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.
Backfields in motion
- For the second straight week, Daniel Thomas of the Miami Dolphins played more snaps than Reggie Bush. The latter received four more touches but could only total four more yards. However, Bush found the end zone on a signature-style run and could be in store for more highlights with two very generous defenses on the docket. Thomas finally broke a run of more than nine yards last week but is more so a desperate flex play given the uncertainty on his workload from week to week.
Ryan Mathews is still getting the bulk of the carries for the San Diego Chargers, but they clearly prefer Ronnie Brown in the passing game. Over the last two games he leads all running backs in both targets (13) and receptions (12). Brown is only worth considering in the deepest of PPR formats but is more of nuisance to Mathews owners than anything else.
Thomas nudging way to more targets
- The (sometimes) featured back for the Kansas City Chiefs, Jamaal Charles (neck), took a nasty helmet-to-helmet shot Sunday and was down for several minutes. Thankfully, he did not suffer a concussion. He's been a headache for owners, though. Despite his explosive, game-changing speed, K.C. has shown they have no problem kicking him to the curb when the score gets out of hand, despite his ability to also make big contributions as a receiver. Rookie Shaun Draughn received double-digit carries in two of the three games in which Peyton Hillis was inactive, but is now just an afterthought, aside from a garbage time touchdown last week. He'd be the handcuff should Charles miss time, though. Hillis will continue to be a factor, but his touches (13 over the last two games) are not significant enough as long as Charles is healthy.
- After two 100-yard rushing efforts, Jonathan Dwyer (quad) was unable to suit up for the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 9. That opened the door for Isaac Redman, who returned from an ankle injury and exploded for 147 yards. Meanwhile, Rashard Mendenhall (Achilles') could be back for the team's upcoming Monday night game. Dwyer looks ready to return this weekend and should take over starter duties. Clearly, a single back receiving the bulk of the carries can produce for the Steel City, it's just a matter of health and avoiding a timeshare. In the meantime, all three of these backs should be owned until things finally shake out.
- With Alex Green failing to get the job done as the primary back for the Green Bay Packers, James Starks led the way in Week 9 with 17 carries for 61 yards. Meanwhile, wide receiver Randall Cobb was asked to carry the ball three times for 29 yards. The Packers head into a bye week, so maybe they'll try fixing the ground game, but you should expect the backfield usage to look awfully similar and rather unproductive.
- Don't read too much into Joique Bell of the Detroit Lions racking up 13 carries, 73 yards and his second touchdown of the season. Most of his action, and biggest runs, came late after the game was decided. Bell will continue to be a change of pace and see the field on third down, but his value (mainly coming in PPR scoring) is shaky, at best.
- After the fourth loss in five games, embattled Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick stated running back C.J. Spiller needs to get more touches. Way to state the obvious. Fred Jackson, now 31 years old and coming off a broken leg, is without a rushing attempt of over 15 yards this season, while Spiller has a 20-yard gainer in five of eight games. It remains to be seen if Fitzpatrick's plea will make a difference, but Jackson's lack of production is clearly drawing this platoon down.
- The New Orleans Saints will be without with scat back Darren Sproles (hand) for at least one more game (closer to a few more after that), which leaves a confusing three-headed backfield in the wake. Pierre Thomas appears to be the most logical fit, but on Monday night Mark Ingram received the same number of touches with near-identical results. Chris Ivory was activated for the first time this season and led the way with 10 carries, 48 yards and a touchdown. The snap counts reflect an open community approach, so start any of these backs at your own risk.
- Aside from a 30-yard touchdown run that shouldn't have counted because of an early whistle by a mistaken referee, DeAngelo Williams did very little with the rest of his limited number of carries. However, it marked the biggest play the Carolina Panthers have gotten out of their running backs this season. Jonathan Stewart failed to prove much when he was given out the opportunity to be the lead back, but as the team continues to line up in shotgun so frequently, it's hard to believe they'll get much of anything out of J-Stew or DAW going forward.
- Two consecutive blowouts have kept the ball in the air for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Laurent Robinson, returning from a concussion, and Justin Blackmon led the team with nine targets apiece, but Cecil Shorts still led the team with 56 receiving yards. Shorts remains the best option for a big play, but Robinson's return clearly made an impact. After getting 10 and 12 targets in the last two games, Shorts only got four looks last week. Without a clear go-to guy, the Jags' limited passing game won't produce more than deep, WR3 plays.
- Based on the playing time, Andre Roberts is still the No. 2 receiver for the Arizona Cardinals, but Michael Floyd is rapidly approaching. His 18 targets over the last two games equal Roberts'. The Cards head into a bye week, so there's no reason to make a move now, but this situation is worth monitoring starting in Week 11.
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.