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.
RB: Vick Ballard (21-13-22), Donald Brown INJ (X-15-1), Delone Carter (12-2-8)
WR/TE: Reggie Wayne (11-11-9), Donnie Avery INJ (6-7-8), T.Y. Hilton (5-6-12), Dwayne Allen (2-5-7), Coby Fleener INJ (2-3-X)
With quarterback Andrew Luck breaking the rookie passing record by throwing for 433 yards on Sunday, a number of his receivers were able to get a piece of the action. His favorite target, the ageless Wayne, is about to turn 34 and on pace for a career high in receiving yards and currently leading all receivers in targets (101).
Check into this Hilton
Meanwhile, Avery (hip) and Hilton are battling for opportunities as the secondary receiver. Even though the former typically plays more snaps, they are neck and neck in targets. Avery was able to practice on Tuesday, so he appears to have escaped without a serious injury. However, with game day coming up on Thursday night against the Jacksonville Jaguars, anyone considering him, or looking to exploit what could be an expanded role for Hilton, will need to monitor the situation closely.
Heading into a short week the team has already ruled Fleener (shoulder) out, making Allen the featured tight end once again. Allen has been playing more snaps than Fleener as of late anyway, but his short-term value is modest, at best, given the Colts have yet to really lean on the young tight ends.
Even though the receiving corps looks quite jumbled, the backfield is tipping in Ballard's favor. Brown (knee) only played three snaps last week after dealing with swelling in his knee and is looking like a major question mark for Thursday. Indy faces a pussycat Jags D that just allowed 151 yards and four touchdowns to Detroit Lions running backs a week ago.
Ballard is not the most talented back in the league, but with 56 utilizations (rushing attempts plus targets) over the last three games, he ranks 11th among running backs in that time. For now, he's getting enough volume to grind this way into a worthy flex play, especially in a favorable matchup.
RB: Darren McFadden INJ (26-35-10), Mike Goodson INJ (1-4-8), Marcel Reece (6-0-9), Taiwan Jones (0-0-2)
WR/TE: Denarius Moore (8-8-9), Brandon Myers (10-3-13), Darrius Heyward-Bey (7-3-6), Rod Streater (4-5-10)
With McFadden and Goodson both very much in question with high ankle sprains, a touchy injury to deal with, Reece will no doubt become the popular addition. Just keep in mind that he's a fullback and did not receive a carry following the aforementioned injuries, as the team went all-pass in a failed attempt to come from behind. In fact, all eight of his touches came in the passing game, where the team has used their versatile fullback quite a bit.
Jones played very little after McFadden and Goodson had to exit, but with a week to prepare he may become the lead back should the team elect to keep the fullback involved strictly in the passing game. Of course, this all hinges on both DMC and Goodson being ruled out, which hasn't happened yet, so there's nothing safe to assume here.
The Raiders draw some favorable fantasy opposition over the next several weeks, and with a Silver and Black defense struggling to get stops, quarterback Carson Palmer figures to be throwing often.
Myers led all players in the league with 13 targets last week and finally found the end zone, twice as a matter of fact, after weeks of fairly steady production. Consider Myers a worthy replacement-level tight end.
Streater led the Oakland wideouts in targets last week but played far fewer snaps than Moore and Heyward-Bey. Moore has caught at least four passes in six straight games, scoring four touchdowns, and is the most reliable option here, while DHB has a reception of more than 30 yards in three straight. Streater has only caught 45 percent of the passes aimed this way this season and does not look like a reliable option going forward.
RB: Alfred Morris (24-13-14), Evan Royster (1-1-8)
WR/TE: Joshua Morgan (2-9-13), Leonard Hankerson (8-4-4), Logan Paulsen (6-6-8), Santana Moss (4-9-2)
As the 'Skins struggled to keep pace on the scoreboard over the last two weeks, running back revelation Morris has seen his carries drop to a season-low 13 in each of those contests. It's not doom and gloom, however, as Morris is averaging 5.2 yards per carry in that time. Indeed, Morris is running well, but with the offense only managing to score two touchdowns in the last eight quarters, he needs the rest of the supporting cast to step up in order to regain those carries.
With eight and 13 targets, respectively, in the last two games, Morgan is looking like the No. 1 receiver in D.C. - for whatever that might be worth. Paulsen has caught four passes in three straight games while averaging 59.3 yards per game, making him a decent PPR bye week option at tight end.
Truth be told, the passing game in the nation's capital simply lacks any explosion without Pierre Garcon (foot), who remains out and is now mulling season-ending surgery because he's making little progress. Moss (concussion) has been a playmaker late in the games but, as previously mentioned in this space, isn't getting enough snaps to depend on.
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.