Opportunity in the NFL can translate to success in fantasy football. While a wide receiver or tight end may have caught a few passes in a given week, his target total might have been double or triple that. Those looks may not have turned into receptions one week but might in the future.
Whose involvement is worth watching? Are these target numbers a trend in the making or an aberration?
Don't ditch Jones
With Michael Jenkins (knee) on Injured Reserve, Devin Aromashodu is pillaging Minnesota Vikings targets. His 90-yard day Sunday probably was at least partly the result of being matched up with Andre Goodman and not Champ Bailey, but DA has long teased fantasy owners with this potential. Vikings wideout coach George Stewart is a fan, and QB Christian Ponder raved about Aromashodu's skills.
He's in an offense that values his big-play ability, and he could be developing a rapport with Ponder - planting seeds early for Minny's rebuilding effort. DA's contract is up after 2011, and a successful trial here could earn him a permanent role. Not a bad fantasy stab for the traditional fantasy playoffs against the Detroit Lions, New Orleans Saints and Washington Redskins - likely all pass-happy affairs for Ponder.
Top Week 13 wide receivers
- Miles Austin (hamstring) could be returning this Sunday, which should strip some targets away from Bryant and Laurent Robinson, who is actually dealing with a shoulder injury now. Bryant took advantage of rookie CB Patrick Peterson throughout the day, but he's relatively safe targets-wise even with Austin back. L-Rob will lose some looks but remains playable; the Dallas Cowboys run plenty of three-WR sets.
- Mario Manningham's hammy sidelined him for Week 13, and Nicks took advantage. He has registered 12 targets and seven catches in each of the New York Giants' last two games and looks more like the WR1 many selected him as before this season. An active MM might knock some targets off Nicks' total, but this can't discourage you from playing him.
- Dan Orlovsky gave the Indianapolis Colts some valid NFL QB play in Week 13, even if a ton of his production came in garbage time. He showed a connection with Pierre Garcon, who, along with Reggie Wayne and Austin Collie, are becoming more desirable plays, especially since Indy will likely be trying to play catch-up in Weeks 14-16 against the Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans.
- With Fred Davis absorbing a four-game suspension, Moss, one of Rex Grossman's biggest proponents, should expect this target load the rest of the way for the Washington Redskins.
- Is Smith ... finally becoming a wide receiver? He's reportedly getting more comfortable in the Buffalo Bills' system now that he's starting on the outside opposite Steve Johnson. Ryan Fitzpatrick admitted to missing Smith on a few deep throws, presumably in Week 13. Smith's play count alone makes him worthy of a desperation flex spot in deep leagues; he's more valuable in PPR setups.
- Keep an eye on Jeremy Maclin's (hamstring, shoulder) status for Week 14. His return would bump Cooper from fantasy value. Cooper might not be as effective if Michael Vick (ribs) returns to QB, anyway, to supplant Vince Young, with whom Cooper seemed to have chemistry.
- Jones' target load was his highest since Week 4, but this past weekend, the Atlanta Falcons displayed more of their issues with the deep pass that have plagued them this season. Some of them have comes with Jones sidelined, some just from Matt Ryan's inconsistency. The downfield game is Jones' forte, but depending on game strategy, Atlanta doesn't always focus on challenging secondaries in that way. With Chris Gamble set to cover Roddy White this week, Atlanta could look to Jones more against the Carolina Panthers. Jones is worth a WR3 slot because of his dangerous talent and potentially increased urgency from Atlanta to round him into form during the playoff chase.
Top Week 13 tight ends
- Finley broke through with a big game against a decimated New York Giants defense. Of course, he also dropped a few passes, including at least one scoring chance. The Green Bay Packers have used Finley as a decoy for most of the season, but he's still a potentially explosive low-end TE1.
- Gates has been getting his confidence and burst back each week since returning from a sidelining foot injury, per San Diego Chargers head coach Norv Turner. He has at least six targets in six of those seven games and has hauled in nearly 70 percent of his looks on the season. Reports of his demise were apparently greatly exaggerated.
Tebow found Thomas
Another Thomas tease?
We've seen Demaryius Thomas flash his talent this year, even with Tim Tebow as Denver Broncos QB. It resurfaced in Week 13, when Thomas logged four catches for 144 yards and two touchdowns ... all in the fourth quarter against a shoddy Minnesota Vikings defense.
It seemed like Tebow took advantage of Minnesota playing Cover 2 defense all day, preoccupying themselves with Eric Decker's big-play ability. It's strange teams pay attention to the pass much with Tebow there, but Tebow paid heavy attention to Thomas in the wideout's return from the sidelines during Week 7. This gives more reason to take a chance on Thomas in the final few weeks, especially since the Chicago Bears also employ Cover 2 elements in their D; maybe they view Decker the same way.
Fantasy playoff matchups with the receiver-friendly New England Patriots (Week 15) and Buffalo Bills (Week 16) don't hurt, either.
- One of our Pittsburgh Steelers sources recently said the team wanted to make an effort to get the ball in Mike Wallace's hands on screen plays so he can utilize his big-play ability. One of his two Week 13 TDs came on a screen pass; another came on what looked like a broken play. This desire to involve Wallace more might take some attention away from Antonio Brown, moving the two closer to each other in fantasy value.
- Andre Roberts snared all six of his Week 13 targets and has seen at least five looks in each of the last five weeks (34 total). Meanwhile, Early Doucet has just 27 in that time, inflated by a 10-look Week 11. Roberts has been the more consistent option of the two in complementing Larry Fitzgerald, who naturally is receiving more attention.
- The Oakland Raiders' Darrius Heyward-Bey looks like he's finally gaining timing with Carson Palmer, but it might be all for naught if Denarius Moore and/or Jacoby Ford can return from their foot injuries this weekend.
- The St. Louis Rams might be down to third-string QB Tom Brandstater, which would hurt an already fluid passing game. More checkdowns to Steven Jackson would probably result from this situation. Brandon Lloyd could still be force-fed, as he was with A.J. Feeley, but Brandstater starting would knock him down to about a third-wideout level for fantasy lineups.
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 competes in Tout Wars and LABR and has won several industry leagues in both baseball and football.
During baseball and football season, hear him every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore. On Thursdays, he visits 106.1 FM WMTI in New Orleans and Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, where he often crashes other shows, as well.
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