Fantasy Football

RotoWire NFL Target Analysis 091013

RotoWire.com Howard Bender
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Just five weeks into the season and already depth at wide receiver is being put to the test. Most leagues require three starting wide receivers, and given the state of the running back position, the majority of owners are forced to use wideouts in their flex position. If you assume a standard 12-team league, that puts roughly 40 to 45 receivers already rostered and that doesn't even count the ones stashed on benches. Whatever's sitting out there on your waiver wire is looking pretty weak.

To make matters worse, a number of these injuries are hitting the upper tier of talent, so guys like Brandon Marshall, Roddy White and now Julio Jones are all failing to live up to where they were drafted. Couple that with the fact that numerous sleeper picks heading into the season - guys like Chris Givens, DeAndre Hopkins, Kenny Stills and Ryan Broyles, for example - haven't panned out and suddenly a position flush with talent back in early September is now a bit more scant than expected in October. Now add in bye weeks and we're talking all sorts of trouble for so many owners.

Obviously playing matchups weighs heavily in your decision-making process for whom to start and whom to sit; to pick up and to drop. But if your guy simply isn't seeing the ball come his way enough, then it doesn't matter if he's facing the 28th-ranked pass defense or the second. Targets are what it's all about. More targets mean more opportunity to score some points and with the array of injuries we're seeing, it's about sifting through both the weekly and cumulative numbers to see who is on the receiving end now.

So let's just start with who saw the most action during Week 5.

(Click column headings to sort.)

PLAYERPOSYARDSTDPASS ATTTARGETSRECRZ TRGTRZ TRG%CATCH%TARGET%
Mike Wallace, MIAWR105040167657.143.840.0
Tony Gonzalez, ATLTE970461410738.571.430.4
Alshon Jeffery, CHIWR2181331310742.976.939.4
Robert Woods, BUFWR6404013500.038.532.5
Rueben Randle, NYGWR96252136225.046.225.0
DeSean Jackson, PHIWR132139127333.358.330.8
Julius Thomas, DENTE122242129740.075.028.6
Hakeem Nicks, NYGWR142052129225.075.023.1
Victor Cruz, NYGWR48052125125.041.723.1
Golden Tate, SEAWR61131115133.345.535.5
Jimmy Graham, NOTE135035111000.090.931.4
Julio Jones, ATLWR99046118730.872.723.9
Cecil Shorts, JACWR74132105628.650.031.3
Dez Bryant, DALWR141236106842.960.027.8
Jason Witten, DALTE121136107442.970.027.8
Steve Smith, CARWR60039104450.040.025.6
Andre Johnson, HOUWR3904010300.030.025.0
Antonio Gates, SDTE74049107514.370.020.4
Reggie Wayne, INDWR650299600.066.731.0
Doug Baldwin, SEAWR8003195133.355.629.0
Justin Blackmon, JACWR13613295528.655.628.1
Torrey Smith, BALWR12103296125.066.728.1
Pierre Thomas, NORB5523599333.3100.025.7
Danny Amendola, NEWR5503894150.044.423.7
Brandon LaFell, CARWR4703994125.044.423.1
Jamaal Charles, KCRB3703995220.055.623.1
Owen Daniels, HOUTE600409600.066.722.5
Vincent Brown, SDWR1170499817.188.918.4
Keenan Allen, SDWR11514996621.466.718.4
Danny Woodhead, SDRB5814999735.7100.018.4

Mike Wallace, WR MIA - Not only did Wallace's 16 targets lead the NFL in Week 5, but they also pushed him ahead of Brian Hartline for the most-targeted receiver on the Dolphins. Given Hartline's use as a possession receiver and rapport with quarterback Ryan Tannehill, it's encouraging for fantasy owners to see Wallace getting the bulk of the attention. In the past, he's been a much better play in standard leagues than in PPR because while he was seeing the endzone looks and deep plays, he wasn't exactly racking up the reception totals. If he can fully attain the trust of his quarterback and coaches (that catch rate really needs to come up), then his number should get called more, thus putting his value on the path of ascension.

Robert Woods, WR BUF - With Stevie Johnson being smothered by Joe Haden for most of last week's game, Woods saw more than twice as many targets than any other Buffalo player. EJ Manuel leaned on him heavily and when he went down, backup quarterback Jeff Tuel did his best to, as well. Now the question is, will Thaddeus Lewis? At least with Tuel, Woods had a strong rapport in place from their preseason work together, but Lewis was signed very late this summer and has gotten all of his work with the practice squad. We're dealing with too much of an unknown now, which makes a repeat performance for Woods seem rather unlikely.

Rueben Randle, WR NYG - Sure, Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks get most of the attention and are both on this list as well, but with the frequency with which Eli Manning is throwing, Randle's target numbers continue to climb. With an extremely limited running game and the fact that Eli doesn't seem to be looking too often for his tight end, Randle should continue to see the looks. Cruz and Nicks will draw attention, which puts Randle in a lot of one-on-one coverage. Given his size, speed and overall talent, he should be able to take advantage of the light coverage and see his overall value increase.

Justin Blackmon, WR JAC - Well now, that certainly didn't take long, did it? After missing the first four games due to a suspension, Blackmon burst onto the scene with a fantastic debut. The Jacksonville quarterback situation might be a little sketchy, but with a talent like his playing opposite a talent like Cecil Shorts, it really doesn't matter which arm of mediocrity throws the ball. Neither receiver will draw a regular double-team and with so few other legitimate options, both will be frequently targeted as the Jags play catch-up most games.

Danny Amendola, WR NE - Out since a 10-catch Week 1, Amendola kicked things off just as everyone expected. The usually reliable Amendola saw the highest target percentage for the Patriots in Week 5 and should supplant Julian Edelman as the apple of Tom Brady's eye; at least until Rob Gronkowski comes back and he loses targets to that bromance. But even with Gronk returning, Amendola should remain a highly-targeted receiver with his looks coming at the expense of both Edelman and Kenbrell Thompkins. Upgrade him and downgrade the others accordingly.

Keenan Allen, WR SD - With the official loss of Malcom Floyd, the targets increase for Vincent Brown was expected, but after two weeks of Eddie Royal shining bright, quarterback Philip Rivers has turned his attention toward Allen. He's on a steady rise, so if he's available, he's certainly worth a look in leagues of 12 teams or more. If he continues to see consistent targets and such a strong percentage of red-zone looks, his value should make him worthy in even more shallow leagues as well.

As for the Overall Targets Leaderboard, this is how we look five weeks in.

(Click column headings to sort.)

PLAYERPOSYARDSTDPASS ATTTARGETSRECRZ TRGTRZ TRG%CATCH%TARGET%
Cecil Shorts, JACWR411118162311628.0%50.0%34.3%
Julio Jones, ATLWR580221959411719.1%69.5%26.9%
A.J. Green, CINWR361317558311458.3%53.4%33.1%
Andre Johnson, HOUWR40702175737413.6%64.9%26.3%
Victor Cruz, NYGWR47342075531625.0%56.4%26.6%
Jimmy Graham, NOTE593620153371029.2%69.8%26.4%
Torrey Smith, BALWR55612015127520.8%52.9%25.4%
Julian Edelman, NEWR354219650361329.6%72.0%25.5%
DeSean Jackson, PHIWR52531624928727.3%57.1%30.2%
Jordan Cameron, CLETE396521148331850.0%68.8%22.7%
Brandon Marshall, CHIWR37831824731916.1%66.0%25.8%
Tony Gonzalez, ATLTE339321947332029.8%70.2%21.5%
Dez Bryant, DALWR423618846291928.6%63.0%24.5%
Alshon Jeffery, CHIWR429218245281629.0%62.2%24.7%
Pierre Garcon, WASWR339217044291542.1%65.9%25.9%
Mike Wallace, MIAWR28111824422731.3%50.0%24.2%
Jamaal Charles, KCRB250218544281630.8%63.6%23.8%
Kenbrell Thompkins, NEWR273319644181733.3%40.9%22.4%
Demaryius Thomas, DENWR45042014434715.6%77.3%21.9%
Jason Witten, DALTE313318843281228.6%65.1%22.9%
Eric Decker, DENWR427220143291518.8%67.4%21.4%
Anquan Boldin, SFWR39321324226535.7%61.9%31.8%
Reggie Wayne, INDWR365216142281026.3%66.7%26.1%
Antonio Brown, PITWR41221634232725.0%76.2%25.8%
Wes Welker, DENWR315720142312334.4%73.8%20.9%
Vincent Jackson, TBWR2920137411700.0%41.5%29.9%
Randall Cobb, GBWR325215241251534.6%61.0%27.0%
Antonio Gates, SDTE43822154132912.8%78.0%19.1%
Owen Daniels, HOUTE25232174124922.7%58.5%18.9%
Larry Fitzgerald, ARIWR28831814024833.3%60.0%22.1%
Calvin Johnson, DETWR312419640211741.4%52.5%20.4%
Tavon Austin, STLWR156221740231221.9%57.5%18.4%
Robert Woods, BUFWR26521703916630.8%41.0%22.9%
Brian Hartline, MIAWR33221823925212.5%64.1%21.4%
Davone Bess, CLEWR20202113921720.8%53.8%18.5%
Nate Washington, TENWR3622160382235.3%57.9%23.8%
Kendall Wright, TENWR26611603826826.3%68.4%23.8%
Emmanuel Sanders, PITWR23101633820520.0%52.6%23.3%
Steve Johnson, BUFWR254217038201038.5%52.6%22.4%
Martellus Bennett, CHITE281318237251732.3%67.6%20.3%
Hakeem Nicks, NYGWR37202073721415.0%56.8%17.9%
Greg Little, CLEWR14902113714720.8%37.8%17.5%
Steve Smith, CARWR203112736181227.5%50.0%28.3%
Michael Floyd, ARIWR30101813621533.3%58.3%19.9%
Julius Thomas, DENTE35962013627918.8%75.0%17.9%
Rueben Randle, NYGWR25822073617310.0%47.2%17.4%
Danny Woodhead, SDRB220321536311223.1%86.1%16.7%
Austin Pettis, STLWR222421736221215.6%61.1%16.6%
T.Y. Hilton, INDWR3422161352015.3%57.1%21.7%
Jared Cook, STLTE2662217352059.4%57.1%16.1%

Target Percentage Leaders

Just like last week, Cecil Shorts, A.J. Green and Anquan Boldin lead the way. There's a strong chance that Shorts starts to drop a little with the addition of Blackmon, but considering the respective team role of the other two, they could be atop this category all year. Because of that, we'll change things up and detail a few of the recent risers and fallers.

Brandon Marshall, WR CHI (-2.4%) - His foot injury is really hampering Marshall's abilities on the field and with that Jay Cutler is looking elsewhere. Alshon Jeffery (+3.2%) has become much more involved in the passing game as a result and is finally starting to provide a return on all that potential we've been waiting on. The problem for Marshall owners is that Jeffery has been so reliable and tight end Martellus Bennett has maintained some consistency, that Marshall may never return to the level he was at last season. He'll still be a high-end guy, but we might see a more balanced split in target percentage; something like we see in Denver.

Julius Thomas, TE DEN (+2.1%) - Thomas wasn't even on the overall leaderboard last week as he had back-to-back four-target games and wasn't so heavily relied upon by Peyton Manning as he was through the first two weeks. But a 12-target day pushes him back up the board and this is probably where he should hover should Denver's passing game remain this potent. You'll see the target percentages of Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker start to even out and with that, Thomas is starting to climb toward them. Even as the fourth option, though, Thomas is putting up numbers worthy of a top-five tight end. Some might even say top three, which is where you should probably value him.

Jared Cook, TE STL (-1.4%) - After a Week 1 breakout, Cook has been fairly silent in the Rams passing game these last few weeks. We're seeing a lot more of Lance Kendricks, and Austin Pettis continues to sneak a few extra looks here and there, particularly in the red zone. Where once there was hope for a new star to shine at the position, there is now only median-level play. Adjust your value of him accordingly.

Red-Zone Target Leaders

Wes Welker, WR DEN (23) - For the third week in row, Welker tops the list of red-zone looks. With seven touchdowns already this season, there's not much else to say other than start him. Start him each and every week.

Tony Gonzalez, TE ATL (20) - In total defiance of his age and the anticipated breakdown that is supposed to come along with it, Gonzalez is retaining a high value as a major red-zone threat. With both Roddy White and Julio Jones injured, he should continue to get a major amount of attention from Matt Ryan. Provided he stays healthy, he should continue to be a high-end fantasy commodity at the position.

Dez Bryant, WR DAL (19) - Given the way Tony Romo is slinging the rock, the Cowboys continue to put up some serious points, and Bryant is a direct beneficiary of it. He see a tremendous amount of attention overall, and now he's starting to see more endzone look than former-favorite Jason Witten. Their red-zone target percentage may look the same, but that also has to do with the number of snaps inside the red zone each one is on the field for.

Other Notables

Steve Smith, WR, CAR - The diminutive veteran reappears on the overall leaderboard thanks to a 10-target week. However, his overall target percentage continues to hover in the 28- to 29-percent range, which means, yes, he is seeing the targets on his team, but Cam Newton isn't throwing the ball as often as many of the other quarterbacks; so, no, his opportunities really aren't as abundant. Smith's owners should have expected this as Smith's numbers continue to decline from year to year, and the Panthers run-first game plan isn't going to help matters.

Davone Bess, WR CLE - Last week someone questioned my placement of Bess in the "Potential Fallers" section, but for the second week in a row, he saw decrease in targets. His overall percentage is roughly the same thanks to a big first three weeks to the season, but with Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron seeing such an increase in targets, someone has to lose out. Travis Benjamin has already been weaned out and Greg Little seems to be on his way out as well. Bess may continue to average five targets per game, but he's not posting any real value; not even in PPR play.

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

Denarius Moore
Josh Gordon
Golden Tate
Jordy Nelson
Greg Olsen
Terrance Williams

Potential Fallers (some for obvious reasons)

Julio Jones
Owen Daniels
Kenbrell Thompkins
Vincent Jackson
Greg Little
Jared Cook

Week 6 Matchup to Watch

New Orleans Saints at New England Patriots - This game certainly has the potential to become a Drew Brees vs. Tom Brady shootout given the weapons at each of their disposals, but we're looking at two fairly decent pass defenses. The numbers for each are strikingly similar and each team may have to go heavy with the running game initially to eventually open up the passing lanes. The Patriots play a surprisingly strong game against opposing tight ends, so Jimmy Graham may find himself blanketed most of the time while the Saints do as well, which could put a damper on the return of Gronk. With Lance Moore still hurting I'm going to endorse Kenny Stills as a sleeper in this one, while on the other side I'm going to lean heavily on Amendola and Brandon Bolden.

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