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.
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.
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
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.
Rice gone bad?
- 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.
Calling Hot Routes....
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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