Opportunity in the NFL world can translate into success in the fantasy football world. That's where targets come into play. A wide receiver might have caught only four passes in a given week, but his target total may 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 this past week. Are these numbers a trend in the making or simply an aberration?
Fantasy Football on Target
There's not much that's more disheartening than seeing your top fantasy wideout - in this case, the San Diego Chargers' Vincent Jackson - with a measly three targets. The Washington Redskins' Santana Moss received no more attention (four looks) than Antwaan Randle El or Devin Thomas, but at least we've come to expect disappointment in the nation's capital.
You fantasy football nuts who have been frustrated by the recent poor production of the Seattle Seahawks' T.J. Houshmandzadeh were no doubt giddy to see who led all wide receivers in targets, with 18, in Week 10. Rookie Deon Butler received a season-high seven looks, while inaccurate guarantor Nate Burleson brought up the team corps' rear with five.
It's not like opponents fear Roy Williams. The Dallas Cowboys continue to look Miles Austin's way (for obvious reasons); he has 31 looks in the past four weeks. So this is what it feels like to receive extra attention from a defense, thinks the fourth-year man who looked like a breakout stud a month ago? You should have traded him then. Now you'll probably have to wait it out.
Philadelphia Eagles QB Donovan McNabb is certainly comfortable throwing to Jeremy Maclin. The rookie from Mizzou was the intended target of 10 throws against the San Diego Chargers. That makes five times in six contests that Philly has looked his way at least seven times.
McNabb looked to his third-down pet, Jason Avant, nine times against SD. He might even become a hot free-agent pickup thanks to his seven catches for 68 yards and a score. An extended absence for running back Brian Westbrook (concussion) sounds likely and would help Avant's cause. The Eagles spread it around a ton, though; they threw to Avant more than three times in only one other game this season. The Michigan alum is merely a sneaky play in weeks that the Eagles' top one or two pass catchers have poor outlooks.
Speaking of the Birds, keep your eye on Brandon Gibson. The St. Louis Rams have been saying they're high on the former Philly practice squadder, who arrived in the trade for linebacker Will Witherspoon. The Iggles were apparently reluctant to part with Gibson, who wasn't a factor in his first active contest. The Rams went to him nine times in Week 10, though. St. Louis placed Keenan Burton (knee) on Injured Reserve, so Gibson is expected to remain a significant factor the rest of the way.
Is Laveranues Coles becoming a prominent piece for the Cincinnati Bengals? He was targeted 10 times in Week 9 and nine times in Week 10. He either gets eight targets in Week 11 or cuts a deal with the Ohio Lottery. Maybe both!
The return of Jordy Nelson (knee) didn't diminish James Jones' involvement for the Green Bay Packers; each was the recipient of five targets. Expect them to cannibalize each other the rest of the way, though. Each is difficult to roster from here on out.
And up for Least Maximized Supporting Actor (aka the Oakland Raiders receiver who leads his group in looks), Week 10: Johnnie Lee Higgins, with eight against the Kansas City Chiefs. Incidentally, Chaz Schilens (foot) garnered four targets in his first game back in action.
As they've done for much of the season, the New England Patriots did well to take away their opponent's No. 1 tight end in Week 10. Holding one to five looks, four receptions and 65 yards may not seem like a victory, but we're talking about the Indianapolis Colts' Dallas Clark. It counts in horseshoes, hand grenades and containing Dallas Clark ... but not with two minutes to go on fourth-and-2 in your own territory.
As you probably know, San Diego represents a good matchup for tight ends. Philadelphia must know it; Brent Celek caught six passes for 47 yards and a TD. That line is actually a huge disappointment; the Iggles chucked it his way 11 times, including SIX times in the red zone.
Credit the New Orleans Saints - oh wait, they don't need any more of that. Still, Drew Brees takes what he's given. The lowly Rams play spirited defense, give them that. Against them, Brees was content going to No. 2 tight end David Thomas (six looks) a little more than Jeremy Shockey (five).
It may seem a little heinous, but little known Joey Haynos is becoming a bigger factor for the Miami Dolphins every week. In the past four weeks, the former Maryland Terrapin has received three, four, five and six looks, successively; he has a pair of TD catches in that stretch.
Anthony Fasano has a total of 10 targets in that time and sat out Week 10 with a hip injury. Alas, maybe it's always the second tight end the Dolphins favor; Kory Sperry (who?) caught a scoring throw against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Haynos might be ticketed for an expanded role, though.
Receiver Justin Gage (back) was the target of 13 passes in Vince Young's first two starts, but he sat out the Tennessee Titans' Week 10 contest and may be out for a while longer. Tight end Bo Scaife received six looks, three of which came in the red zone, in the absence of VY's fav target. Against the Buffalo Bills, wideout Nate Washington had three looks and caught a scoring toss. It's Scaife who appears to continue to represent great value in fantasy pools, though.
In a tough matchup with Washington (how often have we said that this year?), the Denver Broncos looked Tony Scheffler's way five times. That's two more times than they did in their previous two contests combined, and it might be a precursor to what's in store for Week 11.
In their first 2009 meeting with the Chargers, Denver's staff felt that splitting their tight end out wide would create a mismatch. The result: seven looks, six catches, 101 yards and a touchdown for Scheffler. The health of quarterback Kyle Orton (ankle) may be a factor, and SD is probably wary of the tactic, but keep Scheffler in mind as a desperation play this Sunday.
Remember: Opportunity can lead to success. Find out which players we recommend adding in this week's Fantasy Football Waiver Wire.
About Nicholas Minnix
Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.
The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570. Follow @NicholasMinnix
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