NFL

NFL Player Props: The 3 Best Bets to Lead the League in Receptions

We're inching closer and closer to the 2021 NFL season, and while we're still a few days away from kicking back and watching the games on Thursday, Sunday, and Mondays, we have plenty to tide us over.

Whether it's fantasy football drafts (for which we have a customizable draft kit and player projections), best-ball drafts on FanDuel or team futures bets at FanDuel Sportsbook, there's something for everyone.

And did I mention the props?

*Checks notes*

I have not.

FanDuel Sportsbook has a good number of player stats props posted, including the one I'm about to discuss: most regular season receptions.

Here are the listed players and their odds to lead the league in receptions, per FanDuel Sportsbook.

Player FanDuel
Sportsbook
Odds
Player FanDuel
Sportsbook
Odds
Stefon Diggs +420 DeAndre Hopkins +460
Travis Kelce +600 Davante Adams +750
Darren Waller +1700 Keenan Allen +1700
Tyreek Hill +1700 Calvin Ridley +2000
Cooper Kupp +2000 Allen Robinson +2300
Justin Jefferson +2300 Robert Woods +2300
Terry McLaurin +2600 Tyler Lockett +2600
A.J. Brown +3200 Amari Cooper +3200
Diontae Johnson +3800 CeeDee Lamb +4400
D.K. Metcalf +4400 Chris Godwin +5000
George Kittle +5000 Christian McCaffrey +5500
D.J. Moore +5500 Adam Thielen +6000
JuJu Smith-Schuster +6500 Julio Jones +6500
Tee Higgins +6500 Mike Evans +7500
Chase Claypool +8000 Ja'Marr Chase +8000
Odell Beckham Jr. +8000 Kenny Golladay +9000
Robby Anderson +9000 Tyler Boyd +9000


Which players make for the best bets?

To find out, I used numberFire's player projections as the baseline along with historical ranges of outcomes to see which players outperformed their odds most frequently across 10,000 season simulations.

Some Historical Precedent

Single-season reception leaders since 2000 (25 in total, including ties) have averaged 171 targets (10.7 per 16 games). (Reminder: the 2021 season is a 17-game season.)

And 23 of the 25 played all 16 games the year they led the league in catches.

Every one of the reception leaders had a target market share of at least 24.9% across the full season, and the average target share was 30.6% among the sample.

Basically, unsurprisingly, we need heavy target volume to lead to league-leading catch upside.

Since 2012, the average preseason projection in targets for eventual reception leaders was 166.5, according to numberFire's projections, and only one (Pierre Garcon in 2013) was projected for fewer than 160 targets (he was at 134.9).

So, we know the leaders will come from the most bankable volume, and that makes long shots tough to recommend here. Just getting that out of the way for why these picks are fairly chalky overall. It's just what history says will happen in 2021.

The Results

DeAndre Hopkins (+460)
Of the favorites, it's DeAndre Hopkins rating out with the best anticipated betting value across the simulations. Hopkins' +460 odds to lead the NFL in receptions suggests he needs to be 17.9% likely to do so in order for us to find break-even value.

numberFire's projection for Hopkins is 130.2 catches, most in the NFL. Starting with such a baseline only makes sense that he's going to be the most likely to lead the NFL in the 10,000 simulated seasons.

But how frequently he does it -- that's the real question.

Hopkins led (or tied) for the most catches in 18.5% of my season simulations, giving us a thin-but-positive expected value outcome.

Hopkins's past-season reception ranks have been 2nd, 3rd, 3rd, 6th, 24th, and 3rd. It's a pretty safe bet to bank on Nuk to rack up receptions.

Davante Adams (+750)
Davante Adams' projected reception output (121.1) ranks him fourth among all players (behind Hopkins [130.2], Stefon Diggs [129.6], and Travis Kelce [124.3]), and the next highest baseline projection is below 110 catches.

So there's a pretty clear tier drop after the top four, per numberFire.

While Adams rates out as a fair value at best with regards to the season simulations, the sheer high-end volume projection shouldn't be ignored based on what we know about prior reception leaders.

He's got the projected volume (176.8 targets), and maintaining a 25.0% target share won't be an issue.

Adams has surpassed that mark in four straight seasons and the 30.0% cutoff in his past three once adjusting for games played.

Calvin Ridley (+2000)
The baseline projection for Calvin Ridley is 106.6 receptions, so he's firmly part of the second tier of reception projections, but Ridley does have an easy path to checking the boxes we've seen from prior reception leaders.

Firstly, he's projected for 165.4 targets, which is 9.7 projected targets per 17 games, a high-end rate, and he actually averaged 10.3 targets in games without Julio Jones last season.

Ridley is also slated for 27.0% of the Atlanta Falcons' targets this season, based on numberFire's projection, a target share that is well within the range we've seen from past winners.