Catch Rate or Targets: What’s on Your Mind When Drafting a WR?

From a fantasy perspective, there are two things that should come to mind when selecting a player: volume and potential for opportunity. Mediocre NFL players can have great fantasy seasons with opportunity and high volume. Particularly looking at WRs, a high number of targets allows a player greater opportunity to perform. The question remains, when does catch rate override volume? If a player receives 150 targets, but only catches 80 of them, is that volume beneficial? I am going to dive in and look at catch rate vs.target totals to determine which one is more indicative of future success.

According to FantasyPros, here at the top 10 WRs for target totals in 2016 (their catch rates are supplied by FootballOutsiders):

 

Player Targets Catch Rate
Odell Beckham Jr. 180 60%
Mike Evans 171 55%
Antonio Brown 163 69%
DeAndre Hopkins 160 52%
Julian Edelman 160 62%
Jordy Nelson 155 64%
T.Y. Hilton 155 59%
Michael Crabtree 152 61%
Larry Fitzgerald 151 72%
Allen Robinson 150 48%

 

Here are the top 10 WRs for catch rate in 2016, according to FootballOutsiders (targets supplied by FantasyPros):

 

Player Targets Catch Rate
Eddie Royal 43 77%
Michael Thomas 121 76%
Cole Beasley 98 76%
Doug Baldwin 137 75%
Danny Amendola 29 75%
Stefon Diggs 112 75%
Adam Thielen 92 75%
Cordarrelle Patterson 70 74%
Mohamed Sanu 81 74%
Tyreek Hill 83 73%

Only one of the top 10 target leaders had a catch percentage over 70% and that was Larry Fitzgerald. This is somewhat expected, as there is likely more pass interference calls and dropped passes with more targets. With these high target totals and below average catch rates, 5 of the 10 WRs in target totals finished within the top 10 at the position (according to FFtoday). Crabtree, Fitzgerald and Edelman finished within the top 20 and Robinson and Hopkins finished outside the top 30. Both Robinson and Hopkins had the two lowest catch rates of those top 10 WRs. That could also be attributed to poor QB play (Looking at you Blake Bortles and Brock Osweiler), as there was no other WR with 130 targets or more who finished outside the top 25. Given the high target totals, 80% of these receivers were able to capitalize on the high volume. The only receiver to finish within the top 25 and have less than 100 total targets was Tyreek Hill, as he accumulated 6 total TDs on the ground and on special teams.

Now, looking at the top 10 WRs in catch rate, only 2 players, Thomas and Baldwin, finished within the top 10 at WR (9th and 10threspectively, according to FFtoday). Hill finished within the top 15 while the remaining 7 players finished outside the top 25. Thielen was the closest with a 26th overall finish and Amendola with the lowest at 94th overall. The leader at catch rate, Royal, finished just ahead of Amendola at 93rd overall by .4 points. Only 3 of the catch rate leaders finished with over 110 total targets, as the rest failed to break 100.

After looking over the statistics, what is more indicative of future success?  Based off the numbers, target totals should be your focus compared to catch rate when debating between WRs. When comparing a few WRs at your current draft spot, look at the number of targets they have received in previous seasons. With great target totals comes great opportunity (and yes, I did just make a Spiderman reference). Although you’d want your WR to catch a high percentage of their intended passes, the more targets naturally lead to more fantasy points (1,658.7 for target leaders and 1,063 for catch rate leaders at a near 600 point difference).

 

Any comments or thoughts? Find me on Twitter: @TheRealSteveTFR