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
With Steve E. Smith (pectoral) sidelined, Mario Manningham (16 targets) and tight end Kevin Boss (seven) made more noise for the New York Giants. With Smith out until at least early December, Manningham should be a pickup wherever he's still available. Boss could be a serviceable backup that would earn play in the right matchup.
Enough to consider sittin' Witten?
Don't pout, Chad Ochocinco: The Cincinnati Bengals targeted you 13 times in Week 10. They still care about you.
Randy Moss: decoy deluxe. Despite recording just one 26-yard reception on five looks in his Tennessee Titans debut, he seemingly helped the rest of Tennessee's aerial game. Receivers Nate Washington (a 3-26-1 day) and Justin Gage (3-18-0) each saw nine targets, while tight end Bo Scaife (7-51-0) saw seven. Washington is the best fantasy bet of those three to contribute the rest of the year. Moss is likely to offer No. 3 production, at best.
Hines Ward (concussion) left Week 10 early and opened up Pittsburgh Steelers targets. Wideout Mike Wallace was targeted 12 times, while tight end Heath Miller and wideouts Emmanuel Sanders (a dynasty league option) and Antwaan Randle El each received nine looks. Ward is expected to return in Week 11, making Sanders' and Randle El's gains obsolete. Miller, who has had to stay in to block more often given the Steelers' offensive line injuries, could benefit if Ward can't carry a full load, but it isn't enough to give him a big value boost.
Eight of Early Doucet's 10 looks came in the fourth quarter of the Arizona Cardinals' blowout loss to the Seattle Seahawks. While it's good to know Derek Anderson goes to Doucet in crunch time, the attention came against softer defensive tactics. Don't count on that under normal circumstances. Steve Breaston (10) remains the No. 2 option on Arizona's pecking order.
More bloated numbers: The Kansas City Chiefs' target list expanded last week to wideouts Chris Chambers (nine looks) and Terrance Copper (eight). It was merely because they were heaving the ball trying to come back from a huge, early deficit. Maybe Chambers sees increased value if tight end Tony Moeaki (concussion) has to miss time, but neither receiver should be on your fantasy radar.
The St. Louis Rams' Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson each received 10 looks, with Laurent Robinson seeing six. Danario Alexander has a slight chance to return this week, but consider Amendola and Gibson the two most fixed features in their passing game.
Brandon James, on the other hand, was the latest wideout to step into Indianapolis Colts targets among a battered group of receiving options. Blair White (shoulder) and Austin Collie (concussion) didn't play in Week 10, and James was looked at eight times. Keep an eye on the injuries to White and Collie and keep James close at hand if you need wideout help.
Demaryius Thomas saw five looks in Week 10, his highest single-game total since Week 2. Keep an eye on him; the Denver Broncos may incorporate him more as the season winds down.
Manningham-min' it up, more looks
Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten has just six looks and four catches for 51 yards in his last two games. This is odd, considering Jon Kitna's starting presence figured to have Witten more involved. But in the last two games, Dallas has faced the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants, two of the better pass-rushing units. Also, maybe defenses are starting to key on him. Either way, he can't be benched - nor can Kitna's favorite target, wideout Dez Bryant.
Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler each saw eight looks from Detroit Lions quarterback Shaun Hill. Pettigrew's fantasy stock remains high; Hill has loved him while under center. Scheffler saw similar attention, but wideout Nate Burleson's presence limits his potential. Scheffler is a matchup play if you're desperate in deep leagues.
Tight end Greg Olsen is quickly reasserting himself as the Chicago Bears' best red zone weapon. Of his 13 looks in the past two games, five came inside the 20.
After seeing eight looks in Week 10, Visanthe Shiancoe has 25 in the last four weeks for the Minnesota Vikings. Wideouts Bernard Berrian (groin) and wideout Sidney Rice (hip) are iffy for Week 11. Even if both play, though, Shiancoe has Brett Favre's trust and is a more secure weekly play here on out.
Rob Gronkowski caught three of his five targets Sunday night for touchdowns. The New England Patriots only targeted Aaron Hernandez twice. Gronk was in because New England ran ample three-wide sets. It's more evidence that these two are becoming riskier plays; the Pats are reminding fantasy owners of (taunting them with?) their ever-changing game plans.
Miami Dolphins quarterback Tyler Thigpen targeted Anthony Fasano on three of his six pass attempts after coming in for injured tossers Chad Pennington (shoulder) and Chad Henne (knee). Fasano was targeted seven times total and has at least five looks in each of his last four contests. Thigpen isn't incompetent, but it wouldn't be surprising if Fasano's looks at least remain at this level. Keep that in mind with all the tight end injuries and inconsistency.
Troy Smith likes throwing to Delanie Walker, whose six targets equaled Vernon Davis'. San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Mike Johnson was excited to have both tight ends available; they have plans to use both of them frequently, especially if Troy holds off Alex D. Smith in the QB race. Walker could be a matchup play in deep leagues, though he won't knock Davis' value down enough for you to bench VD. Davis had a long TD called back on a holding penalty last week. He isn't invisible.
Remember: Opportunity can lead to success. Find out which of these players we recommend adding in this week's Fantasy Football Waiver Wire.
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
During baseball and football season, he appears on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio on Thursdays and Sundays, and every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.
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