NFL's most targeted WRs by situation: Raiders' Davante Adams, Dolphins' Tyreek Hill dominate in the red zone

2T9D8GY Miami Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill (10) reacts during the first quarter of an NFL football game against the New York Jets, Friday, Nov. 24, 2023, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

• No receiver commands targets like Tyreek Hill: PFF’s highest-graded receiver in 2023 is at home as the cornerstone of the Miami Dolphins offense after breaking the record for the PFF era's highest single-season target rate. 

Amon-Ra St. Brown established his importance to Detroit’s scheme: Metrics like this show why the Detroit Lions were willing to ink their star receiver to a massive extension, as the 24-year-old ranked in the top-10 of three facets on this list. 

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Estimated Reading Time: 9 minutes

With the passing game as prolific as it’s been in the game’s history, drawing targets is a measure of elite receiver play that’s often overlooked, but remains a key indicator of production.

To receive a sizable share of targets, a receiver has to earn the trust of his passer by hauling in receptions in the best and worst of circumstances.

These are the NFL’s most targeted receivers from the 2023 season in each major receiving facet.  

Note: 25% min routes run required per each category

All Routes: Tyreek Hill, Miami Dolphins

Name Routes Run Targets THREAT %
Tyreek Hill 471 167 35.46%
Davante Adams 582 171 29.38%
CeeDee Lamb 629 179 28.46%
Keenan Allen 527 145 27.51%
Amon-Ra St. Brown 577 158 27.38%
Jaylen Waddle 385 104 27.01%
Stefon Diggs 593 159 26.81%
Puka Nacua 574 153 26.66%
Justin Jefferson 369 98 26.56%
Michael Pittman Jr. 565 150 26.55%

(min. routes run: 168)

Tyreek Hill’s historic output

The prevailing theme of this list becomes apparent very quickly: Tyreek Hill commands targets like no other receiver in the game today.

While CeeDee Lamb led the NFL in targets (179) this past season, Hill stood as the only receiver to be targeted on more than 30% of his total routes run, eclipsing his peers by more than 6%. That’s a feat that Hill has accomplished each of the past two seasons and three times in his career, joining the company of target monsters Brandon Marshall and Andre Johnson, the only other receivers to record three such seasons since 2006.

To give this metric even more historical context, Hill’s 35.5% target rate in 2023 set the record for threat percentage in the PFF era, overtaking Wes Welker‘s 34.1% target rate following the 2009 campaign.

Davante Adams‘ consistency remains unmatched 

From Green Bay to Las Vegas, Davante Adams has provided a consistent presence in the passing game seldom seen with this longevity. In each of his last five seasons, Adams has surpassed a 27% season target rate, amounting to a combined 29.3% threat percentage over that span, the highest among active receivers.

The 29.4% target percentage Adams posted in 2023 came in large part to his phenomenal ability to win in the red zone and bail his quarterback out of pressure situations, both of which are facets he led the league in. 

Lined Up In The Slot: Tyreek Hill, Miami Dolphins

Name Routes Run Targets THREAT %
Tyreek Hill 172 64 37.21%
Ja'Marr Chase 145 49 33.79%
DJ Moore 127 36 28.35%
Chris Olave 212 60 28.30%
Garrett Wilson 208 58 27.88%
Amon-Ra St. Brown 322 89 27.64%
CeeDee Lamb 361 98 27.15%
Stefon Diggs 210 52 24.76%
Rashee Rice 196 48 24.49%
Drake London 127 30 23.62%

(min. routes run: 123)

Ja'Marr Chase showcases explosive after-the-catch ability

Along with the aforementioned Tyreek Hill, Ja’Marr Chase stands as one of just two receivers to eclipse a 30% target percentage lined up inside this past season. 

While he took just over 24% of his snaps from the slot, Chase was able to showcase his ability after the catch more consistently there, taking short targets a long way. Chase’s 4.7 ADOT from the slot ranked as the second-lowest in 2023, yet he managed to clock over 2.57 yards per route run, the third-highest rate at the position. 

Making their home in the slot

Of the 63 receivers that qualified for this list, just seven were targeted on over 25% of their routes from the slot. Of those, just CeeDee Lamb and Amon-Ra St. Brown did so with 300 or more snaps from the slot.

Lamb earned PFF’s highest receiving grade from the slot (90.2) this past season, producing league-leading marks in receptions (69), yards (907) and touchdowns (eight). The Dallas Cowboys star brings first-class explosion to the slot, where he secured 26 receptions of 15-or-more yards, 10 more than any other player at the position in 2023.

The Detroit Lions inked St. Brown to a massive deal in large part due to the trust they place on him to win in the slot against all odds. St. Brown embodies the Detroit attitude, bringing a physicality to the slot that you might not expect based on his build. He secured the most contested catches (8) when lined up inside last season.

Lined Up Outside: Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers

Name Routes Run Targets THREAT %
Keenan Allen 213 74 34.74%
Tyreek Hill 288 97 33.68%
Davante Adams 477 146 30.61%
Michael Pittman Jr. 409 124 30.32%
CeeDee Lamb 260 78 30.00%
A.J. Brown 439 131 29.84%
Jaxon Smith-Njigba 148 44 29.73%
Puka Nacua 404 118 29.21%
Stefon Diggs 375 102 27.20%
Justin Jefferson 261 71 27.20%

(min. routes run: 135)

Versatility nets opportunity

Although Keenan Allen spends the majority of his time inside putting slot corners in the blender, his understanding of coverages and routes allows his offense to get him the ball in creative ways through the use of pre-snap motion and bunched sets to flex him outside. 

The savvy vet posted a career-high overall threat percentage (27.5%), buoyed by his sizable usage from the outside. Allen wins with route-running and body control, two traits that seem to translate wherever he travels on the field, equating to a 71.6% completion rate when targeted outside, as well as hauling in 66.7% of his contested targets.

Winning on an island

True X-receivers who can win on the outside consistently are a rare breed, which adds even more intrigue for Michael Pittman Jr. and A.J. Brown, who do it at a high volume. 

Brown set league-leading marks in receiving yardage (1227) and first-down/touchdown conversions (59) from the outside. The Philadelphia Eagles star receiver – who I refuse to believe isn’t bigger than his listed measurements at 6-foot-1 and 226 pounds – used his incredible play strength to secure 12 contested catches and generate 16 forced missed tackles, both of which rank in the top five at the position this past season.

Similarly, Pittman wins due to his understanding of leverage against coverage and making the most of less favorable situations. The Indianapolis Colts standout receiver tied Brown for the league lead in receptions (90) but secured two more contested catches, for a total of 14, second-most among outside receivers.

Late Down: Tyreek Hill, Miami Dolphins

Name Routes Run Targets THREAT %
Tyreek Hill 160 51 31.88%
Diontae Johnson 134 38 28.36%
CeeDee Lamb 180 50 27.78%
Chris Olave 180 49 27.22%
A.J. Brown 148 40 27.03%
Nico Collins 152 41 26.97%
DJ Moore 197 52 26.40%
Puka Nacua 169 44 26.04%
Keenan Allen 163 42 25.77%
Davante Adams 181 46 25.41%

(min. routes run: 59)

Late down target percentage may be one of the most telling measures of how much offenses trust a receiver, by putting the ball in their hands with the drive on the line. 

“Pick your poison” in Chicago

The Keenan AllenD.J. Moore pairing in Chicago has to be causing sleepless nights for defensive coordinators around the NFC, and it stems from metrics like this. 

Both receivers were clearly crucial to their teams’ success in 2023, with each posting a 25%-plus target percentage, while also earning top-eight receiving grades at the position on third and fourth down. Adding Allen to the Chicago Bears’ lineup introduces a weapon who totaled 24 late-down conversions into the mix with Moore’s 30, a combination that should place them near the top of the league in conversion rate in 2024. 

Clutch in Year 1

Despite 2023 being Puka Nacua’s rookie campaign, he flashed poise and finesse well beyond his years, particularly on late downs, where he captured PFF’s ninth-highest receiving grade (83.6) at the position. The first-year receiver was fantastic after the catch with the drive on the line, amassing over 8.7 yards after the catch per reception, the fourth-highest at the position. 

Quarterback Under Pressure:  Davante Adams, Las Vegas Raiders

Name Routes Run Targets THREAT %
Davante Adams 183 46 25.14%
Justin Jefferson 134 31 23.13%
Zay Jones 83 18 21.69%
Michael Pittman Jr. 189 40 21.16%
Cooper Kupp 128 27 21.09%
Kendrick Bourne 77 16 20.78%
Christian Watson 102 20 19.61%
Jaylen Waddle 105 20 19.05%
DeAndre Hopkins 226 43 19.03%
A.J. Brown 226 43 19.03%

(min. routes run: 68)

Justin Jefferson is cool under pressure

Despite missing time due to a pair of injuries, the 24-year-old phenom showcased his ability to separate early in the routes, proving crucial in bailing his quarterback out of trouble.

Jefferson generated a position-leading 89.0 receiving grade on plays with pressure bearing down on the passer. While his extended absence hindered his counting stats, he led all qualifying receivers in perhaps the most important indicator of efficiency at the position, yards per route run, with over 2.43.

DeAndre Hopkins is as composed as ever

The mix of porous pass protection and an anxious young passer contributed to the Tennessee Titans facing pressure on over 42% of their dropbacks in 2023, the third-highest rate in the league.

Enter DeAndre Hopkins, who has been bailing out quarterbacks under pressure for over a decade. The 11-year veteran didn’t register a single dropped pass with pressure present while tallying over 43 targets, the most by a receiver with no drops.  

Red Zone: Davante Adams, Las Vegas Raiders

Name Routes Run Targets THREAT %
Davante Adams 81 30 37.04%
Tyreek Hill 70 25 35.71%
Calvin Ridley 75 25 33.33%
Diontae Johnson 31 10 32.26%
DeAndre Hopkins 54 17 31.48%
D.K. Metcalf 70 22 31.43%
Amon-Ra St. Brown 79 24 30.38%
Michael Pittman Jr. 67 20 29.85%
Nico Collins 54 16 29.63%
Cooper Kupp 61 18 29.51%

(min. routes run: 30)

Davante Adams is still getting it done in the red zone  

Adams has been perhaps the most dominant red zone receiver of the last decade, routinely producing target percentages that exceed 30%, and making good use of that volume with massive production. Over his career, he’s earned an outstanding 85.7 red zone receiving grade, the highest recorded in the PFF era. 

Of his 17 red zone receptions in 2023, Adams converted six of them for touchdowns, tying the second-most at the position.  

Size wins near the end zone

The Seattle Seahawks’ massive star, D.K. Metcalf, understandably presents matchup issues for defenses when the field gets condensed. The 6-foot-3 target uses his incredible length and athleticism to win in the red zone, often deploying double moves and quick routes to add hesitation to an already difficult coverage assignment. 

While Metcalf may have clocked just 10 red zone receptions, he recorded a first down/touchdown conversion on all but one of them. 


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