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?
Welcome back Steve E. Smith. In his first significant stretch of action since injuries shortened his 2010, he led the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 10 targets with DeSean Jackson benched.
PPR leaguers should give him a whirl for at least this week. Jeremy Maclin (shoulder, hamstring) is iffy for Week 11, so there's another opening for Smith, who only two seasons ago registered 107 catches for the New York Giants, Philly's Week 11 opposition. Heck, he could still take over Jason Avant's role permanently. If Vince Young or Mike Kafka is tabbed to start for Michael Vick (ribs), Smith could be leaned on as a midrange safety valve, too, along with Brent Celek.
Warning: Jackson could be more involved if Kafka gets the nod; the Northwestern alum is better at pushing the ball downfield.
Top Week 10 wide receivers
- Matthew Stafford's finger injury limited Megatron's output, but Johnson, who's now lining up more frequently in the slot, can make do even with a dinged QB. His fantasy value is safe, even if Shaun Hill has to come in at some point. As for Burleson and Young, the Detroit Lions were trying to come back from a huge deficit, so both were heavily involved. They're more likely to cannibalize each other's stats most weeks than share in ample production, so don't expect this every week.
- The Atlanta Falcons might again be without Julio Jones (hamstring) in Week 11. Douglas logged most of his looks after Jones exited their Week 10 contest and stands as a steady bet for reception collection in Jones' place.
- John Skelton looks ... decent!? Fitzgerald isn't complaining about his 25 targets over the last two games. Neither should you.
- As long as Eli Manning averages more than 40 attempts per game, Nicks, Cruz and Manningham will be playable for the Giants. As he works his hamstring back to full strength, Nicks is still the best bet to take the top gig among the three over the rest of the season. Even with Manningham starting, Cruz looks like the most dependable play right now. He has earned the most targets (22) of the three over the last two weeks.
- Stevie Johnson was battling the flu in Week 10 and is now nursing a shoulder injury that has Chan Gailey considering him day-to-day. Jones took advantage for the Buffalo Bills and will be a more playable option if Johnson is limited in any way. David Nelson is the better fantasy bet, though, because of his red zone presence.
- Brown looks like what the San Diego Chargers have wanted Malcom Floyd to be every week. They probably won't rush back the latter, who's dealing with a hip injury and a notoriously slow healer. Brown's big-play ability makes him worth an addition in most leagues, especially for covering the final bye week.
- Joe Flacco's inconsistency plagued Boldin once again. He's still a high-end fantasy play because of his voluminous target totals, but expectations have to be a bit limited, especially with Flacco still paying attention to the Baltimore Ravens' tight ends.
- You'd like to see Naanee's 8-for-9 rate on catching targets as a growth step, right? Don't be fooled. The Carolina Panthers were trying to dig themselves out of a late hole in Week 10, and soft coverage contributed to Naanee's reception total. This could be the case in some other weeks, but do you really want to try to predict when this will happen again ... especially if you have a playoff spot on the line? Neither would we.
- Leonard Hankerson (Washington Redskins) also logged nine looks, but he was omitted because he's out for the season with a hip injury. His absence probably means more Fred Davis and Jabar Gaffney than it does a production increase for Anthony Armstrong or anyone else. Don't expect a direct fantasy replacement for Hankerson.
Top Week 10 tight ends
- Another great game from Dickson and another busy day for Pitta. Joe Flacco has attempted at least 47 tosses in each of his last three games; the Baltimore Ravens' tight ends have, naturally, been more involved because of that. Consider Dickson a No. 2 TE at best, given how Pitta steals looks from him most of the time; Dickson's position-leading target total isn't something to bank on.
- Cam Newton's shoulder woes probably contributed to his lack of connection with Olsen this past weekend. Olsen's involvement remains heavy in this TE-friendly system and is still worth a low-end No. 1 lineup spot.
- Tamme has logged 15 targets in his last two games with Dallas Clark (leg) injured. He has earned more PPR intrigue but is a target chiefly for leagues where carrying two TEs makes sense. Consistently counting on any Colts receiving option is asking for fantasy trouble this late in the season.
- Keep tabs on whether Davis will face a suspension from the NFL for his positive test for recreational drugs soon after the lockout ended. Early indications, however, say it'll be at most a fine.
- Walker will produce these efforts from time to time. He's worthy of a roster spot in cavernous two-TE leagues, but his biggest fantasy impact is as a reminder that Vernon Davis, who has been blocking more as of late, will often put up duds based on game flow.
Moore to come
Carson Palmer gushed about Denarius Moore's physical gifts following the Oakland Raiders' win last Thursday. Moore's 19 targets over the last two weeks speak to Palmer's admiration, too. Jacoby Ford (foot) is unlikely to play in Week 11, and Darrius Heyward-Bey is falling out of favor. T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Chaz Schilens and Louis Murphy are merely complementary pieces.
Ford's injury during the Thursday contest probably aided Moore's involvement, but it wasn't a cause-and-effect sitch. Moore is turning into what DHB was earlier in the season and must be grabbed everywhere.
Texans' No. 2 step
Andre a giant with Leinart?
Put down the beer bong, Matt Leinart, and put a helmet on. You have to fill in for Matt Schaub (foot), who could be out for the season. Luckily, Leinart has a bye to do some work with the offense. Overall, however, he's a downgrade to the passing game's potential as Houston looks to fashion him as a game manager.
How vast is that drop? The Texans were reining in the aerial attack anyway thanks to their voluminous rushing attack. Houston will probably get Andre Johnson (hamstring) back next week. He doesn't necessarily need a big arm to succeed when he's close to 100 percent; owning him at a possible WR2 max value, at this point in the season, is better than not having him at all.
Jacoby Jones probably suffers the most, but he was already walking dead sans his big-play touchdown last week; that's really all he's good for. With Kevin Walter, just expect more of the same blandness.
Tight ends Owen Daniels and Joel Dreessen will probably yield similar value to what they've already laid out. Arian Foster, the receiver, shouldn't take a big hit; Leinart should still be able to dump off with the best of them.
The fact that Houston's successful ground game was already carrying their offense bodes well for Leinart at least not crippling those who take a fantasy stab at him. Be open-minded; you have to if your team yearns for any modicum of passing upside.
The Kansas City Chiefs have their own QB quandary with Matt Cassel (hand) possibly out for the rest of 2011. Tyler Palko, for the moment, will start for as long as Cassel is sidelined. He's more of a game manager type, so expect more involvement from KC's running game, as if it weren't heavy already.
For Dwayne Bowe's value, remember Larry Fitzgerald's recent trend. Since taking the slinger reins, John Skelton, he of mediocre abilities as well, has consistently fed the rock to Fitz to allow him to make plays. Look for KC to do the same with Bowe, if on shorter routes, thereby preserving his target frequency. Maybe more offerings will sail off course and limit Bowe's upside, but WR2 territory is hardly unsustainable given his involvement alone.
Steve Breaston and Jonathan Baldwin see a small deduction, with Breaston remaining the likelier option to contribute. Dexter McCluster could add another playmaking dynamic with a QB who needs help there. Maybe Leonard Pope sees more action his way, but that doesn't make him fantasy-relevant.
The Denver Broncos' institution of the read-option offense is making Tim Tebow more comfortable, but it's also squashing the upside of Eric Decker, Eddie Royal and Demaryius Thomas. Decker is the best bet from here, but Tebow's two - TWO - completions in eight tries last week signify that downturn this aerial game as a whole could easily take with Tebow allowed to take more matters into his hands - err, feet.
(Week 10 targets)
|Andre Caldwell (8)
|This is potential because of A.J. Green's hyperextended knee. Caldwell was more involved when Jermaine Gresham was sidelined and could be in for a similar upgrade this time around, especially in PPRs. He's worth a flex play if Green is out.
|Golden Tate (5)
|Showed flashes with Sidney Rice and Doug Baldwin concussed last week. One or both could be limited or miss Week 11. Deep leaguers could take a stab on Tate's downfield playmaking potential if they're scraping the barrel.
|Jerricho Cotchery (4)
|Hines Ward is booted from 3-wide sets. Cotchery is chiefly PPR depth in cavernous leagues.
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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