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
Jacoby Ford's 11 targets ranked fourth among all wideouts for Week 12. His 4-108-1 line wasn't bad, either. The Oakland Raiders' new No. 1 wideout? Probably, at the moment. His physical abilities have made catches out of mistakes (Oakland QBs tend to make them), and he's the biggest impact receiver with tight end Zach Miller (foot, leg) banged up.
Warnings: Louis Murphy (six targets, four catches, 73 yards) was no slouch, either; Ford had big days against shaky secondaries (Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins); and Miller's absence has helped him. Ford is giving the Raiders what they wanted out of Darrius Heyward-Bey, and if you need to ride Ford's hot play, you could do worse for a flex play.
Indianapolis Colts update: With five receptions in each of the last three weeks, during which he has totaled 25 looks, Pierre Garcon remains involved enough to see WR3 employment, despite his mental miscues. Austin Collie's (concussion) return date is cloudy, but Blair White's fantasy boost with Collie inactive has been clear; he has 13 targets over the last two weeks.
Wide receiver - err, running back - Reggie Bush returned for the New Orleans Saints in Week 12 but only recorded 13 offensive yards while being used just four times. If the New Orleans Saints continue this delicate approach with the fragile player, Lance Moore (seven targets, 5-39-1) will keep receiving work reserved for Bush and remain New Orleans' most consistent wideout option excluding Marques Colston. Devery Henderson and Robert Meachem would continue to pick up the position's target scraps. Once Bush starts to become more involved, though, Moore will carry more risk for fantasy lineups.
Also, even if Jeremy Shockey (rib) were to return soon, Jimmy Graham remains a playable fantasy option because of his red zone prowess, augmented by his athletic frame. The Who Dats spread the ball around, but Graham's talent is worth sticking with.
Minnesota Vikings' targets for Week 12: Percy Harvin had eight, Visanthe Shiancoe earned six, and Sidney Rice mustered four. Rice still looks tentative and isn't yet in sync with Brett Favre, making Rice a shaky play until they start connecting again.
Deon Butler was targeted nine times by the Seattle Seahawks but only hauled in two of them for nine yards. Ben Obomanu, meanwhile, continued stepping up through Butler's inconsistency and Mike X. Williams' foot injury with 5-159-1 on six targets, including a long touchdown where the D ignored him. Williams might be out for Week 13, as well, which only strengthens Obomanu's fantasy case. Butler isn't a safe play in most leagues.
A recent ankle injury didn't appear to hinder Mike Sims-Walker in his Week 12 return, but he caught only four of his 10 targets. The more consistent Mike Thomas equaled MSW's looks and hauled in six. The Giants have been particularly strong against the tight end position, which might've been a reason Sims-Walker was targeted three times in the red zone while tight end Marcedes Lewis (five targets) received no such attention. Don't bank on MSW's red zone - or overall - involvement being that reliable.
With Brandon Marshall (hamstring) sidelined, Davone Bess (six catches and 111 yards on nine targets, three in the red zone) and Brian Hartline (eight and one, respectively, for four grabs and 75 yards) built on their point-per-reception utility. Both Miami Dolphins wideouts are playable in those formats and in some deep standard scoring leagues for as long as Marshall is sidelined. With Marshall in the lineup, they're prone to cannibalizing each other's targets and producing matchup-dependent stats. Bess should be more consistent with Chad Henne back under center.
With Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens lining up against New York Jets cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, Jordan Shipley took some extra Thanksgiving helpings with 5-38-1 for the Cincinnati Bengals. He has 18 targets over the last two weeks but remains mainly a matchup play that'll return better value in PPR leagues.
Danario Alexander's return in Week 12 once again corrupted the St. Louis Rams' wideout hierarchy. He saw seven targets. Laurent Robinson had six; Brandon Gibson, five. Danny Amendola had 10 and now has 28 in his last three games. The slot machine is the most stable in this passing offense, especially with tight end Michael Hoomanawanui (ankle) likely done for the year. The Robinson-Gibson-Alexander trio will probably trade off looks as long as all three are healthy and rotating snaps.
Remember Brent Celek? Seems like Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick finally did in Week 12, giving Celek three catches, 50 yards and a touchdown. It could've been much more: Vick missed Celek on a few other throws that could've led to touchdowns. It probably was because wideout DeSean Jackson was being used as a decoy again, or maybe they're finally liberating Celek instead of forcing him to protect Vick 24/7. If you're hurting at tight end and Celek is available, he's worth a gamble, especially for the chance that Philly decides Celek can remain useful in the red zone down the stretch.
Jared Cook (6-foot-5, 246 pounds) saw 10 Tennessee Titans targets, catching four of them for 48 yards. The tight end can probably thank uninspiring rookie quarterback Rusty Smith and injuries to Bo Scaife (stinger) and Craig Stevens (knee). If Scaife can't suit up, the talented Cook would be an intriguing deep-league fantasy flier. The Titans could use a dynamic option to utilize the middle of the field. Furthermore, Kerry Collins (calf) could return this week.
Kevin Boss continues to benefit with New York Giants wideouts Steve E. Smith (pectoral) and Hakeem Nicks (leg) sidelined, gaining 19 targets (four in the red zone) in the last three games. He's a relatively safe fantasy starter under those circumstances, as long as he doesn't have to stay in to block a strong pass rush.
While he hasn't been producing much, Heath Miller has garnered 21 targets in the last three weeks, including seven Sunday. It's tough for him to do much given the Pittsburgh Steelers' offensive line woes; his blocking has been frequent this year. He isn't droppable in deep leagues given his involvement, and he remains a handy backup.
Don't look now, but tight end Kellen Winslow's targets have slowly climbed back up, culminating with nine in Week 12 for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He has 24 since Week 9. Wideout Mike Williams, meanwhile, hasn't been as reliable. Are defenses noticing him, or is it a rookie fall-off? Either way, Josh Freeman seems to be finding more comfort in Winslow's arms.
Also, it's probably worth noting only for cavernous fantasy leagues, but wideout Arrelious Benn had a season-high six looks in Week 12. If Tampa feels he has worked his way into relevance, an increased involvement might be in his future, as well. No other wideout besides Williams is a threat to Benn's workload.
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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