Efficiency Outliers 2020 – Three High and Low Efficiency Wide Receivers

by Corbin Young · Analytics & Advanced Metrics

Often we find efficient quarterbacks connect with efficient wide receivers, and there’s a positive outcome on both ends. So naturally, after identifying efficiency outliers at the QB position from last season, we’re pivoting to the WR position. We’re using Production Premium, Yards Per Target, and other advanced efficiency metrics to find the high and low-efficiency outliers among 2020’s wide receivers. We might find obvious names, but may also stumble upon less obvious ones. Can these wide receivers sustain their efficiency in 2021? Or should we expect regression? 

High-Efficiency Outliers

Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

Both of Tampa Bay’s star receivers ranked among the highest-efficiency outliers for the wide receiver position. It was mostly touchdown related for Mike Evans, while Chris Godwin‘s high efficiency was more on a per-target basis. Oh, and the Buccaneers added this quarterback you may have heard of – Tom Brady. This 43-year old quarterback only tossed 40 (No. 2 among qualified quarterbacks) Passing Touchdowns (good for a 6.6-percent Touchdown Rate) with 4,616 (No. 3) Passing Yards and 5,554 (No. 1) Air Yards. That’s uh, pretty good, right? 

fantasy-football-dynasty-league-rankings

Let’s first note the touchdown dependency for Evans, who scored 13 (No. 4 among qualified wide receivers) Touchdowns and had an 18.6-percent Touchdown Rate. For three seasons in a row (2017-2019), he notably totaled quite a bit of receiving yardage, but hadn’t reached double-digit touchdowns since 2016. Surprisingly, he totaled mediocre 2020 opportunity and productivity metrics with 109 (No. 24) Targets, an 18.0-percent (No. 51) Target Share, 1,324 (No. 16) Air Yards, and a 23.4-percent (No. 53) Air Yards Share.

Meanwhile, Evans logged 70 (No. 27) Receptions for 989 (No. 17) Receiving Yards. Given his lower receiving totals, Target Share, and Air Yards Share, it appears he will regress slightly in the touchdown scoring department. However, if those numbers tick up again in 2021, then adjust those expectations. The table below shows the differences in his season’s first half and second half that made some, including myself, want to sell-high in redraft leagues. 

efficiency outliers for 2020 wide receivers

Mike Evans 2020 Splits

We notice that his opportunities increased in the second half, and the production in terms of receiving yards did as well. However, the mediocre Target Share worries us a bit, even if the touchdowns keep the fantasy production afloat. He stood out in the efficiency metrics with a +20.9 (No. 13) Production Premium and 2.27 (No. 8) Fantasy Points Per Target. He also averaged 9.1 (No. 27) Yards Per Target, 12.2 (No. 34) yards of Average Target Distance, and 0.45 (No. 25) Fantasy Points Per Route Run

I expect Evans to fall closer to previous seasons where he surpasses 1,100 receiving yards with close to double-digit touchdowns. We’ll see what happens with Godwin since the Bucs recently used the franchise tag on him. Speaking of which:

Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

When glancing at Chris Godwin‘s opportunity and productivity metrics, it doesn’t look great. We’ll note that he only played in 12 games in 2020, so maybe these numbers tick up over a full season. He finished with 84 (No. 47) Targets and an 18.9-percent (No. 46) Target Share with 866 (No. 48) Air Yards and a 20.6-percent (No. 62) Air Yards Share. Given those weak opportunity metrics, it’s no surprise he ranks poorly with 65 (No. 32) Receptions, 840 (No. 34) Receiving Yards, and seven (No. 19) Total Touchdowns at a 10.8-percent Touchdown Rate. However, he averaged 15.9 (No. 15) Fantasy Points per Game, making him a high-end WR2 in PPR leagues. 

Even with those middling opportunity and productivity metrics, Godwin displayed great efficiency. He averaged 10.0 (No. 13) Yards Per Target with a +28.3 (No. 4) Production Premium and 2.27 (No. 8) Fantasy Points Per Target. This isn’t surprising given his talent and Tom Brady‘s efficient play. On the Dynasty Deluxe Rankings, Godwin ranks No. 53 overall in SuperFlex leagues. With the franchise tag, it sounds like the Bucs are working on a long-term deal, which solidifies him as a player to hold in dynasty leagues. 

Corey Davis, WR, New York Jets

After four seasons with the Titans, Corey Davis exploded in 2020 partly due to his high efficiency. Not surprising since we mentioned Ryan Tannehill as one of the efficiency outliers at the quarterback position. Davis earned 92 (No. 42) Targets and a 23.1-percent (No. 24) Target Share with 1,092 (No. 33) Air Yards and a 32.6-percent (No. 20) Air Yards Share. He out-produced a 2020 ADP that had him as a WR3; evidenced by his 13.7 (No. 32) Fantasy Points per Game average, 65 (No. 32) Receptions, and 984 (No. 18) Receiving Yards. 

In terms of efficiency, Davis logged a +24.3 (No. 7) Production Premium, with averages of 10.7 (No. 8) Yards Per Target, and 0.52 (No. 6) Fantasy Points Per Route Run. Interestingly, he displayed great per-target efficiency, yet scored five (No. 35) Total Touchdowns at a 7.7-percent Touchdown Rate

Most Efficient 2020 Wide Receivers

The landing spot for Davis was always going to be important in terms of projecting his future opportunity and efficiency. He recently landed a three-year, $37.5 million deal (with $27 million guaranteed) with the New York Jets. For as much as we at the Underworld love Denzel Mims, could Davis serve as New York’s WR1? Possibly, but his stock takes a slight hit given Sam Darnold at quarterback, though NFL Mock Drafts have the Jets taking a quarterback. It’s difficult to imagine a scenario where the Jets offense runs as efficiently as Tennessee’s. 

Low-Efficiency Outliers

A.J. Green, Arizona Cardinals

Up until recently, A.J. Green didn’t have a home as an unrestricted free agent. He recently signed a one-year deal with the Arizona Cardinals worth $8 million. At age 32, maybe the Cardinals signed him as a veteran presence. Yes, it’s a quarterback upgrade, but hard to see him replicating anything similar to past seasons. As mentioned in the QB recap, it’s no surprise Green struggled in 2020 given Joe Burrow‘s inefficient play. 

Least Efficient 2020 Wide Receivers

However, Green didn’t help or produce much either. He earned 104 (No. 32) Targets and an 18.4-percent (No. 49) Target Share with 1,376 (No. 12) Air Yards and a 29.6-percent (No. 32) Air Yards Share. Here’s where it gets gross. He had 47 (No. 61) Receptions and 523 (No. 66) Receiving Yards. Green averaged 5.0 (No. 107) Yards Per Target, 1.07 (No. 107) Fantasy Points Per Target, and recorded a -37.0 (No. 89) Production Premium. Hopefully, he didn’t tank your 2020 fantasy football season. Let’s keep this simple – avoid Green in 2021. 

Jerry Jeudy, Denver Broncos

In part two of the 2020 Rookie Wide Receiver Review, I noted that Jerry Jeudy finished with intriguing opportunity and efficiency metrics. This presents an opportunity to buy back into him if his 2021 redraft and dynasty ADP dips. Of course, Drew Lock lacked efficiency as well, which connected with Jeudy’s inefficiencies. If you play in a league that awards points for Air Yards, Jeudy and Marquise Brown would be locked in as top-tier options. Jeudy earned a decent amount of opportunities, but the brutal efficiency metrics stood out. 

After digesting Jeudy’s opportunity metrics a bit more, it indicates he could boom in 2021 if the efficiency improves. He only drew 113 (No. 21) Targets with a 21.2-percent (No. 31) Target Share, but here’s where it gets juicy; he had 1,536 (No. 6) Air Yards, a 31.5-percent (No. 25) Air Yards Share, and had a 13.6 (No. 18) Average Target Distance mark. Unfortunately, his efficiency metrics make us want to puke: a -16.5 (No. 82) Production Premium, 7.6 (No. 76) Yards Per Target and 1.38 (No. 102) Fantasy Points Per Target. It’s a big IF, but if Lock improves and we have a healthy Courtland Sutton, then that should help Jeudy in 2021. However, it’s difficult to imagine the opportunities increasing, so hopefully he’s more efficient. Attempt to buy low in dynasty leagues. 

Curtis Samuel, Washington Football Team

Curtis Samuel certainly earned the three-year, $34.5 million deal he received from Washington. After Robby Anderson dominated the first half of 2020 for the Panthers, Samuel and teammate D.J. Moore picked up the pace in the second half. The opportunity and production increased for Samuel in the season’s second half, where he finished with double-digit fantasy points in five out of the final six games with three top-20 performances.

Curtis Samuel 2020 Splits

We noticed a significant jump in production and opportunity for Samuel in the season’s second half. He recorded mixed results in the efficiency metrics, but he’s an exciting player with game-breaking speed. He averaged 8.7 (No. 42) Yards Per Target and finished with a -14.1 (No. 77) Production Premium. However, he ranked highly with averages of 0.49 (No. 19) Fantasy Points Per Route Run and 2.18 (No. 12) Fantasy Points Per Target. If his first-half opportunity and productivity metrics didn’t look so putrid, I imagine his other efficiency metrics wouldn’t rank so low. Samuel hasn’t ranked highly in the efficiency department partly due to the lack of targets outside of the past two seasons. Look for that to change as a member of the Washington Football Team.