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Target Decoder

Target Decoder Week 15: Gerald Everett Revenge Szn

by Denny Carter
Updated On: December 17, 2021, 2:06 am ET

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It’s the coldest comfort to roster a receiver or tight end or running back who sees a glut of targets and fails to convert them into fantasy production.

Everything aligned for the player: He ran a bunch of pass routes, he saw a good number of looks from his quarterback -- maybe even a high-value target or two. It didn’t end with fantasy points on the scoreboard so it was, you believe, a failure. 

“Process” can sound like the official excuse of the loser -- a word you blurt out when things go sideways. “The process was right,” the loser says, “and the results didn’t follow.” Whatever you think of a process for spotting worthy borderline fantasy options, it remains vitally important. Figuring out how to identify streaming plays or desperation options in fantasy football is the first step to benefiting from unforeseen production from said players. 

In this space, we’ll examine the intriguing cross-section of defenses most vulnerable to certain positions and how pass catchers are being used in their respective offenses. Mostly we’ll focus on tight ends and running backs whose weekly prospects might look slightly less hideous with some much-needed context.

With every passing week, our understanding of defensive shortcomings and pass catchers’ roles will improve, and with that, players highlighted in this space will be more viable in 12 and 14-team fantasy leagues.

Reasons Not To Panic 

In my never-ending effort to keep this column actionable, I thought I’d highlight pass catchers going against pass-funnel defenses and what that might mean for their Week 15 fantasy prospects. I can’t confirm or deny that this idea came to me at three in the morning after my dog woke me up, barking at what seemed to be a rabid fox. But I think it’ll be helpful for fantasy managers entering the playoffs. 

Packers pass catchers vs. Ravens 
Baltimore is the league’s foremost pass-funnel defense; 75.6 percent of the yardage gained against the Ravens have come through the air this season. A zoomed-in view doesn’t change things much: Baltimore opponents have gained 74.23 percent of their yards via the pass over the past four weeks.  

The Ravens allow the tenth highest expected points added (EPA) per drop back. A mind-numbing rash of secondary injuries has made the Ravens even more irresistible to opposing passing attacks. In Week 15, Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay’s pass catchers should have their way with Baltimore. The Packers, sporting a 24-point total, are 4.5-point favorites against what’s likely to be a Lamar Jackson-less Baltimore. 

The favorable conditions are a boon for Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Allen Lazard, both of whom should continue to benefit from Randall Cobb’s absence. Lazard commanded 20 percent of the team’s targets last week against the Bears and went for 75 yards and a touchdown; MVS, meanwhile, had three receptions for 20 yards on five targets. Lazard was targeted on 24.1 percent of his routes against the Bears while MVS saw a 14.2 percent target per route run rate. 

It goes without saying that Davante Adams has history-altering upside against the Ravens’ banged-up coverage unit. Lazard could have sneaky high-end WR3 appeal against the pass-funnel Ravens, and MVS profiles as a worthwhile -- if volatile -- WR2/3 option against Baltimore. 

Broncos pass catchers vs. Bengals
Cincinnati was neither a pass nor a run funnel for much of the season. A month and a half of teams attacking the Bengals through the air has turned them into the league’s fourth most extreme pass-funnel defense. The trend is even more pronounced over the past four weeks: 77.7 percent of the yards gained against the Bengals have been via the pass -- the highest rate in the NFL over the span. 

I understand there’s little appeal in the Denver passing game. The team’s 57 percent pass rate is the 11th lowest on the season; when Denver leads, their pass rate drops to a prehistoric 44 percent. The Broncos are a high-T team with two capable running backs and a game manager QB. But you knew that. 

Jerry Jeudy, since his Week 8 return from an opening day ankle injury, leads the team with a humble 21 percent target share. Courtland Sutton is no longer fantasy relevant. Noah Fant isn’t either, as Albert Okwuegbunam has probably become the Broncos’ No. 1 tight end. It’s all gross and unseemly. 

Against the Bengals, however, the Broncos could be forced out of their run-heavy comfort zone. The run-obsessed 49ers last week passed on 67 percent of their offensive plays against the Bengals, a full 14 percent higher than their season-long pass rate. The week prior, the Chargers were even more pass heavy than usual against Cincy. It’s happening for a reason: The Bengals have stiffened against the run. Only four teams have allowed a lower rushing success rate since Week 8. On the season, only New Orleans has given up a lower success rate than the Bengals against the rush. 

Juedy’s outlook might be a little less bleak going against such an extreme pass funnel. After all, he’s leading the Broncos by a wide margin in expected receiving fantasy points over the past month and a half. You can’t possibly trust Sutton and his nightmarish 11 percent target share over the team’s past six games. 

Seahawks pass catchers vs. Rams
The Rams have morphed into a full-blown pass-funnel defense now that the team’s offense is clicking, creating the game script necessary for said shift. Over the past four weeks, 75.46 percent of yards gained against LA have come via the pass, the league’s second highest rate. The Rams are the NFL’s eighth most extreme pass funnel on the year. 

The horned ones are seven-point home favorites against the Hawks this week. Last week provided a good example of how the Rams force teams into pass-heavy scripts, as the Cardinals -- who have a 53 percent pass rate on the season -- dropped back to pass on 72 percent of their offensive snaps. 

A spike in pass attempts this week would obviously benefit Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf, who have combined for 52 percent of Seattle’s targets in 2021. One need only look back to Week 5, when these teams faced off and Metcalf and Lockett had 15 total targets. Metcalf came up with the far bigger outing, gaining 98 yards and scoring twice. He’s in an excellent spot this week. 

Week 15 Targets: Decoded

Gerald Everett (SEA) at LAR
What we have here is a classic multi-layered Revenge Game. Not only is Gerald Everett taking on his old mates in LA -- Seattle offensive coordinator Shane Waldron is returning to his former team amid the Seabags’ furious postseason push. This is analytics, whether you like it or not. 

If you’re a numbers grinder like me, you might look at last week’s Seattle tight end production and say, wait a dang minute, NBC Sports Edge’s Denny Carter, Will Dissly had more targets and more yards than Everett last week against Houston. And you would be right. Everett, however, ran a route on 66.6 percent of Russell Wilson’s Week 14 drop backs. Dissly logged a 43.3 percent route rate. Since Week 11, Everett’s route rate stands at a decent 68.9 percent while Dissly’s is 31.9 percent.

We know who the Seahawks’ primary pass-catching tight end is and it’s not Dissly. Since Russell Wilson's return from injury, Everett is a close third in expected fantasy points among Seattle pass catchers, just 1.4 points behind Tyler Lockett. Lockett, of course, is nearly 30 points over his expected fantasy output over that stretch; Everett is six points under his expected fantasy points thanks to his catastrophic Week 12 outing against San Francisco. 

The Rams this season haven’t been quite as generous to tight ends as they were for most of 2020. They’re still a decent opportunity-based matchup, allowing a 21.6 percent targets share to tight ends, which works out to 7.77 targets per game. LA hasn’t been terribly tough against the pass this year, evidenced by their middling expected points added per drop back. 

In a likely pass-heavy game environment -- the Hawks are seven-point road dogs -- Everett’s routes and targets could be inflated against his former team. Seattle’s 58 percent neutral pass rate jumps to 64 percent when trailing. From Pete Carroll -- the king of run establishers -- we’ll take it. 

UPDATE: Tyler Lockett -- and his 26 percent target share -- was placed on the COVID-19 list Thursday. Probably Metcalf will be the primary beneficiary, though Lockett's absence should funnel a couple more targets Everett's way. No Lockett would make Freddie Swaim the team's WR2 against the Rams. 

Josiah Deguara (GB) at BAL
Yes, we’re back to that Packers-Ravens game. A long story much shorter for Deguara’s Week 15 outlook: He’s emerged as the primary route-running and pass-catching tight end in Green Bay’s post-Tonyan offense and he plays a Baltimore defense allowing the second highest tight end target share (25.8 percent). 

Deguara ran 25 pass routes to Marcedes Lewis' 13 routes against the Bears in Week 14. Forget for a moment that Lewis caught one more pass than Deguara and focus on the latter’s usage in the Green Bay passing offense.  He’s run a route on 63 percent of Aaron Rodgers’ drop backs over the past few weeks, far higher than Lewis’ route rate. 

The team clearly sees Deguara as an asset in the passing game. He’s run 55 percent of his pass routes from the slot over the team’s past three games. That’s slightly higher than Lewis’ zero percent slot rate. 

You could certainly do worse than playing Deguara against a Baltimore defense allowing the fifth most tight end catches on 8.93 tight end targets per game.