Fantasy Football On Target - Week 8

by Eric McClung on October 24, 2012 @ 10:37:13 PDT


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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. A listing of zero means he was active but not targeted.

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys WR Dez Bryant
Dizzy, daffy Dez

RB: Trent Richardson INJ (24-17-10), Montario Hardesty (0-16-7), Chris Ogbonnaya (4-3-5)

WR/TE: Josh Gordon (8-4-10), Greg Little (2-5-7), Mohamed Massaquoi INJ (X-X-X), Travis Benjamin (6-5-4), Benjamin Watson (3-5-3), Josh Cooper (X-3-8), Jordan Cameron (2-3-1)

The incoming news doesn't appear to be very good for Richardson (ribs) at the moment: Cleveland is considering shutting him down through their Week 10 bye. The team's struggles to stay competitive each week and in the future will likely result in a kid gloves approach for T-Rich. Rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden is starting to find some success downfield, and without Richardson producing at a high level, or missing action all together, the Browns may find themselves giving up on the run game quicker than they want. If Richardson is absent, Hardesty, who should be owned going forward, would assume lead back duties, with Ogbonnaya, a much deeper add, being the change of pace and better receiving option.

Little was third on the team last week with seven targets but caught a team-high six passes and scored his second touchdown of the season. However, Gordon still looks like the best option for a big play and owns four touchdowns in the last three games. It's still a positive sign for Little, one that was desperately needed for those hanging onto him. You may want to wait for more consistent results before giving him a start, though. With Massaquoi coming back, the momentum might not last.

Dallas Cowboys

RB: DeMarco Murray INJ (18-15-X), Felix Jones INJ (1-19-21), Phillip Tanner (3-9-15)

WR/TE: Dez Bryant INJ (13-15-3), Jason Witten (14-7-8), Miles Austin (6-5-9), Kevin Ogletree (6-4-6)

Murray (foot) is unlikely to play for the second straight game, yielding another start to Jones (knee, neck), who wasted no time blowing the opportunity by suffering a neck strain on the second play of Sunday's game before exiting with a slightly sprained knee. Jones has never proven himself as a lead back or one that can play well while he's banged up, so he appears to be in line for limited action. Tanner may not be credited with a start this week but is looking like the best option to earn the bulk of the carries even though he lacks Jones' explosiveness.

With a series of injuries and inconsistent play, Bryant (groin, head) is danger of being eclipsed by Witten and Austin, whose hamstring is reportedly improving each week. Ogletree has become an afterthought following his big Week 1. Anyone still rostering Ogletree can cut those ties as this is a two-horse race for the moment.

Backfields in motion

  • Baltimore Ravens RB Ray Rice
    Rice gone bad?
    An awful performance by the entire Baltimore Ravens offense in Week 7 caused them to fall behind early and allow Ray Rice to see just nine carries. Rice did catch all five of his targets but was bottled up quickly and held to 12 yards receiving. Among all players, his 148 utilizations (targets and carries) rank fourth in the league, so Rice is indeed keeping busy. Thankfully, the team is heading into a bye week after Rice recently admitted the four games the Ravens played in a span of 17 days to start the season left him tired.
  • St. Louis Rams veteran running back Steven Jackson scored his first touchdown of the season but continues to spilt time with rookie Daryl Richardson. The situation squashes the fantasy value of both players, especially with the rest of the offense posting unspectacular results. Both need to be owned but are dicey starts unless one, more likely S-Jax should it occur, is pushed into more of a reserve role.
  • Over the last two games, the Carolina Panthers' DeAngelo Williams has only received a total of eight carries for a messily 10 yards. In addition to his poor level of play, Williams lost a key fumble late in their Week 5 defeat. Head coach Ron Rivera said Williams' lack of playing time was "based on personnel." They gave Jonathan Stewart a shot at workhorse duties, but he isn't doing much to separate himself and isn't a comfortable fantasy start until he finally does something with these extra chances.
  • Without Rashard Mendenhall (Achilles') and Isaac Redman (ankle) in Week 7, the Pittsburgh Steelers went primarily with Jonathan Dwyer, who averaged an impressive 7.2 yards per carry on his 17 runs. Chris Rainey also got some action and scored the lone rushing touchdown of the night. Both Mendenhall and Redman could return as soon as Week 8, but Dwyer is battling his way into what could turn out to be a frustrating rotation. A healthy Mendy would have the lead, but it's hardly cemented at this point.
  • Alex Green is struggling as the lead back for the Green Bay Packers. Over the last two games he's been feed the ball 42 times to a disappointing 2.4 yards per carry average. Head coach Mike McCarthy has been vocal with his displeasure. This may open the door for James Starks or perhaps the return of Ryan Grant, a former Packers starting running back, who was just released by the Washington Redskins.
  • The Arizona Cardinals planned on a rotation between LaRod Stephens-Howling and William Powell, but the former totaled nearly 150 offensive yards and a touchdown on his 24 touches. Stephens-Howling struggled against an awful Buffalo Bills defense the week prior, so the breakout was both unexpected and unlikely to reoccur. He's the better option around the goal line, though, if you have to decipher this backfield's work.
  • Vick Ballard of the Indianapolis Colts looked a lot better in his second start as the starting running back while Delone Carter still received double-digit carries. However, it was quarterback Andrew Luck that got into the end zone twice, one coming on a designed bootleg, making him the only Indy player with more than one score on the ground all season. Even when Donald Brown returns, perhaps in a week or two, the Colts lack much explosiveness in the backfield. Don't count Ballard out of this race prematurely. It's going to take volume to get production out of any of these backs, but if it becomes a time share, that'll be hard to do.

Hot Routes

  • Houston Texans WR Andre Johnson
    Johnson needs attention to succeed
    Even though Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson has caught 17 of his 22 targets for 161 yards over the last two games, he's done so without making a catch longer than 15 yards. A.J. is starting to ease some fears that he's slowing down, but it looks as though he'll need a volume of opportunities to keep posting respectable fantasy numbers.
  • In addition to a season-high 15 targets, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace also ran the ball twice. Even though he caught eight passes, Wallace also dropped several easy ones. Drops hadn't been much of an issue for Wallace in his two previous years, so this is hopefully an irregularity. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger stated he hasn't lost any faith in Wallace, so don't expect his usage rate to dip.
  • Following two weeks with just four targets apiece, Baltimore Ravens speedster Torrey Smith saw a season-high 13 targets yet only managed four catches. In addition to a pair of drops Sunday, Smith has been struggling against press coverage while typically drawing the best corner of each team he faces. Despite a lot of deep targets and the big-play potential, Smith is still a young receiver going through a bit of a slump right now.
  • Now that New York Jets tight end Dustin Keller, who went 7-for-7 on targets with 93 yards and a touchdown, appears to be over his hamstring injury the team is hoping his return to form offers badly needed stability. The emerging weapon here is Jeremy Kerley, however. Over the last three games, he has more than double the targets of the next Jets receiver. It's all very matchup-dependent, but Kerley, and to a lesser extent Keller, can offer some deep value.
  • Not only was San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis not targeted last week, but he's also been a non-factor in three of the last four games. After blowing up the Buffalo Bills, quarterback Alex Smith has reverted to his pre-Jim Harbaugh days the last two contests by committing turnovers and taking ugly sacks. Unfortunately, the short-term forecast isn't too rosy. Over the next four weeks the 49ers play three strong pass defenses with at least solid QB pressure (Arizona Cardinals, St. Louis Rams, Chicago Bears) in addition to resting for their Week 9 bye. Davis might be staying in to protect Smith more often in their coming contests.
  • A busy day of run blocking left Minnesota Vikings rookie tight end Kyle Rudolph with a season-low four targets and shut out for the first time this year in Week 8. The issue is that Rudolph's value is tied heavily to touchdowns, which figure to come in the red zone. With running back Adrian Peterson looking better each week those inside-the-20 targets could end up decreasing.
  • Over the last three games, Nate Washington's 26 targets puts him inside the top 15 wide receivers. Even though he's only converted 50 percent of those opportunities into receptions, Washington throws another wrench into projecting the Tennessee Titans passing game. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck isn't taking big chances, and now that running back Chris Johnson might finally be out of carbon freeze, the value of the receivers, outside of matchup plays, could be on the decline until Jake Locker (shoulder) returns.
  • New York Jets WR Jeremy Kerley
    Kerley no stooge
    Veteran receiver Santana Moss of the Washington Redskins is still playing a very limited number of snaps out of the slot but is becoming their top playmaker. Over the last five games, Moss has caught 13 of his 20 targets, scoring four times. Two of those end zone trips came last week, but so did a critical fumble that ended the game. Assuming he's not headed to the doghouse, Moss appears to the touchdown vulture in the passing game to Leonard Hankerson, who is becoming the focal point with tight end Fred Davis (Achilles') done of the year and Pierre Garcon's (foot) slow return.
  • With Nate Burleson (broken leg) of the Detroit Lions done for the year, the door opens for Titus Young and Ryan Broyles, who'll rotate between an outside spot and the slot. With opposing defenses keeping Calvin Johnson in check, the Lions need this pair of young receivers to produce and keep Megatron from facing such overwhelming coverage. Young is now the No. 2 wideout, but his maturity has cost him playing time in the past. Broyles holds the NCAA FBS record for career receptions and has the potential to offer PPR-friendly numbers.
  • Cecil Shorts of the Jacksonville Jaguars was both active and productive in his first start of the season. He led the team with 10 targets, catching four of them for 79 yards and a touchdown. QB Blaine Gabbert (shoulder) isn't producing much, but he's an upgrade from Chad Henne, so his health is important to fantasy owners' consideration of Shorts. Running back Maurice Jones-Drew (foot) is going to miss multiple games, so Rashad Jennings will need to keep this limited offense on track for any of the receivers to offer much.
  • Looks like Tiquan Underwood of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is settling in as the No. 3 receiver. In addition to scoring the first touchdown of his career, Underwood got six targets this week equaling his looks in the last two games. Many remember him as the player the New England Patriots cut two days before Super Bowl XLVI but also know that played for head coach Greg Schiano at Rutgers. With the Bucs getting more and more comfortable taking big shots in the passing game, Underwood just might get himself across the stripe a few more times.
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About Eric McClung

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.

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