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.
Disappointing draft studs
Oakland Raiders running back Darren McFadden needed 29 carries to muster a season-high 114 yards and now owns the worst yards-per-carry average (3.3) among all backs with more than 80 attempts. The zone blocking scheme has clearly been a struggle for both the offensive line and McFadden to adjust to. DMC has been decent in the passing game but has only found the end zone twice all year. The only positive with McFadden: the 177 utilizations (rushing attempts and targets), which rank third in the league.
Megatron now The Fallen?
The Raiders are clearly committed to having McFadden shoulder the load and there's no one close to challenging him. Mike Goodson (toe) will make a big play here and there but is now dealing with turf toe. Rookie Taiwan Jones (knee) might finally see some action on offense but is also dinged up.
In addition to seeing a reliable number of opportunities, McFadden is looking at a very favorable schedule in the second half following a tough matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Current owners should hang tight while those looking to upgrade at running back may want to drop a line to a struggling McFadden owner. Prospective buyers are taking a risk, but brighter days appear to be ahead.
The running attack that has managed to turn it around is the Tennessee Titans' re-emerging Chris Johnson. CJ2K has now run for more than 90 yards in three straight games and in four of the last five. He's only scored in one contest so far, due to losing some goal-line work to Jamie Harper, but Johnson owners are just happy to see the yards per carry now at a 4.5 clip.
Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has been stable while not taking many chances and playing well enough to keep the job even after Jake Locker (shoulder) returns. He faced some easy opponents over his recent tear, of course, and the upcoming schedule looks like a roller-coaster, but this simpler approach keeps the ball in Johnson's hands and his owners happy.
Megatron has been offline lately, tallying fewer than 55 receiving yards in three of his last four games. Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz confirmed Calvin Johnson (knee) is dealing with a knee injury, but neither is giving many details. Johnson has only caught three passes in each of the last two games and had a streak of five games with double-digit targets come to an end last week.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford had his best game of the season against a very tough Seattle Seahawks defense. That game also saw Titus Young explode playing as the team's No. 2 wide receiver for the first time. If Young continues to resolve the Lions' longstanding production woes from the secondary receiver, the typical laser beam focus on containing Johnson may loosen up a bit and save his fantasy season. Plus, improved timing between the two and Johnson working his way back to health will help the wideout's production catch up to the attention Stafford pays to him.
After scoring four touchdowns in the first three games, San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis has been a non-factor in four of the last five games. Before making the first of only two catches last week during the second quarter against the Arizona Cardinals, it has been over 100 minutes of game action that Davis had even been without a target from quarterback Alex Smith.
Davis believes opposing defenses have learned his typical routes and is hoping for adjustments in the scheme to show off his elite skills. Ultra-creative offensive coordinator Greg Roman will get a bye week to hopefully get his tight end back on track. Davis has seen his numbers decline over the last four years as the 49ers running game has exploded and they've needed his elite blocking skills. Even when Smith throws the ball, it's geared for efficiency and aimed at whoever gets open. Unfortunately, Davis may not provide much unless he gets into the end zone or the offense is tweaked in his favor.
Antonio Gates of the San Diego Chargers is another tight end in trouble, perhaps more so than Davis. Without a real No. 1 wide receiver to target, quarterback Philip Rivers is struggling, throwing picks and getting sacked. At age 32, Gates doesn't look like the same player that could once excel as the focal point of the passing attack. Owners shouldn't bail on him by any means but should consider shopping Gates if he puts together a big game or two.
Will there be trades?
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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