Opportunity in the NFL world can translate into success in the fantasy football world. This is where targets come into play. While a wide receiver may have caught only four passes in a given week, his target total might have been double or triple that. Those targets may not have translated into catches one week, but they may in the future.
The following players gained attention because of the number of targets they received in the first week. Are these numbers a trend in the making or simply an aberration?
Fantasy football on target
Fantasy owners of Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson were not too happy with his stat line: three receptions, 90 yards, no touchdowns. The yardage is OK, but the receptions and lack of an end zone trip just aren't enough for a high draft choice. If it makes you feel better, Johnson almost scored on a long pass (he was ruled out of bounds close to the end zone). Plus, he was the target of the second-most passes over the weekend (13), including two in the red zone. His production will come; it just won't be consistent - or pretty.
Keep an eye on Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Andre Caldwell, whose eight targets tied for a team high in Week 1. He also led the squad's receivers with three red zone looks. Chris Henry, by the way, was targeted only twice in the game. Ouch.
Running back-by-committee remains the name of the game in Carolina, as Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart, despite missing most of training camp with an Achilles' injury, saw 14 utilized plays to starter DeAngelo Williams' 19 plays. In the red zone, Williams saw eight looks, with three coming inside the 5. Stewart saw just four utilized plays in the red zone, but three of them came inside the 5. Get used to it, as it's not likely to change anytime soon. Oh, preseason darling Mike Goodson saw just two looks on game day.
Don't discriminate because of age! San Francisco 49ers wideout Josh Morgan was a fantasy football darling during draft season, but it was veteran Isaac Bruce who led the team in targets (nine), receptions (four) and yardage (74) during Week 1. Bruce may be long in the tooth, but he isn't a forgotten man for quarterback Shaun Hill.
Atlanta Falcons receivers Roddy White (10 targets) and Michael Jenkins (five) were the only receivers on the team's roster to be targeted during Week 1. Much of that thanks goes to the addition of tight end Tony Gonzalez, who had nine targets, including three in the red zone.
The New Orleans Saints have a lot of mouths to feed, and quarterback Drew Brees did a good job in Week 1. Receiver Devery Henderson actually tied for the lead in looks among receivers, seeing six targets, including one in the red zone. Marques Colston (six), Lance Moore (three) and Robert Meachem (two) also saw their chances, while tight end Jeremy Shockey took two of his four targets into the end zone. Keep feeding the troops, Brees!
Denver Broncos wide receiver Brandon Marshall may have ticked off plenty during the offseason, but he still - despite not starting - was the most targeted Broncos' receiver in Week 1, seeing seven looks. Talent, my friends, always outweighs immaturity in the NFL.
What did Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning do when wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez (knee) went down? He looked toward Reggie Wayne again and again and again, to the tune of 14 targets, including two in the red zone. Youngsters Pierre Garcon (five targets) and Austin Collie (three) will need to step up their game with Gonzalez out.
For everyone who was in love with Saints running back Pierre Thomas in the preseason, here is some serious room for worry: Running back Mike Bell was utilized an impressive 28 times during Week 1, including five plays in the red zone. Reggie Bush, in comparison, was utilized just 13 times.
Minnesota Vikings rookie wide receiver Percy Harvin led the team's receivers in utilized plays during Week 1, seeing six looks, including three in the red zone. Ailing receiver Bernard Berrian (hamstring) saw just two looks from quarterback Brett Favre, who is still clearly shaking off the rust.
That three-headed mess in Tampa Bay turned into just a two-headed mess for the Buccaneers when all was said and done in Week 1. Running back Cadillac Williams was utilized 13 times, including once inside the 5. Running mate Derrick Ward was actually used the most, with 15 utilized plays, including four in the red zone, with three of those coming inside the 5. Earnest Graham, lining up at fullback, more often led the way, seeing just one utilized play - two fewer than runner Clifton Smith. Cadillac and Ward appear the only two here you can sneak into your fantasy football lineup right now!
The Cleveland Browns are used to having talented Kellen Winslow to throw to at tight end, but his move to Tampa Bay didn't stop quarterback Brady Quinn from going to the tight end position often. Robert Royal, known mostly for his blocking ability, was the target of nine plays, on which he caught four balls for 60 yards and one touchdown. He should be monitored, as Quinn loves the short passing game, which is ideal for tight ends.
Tennessee Titans wide receiver Justin Gage (11 targets), Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Nate Burleson (11), Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Mark Clayton (10), Washington Redskins wide receiver Antwaan Randle El (10) and St. Louis Rams wide receiver Laurent Robinson (10) are available on the majority of fantasy football waiver wires this week. None are household names by any means, but each of them saw double-digit targets during Week 1. A sign of things to come?
We will soon see, but remember: Opportunity can lead to success. Find out which of these players we recommend adding in this week's Fantasy football waiver wire.
Until next time, may all of the passes to your players be on target!
About Ryan R. Bonini
Founding KFFL in 1996, Bonini now serves as VP of Fantasy Sports Solutions for USA TODAY SPORTS, KFFL's parent company. Bonini was named 2009 Fantasy Football Writer of the Year by the FSWA, received honors with the Best Fantasy Football Series in '10 and was named into their Hall of Fame in '13.
His work has been found in USA TODAY Sports, Yahoo! Sports, FOX Sports, CBS Sports, NFL.com, and many others. He has also been featured on numerous radio programs around the country. Bonini is a member of the PFWA, FSWA and FSTA. Follow @RyanBonini
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