Opportunity in the NFL can translate to success in fantasy football. Are these target numbers a trend or an aberration for these players' fantasy football value? Do they deserve attention on fantasy football waiver wires?
Note: Last three weeks of touches (running backs) and targets (wide receivers and tight ends) for each player listed in parentheses. X means player was inactive.
RB: Alex Green (X-X-10), James Starks (X-X-X), John Kuhn (5-1-3)
WR/TE: Greg Jennings INJ (10-3-X), Jordy Nelson (3-12-5), James Jones (6-6-7), Randall Cobb (3-8-4), Jermichael Finley INJ (5-5-5)
Wilson willing his way back
Cedric Benson (foot) had done an admirable job as the Packers lead back until suffering a Lisfranc foot injury last week that will keep him out at least eight weeks and possibly the entire season. Green is now listed on top of the depth chart after breaking off a 41-yard run Sunday in relief of Benson. Green's performance on his other eight carries, however, was uneventful. Starks was a healthy scratch in each of the last two weeks, but that was chiefly because he's not a special teams contributor. Green Bay was high on Starks before his preseason woes, and if he learns to pass protect, he has the build to become a full-time back.
The two are most likely headed for a timeshare, at least right away. However, even if one back stands out, that carrier is likely to lose short range scoring opportunities to Kuhn regardless. Green is easily the more exciting runner of the two, but he will need to prove he can shoulder the load to be relevant on a weekly basis.
With Jennings (groin) on the shelf, Jones has done an excellent job in his absence and led the team in targets for the first time this season a week ago. Jones is emerging as the most consistent receiver for a Packers passing attack that seems a bit out of rhythm right now, with Cobb and Nelson having up-and-down results. Keep Jones active but understand the bottom might fall out when Jennings is back to form.
RB: Ahmad Bradshaw (X-17-36), Andre Brown INJ (25-6-0), David Wilson (2-1-2)
WR/TE: Victor Cruz (8-13-8), Hakeem Nicks INJ (X-X-X), Domenik Hixon (X-11-8), Martellus Bennett INJ (7-3-4), Rueben Randle (3-1-9), Ramses Barden INJ (10-4-X)
After missing the last three games, Nicks (knee, foot) believes he'll be able to play in Week 6, but the coach staff remains mum. His return obviously takes targets away from the No. 3 wide receiver, whoever that turns out to be. Barden (concussion) missed Week 5 but is now behind Hixon when he's cleared to return. Hixon has caught 11 passes over the last two games and played the most snaps of any Giants receiver last week.
However, it was Randle that led the team in targets despite playing in just 50 percent of the snaps. These secondary receivers gain a lot of their opportunities due to the strict coverage typically applied to Cruz, so the production isn't the most reliable. When Nicks is back, expect Hixon to stay busy in three receiver sets, but the battle between Barden and Randle should be monitored as well. Of course, Cruz has proven decent on the outside, so Hixon might not be out there on every double-wide lineup with Nicks active.
Given his injury history, Bradshaw owners might want to look to move him after his monster Week 5. That knack for getting hurt also makes his backup a player worth paying attention to. Brown (concussion), who has issues with pass protection, may have lost his grip on the gig; his injury might facilitate the transition. Wilson only got two carries he took his late fourth quarter touch 40 yards to the house, but after an opening day fumble cost put the rookie in the doghouse, Wilson is winning back the coaching staff with his contributions as a kick returner, making his explosiveness something to take advantage of on offense, as well.
RB: Trent Richardson (19-20-24), Chris Ogbonnaya (4-5-4)
WR/TE: Greg Little (4-11-2), Mohamed Massaquoi INJ (3-X-X), Jordan Norwood (X-10-10), Josh Gordon (6-1-8), Benjamin Watson (8-6-3), Jordan Cameron (7-6-2), Travis Benjamin (4-6-X)
As Little continues to drop passes and underperform, Norwood and Gordon are each coming off impressive performances. Norwood converted all of his team-high nine targets into receptions while seeing a lot of time in the slot. Gordon only caught two of his eight looks, but both went for touchdowns. If Little continues to struggle, Massaquoi (hamstring) might be bumping him from the starting lineup when he returns.
Investing in the Browns passing game is a risky proposition, but quarterback Brandon Weeden is throwing a lot based on the scoreboard, which will provide his receivers some value if he continues to latch onto one or two of them. Right now, Norwood (PPR preference) and Gordon (standard scoring) stand as the best bets for weekly reliability, but this lot is fluid.
Donald Brown (knee) will miss two to three weeks. The Indianapolis Colts will turn to Vick Ballard as their starter, at least for Week 5, against the New York Jets - a favorable matchup. However, besides Bruce Arians favorite Mewelde Moore coming in on passing downs, Delone Carter will take the No. 2 reins. He has a solid build for a goal line back, so he might become the vulture here. The talented Ballard is worth a mildly strong investment, depending on your RB situation, but he's not worth blind confidence of being relevant the rest of the season.
Wright has allure but also downside
- New England Patriots running back Stevan Ridley has now fumbled in two straight games, losing one late in the contest last week. After that, it was Brandon Bolden the team trusted to close the game out. Shane Vereen received one carry, a vultured TD on the goal line. Ball security issues may ultimately cost Ridley, but seeing him more involved in the up-tempo offense was a very encouraging sign for a team that uses its backs based on formation and matchups. The Pats are also running enough to keep Bolden relevant, at least as a fill-in option, week to week.
- It appears that Ryan Mathews owners can finally exhale, while those that were able to buy low can pat themselves on the back. Mathews whiffed on an early screen pass but abused a porous New Orleans Saints defense the rest of the game and led the team in receptions. Jackie Battle looks like the No. 3 back again, while Ronnie Brown, oddly enough, was trusted as the primary back on the Chargers final drive despite Mathews' performance. Expect Mathews to dominate the Bolts carries going forward with Brown stealing time in the hurry up. Battle will still be mixed in, but not to the extent that he's worth a start.
- The San Francisco 49ers passing attack may not keep producing like it did against the clueless Buffalo Bills defense, but the running game, including Kendall Hunter, certainly will. With eight or more carries in three of five games, Hunter should not be forgotten as a worthy flex play.
- Coming off a bye week, the Detroit Lions are no doubt looking to get more out of their running game and make their strategy less predictable. As running back Jahvid Best (concussion) inches closer to returning he could very well push Mikel LeShoure off the field in passing situations to take advantage of his unrivaled explosiveness.
- Cincinnati Bengals slot receiver Andrew Hawkins matched A.J. Green with 13 targets but only managed five receptions in addition to a rushing attempt. Hawkins is a speedy player that can burn defenders and capable of more big plays if he becomes more consistent. He appears locked into the Cincy No. 2 WR role.
- Don't get too carried away with San Diego Chargers wide receiver Robert Meachem finally showing up with a two-score effort. Meachem took advantage of some awful defense early and only received four targets while getting shut out in the second half.
- The New Orleans Saints got exactly what they needed and a little more from wide receiver Devery Henderson with Lance Moore (hamstring) sidelined and tight end Jimmy Graham (ankle) limited after sustaining an injury of his own. The team heads into a bye week, so Henderson's short term value is cloudy. If Moore or Graham can't heal with the extra time, look for Henderson to keep getting opportunities. Otherwise, leave him be unless you're looking for a matchup play.
- Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Sidney Rice has received 13 targets over the last two games and is coming off his best haul of the season, five catches for 67 yards. It's been a slow start for Rice, who's playing in a limited passing offense, but these increased chances are very encouraging for a player some are giving up on too early.
- Indianapolis Colts tight end Coby Fleener got nine targets Sunday, his most since Week 1, but with Dwayne Allen (who's caught nine passes in the last two games) cutting into his playing time, each is looking like a stretch to consider starting unless the Indy offense has to keep throwing so frequently.
- Tennessee Titans rookie wide receiver Kendall Wright paced the team with nine catches on 11 targets, most coming on quick, short passes that Matt Hasselbeck is more comfortable throwing. Tennessee will probably have to throw a bunch this year, but don't expect that much Wright attention every week. Tight end Jared Cook was invisible until a big fourth quarter leaving Hasselbeck to say he regretted not using him more. Kenny Britt (ankle) saw limited action late in the blowout so his role is a bit unclear as he works his way back into game shape. He might not even play Thursday because of the short turnaround.
Eric McClung has been profiled by the FSWA for covering the fantasy sports spectrum and is a three-time award finalist. Over the years, he's made several appearances in print and on radio. McClung began contributing to KFFL in 2008 and currently serves as one of KFFL's featured fantasy NASCAR experts. He's also captured the fantasy football championship in the KFFL staff league twice.