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
Is Steve Smith really "no longer an asset" to the Carolina Panthers, in his words? They looked at him just five times in Week 6, and Smith only converted that into a four-yard catch. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made him their primary defensive focus, as teams tend to do. The fiery wideout hasn't crossed the goal line this year and has just 259 receiving yards under OC Jeff Davidson's scheme.
The staff thinks he's seeing more double coverage, not that opponents are doing anything differently. Will the running game continue to show life? We don't recommend benching Smith, but you'll have to be patient.
DeSean Jackson's own statistical roller coaster continued as the Philadelphia Eagles sophomore hauled in six passes for 94 yards, which included a 51-yard snag, on 12 looks. Many divinized Oakland Raiders all-world corner Nnamdi Asomugha (eye) would snuff him out and Jeremy Maclin (seven looks) would have the better day. However, it was Jackson who took out Asomugha, poking him in the eye and giving him a scratched and bleeding right cornea. Maclin ended up with a measly six-yard reception. D-Jax's owners should send him some love but should remember that luck was probably on their side this time.
It looks like Arizona Cardinals wideout Steve Breaston is over a knee ailment that had been bugging him for awhile. He was targeted nine times, and Anquan Boldin (ankle) missed time. Boldin's high ankle sprain may keep him out of Week 7, too. Breaston is becoming a fantasy fixture even when Boldin plays.
Should you expect Moore in Week 7, too?
Another climber: Lance Moore, whom New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees realized still dons the fleur-de-lis. The fourth-year catcher, working his way back from a bum hamstring, netted six catches for 78 yards with a score on seven targets. Moore had the strongest connection with Brees last season; the Saints won't hesitate to spread the love, remember, but along with Marques Colston, Moore has the best shot to give as close to consistent production among this equal-opportunity wideout corps.
Sidney Rice's weekly target totals since Week 2: seven, eight, six and seven. The Minnesota Vikings wideout grabbed six passes for 176 yards against the Baltimore Ravens, and Brett Favre is growing fond of Rice's deep prowess (17.8 yards per haul), which includes catches of 47, 58 and 63 yards in the last two weeks for Rice. Don't worry, Bernard Berrian and Percy Harvin owners. There are still enough looks to go around.
Miles Austin has taken Patrick Crayton's starting role for the Dallas Cowboys wideouts, which will probably make Austin a low-end No. 3 fantasy option most weeks.
The Darrelle Revis Effect: The New York Jets corner held the Buffalo Bills' Terrell Owens to just three grabs and 13 yards despite the vocal wideout earning 10 looks. Lee Evans, meanwhile, manned 12 targets and ran off a 4-68-1 line, which included a 37-yard catch-and-run to paydirt. The yardage marked his season high, and the receptions tied his best '09 output.
It's still hard to count on Buffalo giving him this many looks each week, making him - as usual - a hit-or-miss play. The Bills probably won't trade TO, though, which should help Evans since Owens still commands ample defensive attention.
Sure, the New York Giants were throwing a bunch this past Sunday to play catch-up against the New Orleans Saints. That being said, Hakeem Nicks has 14 looks in the last two weeks, the most of any Giants wideout, while also averaging 18.1 yards per reception and finding the end zone in each of the last three weeks. The Gints won't hesitate to divvy looks among Nicks, Steven Smith, Mario Manningham and Domenik Hixon, but that doesn't mean the explosive Nicks can't make the most of his share to help as a flex wideout.
Massaquoi tightens grip on No. 1 job
Mohamed Massaquoi, the Cleveland Browns' new No. 1 wideout, was sought out 10 times Sunday, giving him 29 in the last three weeks. Behind him, the hierarchy remains unsettled. Josh Cribbs' nine utilizations this week raise an eyebrow or two, though six of them were carries and he didn't record a catch. Expect Cleveland to retain Cribbs past the trade deadline, too. Rook Brian Robiskie saw his first three looks of his career, accumulating a 23-yard reception. Chansi Stuckey chipped in four targets. Robiskie probably has the most to offer of the other three if he can find a significant role.
Johnny Knox received eight looks for the second straight game, and Devin Hester saw 12 for the Chicago Bears. Looks like Earl Bennett won't be making much noise as long as Knox continues to show above-and-beyond maturity.
The New England Patriots discarded Joey Galloway, leading to more time for receivers Sam Aiken, whom the team just signed to an extension through 2011, and Julian Edelman. During Tom Brady's Steve Spurrier impersonation, Aiken garnered seven looks, including three in the red zone. Edelman had six with two inside the 20. Both provided solid returns on their looks, too. The cannibalization warning aside, you could probably make do with either as a No. 6 fantasy wideout if your league calls for it.
Keep an eye on where Galloway heads, too. The Baltimore Ravens have shown interest, and he is already on his way to Kansas City for a workout, according to reports.
Jacksonville Jaguars wideout Mike Thomas was looked at 10 times in Week 6. In fact, all three top Jags wideouts had double-digit targets in a battle with the St. Louis Rams. Regardless of opponent, the Jags are finding aerial comfort. The Rams probably had something to do with the rook's season-high seven catches, but don't lose sight of the Jags' slot option.
Keenan Burton continues his successful climb into the starting lineup. The St. Louis Rams catcher has 15 targets in the last two weeks, in which Burton also registered 10 catches. Start giving him a serious look in deep setups, especially now that Donnie Avery (hip) is hurt again and quarterback Marc Bulger looks competent again.
On nine targets, the Cincinnati Bengals' Andre Caldwell notched five catches. With five-plus targets in four of his six games, Caldwell ranks as a safe fantasy depth commodity.
With Calvin Johnson (knee) inactive, Dennis Northcutt (six targets) and Bryant Johnson (four) had plenty to gain for the Detroit Lions. Northcutt registered five catches for 40 yards, while Johnson caught two for 27. The former has capitalized on his work better than Johnson recently and looks to be the better bet for point-per-reception setups if Johnson were to miss more time. Johnson retains his role regardless of Megatron's status. Deep owners should keep a casual eye toward John Standeford, who in his first '09 action saw three red zone looks.
With five targets Sunday, the fleet-footed Mike Wallace continues to chip in fantasy-relevant targets in a fantasy-relevant role as the Pittsburgh Steelers' No. 3 wideout. Watch out for him against the Minnesota Vikings this week....
The winless Tennessee Titans fought two storms Sunday: a blinding Nor'easter, and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Tennessee only attempted 14 passes while attaining just nine first downs. Their two completions: a 15-yarder to fullback Ahmard Hall, and a botched reverse that went for a loss of 22 yards to Nate Washington. Safe to say this skews the Titans' wideout production, regardless of quarterback.
With Jerricho Cotchery (hamstring) and Brad Smith (quadriceps) out of action, Braylon Edwards was the only New York Jets wideout to receive a target. The Buffalo Bills defense was targeted the most, though.
Keller's sophomore slump continues
In a decent statistical matchup, the Jets' Dustin Keller had just two catches for 18 yards despite receiving 10 looks in Week 6, which also saw him record some drops. The Jets hadn't involved him too much before that.
His next two opponents aren't friendly, either: In the last month, the Oakland Raiders have contained the position overall, and the Miami Dolphins have shown improvements against their last two matchups with big-name tight ends, which included a shutout of Keller.
One tight end on the upswing is Zach Miller. The Raiders' top receiving option was looked at 11 times, tied for the most at the position for Week 6, and broke off an 86-yard touchdown reception. He has steadily recovered in the stat columns since being blanked in Week 2. He'll soon have wideout Chaz Schilens (foot) and running back Darren McFadden (knee) back to take some attention away from him, too.
Chris Cooley managed nine targets for the Washington Redskins despite reports he'd probably have to stay in to protect the quarterback more often. The results against the Kansas City Chiefs? Five catches for 57 yards – not outstanding but not terrible. He may not be as free to roam on the offensive in Week 7 against the blitz-happy Philadelphia Eagles.
Remember: Opportunity can lead to success. Find out which of these 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 LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
During baseball and football season, he appears on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio on Thursdays and Sundays, and every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.