2021 Fantasy Football Targets & Touches Week 9

by Cale Clinton
2021 Fantasy Football Targets & Touches Week 9

Welcome to the Week 9 edition of 2021 Fantasy Football Targets & Touches.

We're officially past the halfway point of this NFL season. With the additional game on the 2021 NFL schedule, there technically is no true "midway point" for this season. We're through 9 of 18 weeks, which should technically operate as a halfway point, but a 17-game schedule is so difficult to divide into halves.

Teams have played either 8 or 9 games, straddling either end of that awkward 8.5 halfway mark for 17. Whatever. Adding an extra game was a dumb idea in my book, especially because they didn't add a second bye week to protect player health.

You didn't come here to listen to me gripe about schedule semantics. You came here for Targets & Touches. Let's get right into it, shall we?

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 9

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Running Backs

Ty  Johnson, New York Jets (16.5%)

Listen, when you get the chance to take a running back who splits carries on a team that ranks 27th in Rush EPA, you just HAVE to pounce on it.

All jokes aside, Ty Johnson has been putting up numbers. Since Week 7, Johnson clocks in at RB11 in Half-PPR leagues averaging 12.8 fantasy points per game. However, that figure looks great until you put some context to it. In those three games, Johnson has just 13 rushing attempts for 42 yards with his longest rush clocking in at a whopping 9 yards. He's also doing this behind an offensive line that ESPN ranks dead-last in the league in Run Block Win Rate.

Johnson's production comes almost exclusively through the passing game. Over the last three games, Johnson has 13 receptions on 16 targets for 176 yards and two touchdowns. His 11.3% target share is fourth-best on the team. Do you know who leads the Jets in target share over that same span? Michael Carter, the Jets' other running back. While it should be noted that the backs' snap share has shifted from a 70-30 split in favor of carter to a 58-42 split, Carter is still dominating Johnson in carries. Over this same stretch, Carter has been RB5 in Half-PPR leagues.

Is it a vast improvement to see two Jets running backs in the top 11 fantasy RBs over any stretch of time? Absolutely. Should you use a roster spot for a running back who has seen 39 total carries on the season? Only if you're desperate. Johnson's gotten consistent targets in the passing game, but he should only be considered viable in deep leagues.

Devonta Freeman, Baltimore Ravens (18.2%)

Ahh, Baltimore Ravens running backs. My favorite position group to write about on Targets & Touches. I led this year's inaugural column off with a glowing review for Ty'Son Williams, then almost immediately retracted that with a Latavius Murray write-up a few weeks later. Now, it's on to Devonta Freeman.

Freeman is the back du jour because of Murray's current injury status. Murray has been out with an ankle injury since Week 6 and still has yet to practice this week. In that time, Freeman has taken over has the lead back, commanding a 39.7% snap share in Week 7 and a 58.2% share in Week 9. Not only is he commanding snaps, but he's performing exceptionally when given the ball. Freeman has been a net positive in both games as a lead back, generating a 0.32 EPA/Play on the ground and a 0.19 EPA/Play through the air against the Minnesota Vikings. Even in the blowout against the Cincinnati Bengals, Freeman generated a 0.31 EPA/Play rushing and a 0.21 EPA/Play receiving. Going off Fantasy Points per Game (because of Baltimore's bye), Freeman's 13.4 FPPG would make him RB18 since Week 7.

The beauty of picking up Freeman? Even when Latavius Murray started, Freeman still averaged around a 30% snap share. There's seemingly no right answer at running back doe Baltimore, so why wouldn't they just ride the hot hand. If you're desperate for running backs and want to take a risk, go with Freeman.

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Wide Receivers

Tyler Johnson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1.0%)

Did you like watching Josh Allen and Josh Allen play against each other on Sunday? Then you'll love reading about Ty Johnson and Tyler Johnson!

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been the top passing offense in football. They lead the league in passing yards per game, passing play percentage, and pass attempts per game. The only problem? That passing attack is currently decimated. Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski remain out, and target leader Chris Godwin has officially joined them. He may be 8th on the team in total targets this year, but all of a sudden Tyler Johnson has become WR2 in Tampa.

The change isn't that unprecedented. His 6.4% target share on the season has slightly jumped to 6.6% over the Buccaneers' last two games. Johnson's snap share has also jumped in the last two weeks, moving from 16% in Week 6 to 67.1% in Week 7 and 63.9% in Week 8. Tampa Bay's stable of pass catchers is extremely deep this year, but Scotty Miller and Jaelon Darden have essentially been non-factors this year. Tyler Johnson, on the other hand, has seen a target in 7 of 8 games this year. Chris Godwin generates a lot of volume in this offense, drawing 23 targets in his last two games.

Rondale Moore, Arizona Cardinals (30.2%)

Look, I get it. A lot of people want a piece of this Arizona Cardinals offense. TeamRankings lists them 5th in the league in total yards per game, 9th in passing yards per game, and their 9.0 yards per pass attempt leads the league. That being said, not every Cardinals player is created equal. Take Rondale Moore, for example. His 15.1% target share is fourth-best on the team, and his 15.1% target share over the last three games is third-best. But when is he being targeted, you might ask?

Rondale Moore isn't seeing the benefits of that 9.0 yards per pass attempt. Instead, he's been relegated to the Cardinals' check-down option. Even last week, with DeAndre Hopkins and A.J. Green out and Chase Edmonds suffering an ankle injury mid-game, Moore put up 5 receptions on 5 targets for 25 yards. It's a shame because Moore kicked off his rookie year with a bang. In his first game in the NFL, he went 4-for-5 for 68 yards, then followed that up with 7 receptions on 8 targets for 114 yards and a touchdown. Those were the only two games this season where his yards per target exceeded 10. It's obvious that he's a talent, but when you're competing with Hopkins, Green, Christian Kirk, and Zach Ertz for targets, someone has to be the odd man out.

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Tight Ends

Pat Freiermuth, Pittsburgh Steelers (37.2%)

Pat Freiermuth is just a rookie, but he already is making a name for himself as yet another dominant tight end in a black-and-yellow uniform. We all know Ben Roethlisberger loves to throw to tight ends. While Freiermuth has taken a while to get going, Roethlisberger has begun to form the connection just as he did with Heath Miller, Vance McDonald, and Jesse James before him.

Freiermuth's target share on the season is just 11.2%, but over the last three games, his 20 targets are good for second-most on the team behind only Diontae Johnson. Since Week 6, Freiermuth has 16 receptions for 145 yards and 3 touchdowns. That adds up to 13.5 fantasy points per game in Half-PPR leagues. Only George Kittle has "averaged" more in that stretch, and he only played one game in that timespan. Freiermuth is TE4 dating back to Week 6, completely eliminating Eric Ebron from the passing game following their Week 7 bye. With Chase Claypool now dealing with a toe injury, Freiermuth is only going to see more love.

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