Vacated Targets and Who Benefits Most for Fantasy in 2020

by The “Mad Chatter” Ryan MK · Analytics & Advanced Metrics

Each NFL team undergoes change during the offseason; some teams more so than others. Information can be gleaned from almost every aspect of an NFL offseason, and roster changes reveal important data. While a player’s departure from a team is worth noting for several reasons, what the player leaves behind in targets is a key factor. These are known as Vacated Targets; the total number of targets accounted for by players no longer on a team.

The teams with the most vacated targets hold the most available opportunity. Those available targets must go somewhere, whether it’s current players or new additions. Deciphering where those targets will go is key. Therefore, a deep dive of the teams with the most vacated targets, with the aid of PlayerProfiler’s advanced stats and metrics, is needed.

Atlanta Falcons – 258 Vacated Targets (No. 1)

Sitting at the top of the list with 258 vacated targets are the Atlanta Falcons. Gone are Austin Hooper and Devonta Freeman. Mohamed Sanu was traded in the midst of last season. While the Falcons did add Todd Gurley and Hayden Hurst during the offseason, they neglected to address the wide receiver position in the draft. Gurley and his fellow backs are sure to make up for Freeman’s vacated targets, but questions remain.

Hurst is an above average talent at tight end, but the expectation he will plug in and replicate Hooper’s production is a dubious one. Make no mistake, Hooper is the better all-around talent. At wide receiver, Julio Jones will maintain a large volume of targets and Calvin Ridley will get a bump up. That doesn’t account for all vacated targets, however. The means for the Falcons to feature a third receiver, possibly at the slot position, are readily available in 2020.

Olamide Zaccheaus Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

Currently on the depth chart, Russell Gage fills in at the No. 3 spot. Despite high marks in Burst Score and Catch Radius, Gage’s other metrics fall below average; as does his college production. Olamide Zaccheaus is next on the depth chart and a name to monitor. The second year product from Virginia, and the school’s all-time leader in receptions, posted a 76.2-percent Catch Rate during his senior season. His above average workout metrics point to a potential sleeper candidate in all formats.

Dallas Cowboys – 190 Vacated Targets (No. 2)

Next up, the Dallas Cowboys with 190 vacated targets. Some may wonder, who exactly left all of these targets behind in Dallas? Randall Cobb and Jason Witten, both whom have found new homes, accounted for 83 targets each in 2019. During free agency, the team did not address the offensive skill positions; the answer comes from the draft and from within.

The Dallas offense oozes with talent, and yet that didn’t stop Jerry Jones and the Cowboys from drafting Ceedee Lamb. While some worry the landing spot hurts Lamb, the amount of vacated targets indicates that first year production isn’t out of the question. While Amari Cooper is the current No. 1, and Michael Gallup is a solid No. 2, Lamb’s talent supersedes both.

Blake Jarwin is another winner per the vacated target data. With long time Cowboy Jason Witten off to Las Vegas, Jarwin becomes the starter at tight end for Dallas. At 6-5 and 246-pounds, with above average workout metrics, he will receive a bulk of the vacated targets. In addition, running back Tony Pollard made waves in his first NFL season, and may steal away some of these available targets himself.

New York Jets – 183 Vacated Targets (No. 3)

The New York Jets have made an effort to build up the offense around quarterback Sam Darnold in 2020. Though Robby Anderson departed for Carolina, the Jets responded by adding Breshad Perriman in free agency and Denzel Mims in the draft. Perriman has elite speed evidenced by his upper-percentile marks in the 40-Yard Dash, Speed Score and Burst Score. He is a more than capable replacement for Anderson.

Breshad Perriman Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

As for Mims, the Baylor product should become an instant favorite of Darnold’s, and a true target hog. With upper-percentile marks across all workout metrics, and a 42.3-percent (85th-percentile among qualified wide receivers) College Dominator Rating, this rookie receiver best compares to Chris Godwin. He is the prototypical X-receiver that every young gunslinger In the NFL should have. Expect Mims to consume a fair chunk of the bailable targets.

Denzel Mims Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

Additionally, the team addressed the offensive line, a weak spot in 2019, heavily during free agency. Mekhi Becton, a standout tackle at Louisville, was drafted in the first round. The upgrade at the offensive line is a boon for Darnold and rest of the offense. There are multiple reasons to believe this will be a better all-around offense in 2020.

Houston Texans – 167 Vacated Targets (No. 4)

Among the offseason’s most notable moves was the Houston Texans sending DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona. Given the last two teams on this list, the transaction leaves plenty to discuss. The Texans totaled 167 vacated targets; Hopkins accounts for 150 alone. There is no longer a receiver of his mold in Houston, so what does this mean for the available targets?

During the offseason, the Texans added the aforementioned Randall Cobb and Brandin Cooks to the core of Will Fuller, Kenny Stills and Keke Coutee. While there are now multiple options for quarterback Deshaun Watson to choose from, which isn’t a bad thing for the QB himself, this presents a messy situation for fantasy. The most obvious place to look may be the correct one.

Fuller is the true, lone incumbent of this Houston reveling crew, and has established rapport with Watson. His health is a constant question mark, but when healthy there is no question what he is capable of. In 2019, the wideout carried an astounding 84.5-percent (No. 28) True Catch Rate through his 11 games played. If there is to be a sole beneficiary of the available targets, Fuller is the best bet.

Arizona Cardinals – 156 Vacated Targets (No. 5)

The team that benefited most from Houston’s divorce from DeAndre Hopkins was the Arizona Cardinals. With 156 vacated targets, one might assume that the new addition might hog all of those for himself. Not so fast. While Hopkins is sure to demand his share of targets, his current ADP is in the second round as the fourth wide receiver being taken. There is reason to believe he won’t reach expectations.

The team still employs the legendary veteran that is Larry Fitzgerald, as well as third year stud Christian Kirk. Both players were targeted over 100 times last year. Not to mention, the Cardinals ran the league’s third-most 3 and 4 wide receiver sets. In addition, the running back position is highly used as a receiving option in the offense; the backs were also targeted over 100 times in 2019.

Check out DeAndre Hopkins’ 2020 Projection on PlayerProfiler’s “World Famous” Draft Kit:

Under first year coach Kliff Kingsbury, Arizona had the second-highest pace of play last season, averaging 2.39 plays per minute. In this high-volume offense, quarterback Kyler Murray will look to spread the ball around. While there is enough targets available for Hopkins to shine, the probability he produces as he did in Houston are low. The main takeaway from this is Hopkins is a fade at his current ADP.