Opportunity in the NFL can translate to success in fantasy football. While a wide receiver or tight end may have caught a few passes in a given week, his target total might have been double or triple that. Those looks may not have turned into receptions one week but might in the future.
Whose involvement is worth watching? Are these target numbers a trend in the making or an aberration?
Whether it's A.J. Feeley or Sam Bradford (ankle) under center, Brandon Lloyd is the undisputed No. 1 target for the St. Louis Rams. They wasted no time throwing back into a familiar system. You shouldn't even if Feeley has to go again. Whenever Bradford can return, Lloyd can see more catches come from his workload.
Top Week 7 wide receivers
- Marshall saw a ton of Champ Bailey's jersey in Week 7, so Bess did what he typically does in such situations: become a crutch for his QB. Matt Moore (rib), however, needs attention of his own and might have to yield to recent Miami Dolphins acquisition J.P. Losman. Though that could mean more of Bess, Marshall is still the only safe Dolphins wideout play; any 'Phins slinger is required to feed No. 15 on a weekly basis. Obviously, desperate PPR owners could do worse than Bess if they're scraping; his catches should pile up against a friendly New York Giants secondary this week.
- Even as the Baltimore Ravens work out their Joe Flacco passing kinks, expect Boldin to have Marshall-like involvement within the scope of this offense. That alone is worth clicking him into your lineup each week.
- With at least nine looks in each of his last three games, Heyward-Bey is settling in as the Oakland Raiders' true No. 1 wideout, regardless of who's targeting him. He sits second among NFL wideouts in targets over the last three weeks.
- Who's No. 1? The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Williams with 33 to DHB's 32. Williams remains more likely to pay off on his attention in PPR leagues.
- Even with MWTB's acceptable effort, Briscoe reminded us how risky Arrelious Benn and Tampa's hierarchy behind Williams and Kellen Winslow can be. Briscoe flashed his tantalizing physical ability throughout the day while Benn was an offensive spectator. He knows every wideout position, which puts him in the lead for non-Williams WR upside. He isn't a must-add yet, but deep leaguers wouldn't be rash in trying to catch the train early. The Bucs won't throw upwards of 51 times when LeGarrette Blount (knee) returns and their games are closer.
- Tim Tebow wasted little time on his mission to find a go-to Denver Broncos target. Though his 3-27-1 line didn't maximize his opportunities, Thomas looks to be moving toward the top of this receiving depth chart. His score came on a diving snare during a broken play inside the 5; such red zone trust will go a long way as the sophomore QB looks to streamline his skills. Eric Decker (three looks) is still worth owning, especially in PPRs, but continues his fall from bankability.
Top Week 7 tight ends
- Winslow benefited from a porous Chicago Bears secondary that has been torched all season by tight ends; it didn't hurt that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were in comeback mode. He's still a borderline starting option in PPR leagues but shouldn't be expected to yield this production every week.
- Chris Cooley (finger, knee) is on Injured Reserve, and Santana Moss (hand) will miss at least five weeks. These dings further solidify Fred Davis as the Washington Redskins' top catcher and a top-10 fantasy tight end with top-five upside.
- Christian Ponder improves Shiancoe's value; the Minnesota Vikings have an aerial game again. Shiancoe has earned at least six targets in his last four games and has logged at least four catches in three of them; he's still a red zone threat, too. Flex-hungry folk take notice.
- There's the Gates we know and love. The San Diego Chargers' TE is a must-start as long as he's healthy.
- Jeff King is chiefly a blocker, and Todd Heap (hamstring) ... who knows how long he'll be out. Housler (14 targets in his last two games) has some offensive promise and could have more weeks of this involvement level in his future. Keep an eye on the Arizona Cardinals rookie in leagues that favor holding a bench TE.
DC budget cuts
The aforementioned injuries to Cooley and Moss have left the Washington Redskins short-handed. Besides Davis, Jabar Gaffney and Terrence Austin will benefit. Gaffney has been looked to 18 times in the last two games. PPR owners will see more returns from him than non-PPRs would.
New top WAS WR
Meanwhile, Anthony Armstrong and Niles Paul will share reps, but Austin garnered six looks this past Sunday and has a connection with QB John Beck going back to the preseason. If you have to pick one from this trio, side with Austin.
Hines bottle empty?
The Pittsburgh Steelers are taking it slow in projecting Hines Ward's (ankle) Week 8 availability. Antonio Brown, the better PPR play, shined in the target column with nine in Ward's injury-shortened Week 7; it was Brown's fourth game of the year with at least eight. He's less risky of a play if Ward doesn't suit up. Emmanuel Sanders (seven last week) can also be a more competent desperation play; he has a decent nose in the red zone.
Brown and Sanders have typically been locked into cannibalizing fantasy torture, but any Ward absence would promote cooperation ... maybe even a little "Kumbaya" for catches.
Not a tough Hill to climb
Even if Matthew Stafford (ankle) doesn't suit up this coming week, don't worry. Shaun Hill has proven to be one of the better backup QBs in the league. Brandon Pettigrew thrived with Hill under center last season. Maybe we'll see a little more Nate Burleson and a little less Titus Young since Hill has more experience with the former.
Grin and Bear it
Chicago Bears wideouts have cycled in effectiveness this year. Devin Hester (nine Week 7 looks, 23 over the last three weeks) is in the lead; his offseason work with Jay Cutler looks to be paying off.
Johnny Knox could easily flip-flop roles with Hester at any point this year. Roy Williams' touchdown was nice, and he might be a WR6 or 7 spot, but you can't put much trust in him. Earl Bennett's return cancels any modicum of promise Dane Sanzenbacher had.
As the Bears move towards implementing more running plays, the targets can become even more thinly spread.
(Week 7 targets)
(Week 7 targets)
|Lavelle Hawkins (7), Donnie Avery (3)
|Tennessee had to throw a ton in their Week 7 comeback try, but Hawkins has 15 looks over the last two games, and their run game continues to struggle. Avery's workload could increase. Nate Washington not a true WR1. TEN targets could be wide open. Hawkins is a PPR watch; Avery, non-.
|Louis Murphy (4)
|No catches, but enough talent to be conscious of when playing Denarius Moore, Jacoby Ford. Another mouth to feed in potentially growing pass O. Carson Palmer will have the bye week to work with the WRs, so this situation remains in flux.
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 competes in Tout Wars and LABR and has won several industry leagues in both baseball and football.
During baseball and football season, hear him every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore. On Thursdays, he visits 106.1 FM WMTI in New Orleans and Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, where he often crashes other shows, as well.
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