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, not including byes, of touches (running backs) and targets (wide receivers and tight ends) for each player listed in parentheses. X means player was inactive.
RB: Trent Richardson INJ (20-24-17), Montario Hardesty (0-0-16), Chris Ogbonnaya (5-4-3)
WR/TE: Greg Little (11-2-5), Josh Gordon (1-8-4), Mohamed Massaquoi INJ (X-X-X), Benjamin Watson (6-3-5), Jordan Cameron (6-2-3)
After taking a helmet shot to his right side, Richardson (ribs) is currently listed as day to day. In his absence the Browns continued to run the ball with Hardesty, who got his first action of the season, for 15 carries and 56 yards with a goal line touchdown. Depending on the game day status of Richardson, the team will use Hardesty as needed to keep the ground game on track.
In addition to Richardson's injury, slot receiver Norwood (foot) was placed on Injured Reserve with a return designation, while Massaquoi (hamstring) remains sidelined. Little has dropped five passes, tied for most at wide receiver this season, and is struggling mightily right now.
Over the last two games, Gordon has received significantly more playing time, leading the team with 12 targets, and is creating a strong deep ball connection with fellow rookie Brandon Weeden. You many not find long-term consistency, but Gordon is hitting enough big plays to warrant chancing as a fantasy starter even after the injured players return.
RB: Darren McFadden (20-14-31), Mike Goodson (1-6-5), Marcel Reece (5-8-1)
WR/TE: Denarius Moore (10-8-9), Brandon Myers (4-2-7), Darrius Heyward-Bey (5-X-6), Derek Hagan (4-5-4), Rod Streater (2-2-3)
Moore leads the Raiders with 35 targets on the year and has been aimed at with consistency, getting at least eight looks a game thus far. Myers hasn't found the end zone but is a deep PPR option, averaging 4.2 catches and 58.0 yards per game. DHB is back following a scary concussion but was a non-factor with two targets and zero catches. For now, Moore remains the sole receiver of the Silver and Black to consider calling on each week.
Goodson tailed 96 yards of total offense on just five touches and looks to be exceling as a change of pace for the struggling McFadden. The new zone-blocking scheme doesn't totally agree with DMC, but he would need to suddenly lose a stranglehold on his bulk of the carries to allow Goodson to become more than an occasional and inconsistent big-play contributor. It's possible but not probable anytime soon.
RB: Steven Jackson (20-18-17), Daryl Richardson (9-11-14)
WR/TE: Brandon Gibson (4-4-9), Chris Givens (3-5-7), Lance Kendricks (2-2-4), Austin Pettis (2-3-1)
After seventh-round pick Richardson disposed of second-rounder Isaiah Pead in camp, he is now looking to displace Jackson, who is being granted free agency a year earlier than his contract calls for. Last week, the fresher set of dreads outperformed the vet with 99 total yards on 13 touches to S-Jax's 80 yards on 15 chances. The aging Jackson is clearly no longer viewed as a workhorse and isn't even the most explosive option in the backfield. This is a timeshare right now, but Richardson is a breakout game away from really forcing the issue in his favor.
The box score shows Gibson led the team with seven catches and 91 yards, but Givens, though he dropped some passes, actually played a lot more snaps and made a team-long reception of 65 yards. Gibson will be the hot addition this week, but Givens is getting a lot of opportunities as well and should not be overlooked.
Backfields in motion
The Dallas Cowboys' DeMarco Murray (foot) is ruled out for Week 7 and hopes to only miss that single game. This, of course, makes Felix Jones the hot pickup right now, but don't forget Phillip Tanner. Jones cramped up and missed time during his big game last week and isn't exactly known for being durable. Some sort of platoon would make a lot of sense giving Tanner some opportunities here and there.
Taking hard line on Hartline
- William Powell was serviceable as the Arizona Cardinals' lead back, getting the ball for 13 times carries and 70 yards. LaRod Stephens-Howling got 11 carries but did basically nothing aside from an 11-yard gainer and will likely return to his normal third-down role. Playing behind a decaying offense line, the Cards are going to struggle to move the ball on a consistent basis, leaving Powell as borderline play, at best.
- The scoreboard kept the Indianapolis Colts' Vick Ballard from even attempting to capitalize on the first game of Donald Brown's (knee) multi-week absence. Even though he's a desperate flex play right now (with a solid matchup for Week 7), Ballard should be stashed for depth until Brown is back and shows his knee is fine. Don't give up on him yet, because the carries should be coming. Unfortunately, Delone Carter subbed in on an inside-the-5 chance last week, so he might become the vulture for as long as Brown is out.
- After pounding the rock successfully in recent weeks, the New England Patriots took to the air Sunday. Aaron Hernandez saw a limited number of plays but looked sharp and was still third on the team with nine targets. Wes Welker is back to lighting up the slot machine, while Brandon Lloyd (shoulder) has been more of a roller coaster, converting fewer than 60 percent of his targets this season. With two strong secondaries on the docket before the bye week, expect more of Lloyd's up and downs while the underneath receivers continue to flourish.
- Among all receivers with 15 or more receptions, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Mike Williams (who has put up 115 and 113 yards in the last two weeks) leads the league, among receivers with 15-plus grabs, with 22.1 yards per catch. Attention placed on Vincent Jackson is opening things up for Williams while Josh Freeman improves throwing the deep ball to this talented duo.
- Now 31 years old, Andre Johnson could be slowing down, but he saw a season-high 12 targets and gets one more favorable matchup before heading into the bye week. Plus, last week Gary Kubiak had told the media he wanted to get Johnson more involved. With a committed Houston Texans running game and a typically stout defense, though, the demand for Johnson's services are not at peak demand, leaving him as a somewhat overvalued play each week.
- Miami Dolphins receiver and Week 4 superstar Brian Hartline (quadriceps) began his bye week early with zero targets despite playing nearly every snap. Trying to compete banged-up against blanket corner Cortland Finnegan was no easy task for Hartline, and dealing with Antonio Cromartie in Week 8 won't be any easier. The Fins need a true No. 1 receiver to keep this heat off Hartline and raise his ceiling above a risky flex play.
- Even though he caught four passes for 62 yards and his first touchdown of the season, Kenny Britt was out of sync with Tennessee Titans QB Matt Hasselbeck several times and dropped numerous passes. Rookie Kendall Wright should be owned and started; he's averaged 9.2 targets, 6.5 catches and 56.0 yards per game over the last four contests. However, as Britt's health and timing improve, the gap between the two will close, with Britt possibly pulling ahead eventually.
- A setback for Pierre Garcon (foot) gives Santana Moss more playmaking opportunities for the Washington Redskins despite participating on a limited number of snaps, primarily out of the slot. If Garcon continues to miss time, Moss has a chance to break one or two big gainers, particularly when facing a friendly matchup.
- With Jerome Simpson (back, leg) expected back, it's safe to ignore Michael Jenkins's 6-67-1 effort for the Minnesota Vikings last week. Christian Ponder was asked to throw the ball 52 times, and the boost gave extra chances for Jenkins in the shootout. Percy Harvin is obviously the focal point, and Kyle Rudolph gets the red zone opportunities, so Simpson will need to carve out his own niche to remain worth hanging onto.
About Eric McClung
Eric McClung has been profiled by the FSWA for covering the fantasy sports spectrum and is a two-time award finalist. He's also 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.
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