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
You think Wes Welker's 18-target, 15-catch outing was the story of Week 11? Yawn. This is news?
What about the St. Louis Rams' Brandon Gibson? This household name finished one target behind the position-leading Welker, further cementing Gibson's role in an otherwise unstable position this year. His targets-to-stats conversion rate came up short (five catches, 61 yards), though it's hard to ignore his 26 looks through his first two Rams games. They traded for him for a reason. Don't be scared off by Kyle Boller replacing Marc Bulger (leg) at quarterback, especially with the receiver-friendly Seattle Seahawks next on the docket. St. Louis' expected No. 1 wideout, Donnie Avery, is still ownable but continues to be hit or miss.
His popcorn was ready Sunday: A vintage Terrell Owens took advantage of a shaky aerial D for a 9-197-1 line, which included a 98-yard catch-and-run to paydirt. With 14 targets (tied for fifth among wideouts), Owens was happy to have the Buffalo Bills' Ryan Fitzpatrick feeding him the pigskin. Does a new coach plus a new but familiar quarterback equal a revitalized TO? Don't become too infatuated, but Fitzpatrick, surprisingly enough, has shown more aggressiveness and downfield competency than the displaced Trent Edwards. Both TO and Lee Evans approve of Fitzy retaking the reins.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh's nine-catch, 165-yard performance in Week 10 looks like an anomaly, not a return to normal. He saw six targets this past week while tallying only 36 yards on four receptions. The Minnesota Vikings' pass rush and the Seattle Seahawks' horrendous O-line had something to do with that; Seattle's offense barely touched the field early on. More chronic threats to Housh's fantasy presence: Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck hasn't been given time to throw and is finding Justin Forsett out of the backfield often out of necessity.
We reminded you in our Waiver Wire report that Anthony Gonzalez (knee) is working toward returning to the Indianapolis Colts lineup. Were the look totals this past week for Pierre Garcon (nine) and Austin Collie (one) a precursor of what's to come?
In the Cleveland Browns-Detroit Lions shootout (scary, right?), Mohamed Massaquoi (12 looks) was Browns quarterback Brady Quinn's favorite object of affection. Cleveland's introduction of a no-huddle offense did wonders for an inept unit. Of course, let's see how it works against stronger teams, but if this approach wakes up Quinn, Massaquoi becomes a more playable option. Don't expect such miracles for Josh Cribbs and Chansi Stuckey.
Michael Jenkins had his most productive game of the year with six catches for 76 yards, but he dropped a pass while wide open in the end zone. He has had a prominent case of butterfingers this year but has been taking advantage of defensive attention given to wideout Roddy White and tight end Tony Gonzalez. Jenkins has at least nine targets in three of his last four games.
Robert Meachem, Mr. Efficient: three looks, two catches, two touchdowns for the New Orleans Saints. He has now scored four times in three weeks, but he has only one week all season of more than two receptions. Meachem also has just one week of more than four targets. Look for news on a surprisingly more consistent Saints option below.
A more reliable week-to-week receiver, Andre Caldwell, led the Cincinnati Bengals' wideouts with eight targets. He remains a security blanket for quarterback Carson Palmer and is taking advantage of Chris Henry's season-ending forearm injury. He's a more consistent target source than Laveranues Coles most weeks.
The New England Patriots have sought out Julian Edelman just six times in his first two games since returning from injury. He's still their No. 3 wideout, by default, which doesn't even seem to mean that much in deep leagues anymore.
A more involved third wideout is the Philadelphia Eagles' Jason Avant, whose 4-26-1 line followed a banner Week 10. Avant's targets dipped from nine in Week 10 to five this past Sunday. Don't heavily pursue Donovan McNabb's third-down pal unless you're seeking depth.
Why do the Oakland Raiders continue throwing to Darrius Heyward-Bey (seven Week 11 targets)? We're not sure Bruce Gradkowski - heck, Tom Brady - would help him. Oakland's new starting quarterback should do wonders for tight end Zach Miller (seven targets), but it's too soon for deep leaguers to commit to wideouts Louis Murphy (five targets) and Chaz Schilens (four).
Bobby Wade, now an active member with Dwayne Bowe suspended, had seven targets for the Kansas City Chiefs, leading their wideouts. Wade ranks as a PPR rental, at best, as Chris Chambers remains the interim No. 1 in name and production.
Close to returning?
As his team was trying to rally from a deep deficit, the Denver Broncos' Jabar Gaffney saw nine targets, matching those of Brandon Marshall. Eddie Royal finished with six.
Entering the tight end realm, the Green Bay Packers welcomed back Jermichael Finley with 10 targets, and he produced seven catches for 54 yards. The Pack is looking for quarterback Aaron Rodgers to have a quicker release, and Finley should benefit from here on out with his after-the-catch ability.
Bo Scaife led all Tennessee Titans receiving options not named Chris Johnson with seven targets, continuing to take advantage of Justin Gage's (back) absence. The production didn't translate (four catches, 38 yards), but Gage doesn't have a timetable for his return, so Scaife should be near the top of the team's list again this coming week.
David Thomas, of the New Orleans Saints, is stealing some tight end thunder from Jeremy Shockey with at least five looks in three of the last four weeks. Thomas' work at fullback has helped his involvement. This is more of a warning sign for disappointed Shockey owners than it is an urgent message to pick up Thomas.
Tom Santi had six receptions for 80 yards in Week 11 while replacing Gijon Robinson (concussion) as the Indianapolis Colts' H-back. Dallas Clark, as usual, drew much attention while moving around and facing double teams. Santi often had favorable matchups with linebackers. This was nice, but Santi Claus would more likely give you coal if you attempt to play him.
Remember: Opportunity can lead to success. Find out which players we recommend adding in this week's Fantasy Football Waiver Wire.
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.
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