2023 Fantasy Football Regression Candidates - Deep Targets

May 15th 2023

Hayden Winks

I continue on with my 2023 fantasy football regression candidates after posting receiving TD and rushing TD columns. This model is pretty simple: compare each player's catch rate on passes traveling 15+ yards downfield. As you'll see, players regress to the NFL average overtime, meaning players can run hot or cold in one season but will crash or liftoff the following year.

In fantasy football, this is key because while deep targets are extremely volatile (see below), they're still extremely valuable targets (see even more below).

2022 Deep Targets

Justin Jefferson - The best WR in the NFL, Jettas ran a little hot on downfield targets last year, but he ran absolutely ice cold with TDs.

Tyreek Hill - He led the NFL with 33 deep catches in his first year without Patrick Mahomes. Turns out, Tyreek is good.

Davante Adams - He led the NFL with 59 deep targets, but Jimmy Garoppolo is 31st in deep targets over the last three seasons while Derek Carr is 3rd. Sadly, it's unlikely Adams sees as many deep targets in 2023.

Mark Andrews - Even though he and Lamar Jackson were injured for stints at a time, Andrews led all TEs with 23 deep targets, tying with Travis Kelce. He has elite potential.

D.J. Moore - He was 6th in deep targets (46), but Justin Fields was 19th among QBs with 73 attempts and 34 deep completions last year. It wouldn't be surprising if Moore doesn't finish top-12 in deep targets in Chicago.

Christian Kirk - It was a great season for Kirk, who caught 20-of-33 (61%) deep targets with Trevor Lawrence. Calvin Ridley's presence is an issue for Kirk's overall targets, but Kirk works the middle of the field where deep targets are caught at a higher clip.

Michael Pittman - Not only was his 23% catch rate disappointing, but Pittman also only saw 13 deep targets last year. That was a coaching and QB problem last year, and there's at least new options at both spots this year. Anthony Richardson does like to throw deep, but the overall pass attempts in Indy will be low. Expect a slight upgrade in deep production compared to last year's flop, even if you don't think AR can play.

Brandon Aiyuk - He had a 29% deep catch rate last year, despite being a good downfield player. There's room for regression here if the QB room can cooperate.

Diontae Johnson - Already one of the most insane positive regression candidates with TDs, DJ is also a massive deep-catch regression candidate (unless he's just really, really bad). He only caught 26% of these 15+ air yard targets, while the league average is in the mid-40s each year. Even though Kenny Pickett was far from perfect, these deep targets weren't his fault necessarily. Both George Pickens (54%) and Pat Freiermuth (50%) finished above expected last year.

Kyle Pitts - He was the TE3 overall in deep targets, yet was the TE29 in actual deep catches. 3-for-19 (16%). That's the worst rate at the position (min. 11 targets). Come on!!!! Can the Falcons trade for Ryan Tannehill already?

Michael Gallup - He wasn't fully healthy in his return, only catching 33% of these deep balls. Gallup also runs a larger chunk of his routes near the inefficient sideline, too.

Rashid Shaheed - This will explain all of those yards per route run studies... Shaheed caught 8-of-10 deep passes, finishing with a +39.0 completion percentage over expected on these deep passes (the best in the NFL). This is classic small sample noise. The counter, however, is Derek Carr loves to throw deep now. He's 3rd in deep attempts since 2020, so Shaheed should see more than 10 deep balls in 2023. He's fine as a late-round pick, especially in best ball.

Curtis Samuel - Ex-OC Scott Turner loved Samuel, and he's gone. Samuel also faces negative regression after catching 10-of-15 deep targets last year.

Marvin Jones - This isn't about Jones with all due respect. This is about Trevor Lawrence. Jones caught just 22% of his 27 deep targets, and he'll be replaced by Calvin Ridley, who I consider to be one of the best deep receivers in the NFL. This swap alone will make Lawrence noticeably more efficient in 2023.

Corey Davis - He's not a star, but Davis is somewhat underrated. He caught 52% of his deep targets and can block. I hope he lands as a starter outside of New York.