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Week 16 fantasy football best waiver wire pickups, trade candidates and start or sit roster decisions based on PFF routes run

Bills receiver Gabriel Davis gains extra yards against Panthers Justin Burris. Davis caught five passes for 85 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-14 Buffalo Win.

Opportunity is king in fantasy football, and chasing target volume has always been a winning strategy — especially in PPR leagues. PFF premium stats offers proprietary data that goes well beyond the box score, including routes run for every player on the depth chart. 

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Targeting players who are running a high percentage of routes is a good strategy for identifying breakout candidates, DFS targets and the best waiver wire pickups. This weekly report will look at the previous week's rate of routes run per dropback compared to larger samples to find sleeper running backs, wide receivers and tight ends who are garnering more or less opportunities in the passing game heading into Week 16.

Last week's article highlighted the likes of Amon-Ra St. Brown, Gabriel Davis, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Devin Singletary as players whose receiving usage was likely to transform into fantasy production sooner than later. It also provided major red flags for Julio Jones, Zach Pascal, Robby Anderson, Marvin Jones Jr. and Courtland Sutton as players whose routes were not worth chasing. 

This data does not include the Monday Night Football or Tuesday night games featuring the Cleveland Browns, Las Vegas Raiders, Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Football Team, Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks

WIDE RECEIVERS

Rate of routes run per dropback | Week 15
Player Routes run % of routes run per dropback
Robby Anderson 48 100%
Diontae Johnson 32 100%
Brandon Aiyuk 25 100%
Ja'Marr Chase 31 100%
Amari Cooper 40 98%
Davante Adams 38 97%
Kenny Golladay 37 97%
Jamison Crowder 35 97%
DeVante Parker 31 97%
Tee Higgins 30 97%
Christian Kirk 53 96%
Rashod Bateman 50 96%
Laquon Treadwell 43 96%
Tim Patrick 40 95%
Michael Gallup 39 95%
Tyler Johnson 51 94%
Marquise Brown 49 94%
Jakobi Meyers 46 94%
Brandin Cooks 29 94%
Tyler Boyd 29 94%
Amon-Ra St. Brown 28 93%
Courtland Sutton 39 93%
Nick Westbrook-Ikhine 36 92%
Marvin Jones Jr. 41 91%
Stefon Diggs 38 90%
Gabriel Davis 38 90%
D.J. Moore 43 90%

Christian Kirk was my bet to see an uptick in routes with DeAndre Hopkins sidelined in Week 15. That turned out to be the exact case, as the Cardinals slot receiver ran the most routes with Kyler Murray under center, slightly edging out A.J. Green (85%). 

Kirk was also Murray’s favorite option, commanding 12 targets on the day. Trust him moving forward throughout the fantasy playoffs. 

Brandon Aiyuk was a mega-bust in Week 15, catching just one of two targets for 36 yards despite running a route on 100% of Jimmy Garroppolo’s dropbacks. I’d chalk up the poor performance to variance, as one of the 49ers’ top three playmakers is often left out of the fantasy scoring because of how run-heavy the team wants to be. 

Go straight back to Aiyuk versus the Tennessee Titans, who rank second in fantasy points per game to WRs this season. Jauan Jennings won’t command a 24% target share every week running fewer routes than Aiyuk. 

The same goes for Ja’Marr Chase, who did his best Casper impersonation this past Sunday. The rookie caught just one pass for four yards despite running a route on all of Joe Burrow’s dropbacks. The Denver Broncos CBs got the better of the Bengals’ WRs all day long.

I would not bet on that repeating in Week 16 with the Bengals taking on an extremely thin Ravens secondary. Baltimore ranks 29th in explosive pass-play rate allowed to WRs this season. 

Rashod Bateman ran the most routes for the Ravens in Week 15 but finished with just one target and one catch for 5 yards. He remains a boom-or-bust WR3, but the usage should be viewed as relatively positive. Sammy Watkins missed this game, and Devin Duvernay saw a reduced role, suggesting Bateman should continue playing a high snap share. 

Laquon Treadwell leads the Jacksonville Jaguars in targets (28, 19% target share) and receiving yards (280) over the last four weeks. He was my highest-ranked Jaguars WR entering Week 15 and finished with six catches on 10 targets for 57 receiving yards while running a route on a team-high 96% of Trevor Lawrence’s dropbacks. 

Stream the Jags’ newly established WR1 in a plus-matchup versus the Jets in Week 16. 

Related content for you: NFL Week 16 Fantasy Football Waiver Wire Targets: All league sizes & scoring types via Andrew Erickson

Nick Westbrook-Ikhine has been operating as the Titans’ No. 1 wide receiver over the last two weeks, leading the team in routes run and targets (10). Julio Jones looks to be headed back to IR after re-aggravating his hamstring injury, and it’s unknown whether the Titans will activate A.J. Brown off the short-term IR. 

Gabriel Davis is a high-value target machine who took full advantage of his uptick in playing time due to Emmanuel Sanders being out with a knee injury. He ran a route on a season-high 90% of Buffalo's dropbacks and caught five of seven targets for 85 yards and two touchdowns in Week 15.

It’s absolutely egregious that it took 15 weeks for the Bills to deploy Davis as a full-time player. He is firmly on the high-end fantasy WR3 radar ahead of a tough matchup versus the Patriots.

Tre’Quan Smith has been trending downward in terms of routes run in the Saints passing offense and seems to have been leap-frogged by preseason superstar Marquez Callaway on the depth chart. Callaway ran a route on 87% of Taysom Hill’s dropbacks and commanded a whopping 33% target share in Week 15. Smith ran a route on just 67% of dropbacks and saw just two targets.

Callaway is a sneaky waiver wire addition against the Miami Dolphins in Week 16. 

The same sentiment is true for Damiere Byrd if Allen Robinson misses another week. Byrd has emerged as the Bears' No. 2 receiver on the Bears in Robinson’s absence with back-to-back weeks of at least 8.0 fantasy points. He ran a route on 92% of Justin Fields’ dropbacks and commanded seven targets in Week 15. 

Donovan Peoples-Jones was the No. 1 receiver for the Browns in Week 15  and commanded a team-high 29% target share with Nick Mullens at quarterback. The second-year wideout caught four passes for 48 yards while running a route on 94% of Mullens’ dropbacks. That’s WR1 usage.

Rate of routes run per dropback | Last four weeks

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