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
The trade last week of Deion Branch to the New England Patriots allowed for a few more looks to go around the Seattle Seahawks' receiving corps. Leading the way, somewhat surprisingly, was Mike X. Williams, whose 15 targets ranked second among all Week 6 wideouts behind the Miami Dolphins' Brandon Marshall's 17. Deon Butler (four), Brandon Stokley (three) and Golden Tate (two) rounded out Seattle's target list at the position. Tight end John Carlson was looked to four times. Expect the targets to even out going forward. For what it's worth, head coach Pete Carroll basically dared Williams to step up his game, and it paid off.
Quarterback Jay Cutler returned to the lineup for the Chicago Bears in Week 6. He primarily relied on wide receiver Johnny Knox, whose 11 targets marked a season high. Next in the pecking order was Earl Bennett (six), but the No. 3 wideout in line was not Devin Hester (four) but rather Devin Aromashodu (five). DA hasn't been targeted in Week 2, Week 3 (inactive) or Week 4 after being looked to 12 times in the first game of the year. Is his renewed involvement sign of things to come? Tight end Greg Olsen was thrown to four times, failing to post a reception for the second straight week.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger returned from his four-game suspension and the bye week to throw three touchdown passes. Expect more consistency in the passing game with Big Ben at the helm. His target distribution: Hines Ward (eight), Mike Wallace (six), Antwaan Randle El (three), Emmanuel Sanders (two) and Heath Miller (four).
Detroit Lions wide receiver Nate Burleson has been targeted 16 times in the past two games after missing Week 3 and Week 4. His Week 6 total of 10 was just one fewer than his three previous games played combined. The Lions are off this week, and quarterback Matthew Stafford (shoulder) is expected to return in Week 8. Will the chemistry be there for Burleson and the young passer? The same question can be asked about tight end Brandon Pettigrew, who has seen a target explosion since Stafford left the lineup in Week 1.
The San Diego Chargers lost wideout Malcom Floyd (hamstring) for the fourth quarter Sunday and were already without tight end Antonio Gates (toe). That led to quarterback Philip Rivers calling on some lesser relied on options in the passing game. Insert Patrick Crayton (eight) and Buster Davis (eight). Crayton has caught 64 percent of his targets this year to Davis' 51 percent. Floyd, Legedu Naanee (hamstring) and Gates may not play this week; both backup receivers could again see ample looks against the New England Patriots this Sunday. Tight end Randy McMichael, who was targeted twice last weekend, could be the recipient of more looks if Gates cannot play.
We have profiled Benjamin Watson in this space before, and the Cleveland Browns' tight end seems to have turned the corner after being written off in New England. He has been targeted no fewer than six times in any game this year and has 26 looks in his last three games. Rookie quarterback Colt McCoy relied on him nine times in Week 6, and the former Texas Longhorn passer may start again in Week 7. Furthermore, wide receivers Joshua Cribbs (concussion) and Mohamed Massaqoui (concussion) may not play.
How did the New England Patriots distribute the ball in their first game post-Randy Moss? Deion Branch, the newly reacquired receiver, led the way with 12 looks, but Wes Welker was a close second (11). Brandon Tate was looked to four times by Tom Brady, and Julian Edelman (head) saw one target. Tight end Aaron Hernandez was targeted seven times, which is becoming typical for him. Fellow rook Rob Gronkowski was looked to only once.
Wideout DeSean Jackson was concussed after four utilizations and did not return Sunday. Jeremy Maclin led Philadelphia Eagles receivers with seven targets, but he was matched by tight end Brent Celek. Jason Avant, a sure-handed possession receiver, was thrown to five times, catching each one. Philly's fourth receiver, Riley Cooper (concussion), missed the game. Chad Hall filled in and was utilized on five plays.
The Dallas Cowboys have publicly discussed getting running back Felix Jones more involved (10 receptions on as many targets). This detracted from the usual suspects: Miles Austin (five), Roy Williams (three) and Jason Witten (five).
Since being named a starter before Week 5, Washington Redskins wideout Anthony Armstrong has been targeted 15 times. He has eight receptions for 130 yards and one touchdown in this time. Expect to see more of Armstrong, as well as Fred Davis, who was looked to four times in Week 6, if tight end Chris Cooley (concussion) can't go this weekend.
The St. Louis Rams may have found a new weapon in Danario Alexander. The rookie from Missouri caught four balls for 72 yards and a score against the San Diego Chargers last Sunday. He was targeted six times.
Miami Dolphins wide receiver Brian Hartline has seen more than his fair share of targets in the past three games. He was looked to 12 times in Week 3, 10 in Week 4 and seven coming off their Week 5 bye. Brandon Marshall, who led all receivers in looks this week with 17, has opened things up for Hartline and Davone Bess (nine in Week 6).
Tight end Jermichael Finley (knee) has been placed on Injured Reserve, but Week 6 didn't give us a lot of help in determining the fantasy pecking order of his replacements. Veteran tight end Donald Lee wasn't even targeted, while Tom Crabtree saw one look and Andrew Quarless was thrown at twice.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Kellen Winslow, since their Week 4 bye, has been targeted 19 times. This may be a product of Winslow's improving health and could be a sign of things to come. Wide receiver Mike Williams has 21 targets in the past two weeks, which also seems to be helping open things up for Winslow.
Remember: Opportunity can lead to success. Find out which of these players we recommend adding in this week's Fantasy Football Waiver Wire.
About Cory J. Bonini
Cory is KFFL's General Manager. In late 2002, he joined the KFFL staff as a research analyst and has been involved in fantasy sports since 1996. A member of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, as well as Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Bonini has been featured in print, on radio and on scores of websites. Bonini co-hosted Big Lead Sports on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio from 2011 to 2012.
Bonini was recognized with the 2010 Best Article in Print Award from the FSWA and was a finalist for the same award in 2011. In '11, he finished first overall in the FSWA NFL experts challenge that featured 60 of the industry's best competitors. Follow @Cory_Bonini
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