Opportunity in the NFL world can translate into success in the fantasy football world. This is where targets come into play. While a wide receiver may have caught only four passes in a given week, his target total might have been double or triple that. Those targets may not have translated into catches one week, but they may in the future.
The following players gained attention because of the number of targets they received this past week. Are these numbers a trend in the making or simply an aberration?
Fantasy Football on Target
Timmy had Lassie to bail him out of tough situations, and Peyton Manning has Austin to do the same. While I speak of two different types of Collies, Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Austin Collie is turning in dynamite performances. He saw the second most looks (16) of all receivers during Week 3; four times greater than he saw the previous week. Pierre Garcon (hamstring) and Anthony Gonzalez (ankle) being out helped lead to the increased looks; double-digit targets shouldn't be considered a given despite him doing it two of the last three weeks. In three weeks, Collie has been targeted 31 times - even more than star receiver Reggie Wayne (27). Collie's five red zone looks also best both Wayne and tight end Dallas Clark, who have three apiece.
It should go without saying, but Collie is a weekly must-start in your fantasy football leagues.
Where's the love?
There is reason to be concerned if you own New England Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker. In games he played in full last year, Welker was never targeted less than double-digit times. You have to go all the way back to Week 8 of 2008 to find when that happened. In the last two weeks, Welker has been targeted seven times in each game. He has 10 catches and a touchdown in that time, but his yards-per-catch average is down a little more than two yards less from what it has been the last four seasons. Three main issues here: 1) Rookie tight ends Aaron Hernandez (15 targets last two games) and Rob Gronkowski (five targets last two games) are stealing targets, 2) Welker probably isn't 100 percent healthy yet and 3) defenses are doing a better job taking him out of games while also wrapping him up quickly after the catch.
Owners of Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith have every right to show a lot of concern. He is the team's only legit receiving option, yet his targets have decreased each of the last two weeks. After seeing nine in Week 1, he bottomed out at five last week with rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen at the helm. We would like to tell you there is a silver lining here, but we haven't found it yet....
We talked about the Denver Broncos in this space last week, and the consistently inconsistent receiver targets continued in Week 3. Brandon Lloyd, who many cast aside after rookie Demaryius Thomas blew up in Week 2, was back in the fantasy-relevant seat for the second time in three weeks. Lloyd was targeted a season-high 10 times in Week 3, giving him 24 targets in three games. It was Jabar Gaffney, who was mostly ignored the first two games, who really stood out. His 14 targets in Week 3 were two more than he saw the first two weeks combined. Eddie Royal, the slot receiver, only had four receptions for 23 yards but was targeted nine times. Thomas, by the way, was still targeted six times, and FOUR of them came in the red zone, so don't discount him just yet. Maybe next week we'll be talking about the explosion
in targets Eric Decker or Matt Willis received in Week 4. This situation is going to be a weekly crap shoot; the Broncos are rotating receivers in and out quickly and quarterback Kyle Orton isn't picking favorites to throw to. That will be good for Orton's fantasy football production and extremely frustrating for fantasy owners trying to pick which receivers to own and/or play.
A week after not being targeted at all, New Orleans Saints wide receiver Lance Moore was thrown at seven times in Week 3, giving him 11 targets on the year. With running back Reggie Bush (broken leg) out, don't be surprised to see Moore continue to have a larger role. He can fill the receiving void created by Bush's absence with ease; consider him if you need a bye week fill in until Bush returns to the field.
Speaking of the Saints, Robert Meachem has been invisible through three games. He just isn't getting the looks - just seven so far. He saw just six looks in the first three games last year, too, so he may just be off to another slow start. Remember, he had a toe injury in training camp and that may be setting him back.
Quietly floating under the radar has been the play of Cleveland Browns wide receiver/wildcat/star returner Joshua Cribbs. On the year, he has been utilized 23 times, but his average of six utilized plays almost doubled in Week 3 (11). He was targeted eight times, and he is a threat at running the ball weekly, too - he has six carries for 32 yards rushing this year. In the last two weeks, he has eight receptions for 132 yards and one touchdown.
In back-to-back weeks, Oakland Raiders wideout Darrius Heyward-Bey has been targeted 13 times each game. That is a dominating 26 looks in two games. Unfortunately, DHB has only converted nine of those into receptions. Nonetheless, as we say: Opportunity can equal success. The second-year receiver is seeing the opportunities, now he just needs to capitalize on them.
For as much as New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin wants to be a running team, the Giants are - for better or worse - better suited to pass right now. Wide receiver Mario Manningham's targets have increased each of the last three weeks, topping out at nine last weekend. In the last three weeks, he has caught 14 balls for 238 yards and a score. Receivers Hakeem Nicks (24 targets) and Steve E. Smith (30) are not seeing that many more looks. With bye weeks upon us, Manningham cannot be ignored.
In Week 1, Atlanta Falcons receiver Roddy White was targeted 23 times. Since then, he has been targeted 20, with a low of seven coming in Week 3. Tight end Tony Gonzalez, in comparison, saw his targets shoot up to 10 in Week 3, and he responded with eight catches for 110 yards and a touchdown. With Michael Jenkins (shoulder) closer to returning and Gonzo blowing up, defenses will soon be hard-pressed to give the majority of their attention to White. Look for a rebound soon, but don't hold your breath for another 23-target game.
Better hands this year
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Roy Williams, who is on a bye this week, busted out a five-catch, 117-yard, two-touchdown Week 3 showing, and he did it with one less target than he received on average through the first two weeks. You can thank the Houston Texans' young secondary for it mostly, but reports have noted his hands are surer this year due to work he put in with a JUGS machine in the offseason. Last year he only caught 39 percent of throws that went his way; this year he is up to 60 percent. If he can keep it up, his value will rise quickly.
Minnesota Viking quarterback Brett Favre may finally be rebuilding his chemistry with wide receiver Percy Harvin. Harvin is slowly approaching double-digit looks again; being targeted five times in Week 1, seven in Week 2 and eight in Week 3. The Vikings have a Week 4 bye, so we'll have to wait a little longer to see how this continues to play out.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe had his best fantasy football showing of the year in Week 3, catching two balls for 61 yards and a touchdown (on a trick play, no less). It didn't come from additional chances. Bowe has been targeted five times in each game this year. He has seven receptions to show for it. Maybe the bye week will help him, too.
Baltimore Ravens wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh has yet to make an impact with his new team. He did little when he saw 12 looks combined in the first two games, but his one target in Week 3 speaks volumes. Unless something changes very quickly, a roster spot is more than he deserves on fantasy football teams right now.
Remember: Opportunity can lead to success. Find out which of these players we recommend adding in this week's Fantasy Football Waiver Wire.