Targets and touches can influence a fantasy football player's value, but utilization totals fluctuate week to week, depending on game and roster circumstances. In Fantasy Football On Target, we dissect conditions to determine whether target trends are patterns or flukes.
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Zac Stacy's ankle sprain ended up being on the lower part. Whew. Still, if he's limited or must miss a week (which is less likely now), the St. Louis Rams offense would take a step back; Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead, we suppose, would be heavily involved. Ugh. It's not an ideal situation on which to speculate, but Richardson, the preseason darling, would be the best one, we suppose.
The Jacksonville Jaguars, who as usual were trying to dig out of a hole Sunday, remembered Maurice Jones-Drew is on the team. They threw to him more, which opened up room for him to run after the catch. Their sustainment of this pattern will make it safer for fantasy managers to deploy him, especially in point-per-reception leagues.
WAIVER WIRE: Peyton Hillis, who's heading into a bye, logged 49 utilizations over his past two games. Unfortunately for his owners, the New York Giants' upcoming off-week looks like it'll propel the return of Andre Brown (leg) from the short-term Injured Reserve. Hillis would probably still get some work in passing downs or changeup work, but Brown was in line to carry a heavy workload before his preseason leg fracture. Despite his struggles staying healthy, Brown is a fine trial in all formats.
Bryant McKinnie's debut on the Miami Dolphins' offensive line showed some positive developments for RBs Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas (10 utils), who combined for 136 ground yards and averaged 5.04 yards per carry against a vulnerable New England Patriots front. They would've had more if the 'Phins didn't force the pass during a second-half collapse. Miller has more talent in this arrangement, but his upside will continue to be limited by Thomas' increasingly steady presence.
Bruce Arians has said repeatedly that the Arizona Cardinals don't want to give Andre Ellington too many touches. The 5-foot-9, 199-pounder, however, did damage on a noteworthy yet tempered role Sunday, netting 154 yards, including an 80-yard scoring scamper, on 15 carries. Rashard Mendenhall's 3.1 YPC on the year doesn't inspire many, even his old Pittsburgh Steelers OC, but Arians insists Mendy will keep his starting gig once he comes back from his toe injury. Of course, he didn't explicitly state that Mendenhall would hang on to majority work. Ellington must keep his role most weeks for this offense to reach its ceiling.
The New Orleans Saints' ball-control strategy Sunday involved a lot of Pierre Thomas and only a pinch of Darren Sproles. When the Who 'Dats dictate the game pace, we'll see PT much more often. Sproles has more clout when they need to make a comeback or the matchup dictates a quicker back is the better play. Sproles will be a flex most weeks, even in reception-rewarders, from here on out, with Thomas the more desirable low-end RB2. Of course, Khiry Robinson will occasionally have his say in blowouts. Mark Ingram ... wait, he's still on a roster?
- The Houston Texans are concerned about injuries to Arian Foster (hamstring) and Ben Tate (ribs). Both insist they'll play, yet Houston added Deji Karim, Dennis Johnson and Ray Graham to the roster. If Foster and Tate can't go, it's best to avoid any backup RB until we get clarification on their roles. None of them stand out.
- Six yards on 11 carries didn't exactly propel Steven Jackson in his return from injury, but his 16 utilizations and likely improved footing with more time back say he's flex-worthy for the erratic Atlanta Falcons. He has a relatively tough schedule in the next few weeks, though, and this O-line won't do him or Jacquizz Rodgers any favors.
- WAIVER WIRE: Jonathan Stewart (ankles) is expected to come off the Physically Unable to Perform list, possibly as soon as Week 9. His involvement with the Carolina Panthers, however, may not be that big for his first few weeks with DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert serving a solid one-two punch.
- Mike James' 15 utilizations didn't amount to much. Neither did Brian Leonard's eight. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' run game will need a great matchup to excite fantasy owners -- not this coming week at the Seattle Seahawks, but the next two versus the Miami Dolphins and Atlanta Falcons should allow some room. Maybe Doug Martin (shoulder) will be back for one of them; they're being optimistic.
- The New York Jets' horrid pass defense and one factor we'll mention in the wideouts section kept Giovani Bernard from getting involved much in Week 8. BenJarvus Green-Ellis didn't do much either, but his bruising style was OK for running out the clock during the Cincinnati Bengals' blowout. They'll continue trading dominance over touches depending on the situation.
Harry Douglas leading all wideouts in targets confirms that he's taking advantage of increased attention paid by defenses toward Tony Gonzalez. The Falcons' wideout killed the Arizona Cardinals in the screen game, getting the ball in his hands quickly for after-the-catch plays.
Calvin Johnson rules. Moving on....
Maybe the New York Giants were showcasing Hakeem Nicks for a potential trade. But you might not notice that despite his struggles, Nicks' 42 targets are the third most among all wide receivers in the last four weeks. The G-men probably won't concede shipping him off because they're all of a sudden two games back of the NFC East lead and probably think they still have a shot. It's a possibility, but it's a toss-up. Nicks' departure would probably help Brandon Myers' value a bit. Rueben Randle, in theory, would get more work (he was shut out statistically Sunday), but he probably performs best when Nicks and Victor Cruz take up defenders' attention.
WAIVER WIRE: David Nelson (8-80-0 in Week 8) has a chance to stake his claim as a weekly option for Geno Smith even after whenever New York Jets wideout Santonio Holmes (hamstring) comes back. They don't think it'll happen in Week 9. Nelson's health has held back his flashes of talent from the slot position, a location from which Gang Green could use some production. In PPRs, he's a decent depth piece to tuck at the end of your bench.
WAIVER WIRE: Dexter McCluster looks like a more frequent part of the Kansas City Chiefs' plans than Dwayne Bowe (two looks), and that was probably the case even before Bowe's groin ailment. And Alex Smith already said he wants more plays out of the shifty dual threat, who could take some of the burden off Jamaal Charles and the slacking other wideouts.
- WAIVER WIRE: Marvin Jones was only in on 19 snaps during his four-touchdown bonanza in Week 8. That's quite efficient, and despite his recent penchant as a red-zone weapon, he may not be worth bids of 50 percent of your FAAB, as he has already been commanding. Still, Jones will be a solid WR3 in many leagues moving forward, despite the potential return of Andrew Hawkins (ankle) soon. Jones has Dalton's trust inside the 20.
- Jason Campbell challenged the Kansas City Chiefs with deep balls Sunday, and a trickeration play that opened up Josh Gordon for a long TD helped. Campbell has proven, against a tough D, that he can provide more excitement than Brandon Weeden. Of course, if the Cleveland Browns trade Josh Gordon to a contender with a competent passing game, the Campbell factor won't matter.
- WAIVER WIRE: Kenny Stills' five utilizations amounted to three catches, 129 yards and two touchdowns. As with Jones, Stills did a lot with little work. Matchups will dictate confidence in Stills, but his attention from Drew Brees may rely heavily on Jimmy Graham's health. Of course, Lance Moore is back, too. Brees' deep threats have been successful on limited work before, and Stills has skills. Don't expect Stills to succeed at filling anything more than a WR3 spot every week, though he will sneak in WR2 worth in non-PPR leagues just because of upcoming byes. Moore could become Brees' lean-to with Graham hurt.
- Own a Minnesota Vikings receiver? Good luck. Greg Jennings, if you're clinging, has the best chance to do something each week just because he can sort of run routes. But optimally, the Norsemen catchers shouldn't be near a lineup in most leagues.
WAIVER WIRE: Scott Chandler worked with teammate Stevie Johnson in taking advantage of middle-of-the-field receptions. Buffalo Bills quarterback Thaddeus Lewis hasn't been shy about throwing, and with C.J. Spiller's ankle injury jeopardizing his availability again, he'll have to rely on Chandler as a quasi-run-game complement to Fred Jackson. In PPRs, Chandler is gaining some value.
Tony G's lack of stats wasn't due to a lack of looks. It's simply that he's now the key of defenses in taking out the Falcons' aerial game. If Gonzalez is traded by the Falcons, he could come into a better situation to capitalize on the attention he'd receive. Maybe a reunion with his old Chiefs mates will jump-start his production.
WAIVER WIRE: With the season-ending Injured Reserve placement of Mike Williams (hamstring), Timothy Wright should continue acting as the top complement to Vincent Jackson on Mike Glennon's progression. The Buccaneers' lack of a running game should keep the big-armed Glennon busy.
Brandon Pettigrew didn't get many threats for PT from Joseph Fauria because Jim Schwartz wanted to exploit the Dallas Cowboys' nickel defense with three-wide sets. Pettigrew is still the top Detroit Lions tight end but has a limited ceiling most weeks because of Fauria's presence as a TD vulture. It's a risky venture to bank on one of them.
The Rams have been deploying many two-TE sets, and that should continue with the statuesque Kellen Clemens behind center. Ala the Lions' setup, Lance Kendricks hurts Jared Cook's weekly potential.
Sebastian Vollmer's broken leg might keep Rob Gronkowski in to block more frequently for the suddenly shaky New England Patriots. Tom Brady's troublesome hand injury (reports vary on the severity), passing technique and protection might wind up taking some targets away from Gronk every week.
- Jimmy Graham's partially torn plantar fascia will limit his involvement as he plays through the pain. He scored two touchdowns on his three receptions, and he wasn't on the field often. The Saints have plenty of options so that they can limit Graham's time to red-zone and third-down reps until he proves he can get better. He's still a must-start in nearly every league, but he won't be at his elite pace anytime soon. This could be a boon for Moore's value.
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 the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
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