red zone targets, but he caught 13 of them for seven touchdowns (tied for third). Thomas also saw 11 targets inside the 10-yard line for seven receptions and six touchdowns. Going back to 2012, Marques Colston had 22.4 percent of the Saints red zone targets, catching 72.7 percent (16) for nine touchdowns and 9/5/5 inside the 10. In 2007 (Colston’s second season), he had 26/18/10 and 15/9/6. “But that was a different Saints team” and yada, yada, yada. Sure, it was a different team, and Drew Brees didn’t throw for 5,200 yards and 37 touchdowns in 2007 (4,428/28). Brees did hit those marks in 2012, but that mainly shows that Brees’ No. 1 receiver is going to get his whether Brees throws for a ton or just a decent amount. The main point is that Thomas is Brees’ No. 1 target, and it’s not close. He fits the slot-flanker role left by Colston, and that means plenty of red zone looks and scoring opportunities. Thomas is not only going to be a red zone beast again but also a Top 5 receiver, reaching a dozen touchdowns.