Fantasy Football

RotoWire NFL Target Analysis

RotoWire.com Howard Bender
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So far, through Week 4 of the NFL, there have been a total of 30,333 receiving yards and 205 touchdowns scored through the air. Those are some pretty substantial numbers this early in the season and each is about two and half times as much as its counterpart on the rushing side. It is your job as a fantasy owner to get as big a slice of that pie each week, because based on what many of the running back situations look like these days, it's wide receivers and tight ends who seem to be your bread and butter. Hopefully you've made the right start/sit decisions each week, but if you haven't, well perhaps we can be of service.

Let's start with the target leaders from Week 4.

(Click column headings to sort.)

PLAYERPOSYARDSTDPASS ATTTARGETSRECRZ TRGTRZ TRG%CATCH%TARGET%
Victor Cruz, NYG WR 164 1 37 16 10 0 0.0 62.5 43.2
A.J. Green, CIN WR 51 0 42 15 7 3 66.7 46.7 35.7
Brandon Marshall, CHI WR 79 0 47 14 7 1 11.1 50.0 29.8
Tony Gonzalez, ATL TE 149 2 54 14 12 5 28.6 85.7 25.9
Antonio Brown, PIT WR 88 0 51 13 12 5 36.4 92.3 25.5
Julio Jones, ATL WR 108 0 54 13 6 4 14.3 46.2 24.1
Cecil Shorts, JAC WR 61 1 32 12 7 5 50.0 58.3 37.5
Jordan Cameron, CLE TE 91 1 38 12 10 3 20.0 83.3 31.6
Martellus Bennett, CHI TE 90 0 47 12 8 2 22.2 66.7 25.5
Andre Johnson, HOU WR 110 0 49 12 9 1 16.7 75.0 24.5
Torrey Smith, BAL WR 166 1 50 12 5 2 28.6 41.7 24.0
Jerome Simpson, MIN WR 124 0 25 11 7 0 0.0 63.6 44.0
Kenbrell Thompkins, NE WR 127 1 31 11 6 5 50.0 54.5 35.5
Reggie Wayne, IND WR 100 1 39 11 5 8 42.9 45.5 28.2
Jamaal Charles, KC RB 62 1 41 11 5 7 50.0 45.5 26.8
Vincent Jackson, TB WR 27 0 43 11 2 0 0.0 18.2 25.6
Alshon Jeffery, CHI WR 107 1 47 11 5 5 44.4 45.5 23.4
Owen Daniels, HOU TE 72 0 49 11 6 1 16.7 54.5 22.4
Calvin Johnson, DET WR 44 1 35 10 4 5 42.9 40.0 28.6
Demaryius Thomas, DEN WR 86 2 37 10 9 4 28.6 90.0 27.0
Jason Witten, DAL TE 43 0 37 10 5 2 33.3 50.0 27.0
Michael Floyd, ARI WR 87 0 38 10 5 1 50.0 50.0 26.3
Donnie Avery, KC WR 23 0 41 10 2 1 16.7 20.0 24.4
Antonio Gates, SD TE 136 1 42 10 10 0 0.0 100.0 23.8

Probably the most notable aspect of this week's target list is the absence of any big-time surprises. Usually there is at least one name out of the blue, but in this week's case there doesn't seem to be a single name out of place. Sure, maybe it's weird that Michael Floyd made the list over Larry Fitzgerald, but not if you realize the need to shorten the passing game against the likes of the Tampa Bay defense. Still, there are some notables worth mentioning.

Victor Cruz, WR NYG - As bad as Eli Manning has been this season, it's a game like this that shows you why you don't bench Cruz. The Chiefs secondary was without Brandon Flowers, though it's still a tough bunch to rack up yards against. But throw enough passes Cruz's way and that season-long 60.5-percent catch rate is going to produce some solid numbers. New York's favorite salsa dancer might not see much in the way of actual red-zone targets, but he can stretch the field and make big catches with the best of them. And that's what makes him a threat to score whenever he's on the field.

Jerome Simpson, WR MIN - If that target percentage is any indication of things to come, then as long as Matt Cassel is at the helm, you will want Simpson in your lineup. Of course, the matchup needs to be right as well, but looking at the schedule and upcoming pass defenses, it will be more than it won't be. The catch percentage this week was solid and proved him trustworthy, but with an overall rate slightly below league average, he will have to continue to step up his game if he wants to stay the favorite. He should definitely be owned, but we need to see another one of these soon before we entrust him with a starting roster spot.

Kenbrell Thompkins, WR NE - While some were quick to dismiss the preseason on-field relationship between Thompkins and Tom Brady just because of two lousy weeks, those who exhibited the patience a rookie deserves were handsomely rewarded for the second week in a row. A lot has to do with Brady becoming more comfortable with his rookie receiver, but kudos to Thompkins for improving on his catch rate steadily the last two weeks. With continued play at this level, Thompkins will remain relevant even when Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola return.

Vincent Jackson, WR TB - The best part about the Bucs' Week 5 bye is that we won't even have to wonder if this miserable 18.2 percent catch rate was because of his lingering rib injury or the switch to Mike Glennon at quarterback. The extra week should give him more time to heal while also an opportunity to improve on his on-field relationship with his quarterback. Whichever the current problem it is, Jackson needs to overcome it fast if he wants to stay relevant in both fantasy and reality.

Alshon Jeffery, WR CHI - Last week, you were told to keep an eye on Jeffery as the double-teams covering Brandon Marshall continued to leave the talented but underutilized receiver in more favorable one-on-one match-ups. He had eight targets in Week 3 and saw 11 in Week 4 as the Bears looked to mix things up, offensively speaking, and prove that they have more weapons than just Marshall. Jeffery still needs to improve his catch rate as there were a number of misses.

Now let's check out the overall targets leaderboard.

(Click column headings to sort.)

PLAYERPOSYARDSTDPASS ATTTARGETSRECRZ TRGTRZ TRG%CATCH%TARGET%
Cecil Shorts, JAC WR 337 0 149 52 26 10 25.0 50.0 34.9
A.J. Green, CIN WR 300 3 148 50 26 14 63.6 52.0 33.8
Julio Jones, ATL WR 481 2 173 48 33 10 14.7 68.8 27.7
Andre Johnson, HOU WR 368 0 177 47 34 4 13.6 72.3 26.6
Pierre Garcon, WAS WR 339 2 170 44 29 15 42.1 65.9 25.9
Victor Cruz, NYG WR 425 4 155 43 26 5 30.8 60.5 27.7
Julian Edelman, NE WR 319 2 158 43 34 10 26.9 79.1 27.2
Jordan Cameron, CLE TE 360 5 183 43 30 15 45.5 69.8 23.5
Brandon Marshall, CHI WR 348 2 149 42 27 5 12.5 64.3 28.2
Antonio Brown, PIT WR 412 2 163 42 32 7 25.0 76.2 25.8
Jimmy Graham, NO TE 458 6 166 42 27 10 33.3 64.3 25.3
Torrey Smith, BAL WR 435 1 169 42 21 4 20.0 50.0 24.9
Vincent Jackson, TB WR 292 0 137 41 17 0 0.0 41.5 29.9
Calvin Johnson, DET WR 312 4 156 40 21 17 50.0 52.5 25.6
Kenbrell Thompkins, NE WR 257 3 158 39 15 17 34.6 38.5 24.7
Demaryius Thomas, DEN WR 393 4 159 38 29 7 22.7 76.3 23.9
Emmanuel Sanders, PIT WR 231 0 163 38 20 5 20.0 52.6 23.3
DeSean Jackson, PHI WR 393 2 123 37 21 4 25.0 56.8 30.1
Anquan Boldin, SF WR 372 2 117 36 24 4 36.4 66.7 30.8
Dez Bryant, DAL WR 282 4 152 36 23 11 23.8 63.9 23.7
Wes Welker, DEN WR 266 6 159 36 26 19 40.9 72.2 22.6
Steve Johnson, BUF WR 235 2 130 35 18 10 38.5 51.4 26.9
Jamaal Charles, KC RB 213 2 146 35 23 14 37.5 65.7 24.0
Eric Decker, DEN WR 340 1 159 35 24 9 18.2 68.6 22.0
Larry Fitzgerald, ARI WR 245 3 153 34 21 8 36.4 61.8 22.2
Tavon Austin, STL WR 124 2 183 34 20 8 20.0 58.8 18.6
Davone Bess, CLE WR 177 0 183 34 19 7 22.7 55.9 18.6
Randall Cobb, GB WR 290 2 122 33 21 13 38.1 63.6 27.0
Reggie Wayne, IND WR 300 2 132 33 22 10 26.3 66.7 25.0
Jason Witten, DAL TE 192 2 152 33 21 8 23.8 63.6 21.7
Tony Gonzalez, ATL TE 242 3 173 33 23 13 26.5 69.7 19.1
Brian Hartline, MIA WR 272 2 142 32 21 2 22.2 65.6 22.5
Martellus Bennett, CHI TE 225 3 149 32 20 16 37.5 62.5 21.5
Alshon Jeffery, CHI WR 211 1 149 32 18 9 25.0 56.3 21.5
Jerome Simpson, MIN WR 342 0 167 32 19 0 0.0 59.4 19.2
Owen Daniels, HOU TE 192 3 177 32 18 9 22.7 56.3 18.1
Greg Little, CLE WR 78 0 183 32 11 7 22.7 34.4 17.5
Jared Cook, STL TE 240 2 183 32 17 5 12.0 53.1 17.5
Antonio Gates, SD TE 364 2 166 31 25 4 12.0 80.6 18.7
Austin Pettis, STL WR 173 2 183 31 18 9 16.0 58.1 16.9
Kendall Wright, TEN WR 192 1 119 30 20 8 38.5 66.7 25.2
Nate Washington, TEN WR 332 2 119 30 19 3 7.7 63.3 25.2
T.Y. Hilton, IND WR 205 0 132 30 16 1 5.3 53.3 22.7
Mike Williams, TB WR 164 2 137 29 15 7 100.0 51.7 21.2
Michael Floyd, ARI WR 240 0 153 29 16 5 36.4 55.2 19.0
Marques Colston, NO WR 298 1 166 29 21 2 9.5 72.4 17.5
Dallas Clark, BAL TE 175 0 169 29 16 5 20.0 55.2 17.2
DeAndre Hopkins, HOU WR 270 1 177 29 20 8 18.2 69.0 16.4
Brandon Gibson, MIA WR 208 0 142 28 20 4 22.2 71.4 19.7
Mike Wallace, MIA WR 176 1 142 28 15 1 11.1 53.6 19.7
Darren Sproles, NO RB 277 1 166 28 23 2 9.5 82.1 16.9
Josh Gordon, CLE WR 217 1 183 28 14 1 4.5 50.0 15.3
Ace Sanders, JAC WR 162 0 149 27 14 8 15.0 51.9 18.1
Danny Woodhead, SD RB 162 2 166 27 22 5 16.0 81.5 16.3
Chris Givens, STL WR 235 0 183 27 13 8 20.0 48.1 14.8

Target Percentage Leaders

Cecil Shorts, WR JAC (34.9%) - The Jaguars No. 1 offensive threat stays atop the leaderboard for the second week in a row, but again, be wary of the fact that he may see a slight reduction in targets due to the return of Justin Blackmon. It doesn't appear as if this week is going to be your biggest problem, though, as the Jags take on the Rams who own one of the weakest pass defenses in the league. Shorts should continue to see a high percentage of targets and, with a favorable matchup, should still be more than just fantasy relevant.

A.J. Green, WR CIN (33.8%) - With Browns cornerback Joe Haden all over him like white on rice, Green still saw 15 targets this week and stayed in the top three overall. The catch rate is a little weak, but between yards accrued, touchdowns and red-zone looks, Green appears to be the best all-around receiver in the game.

Anquan Boldin, WR SF (30.8%) - With the rest of the league's targets being more evenly distributed, Boldin sneaks into the top three with a 30.8-percent target percentage. He hasn't seen double-digit targets in a game since Week 1, but with so many more targets than the rest of his teammates, he continues to increase his overall percentage. It should stay that way until the 49ers develop another decent receiver, but so far, with just Boldin and tight end Vernon Davis as the only two legitimate receiving threats, he's going to continue to see a serious majority of targets.

Red Zone Target Leaders

Wes Welker, WR DEN (19) - Through four weeks, we've seen quite a bit develop in Denver with regard to the passing attack. While Demaryius Thomas leads Broncos receivers in target percentage, Eric Decker and Welker have seen similar target numbers go their way. But the major difference between them is red-zone looks, and that's where the value lies. Welker's 19 red-zone looks and 40.9-percent red zone target rate give him a significant advantage over Decker as far as opportunity and potential go, and while Decker may have more yards in total, Welker easily outearns him in fantasy points with six touchdowns to just one for Decker.

Calvin Johnson, WR DET (17) - Last season, Megatron got off to a bit of a slow start, and while this year he sits closer to the middle of the pack in overall targets, he retains his value as one of the best wide receivers in the game by seeing such a strong number of red-zone looks. He may not be No. 1 overall just yet, but he sees enough consistent work that you know his totals will simply increase across the board. They'll shoot up even higher once Ryan Broyles establishes himself as a strong No. 2. Brandon Pettigrew and Kris Durham are seeing a rise in targets because of the heavier use of a short-passing game, but once they establish Broyles as a potential deep threat, things should open up downfield more for Johnson.

Kenbrell Thompkins, WR NE (17) - The fact that Brady continues to look for him throughout the game gives him a major value, but that he consistently looks for him so much in the red zone makes Thompkins a major asset in fantasy. Unfortunately, though, with the way Brady favors Gronkowski once the goal-line is in sight, this aspect of Thompkins' game could be greatly reduced soon enough.

Potential Risers (those who failed to make the overall leaderboard)

Jerricho Cotchery
Denarius Moore
Robert Woods
Donnie Avery
Matt Forte
Greg Olsen
Brandon Myers

Potential Fallers

Davone Bess
Greg Little
Chris Givens
Brandon Gibson
Dallas Clark
Ace Sanders

Week 5 MatchUp to Watch

Denver Broncos at Dallas Cowboys - Obviously, the Broncos are loaded with must-starts, but the fact that they face yet another weak pass defense means that we are, again, looking at an "all hands on deck" situation. The Cowboys defense ranks 28th in passing yards allowed (an average of 305 per game) and have given up a league-high 10 touchdowns through the air this year. All three main receivers for the Broncos should fare well as will tight end Julius Thomas as the Cowboys rank 22nd in the league against the position. Meanwhile, that Denver pass D looks pretty ugly itself. Dez Bryant is always a must-start, but look for both Miles Austin and Jason Witten to come away from this matchup looking like studs.

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