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Fantasy Football: Evaluating high-end vacated targets and touches post-NFL free agency

When it comes to fantasy football, volume has always been king. We want the players who generate the most targets and touches — opportunities lead to fantasy points. But not all opportunities are created equal.

Last summer, I wrote about money opportunities — the most high-value touches and targets players can receive, including end-zone targets, deep targets (20 yards or more), air yards, carries inside the 10-yard line and carries inside the 5-yard line.

It's time to take a look across the NFL landscape to determine which teams have the most high-end vacated targets and touches after NFL free agency. We can use this information to identify teams that offer newly acquired free agents and incoming rookies with a bounty of high-value opportunities in 2021.

We can also use it to see which incumbent players will benefit the most from a teammate’s departure in the offense. 

END-ZONE TARGETS

Most end-zone targets | 2020 (includes postseason)
Player Team End-zone targets
Adam Thielen Vikings 25
Davante Adams Packers 25
Calvin Ridley Falcons 24
Rob Gronkowski Buccaneers 20
Mike Evans Buccaneers 20
Allen Robinson II Bears 18
Mark Andrews Ravens 17
Stefon Diggs Bills 17
Gabriel Davis Bills 17
Nelson Agholor Raiders 16
DeVante Parker Dolphins 16
Marvin Jones Jr. Lions 16
Travis Kelce Chiefs 16
Mike Williams Chargers 16
Tyler Lockett Seahawks 16
Michael Gallup Cowboys 15
Tyreek Hill Chiefs 15
D.K. Metcalf Seahawks 15
T.Y. Hilton Colts 14
A.J. Green Bengals 14

Bold denotes player changed teams in 2021.

percent of team end-zone targets | 2020 season (includes postseason)
Player Team End-zone target percentage
Adam Thielen Vikings 49%
Calvin Ridley Falcons 40%
Logan Thomas Football Team 39%
D.J. Moore Panthers 39%
Davante Adams Packers 39%
Mark Andrews Ravens 37%
Nelson Agholor Raiders 36%
Robby Anderson Panthers 36%
T.Y. Hilton Colts 35%
Allen Robinson II Bears 35%
DeVante Parker Dolphins 32%
Michael Gallup Cowboys 32%
Darius Slayton Giants 31%
Marvin Jones Jr. Lions 31%
A.J. Green Bengals 30%
Marquise Brown Ravens 30%
N'Keal Harry Patriots 29%
Jared Cook Saints 29%

The Detroit Lions have the most vacated end-zone targets in the league, and the New Orleans Saints have the highest percent of vacated end-zone targets. Both of these teams have massive holes to fill after the departures of Jared Cook, Emmanuel Sanders, Josh Hill, Austin Carr, Tommylee Lewis, Marvin Jones Jr., Kenny Golladay, Danny Amendola, Mohamed Sanu and Jesse James.

We often project ancillary receivers like Breshad Perriman or Tre’Quan Smith to take on some of these abandoned targets, but it's more likely that the alpha receiver in the room commands the lion’s share.

In the case of the lowly Lions, I fully expect tight end T.J. Hockenson to reap the benefits of all the end-zone targets up for grabs. He finished second on the team last season with 10 end-zone targets. At just 24 years old entering his third season, Hockenson could become a legitimate and reliable fantasy tight end.

I also anticipate that the Lions will draft a rookie WR who will also garner some of the team’s end-zone targets, so don’t go hog-wild drafting Perriman late in best ball drafts quite yet. 

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