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
First aftermath of the Indianapolis Colts' target shuffle sans Dallas Clark (wrist) and Austin Collie (thumb): Reggie Wayne had 12 targets; Pierre Garcon, 11; Anthony Gonzalez, seven; Blair White, zero. The Houston Texans' secondary was kind as usual, even to this elite aerial game.
Packers may lean on Nelson a bit
Gonzalez's experience has him lined up ahead of White in the pecking order. Oh yeah, and expect a mad waiver wire dash for tight end Jacob Tamme, who grabbed six passes for 64 yards and a score on nine looks. It's easy to assume he'll naturally slide into Clark's production. Tamme is athletic, but Manning will continue to spread it out enough to make Tamme an erratic contributor.
Marques Colston tied for first among wideouts in the last four weeks with 43 targets while garnering seven of them in the red zone. The New Orleans Saints' offense showed signs of life last week. Lance Moore (nine targets) remained a key cog, while Robert Meachem (six) crept back into relevance with six catches for 76 yards. Maybe he won't have to block as much if quarterback Drew Brees is setting things right. Don't let Meachem fall out of sight.
The Carolina Panthers' Steve Smith had his best game of 2010: nine catches, 85 yards. Smith's 23 targets in the last two weeks can thank Matt Moore's return under center. Brandon LaFell reached the end zone on one of his eight targets. Hot post-Week 7 pickup David Gettis? Four looks. Though Moore at the command and increased three-wide sets improve this passing game, receivers behind Smith will be spotty for fantasy purposes.
Tight end Jason Witten (Dallas Cowboys) has 13 targets in each of the last two weeks. Thanks, Jon Kitna. They'll probably play from behind often, meaning Miles Austin (12 Week 8 targets) won't lose much value. Dez Bryant (10) looks to be pulling ahead of Roy Williams (three), though.
After a three-game injury absence, Steve Breaston was welcomed back by Arizona Cardinals quarterbacks in Week 8 with 12 targets (eight grabs, 147 yards). Though Early Doucet had six looks, Breaston is Arizona's best bet for receiving stability outside Larry Fitzgerald. As usual, mark Breaston as a better play in point-per-reception setups than non-, holding potential WR3 consistency in the former.
With Louis Murphy (chest) out, Darrius Heyward-Bey earned 10 looks against the Seattle Seahawks' defense. The Oakland Raiders' offense has battered the competition in the last two weeks, and with tight end Zach Miller (foot) banged up, DHB might look like the next beneficiary. Hold on: Seattle's secondary was playing backups, and one was matched up on Heyward-Bey during his 69-yard touchdown catch-and-run. Murphy doesn't look good for Week 9, but given Oakland's run-focused attack, Miller's presence and a potential return of Chaz Schilens (knee), DHB is in line for erratic attention from whoever is quarterbacking. Don't overbid.
Kenny Britt (hamstring) left Week 8 in the first quarter and might be out for a while. The Tennessee Titans' receiving targets are up for grabs. Nate Washington and Damian Williams each had nine looks, with Washington earning two red zone looks and Williams having his number called once inside the 5. Lavelle Hawkins also chipped in with six looks. Your best bet here is the experienced Washington, but the talented Williams is worth a cavernous flier.
The New England Patriots' Wes Welker has just 11 targets combined in the last two weeks, after seeing 21 in his previous two games. Randy Moss' absence looks to be restricting his space to move, which already is a little limited by his still rusty knee.
Gonzalez was back in the mix
Then again, Brandon Tate (four), Deion Branch (three) and tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski (three each) didn't see much work as the Pats tramped the Minnesota Vikings' run D in the second half. Expect New England's targets to continue to be spread out in this wide-open offense. Maybe Tate repeating his deep success in Week 8 can open things up for Welker eventually.
Mike X. Williams (Seattle Seahawks) suffered a bruised knee and also was stifled by Oakland Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha on Sunday and caught just one of his five targets. Seattle had to play catch-up a bunch, too, leading to Golden Tate (seven) and Deon Butler (six) seeing increased work. Williams remains the top target when not dinged or snuffed out.
Mike Sims-Walker torched the Dallas Cowboys' secondary on 10 targets for eight catches and 153 yards, along with scoring a touchdown for the third time in four weeks; he has 26 targets over his last three weeks. Mike Thomas, meanwhile, had five looks for the Jacksonville Jaguars and has just eight looks in the last two weeks. Is Sims-Walker overcoming the problem of getting separation he was suffering earlier in the year? He looks like a safer fantasy play than he did earlier in the year.
Buster Davis (ribs) and Malcom Floyd (hamstring) were inactive for Week 8. The San Diego Chargers' passing game outside Antonio Gates (eight targets) and Patrick Crayton (five) involved ample dump-offs to running backs and Seyi Ajirotutu (four), a promoted practice squadder who resembles Floyd. Though Ajirotutu and Gary Banks might see increased work in Week 9, they're not worth fantasy attention.
With Randy Moss on his way out from the Minnesota Vikings, expect wideout Bernard Berrian (four looks Sunday) and tight end Visanthe Shiancoe (five) to see more opportunities. Minny already wanted Shiancoe more involved before Moss wrote his departure ticket.
Matthew Stafford's return kept the Detroit Lions' passing fire lit. Even versus a vulnerable Washington Redskins pass D, good signs for the attack moving forward. Nate Burleson (nine) remains solid fantasy depth. Brandon Pettigrew (five) remains a better option than Tony Scheffler (one).
Jerricho Cotchery was targeted 14 times by New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez on Sunday. Braylon Edwards had jut five looks; Santonio Holmes, six. Sloppy play: Cotchery butterfingered a few passes, and Holmes dropped what would have been a long touchdown. Edwards was overlooked on a few open plays while Sanchez instead targeted Cotchery.
Cotch isn't a consistent starting option anyway. If Sanchez's accuracy continues its inconsistency, it might jeopardize the fantasy returns of Edwards and Holmes, too.
Bright side for Dustin Keller owners: Sanchez targeted him seven times. The team wanted to get Keller more involved following the bye, so don't give up on him yet.
Jordy Nelson was sought out seven times in Week 8 and stands to benefit if Donald Driver (quadriceps) has to sit out Week 9. The Green Bay Packers have looked toward Nelson seven times in each of the last three weeks - there's PPR rental value here.
With Danario Alexander (knee) out for several weeks, the St. Louis Rams' pecking order remains in flux. Wideout targets in Week 8 went Brandon Gibson (eight), Danny Amendola (seven) and Laurent Robinson (six). Mardy Gilyard didn't register one. Amendola remains the most stable. Gibson follows in fantasy reliability, but Robinson should remain on watch lists.
Deep leaguers: Watch Delanie Walker, who was looked at seven times in the absence of tight end Vernon Davis (ankle). Keep tabs on Davis' injury news before the San Francisco 49ers return from their Week 9 bye.
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.