5 Fantasy Football Wide Receivers Who Will Lose The Most Targets In 2021
Targets and target share are the keys to unlocking fantasy greatness at the wide receiver position. That’s why it’s so important to look at team context heading into every new year of fantasy football. Teams that added new talent to their receiver room, hired a new play-caller with different offensive philosophies, and so much more can influence whether a player gains targets, loses them, or stays around the same level.
In looking at how each team has changed this past offseason, here are 5 notable receivers whose target numbers are bound to regress significantly in 2021.
5. Jarvis Landry – Cleveland Browns
Landry saw a career-low 101 targets in 2020, well below his previous low of 112 back in his rookie year. So, why isn’t there an expectation for him to rebound? Simply put – there’s more competition for targets in 2021.
“Juice” is a stellar receiver in the slot, as he’s received PFF grades in the 90th percentile against single-coverage in 2019 and 2020, but now the Browns’ pass catching core is simply too loaded to facilitate Landry surpassing the gold standard of 100 targets once again.
Odell Beckham Jr.’s return from a torn ACL will be the most prominent hit to Landry, but so will the rises of budding youngsters Rashard Higgins and Donovan Peoples-Jones. Each of the two gained prominent roles in the second half of the season and balled out, as they both averaged better than 16 yards per reception.
Combine that with the Browns now-loaded defense, meaning there simply won’t be as many passes for Baker Mayfield to sling, and Landry’s targets will decrease once again.
4. Tyler Boyd – Cincinnati Bengals
Tyler Boyd remains one of the league’s most underrated receivers because of his role in a small-market team, but 2021 might seem him stay under the radar once again. He amassed 110 targets in 2020, even with A.J. Green and Tee Higgins in the fold, but the Bengals’ new receiver room should prove a little more difficult to compete with.
Higgins had already developed an amazing rapport with QB Joe Burrow last season, and he figures to be Burrow’s No. 1 target for 2021. The team also, of course, drafted receiver Ja’Marr Chase with the 5th overall pick in the draft. Chase played with Burrow back in college at LSU, and their chemistry will demand a significant target share as well.
Boyd should still remain a strong flex play, but don’t expect him to put up the kind of volume that he did the past two seasons.
3. Chase Claypool – Pittsburgh Steelers
Claypool was a breakout stud last season with 109 targets across a full season in which he only started in 6 games, so there’s a case to be made that his upside is even higher this year as one of the most talented young wideouts in the NFL. However, there’s a stronger case to be made that his context within the Steelers will make it difficult to match his volume from 2020.
He will have to deal with a fully healthy Diontae Johnson and Juju Smith-Schuster, and, given that Pittsburgh will likely be running a lot of 12-personnel this year (1 RB, 2 TEs, 2 WRs), Claypool unfortunately figures to be the odd man out.
Combine that with the fact that Claypool is much more of a vertical threat than his fellow wide receivers, and Ben Roethlisberger’s arm ability is declining each year, and Chase’s outlook is murky. Look for somewhere within the 80-90 target range from him in 2021.
2. Amari Cooper – Dallas Cowboys
Amari Cooper has been a target monster ever since he entered the league, and that didn’t change in 2020, even with starting quarterback Dak Prescott’s catastrophic injury. Cooper amassed 130 targets across starts with Prescott, Ben DiNucci, and Andy Dalton, to the tune of his third consecutive 1,000+ receiving yard season.
However, with CeeDee Lamb’s outlook as Dallas’ true alpha in the receiving core, Cooper will simply not be able to sustain 130+ target numbers. His career high in targets is 132, and this figures to be the first season that he’s not the clear-cut WR1 in his team’s offense.
With Prescott and a healthy O-line back, Cooper should still be very productive, but don’t expect him to near his usual career target totals. Look for somewhere around ~110 targets.
1. Justin Jefferson/Adam Thielen – Minnesota Vikings
This isn’t to knock on Jefferson nor Thielen’s talents as football players, but the Vikings simply will not have as much passing volume to go around in 2021. The Vikings defense was bottom-6 in the NFL last year, which required them to have to sling the ball around on offense much more than they would’ve liked.
The Vikings are a run-first team at heart, and this year’s healthy and improved defense under Mike Zimmer will allow them to return to giving Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison the ball as much as they can.
Justin Jefferson is certainly talented enough to demand 125 targets like he did last year, but that’s simply not who the Vikings are. Thielen averaged 7.2 targets per game last season and 4.8 in 2019, and should be expected to land somewhere in between those totals in 2021.