2021 Fantasy Football Targets & Touches Week 15

by Cale Clinton
2021 Fantasy Football Targets & Touches Week 15

Welcome to the Week 15 edition of our 2021 Fantasy Football Targets & Touches article.

Ahh, the holidays. I'll spare you my ham-fisted rendition of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, and I'll skip the analogies about giving you picks in the form of gifts under the tree or treats in stockings. Let's get down to business. We are in the thick of fantasy playoffs at the moment. We don't have time to dilly dally with holiday pleasantries.

I don't mean to be Scrooge on Christmas Eve of all days, but let's face it. There are realistically two weeks left in your season if your league organizer is a smart and sane human being. With games on Christmas Day, fantasy owners need to be on their toes. If you're looking for a quick fix to save your season, your options probably look like the mall shelves if you waited too long to shop. You're left with the things either nobody noticed or everyone passed over. Luckily, Targets & Touches is here to help. They may not be the prettiest names out there, but these are some of the best options available in a time like this.

As always, let's state our sources up top. All metrics on run/pass frequency, yards/game or attempt, or attempts per game come from Team Rankings. All snap counts and target shares come from Fantasy Data. Any Fantasy rankings, ownership percentages, or target numbers come from FantasyPros in a Half-PPR scoring format. All references to EPA/play can be found on Ben Baldwin's Box Score plug-in on RBSDM. Anything else in the article will be directly linked to.

2021 Fantasy Football Targets & Touches Week 15

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Running Backs

Devontae Booker, New York Giants (24.2%)

At this point in the season, there aren't many new running backs emerging on the top-performing end of the fantasy football spectrum. Names will pop up here and there, sure. Some backs, like Miami's Duke Johnson Jr., get one-game pops. Others, like Detroit's Craig Reynolds, have formed small track records but are a little too rich for my blood.

Like it or not, unless you are willing to roll the dice on some big question marks, most of the best options are already owned. Of the current top 25 scoring running backs (Half-PPR) over the last three weeks, 24 are owned in more than 50% of leagues. The one outlier? New York Giants running back Devontae Booker. Now with a back like Saquon Barkley on the roster, it seems like a surprise that Booker would be finishing so highly. Look closer, you'll see the gap between Barkley and Booker has closed in recent weeks.

PlayerWeek 11Week 12Week 13Week 14Week 15
Saquon Barkley36 (62.1%)52 (86.7%)49 (75.4%)38 (55.1%)37 (58.7%)
Devontae Booker21 (36.2%)23 (35.4%)23 (35.4%)28 (40.6%)28 (44.4%)

Over the course of this season, Booker has crept up from single-digit snap counts to a 55-40 split in snap count. He's making moves with those snaps too. Here's a comparison between Barkley and Booker's stats between Weeks 13 and 15:

Saquon Barkley
  • Rushing: 42 attempts, 169 yards (4.0 avg.), 0 TDs
  • Receiving: 20 targets, 13 receptions, 74 yards (5.7 avg.), 1 TD
Devontae Booker
  • Rushing: 22 attempts, 166 yards (7.5 avg.), 0 TDs;
  • Receiving: 11 targets, 10 receptions, 54 yards (5.4 avg.), 0 TD

At this point, Booker has absolutely out-performed Barkley on the ground and has looked comparable to him catching the ball. The only major scoring disparity comes from number of targets and touchdowns. While targets won't change drastically, his high catch rate will earn him more opportunities. Plus at some point, touchdowns come down to a bit of luck, anyway. It's only a matter of time before Booker finds paydirt again.

At this time of year, when the running back market is mostly risks and gambles, take the bet with the most thorough background and best odds.

Wide Receivers

Joshua Palmer, Los Angeles Chargers (1.5%)

The Los Angeles Chargers are one of the several teams currently battling it out with COVID-19. At the moment, but running back Austin Ekeler and Jalen Guyton are expected to miss Sunday's action against the Houston Texans. With Donald Parham Jr. out with a concussion, the team with the seventh-highest passing percentage in football is now playing with just their top players (Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and Jared Cook). The Chargers also desperately need a win against the Houston Texans in Week 16 as they battle for a wild card spot in the AFC playoff picture.

Enter rookie receiver Josh Palmer. Palmer has an 8.8% target rate in his last three games, tying him with Guyton. Palmer has also had a recent history of high-volume performances in times of crisis. Without Keenan Allen in Week 14 against the Giants, Palmer led the team with 7 targets, catching 5 of them for 66 yards and a score. In a pinch, Palmer has high boom potential and should be picked up if you're looking for a last-ditch gambit in your fantasy playoffs.

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Josh Reynolds, Detroit Lions (6.6%)

Hey, remember last week when I said I wouldn't touch any Lions players? I lied! From Weeks 13 through 15, Amon-Ra St. Brown is WR3 in Half-Point PPR leagues. He's only rostered in 28.8% of leagues despite getting a 34.7% target share over the last three weeks. I won't double down on him in back-to-back weeks, so if you'd like to read my write-up on him from last week's Targets & Touches, check it out here!

I'm officially doubling down on my Detroit Lions receiver hype. Are the Lions a particularly talented team? No. But man, are they fiesty. Half of Detroit's games this year have come by one score, and Dan Campbell is one of the most analytically aggressive coaches in football and has his team motivated to win. If you want to bet on the Lions this week, but feel bearish on St. Brown, go with Josh Reynolds.

Reynolds was acquired by the team in Week 11 and has averaged 5.2 targets per game since, the second-highest rate on the team. His 17.8% target share over the last three weeks is second only to Amon-Ra St. Brown. The only difference in their targets? Per NFL Next Gen Stats, Josh Reynolds averaged an average targeted air yards of 9.8, while St. Brown saw just 6.5. Reynolds turned that into 6 receptions on 6 targets for 68 yards and a touchdown. Goff could send more love Reynolds' way this week as the Lions continue to try and build positive momentum for 2022.

Tight Ends

Cole Kmet, Chicago Bears (24.4%)

The Chicago Bears are a bit of a disaster across the board at the moment. Nobody said fantasy football was pretty, though. It just has to get results. Cole Kmet gets results. Over the last three weeks, Kmet is second on the team in targets, receiving more targets than all wide receivers and other tight ends on the Bears roster. Kmet's 19.0% target rate on the season is also fifth among all qualifying tight ends. Since consistently overtaking Jimmy Graham in targets, Kmet ranks TE12 in Half-PPR leagues.

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