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
Danny Amendola led all wide receivers in Week 5 with 20 targets. The "Slot Machine" (trademark, copyright, all rights reserved) is a mainstay for St. Louis Rams looks, but the hierarchy was shaken by Mark Clayton's season-ending knee injury. Brandon Gibson (six looks) should remain a starter, with Mardy Gilyard (six) the biggest beneficiary for extra time.
Gibson warrants waiver wire attention in deep leagues, and Gilyard should be monitored. Remember that Laurent Robinson just returned from another injury, and while he's buried on the depth chart, L-Rob still has time to make up ground if someone else falters. This situation - outside of Amendola - is fluid.
Another injury creates a target vacuum. Jermichael Finley (knee) will be sidelined for three to six weeks. Wideout James Jones saw a season-high eight targets in Week 5 after Finley exited on the first drive of the game; regardless of whether Aaron Rodgers (concussion) will be ready to return this Sunday, expect Jones' involvement to jump. Jordy Nelson should also sneak in some more work.
Andrew Quarless (six looks in Week 5) is a better fantasy fill-in than Tom Crabtree (two). This won't cure your loss of Finley, but Quarless could have short-term value in deep leagues where carrying two tight ends is beneficial.
With Austin Collie (foot) playing but banged up, Pierre Garcon tallied 14 targets in his return to the Indianapolis Colts and earned six receptions for 57 yards. He had four catches combined in his two games before that. It'll be hard to expect that involvement consistently from him every week with Collie, Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark in the fold and Anthony Gonzalez (ankle) on track to return soon. But if Garcon was dropped in your league by a scorned owner, he shouldn't be left unclaimed.
San Francisco 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree built on his Week 4 progress by hauling in nine passes for 105 yards and a touchdown last week. New offensive coordinator Mike Johnson wants to feed the rock to San Fran's playmakers, and Alex D. Smith is still taking snaps (no David Carr yet). If you can still buy low on Crabtree, pounce.
Tight end Brent Celek thanks Kevin Kolb for being the Philadelphia Eagles' quarterback. Celek was looked at nine times, catching a touchdown from him for the second straight week. Celek added three catches for 47 yards. Wideout Jeremy Maclin saw nine looks, as well, demonstrating his rapport with Kolb. DeSean Jackson suffered; he had just four.
It's opportune to try to buy low on D-Jax - head coach Andy Reid says Michael Vick (rib) will regain the starting job when he returns. Jackson's owner might not make the connection that Vick will help Jackson's value. Plus, it doesn't hurt to try to acquire Jackson's talent on an improvement speculation alone.
In Week 5, the San Diego Chargers' Malcom Floyd wasn't being followed consistently by Oakland Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, who instead spent some time on tight end Antonio Gates. The result for Floyd: 13 targets, eight catches, 213 yards and a score. Remember Asomugha's coverage pattern for the Bolts' next contest versus Oaktown.
Kenny Britt continues to work back into the Tennessee Titans' good graces. The Rutgers talent was targeted eight times in Week 5, compiling four catches for 86 yards while also finding paydirt for this third straight game. He almost had a second score on a deep bomb when he jumped back off the ground after a catch and ran for a score, but he was ruled down by contact.
Justin Gage (hamstring) missed the contest, but when healthy he hasn't done enough to prevent Britt from entering regular duty on his own. Britt has much more upside, and if he's finally reining in his preseason focus issues, he's a boom candidate.
Mike Sims-Walker saw just five looks in Week 5, but he caught four of them for 46 yards and a touchdown. The Jacksonville Jaguars have had trouble getting him the ball for most of the season, while Mike Thomas (seven looks) looks like the top wideout right now. Sims-Walker should remain on your bench unless you need a bye week fill-in, but he shouldn't be dropped.
The Kansas City Chiefs' Dwayne Bowe caught just two of his eight targets and dropped a couple of balls in Week 5. While he's earning more praise from head coach Todd Haley regarding his effort, Bowe has just nine receptions in four games this season and, like Sims-Walker, should ride your fantasy pine unless you need a bye or injury replacement. In fact, no Chiefs receiving target outside of tight end Tony Moeaki should come near your lineup right now.
In his return from a four-game suspension, Santonio Holmes was looked at nine times Monday by New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, but Holmes caught only three of them. Braylon Edwards saw 11 targets, and Jerricho Cotchery also saw nine. The Jets will probably continue to rotate the wideouts in two-receiver sets, but Cotchery remains at the bottom of this fantasy hierarchy and should lose more time as Holmes gains more reps with Sanchez.
Since Ryan Fitzpatrick took over as the Buffalo Bills' starting quarterback, Steve Johnson (6-foot-2, 202 pounds) has four touchdowns, including scores of five and seven yards in Week 5. However, he remains part of a crowded Buffalo Bills wideout picture. His targets in the last four games - four, three, six and, this past Sunday, five - still points to Fitzpatrick's inclination to divvy looks among Johnson, top dog Lee Evans, Roscoe Parrish and David Nelson.
They're playing catch-up often through the air, but behind Evans, these options don't really have a set hierarchy and will give you more waiver wire headaches than you deserve, especially since they're on a Week 6 bye. Buffalo also faces the Baltimore Ravens, Kansas City Chiefs and Chicago Bears after that, giving owners much less hope for wideout contributions.
After seeing just 10 targets in his first three games, the Washington Redskins' Anthony Armstrong had eight on Sunday, including a tough jump in the end zone on a 48-yard touchdown grab. His looks total matched that of No. 2 wideout Joey Galloway.
Donovan McNabb built a connection with Armstrong when the wideout practiced with the starters during offseason workouts. Galloway still has some pep left in him, but for how long? He's a prime phase-out candidate; Armstrong won't earn many receptions, but he's a fresher version of Galloway's big-play ability. Those with shaky wideout depth shouldn't overlook him.
With Jordan Shipley (concussion) sidelined for the Cincinnati Bengals, Andre Caldwell saw seven targets in Week 5. Caldwell was erratic in the slot role last season, though, and his role will depend chiefly on Shipley's health. Caldwell isn't worth pursuing.
Legedu Naanee (hamstring) left the San Diego Chargers' Week 5 game and didn't return. Buster Davis took advantage with seven targets (two catches, 11 yards). He has slightly more upside than Patrick Crayton. Naanee should be left for the waiver wire in most leagues. Davis should be left on the wire for now, but he has a hint of upside and should be watched in deep leagues.
Thanks to ankle injuries to Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace, rookie Colt McCoy is starting for the Cleveland Browns in Week 5. Their passing game will continue messing with brave owners' heads. Since McCoy probably will lean on Cleveland's safety valves, as Wallace did, the best bets for involvement are tight end Benjamin Watson (29 looks in the last four games), and wideouts Joshua Cribbs (26) and Chansi Stuckey (15 in his last two).
Tight end Evan Moore might be in more often, but probably not enough to be a fantasy pickup. McCoy's presence hurts wideout Mohamed Massaquoi the most; MM was just starting to click with Wallace last week, catching three of his passes for 33 yards, but now he'll have to start over with another QB.
Brandon LaFell (eight looks in Week 5) and David Gettis (six) might not hang on to their bumps in playing time much longer. The Carolina Panthers are on bye this week, and there's a chance Steve Smith (ankle) will return in Week 7. Also, Carolina signed Devin Thomas, and while he probably won't be involved much right away, he's a long-term threat to LaFell and Gettis. They held some promise, but now there isn't enough upside to take a chance on them.
Two of Marcedes Lewis' five Week 5 targets landed in his hands in the end zone. The Jacksonville Jaguars' tight end has three scores in his last two weeks. He'll continue to be a frustrating option, since most of his points come from his five touchdowns so far.
Hope you didn't invest strongly in Houston Texans tight end Joel Dreessen - even with wideout Jacoby Jones (calf) out, he only saw two targets, compared to Owen Daniels' five. Neither tight end is a worthy fantasy commodity at this point.
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.
Don't miss these great reports....
Recent KFFL releases
Fantasy Football Rankings: Standard Scoring
Fantasy Football Rankings: PPR Scoring
Fantasy Baseball Closer Depth Charts: White Sox chaos coming?
Fantasy Football Rankings: Scoring only