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 this past week. Are these numbers a trend in the making or simply an aberration?
Fantasy Football on Target
Randy Moss landed on Davis Island Monday night, as the Miami Dolphins shadowed the New England Patriots wideout with cornerback Vontae Davis, a blossoming shutdown commodity. Moss didn't catch a pass and received just one target - on a fake QB spike in the red zone near the end of the first half. Tom Brady was happy poking holes in the rest of Miami's D with targets for Wes Welker (10) and Brandon Tate (five), along with his tight ends.
Of course, maybe Moss is losing a step, too, but he's still showing spurts even with small stats. He has a bye in Week 5 and then comes back to face the Baltimore Ravens, who've faced underwhelming receivers but have excelled against the position. After that, Moss will likely line up against the San Diego Chargers' Quentin Jammer and the Minnesota Vikings' Antoine Winfield. It might not be a quick road back to fantasy production for Moss, but sitting him is hard unless your wideout crop is stacked.
Michael Vick (rib) might miss a few weeks. What will Kevin Kolb do for this offense? He targeted DeSean Jackson seven times after he replaced Vick, but D-Jax registered only three catches and 19 yards. Unfortunately, we might see some bite taken out of Jackson's downfield game - and more Jeremy Maclin once again - in a full game under Kolb. More on Kolb's impact later.
For his struggles so far, Greg Jennings leads the Green Bay Packers' wideouts in targets with 27. Aaron Rodgers loves to spread the rock, though, and Jennings has just seven catches in his last three games. His three touchdowns on the year are driving his value right now. However, Jennings has the most explosiveness of any Packers wideout (tight end Jermichael Finley rivals him there) and must be kept in lineups.
Davone Bess (12 targets) and Brian Hartline (10) took advantage of attention paid to fellow Miami Dolphins wideout Brandon Marshall and a soft New England 3-4 defense. Hartline was also targeted 12 times in Week 3; Bess, seven.
Their passing game has been bloated the last two weeks: They took advantage of a Darrelle Revis-less New York Jets squad in Week 3 and played catch-up during a week 4 blowout loss. The two non-Marshall wideouts will probably have erratic production and remain merely matchup plays in your No. 3 or flex fantasy slot; they have more value in point-per-reception setups. If you have to pick one, Hartline, who plays on the outside, will probably be slightly more consistent than the slot-inhabiting Bess.
An 18-target Sunday for Brandon Lloyd continued the Denver Broncos' receiver carousel, but whither Demaryius Thomas? He had just four targets (after nine in Week 2 and six in Week 3) and started returning kicks. His impressive performance in that duty might further contribute to his looks dropping - stay tuned, he's already getting the short end of this receiver stick.
Denver airs it out often, but Jabar Gaffney (nine looks) and Eddie Royal (eight) remain better bets than Thomas to be involved, since the rookie is rotating in most of the time. The Broncs still will target the wideout whom they feel can expose the D best, and the explosive Thomas should at least be owned if not played each week.
Hines Ward (five targets in Week 4, four in each of the previous two weeks) will be happy to have Ben Roethlisberger under center after the Pittsburgh Steelers' Week 5 bye. Ward and fellow wideout Mike Wallace still hold some buy-low value; see if you can swing a deal.
Michael Crabtree caught five passes for 58 yards on six targets - an upgrade for the San Francisco 49ers wideout. San Fran had trouble getting him the ball in Jimmy Raye's system. New offensive coordinator Mike Johnson wants to get Crabtree into space more, and Crabtree was pleased with the results. More space for Crabtree should equal more looks.
With Steve Smith (ankle) looking like he'll miss Week 5 and Dwayne Jarrett's release after his second DWI arrest, David Gettis (6-foot-3, 216 pounds) could be the Carolina Panthers' No. 1 wideout. He saw six targets in Week 4 and five in each of the two previous weeks, and quarterback Jimmy Clausen, a fellow rookie, has shown a decent connection with Gettis, who's a deep, deep fantasy flier.
Kenny Britt led Tennessee Titans receivers in targets on Sunday, but other than scoring a touchdown, it wasn't pretty - three catches for 23 yards on seven targets, and a huge drop late in the game. If you need to take a chance on a wideout in a deep league, Britt's talent warrants some attention, but this offense will prevent him from being a weekly starter. He still has a ways to go.
Blair White saw just four targets in Week 4 for the Indianapolis Colts, while Reggie Wayne and Austin Collie did their usual thing. White's playing time will depend on the health of Pierre Garcon (hamstring), making him a desperation fantasy play.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh had his best game with the Baltimore Ravens. When it's a 3-49-1 outing, it's relative, but he caught two key passes in the fourth quarter, including the game-winning score. Maybe Joe Flacco will bring him into the circle of trust. Housh has been targeted six times in three of his four games, so it isn't like he's being ignored. He's probably floating in many free-agent pools. Can't promise a miracle with Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason in tow, but if your point-per-reception depth is waning, at least you'd be taking a chance on experience with Housh.
Sleeper watch: Brandon Gibson has 13 targets in the last two weeks and snared three of his four looks for 50 yards and a red zone touchdown in Week 4. The St. Louis Rams want to get Gibson and Mardy Gilyard (four looks Sunday) more involved over the next few weeks.
Stephen Williams was targeted eight times by Arizona Cardinals quarterbacks in Week 4, with five coming from Max Hall, who entered during the first half of a blowout loss. Williams tallied three catches for 32 yards but was overthrown on an early bomb by Derek Anderson that could've earned him more fantasy attention. Either way, there's a slight chance Steve Breaston (knee) will be back in Week 5, so Williams' looks could start declining soon; plus, the Cards aren't sure whether they're tossing in DA or Hall for Week 5. With the way 'Zona's offense has dwindled, no Cardinals wideout outside Larry Fitzgerald is a worthy fantasy play.
With the Atlanta Falcons' passing game showing some more flight, Harry Douglas has 22 targets over his last three weeks, including eight in Week 4. His conversion rate? Not so promising - just six catches and 91 yards in that time. Michael Jenkins (shoulder) might be back soon, too, which would make Brian Finneran irrelevant. Douglas' involvement, however, deserves watch-list attention in deep point-per-reception setups.
Unlike that of DeSean Jackson, Brent Celek's stock should see a boost with Kevin Kolb slinging it for the Philadelphia Eagles. Celek (eight targets in Week 4) found the end zone for the first time this year, thanks to Kolb's seven looks in his direction. Kolb is generally considered more of a middle-of-the-field operator, so Celek is in prime position to benefit.
The Oakland Raiders' Zach Miller snared 11 passes for 122 yards and a touchdown in Week 4. He has 25 targets in the last two weeks. Let's just say Miller enjoys having Bruce Gradkowski at quarterback.
Quarterback Shaun Hill continues his love of the Detroit Lions' tight ends. Brandon Pettigrew (11 looks) and Tony Scheffler (10) are the best complements to wideout Calvin Johnson right now. Since Matthew Stafford (shoulder) was injured during Week 1, the tight ends have seen increasing involvement. Also, in the last two weeks, without Nate Burleson (ankle), the tight ends have combined for 40 targets. With Hill under center, the position is a crutch.
Don't run out and grab Joel Dreessen (eight targets). Sure, Owen Daniels (three targets) has been eased into action slowly, was battling a hamstring injury and hasn't looked fully recovered from his anterior cruciate ligament tear last year. However, Andre Johnson (ankle) being inactive and the injury to Jacoby Jones (calf) opened up some targets - how long will that last? In leagues where your tight end options are thinning, keep an eye on Dreessen - this offense is potent enough to make him useful sometimes - but he's more of a blocking option. Don't think this week will be the norm.
Evan Moore's return from a concussion should eat into Benjamin Watson's looks for the Cleveland Browns, but Watson (six catches for 60 yards Sunday) remains the better fantasy bet because he'll be on the field more often. He had 10 targets in Week 4 compared to Moore's three, despite Moore swiping a 24-yard touchdown catch, his only reception of the day.
Remember: Opportunity can lead to success. Find out which of these players we recommend adding in this week's Fantasy Football Waiver Wire.
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.
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