Opportunity in the NFL can translate to success in fantasy football. While a wide receiver or tight end may have caught a few passes in a given week, his target total might have been double or triple that. Those looks may not have turned into receptions one week but might in the future.
Whose involvement is worth watching? Are these target numbers a trend in the making or simply an aberration?
Sure, Wes Welker's stats were bloated, but this is hardly foreign territory for him. He and Tom Brady are on a higher plane than every other passing connection in football.
Table 1: Week 3 WR targets, Top 15
White did a decent job against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Aqib Talib, even with that many missed connections. He should continue his upward swing against the Seattle Seahawks this Sunday.
- Boldin probably won't even see a handful of targets Sunday night since he'll be matching up with the New York Jets' Darrelle Revis. Maybe Torrey Smith or Lee Evans (ankle) will have more success against Antonio Cromartie (chest), if he even plays. See more on Smith below.
- Wayne was looked at many times, but neither Kerry Collins nor Curtis Painter could connect much with him. If Painter starts, it could benefit Garcon.
- Decker looks to be passing Brandon Lloyd as the best Denver Broncos option in point-per-reception leagues ... maybe as their No. 1 option overall. His size is a great target, and Lloyd probably has more attention paid to him than ever before in the past. For now, we'll give Lloyd the benefit of the doubt since he is still working his way back from the groin injury.
- Jenkins relies on targets even to be flex-worthy. Minnesota should increase Percy Harvin's involvement as the season goes along, and Donovan McNabb's upside is limited. Maybe Jenkins becomes a frequent target, but he won't always be able to do much with them. He's a more worthy deep stab in PPRs, but you should view Jenkins' Week 3 as an anomaly, not a trend.
- Though the Buffalo Bills sling the pigskin often, Jones' involvement is in week-to-week fluctuation. In PPR leagues, you should be more apt to take the chance, but it's chiefly for depth.
- Man, the Seattle Seahawks missed Rice. The results won't always be fantasy-friendly, but the targets should be. He should have some connection with former fellow Minnesota Vikings QB Tarvaris Jackson under former Vikings OC Darrell Bevell's system.
Table 2: Week 3 TE targets, Top 10
- Sure, Watson got a lot of attention, again, but his lack of production this past weekend again fell in line with his seasonal 47.6 percent catch success on his targets. Evan Moore remains in the picture, especially in the red zone. Watson's looks are likelier to drop off before he starts catching more of them. Greg Little, Mohamed Massaquoi and the others should become more involved as the season moves along. Moore's presence makes both TEs a tough play, even in good matchups.
- Sloppy conditions augmented Olsen's role, and Jeremy Shockey continues to be involved. Olsen still boasts a connection with Cam Newton in TE-friendly offense and an ownable fantasy piece ... and a startable piece this Sunday against the TE-friendly Chicago Bears.
- The Houston Texans had to throw a ton this past weekend to catch up to the New Orleans Saints. It was nice to see Daniels more involved (5-76-1), but his production remains dependent on game flow considering how much Houston wants to run. Still, another development mentioned below could open things up more.
- The Baltimore Ravens probably consider Dickson a mix of Boldin's athleticism with former TE Todd Heap's knack for being in the right spot. Dickson is becoming an ideal backup fantasy tight end.
- Vernon Davis didn't have to stay in to block much against the Cincinnati Bengals. Matchups against enemy pass rushers will probably have a say in Davis' production. The Philadelphia Eagles might fit the stay-in bill in Week 4, but they're also vulnerable against the position. Delanie Walker is capable of stepping up on offense if needed, too.
- Not pictured: Jermichael Finley, who snared three touchdowns on eight targets for the Green Bay Packers. He's healthy and once again heavily involved. Hope you bought low. Count on red-zone opportunities from some of the other Packers' receiving options to continue declining.
- Fred Davis (three targets, one catch) was successfully snuffed out Monday night by the Dallas Cowboys. He's still the Washington Redskins' best option at the position; Chris Cooley (five, four) was a decent matchup against the division rivals, chiefly on experience and lack of attention, and isn't playable in leagues yet. He's merely worth watching in case the team involves both tight ends more consistently.
Casey at the H-back
A rowdy Roddy rebound
The Houston Texans' already potent O has modified one of their weapons: James Casey, the tight-end-turned-H-back who was targeted seven times and went 5-126-1 in Week 3. Matchup problem alert! He could open things up for Owen Daniels and the other receiving options; heck, he logged more looks last week than wideouts Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones combined (three). He's a potentially solid No. 2 TE in leagues of 14-plus teams or so if he still qualifies - more so watch-worthy than add-worthy.
Dustin and the Jets
Dustin Keller is Mark Sanchez's favorite target. Defenses have been allowing Sanchez to look to his safety valve often - we saw a great example of how opponents are taking away the New York Jets' WRs when the Oakland Raiders switched to zone coverage in Week 3. Santonio Holmes is whom opposing passing defenses key on, and the Jacksonville Jaguars also took Plaxico Burress out of the Week 2 contest entirely. LaDainian Tomlinson might become a safer bet to snare some throws each week than Holmes and Plax.
Extending the run game
Some Week 3 gainers benefited from their teams' struggling ground games. Their teams' potential long-term rushing issues could build their PPR values.
(Week 3 targets)
|Brandon Pettigrew (13)
|Jahvid Best better in playmaking duty than between the tackles. If his run game doesn't work, as it didn't in Week 3, Pettigrew could be a proverbial running game as a chain mover.
|Andre Caldwell (12)
|Caldwell should continue to be frequently involved as the slot man. Plus, Cedric Benson is appealing his suspension but could still miss a few games eventually. Jerome Simpson? He might have a long stretch of absences coming.
|Antonio Brown (8)
|Steelers' sieve-like O-line creates need for dump-offs and midrange catch-and-go plays in the middle of the field. Brown's solid yards-after-the-catch skills could take load off struggling Rashard Mendenhall.
|Dane Sanzenbacher (7)
|Premature on last week's Mirage designation, perhaps. Matt Forte struggled in Week 3, and the other Bears' WRs range from the untalented to the unpolished. This slot type could be Chicago's best PPR wideout for the near future.
(Week 3 targets)
|Patrick Crayton (7)
||Lengthy Antonio Gates (foot) absence, Michael Floyd's injury history could create frequent opps. Any experienced member of this offense with potential for increase targets deserves attention.
|Todd Heap (10)
||This renewed aerial game could involve Heap a little more than BAL did. A backup, but one that could be a flex some weeks if your league is deep enough.
|Jared Cook (2)
||Nate Washington is the top guy with Kenny Britt (knee) dunzo. Though he's mostly potential at this point, Cook could be used in more three-wide sets. Don't commit yet - Damian Willaims and newly acquired Donnie Avery are watchable - but don't lose track of Cook if your league values carrying two tight ends.
|Laurent Robinson (5)
||Robinson looked like Michael Irvin compared to other DAL Week 3 WRs. With Miles Austin (hamstring) likely missing Week 4, Robinson could use this game as a chance to earn more reps even when Austin comes back.
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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