Nov 13

Touches and Targets Week 10: Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

The final numbers tell one part of the story, but fantasy football is a game of volume. Knowing any given week who is going to get the looks, and in what situations those looks are coming, can help you make important lineup decisions – touches and targets on a weekly basis play as big a role as the name on the back of the jersey. With that in mind let’s take a look back at workloads from this past weekend and start thinking forward to who may find themselves in a more favorable situation in Week 11. We focus our attention on the pass catchers in this segment but address the touches and targets of ball carriers in a separate post.

Note that our target data comes from Pro Football Focus and tends to paint a more reasonable picture of a player’s attempts. While the number may be smaller in some cases than what is reported on the box score, we’re not counting a throw away that goes 20 feet overhead and out of bounds as a target.

Golden Tate boasted one of the catches of the week this week and projects to continue to see work with Percy Harvin back in the lineup (Photo: John Bazemore/AP)

Golden Tate boasted one of the catches of the week this week and projects to continue to see work with Percy Harvin back in the lineup (Photo: John Bazemore/AP)

  • Golden Tate had a great game for Seattle, catching one of the more non-chalant highlight touchdowns you’ll see. He actually saw fewer targets (7) than Doug Baldwin (8), and Baldwin also had a nice game. Among players with double digit receptions this year, Tate leads the league with an average of 8.9 yards after the catch, per catch. Further, he has the 7th best QB rating when thrown to in the league, as Russell Wilson boasts a 109.0 rating on attempts intended for Tate. He’s earned his workload regardless of who lines up with him. Jermaine Kearse worked his way into the endzone on four targets, too. I’m still projecting that Baldwin is hurt most by the return of Percy Harvin – supposedly in week 11 – but he should be able to keep his snap count up given the injury to Sidney Rice.
  • Patrick Peterson did a nice job against Andre Johnson for most of the day, covering the vet on nine of his 12 targets and giving up just four catches (Johnson had five for 37 in total), but both of his TDs came against Peterson’s coverage. The Peterson factor likely contributed to DeAndre Hopkins‘ 11 targets, just the second time he’s been over ten this year. Either way, it’s clear that Case Keenum is a boost to both players’ value. With respect to Hopkins, the rookie WR is earning his QB’s trust – on 37 balls thrown his way deemed ‘catchable’ this year Hopkins has 0 drops. This is a season when other rookie WRs – even those who are having an impact – are struggling to hang onto the football… this should not be overlooked. Keenum’s willingness to seek Johnson in the endzone is something that Matt Schaub inexplicably never possessed; AJ is locked in as a WR1 for the rest of the season. Garrett Graham, meanwhile, saw just three targets despite facing the league’s most generous TE defense so it’s looking like it’s now time to admit that he won’t just step in and produce Owen Daniels like production.
  • The New Orleans passing game continued to confuse fantasy owners. Lance Moore received a paltry two targets after being the apple of Brees’ eye in recent weeks, while Marques Colston made seven catches for 107 yards (and a score) on eight targets. Colston actually led the Saints in targets for his second game after doing so in just one previous game this year. While Dallas’ pass defense is one of the league’s most generous, it’s a good sign from Colston after he took a week off. Jimmy Graham went 5/5 on his targets but he played just 39.2% of New Orleans’ offensive snaps after a nearly full complement the week prior – there was no mention of Graham aggravating his injury. Normally we wouldn’t complain about five catches, it’s just that the standard had been set pretty high with four TDs in the previous two games. Lastly, Kenny Stills had another three catch day (he’ll rarely exceed that amount ), and did so on three targets to give his owners a productive 13.5 fantasy points. As I said in our start/sit piece leading up to the game, Stills may be worth a look in those games where teams routinely give up pass plays of greater than 20 yards (Dallas was third in the league) so keep an eye on that stat when considering using a guy whose bread and butter is the deep reception – Stills leads the league among players with more than 15 receptions.
  • Despite Christian Ponder‘s best outing of the season, none of the Minnesota receivers delivered a particularly useful line. Jerome Simpson saw six targets while Greg Jennings saw four. It should be noted though that if Simpson misses time as a result of his DWI arrest, Cordarrelle Patterson played the next most snaps/saw three targets but Jarius Wright was on the field for just three fewer plays and caught both of his targets for 34 yards. John Carlson impressed, drawing extended playing time with Kyle Rudolph out, going 7/7 and scoring a touchdown. He’s probably worth a look in deeper formats as long as Rudolph as out.
  • Pierre Garcon and Jordan Reed again paced the Redskins in targets, catching 7/10 and 6/9 respectively, and getting into the endzone. For the others, the distribution tends to be too spread out to make anyone relevant, though it should be noted that Leonard Hankerson went 5/5 for 62.
  • With Roddy White back in the lineup and playing a full complement of snaps (he missed two all game) Harry Douglas remained the most targeted Falcon catching seven balls on eight passes thrown his way. White went 1/3 for 20 yards in a very anti-climatic return. He’s still on the radar, but as nothing more than a WR3 consideration until we see more exciting production. The targets should increase dramatically if he is truly healthy.
  • In EJ Manuel‘s return he threw six passes to a guy you have never heard of. Said guy, Chris Gragg, caught four of them and scored a TD on 25 yards receiving, but this probably isn’t actionable news. Manuel did throw 10 balls in the direction of Steve Johnson, suggesting good things for the vet’s value moving forward, but they connected just three times.
  • Don’t look now but Buffalo’s secondary is improving. Antonio Brown had a nice day with 104 yards on 6/10 receiving, but they held secondary option Emmanuel Sanders to just over two yards per attempt (12 yards, six targets, four catches) and Heath Miller to one catch on four looks. Jerricho Cotchery played 35 snaps and drew another endzone look, catching two balls on two targets for 31 yards and a score. He won’t be sustainable at two targets a week, but, he’s seen four or better in every game but one and clearly is an option in scoring territory.
  • In what shouldn’t surprise any of us, Matthew Stafford threw most of his passes toward Calvin Johnson. Megatron caught six of the 14 attempts for 83 yards and two scores, despite another round of strong coverage from Charles Tillman. Kris Durham was fantasy relevant with a five yard score but that was his only target on the day. Keep in mind that Nate Burleson probably returns next week, and he’ll impact Durham’s playing time. Brandon Pettigrew had a nice game, catching all five of his targets for 70 yards in what was, disappointingly, his best fantasy game of the season.
  • Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery have seen a combined 47 targets over the last two weeks. This week, both players were in double digits (12 and 14 respectively) and crossed 100 yards. Both Jay Cutler and Josh McCown have shown a willingness to look the other way when either receiver is well covered, and it actually benefits them both. Jeffery is in the top 15 range moving forward.
  • I’m not trying to rain on anyone’s Tavon Austin parade. Clearly, the rookie wideout is back in the redraft league conversation but he played just 27% of St. Louis’ snaps and saw only three targets, and no Rams receiver had more than four. Let’s see how it looks in what should be a more competitive game next time out before we anoint him an every week start.
  • Catching seven balls on eight targets, T.Y. Hilton was the lone bright spot for Indianapolis. He paced the offense with 130 yards. Coby Fleener was the most targeted Colt, but made just four catches on his 10 looks. I mentioned in our Sunday review that Darrius Heyward-Bey shouldn’t be counted on to produce despite his role as Indy’s #2. Andrew Luck had a QB rating of just 25 when throwing in his direction this week – six targets, three catches, 30 yards, a drop and a pick. While he’s likely cemented as that WR2 for the rest of the season, it should be noted that Griff Whalen played 20 more snaps than Lavon Brazill and while each player was targeted five times Whalen hauled in three of them compared to just one for Brazill. I’ll be Lavon him on the waiver wire!
  • I’m not going to give deep analysis on Cecil Shorts and Mike Brown who saw four and two catchable targets respectively, each catching two balls. In particular, the four looks for Shorts are the first time he’s had less than 10 all season and the number of looks for each player is almost exclusively a factor of them winning the game, rather than having to throw coming from behind all day. In the wake of Blackmon’s suspension and with the assumption that this won’t kick off a streak, bigger volume is ahead for each.
  • I’m just going to keep on singing the praises of Kendall Wright in this piece until he finally catches a TD (just one this season, and that was two months ago) but he’s a PPR darling right now with another seven catches while leading the team in targets (9) for the 5th consecutive week. In earlier action with Ryan Fitzpatrick he stayed relevant, and should be expected to moving forward. Justin Hunter got seven looks in this one with six of them coming in the second half. Tennessee won’t trail every game but when they’re behind he’ll see a lot of the field (he played 74% of the snaps this week). I don’t remember who threw him the first pass, but, at least six of his seven targets (just two catches) came with Fitzpatrick in the game. I smell a Foles-Cooper bromance (not really).
  • I’m tempted to just call the Carolina/San Francisco clash an offensive disaster and move on, but there are still a few useful tidbits. With 10 targets, Steve Smith‘s six receptions actually matched a season high. It’s quite disappointing, but, we must note that he still paces the team in looks and we’re expecting Carolina to get back to putting points on the board. With 25 targets to 16 over the last month, Brandon LaFell is looking like the preferred number two option in Carolina. He’s had 16 in their last two outings (eight this week) compared to just seven for the speedster.
  • Again, no one was useful for San Francisco. Vernon Davis left 21 plays in and from there the passing game was hopeless (it had been before his departure, too). Still, the fact that Mario Manningham received six targets, the most of any 49er, and played 79% of the snaps in his return to the field is actionable. Michael Crabtree comes back eventually, but until that time Manningham’s participation and utility should grow.
  • Michael Floyd left after 12 snaps with a shoulder sprain, leaving the door open for Andre Roberts who had seven targets – his most since Week 2. Roberts made five catches for 72 yards with a score, and if Floyd misses time you’ll probably want to add Roberts – to the extent that you’re wanting to be a part of what Arizona’s offense is doing. Speaking of that, Larry Fitzgerald joined Roddy White on the ‘returned to health, avoided production list’ with three catches on five targets for 23 yards despite facing a Texans D that allowed T.Y. Hilton three trips to the endzone in Week 9.
  • After a conversation about his ankle, Julius Thomas played in all 61 of Denver’s snaps, taking Denver’s third offensive play 74 yards to the house and finishing with three catches on five targets, so there goes that concern. DeMaryius Thomas had ten targets and seven catches, while rounding out Manning’s four TDs. Wes Welker was quiet with just three grabs for 21 yards on six targets.
  • San Diego came into their matchup with the Broncos with a clear plan to try to win the time of possesion battle and keep Peyton Manning off the field. That was all well and good, but, I’m surprised that the workload for Keenan Allen didn’t pick up in the second half. He caught four balls on five targets… it wasn’t like he wasn’t reachable, the Chargers just didn’t put the ball in the air a lot.
  • A.J. Green‘s big day against Baltimore won’t appear in the boxscore with an asterisk, but hopefully we’ll all remember it when the team’s take the field again. He had eight catches for 151 yards and a score on 14 targets, but until James Ihedigbo gave the nice touch pass on a hail mary he’d largely been held in check by Baltimore’s pass D. Traditionally, Green has struggled against them and a big fantasy day this week shouldn’t change our perspective on that. Our perspective could change on Tyler Eifert who played in all of Cincinnati’s offensive snaps this week with Jermaine Gresham out of the lineup. He was targeted eight times, but, caught just three balls and dropped two in his first opportunity without the elder TE on the field. Good news for Marvin Jones bandwagoners: Andrew Hawkins isn’t affecting his snap count (63-7) but he had just one catch on four targets.
  • With Torrey Smith drawing 14 targets (catching just five of them, but finding the endzone) there really isn’t a lot we can glean from this games in terms of projecting values for Jacoby Jones and Marlon Brown. The former drew the start, the latter played a handful more snaps, and they drew two and three targets respectively. What we do know is that in tough matchups, the Ravens offense can’t be trusted right now to give you a guaranteed WR3 in either of them.
  • In a strong encore (despite a couple of underthrown balls, which we discussed in our Week 10 Review Broadcast) Nick Foles kept it rolling for Philadelphia. He was a perfect 4/4 on throws to DeSean Jackson (again, the TD should not have happened if we’re being honest) and targeted Riley Cooper a team high five times. We’re riding all of these guys until the wheels come off. Of interest: after throwing ten combined passes in the direction of Brent Celek and Zach Ertz last week, Cooper targeted them just one time total this week and with two TE mouths to feed, that seems to be the position this offense can’t reliably give you a starter in from week to week.
  • With Scott Tolzein (and perhaps Matt Flynn at some point) at QB for Green Bay we can say one thing: the ‘big three’ receivers, a group which now includes Jarrett Boykin, will see plenty of volume as Green Bay may have to pass through four full quarters more often than they are accustomed to. Boykin, Jordy Nelson, and James Jones saw 11, 10 and seven targets respectively. The QB clearly hurts their upside, but – particularly with Boykin – it’s nice to see that they are still getting opportunities despite moving on to their 3rd string QB. Speaking of that, I’m treating Brandon Bostick‘s week (3/3, 42, TD) as a simple function of playing with a QB with whom he was familiar, it’s a one week phenomenon.
  • I was right to project a big week for Denarius Moore – in theory – as the Raiders wideout saw nine targets, but with just three catches he didn’t pay fantasy dividends. Rod Streater went 1/4 as well. With Terrelle Pryor admittedly hurting and off his game, and with the Raiders not having thrown a TD pass in three weeks it’s hard to be in on either player despite the volume.
  • Victor Cruz had 10 targets for the Giants and is averaging nine per game over his last three outings, but, he caught just three balls this week and hasn’t been over 8.6 fantasy points during that stretch. The rest of the Giants passing game underwhelmed this week as well, against a Raiders defense that gave up seven passing touchdowns the week prior. With Eli Manning‘s continued struggles and a presumed reliance on the ground game moving forward, everyone here comes down a notch rest of season. Hakeem Nicks and Rueben Randle both caught all of their four and three respective targets (with Randle posting 50 yards and a score) but again, there isn’t enough pass volume to sustain much beyond that in an offense that should be expected to increase its number of runs relative to passes.
  • The Cowboys were so bad on offense at New Orleans that I don’t think we can draw any specific conclusions from the data. I’ll point out, though, that before he was injured Dwayne Harris played significantly more offensive snaps than Cole Beasley operating out of the slot, though he had just one target. I’ll also note that with one catch on five targets (for a 21 yard score) Terrance Williams caught fewer than 28.5% of his passes for the third consecutive game. I stand behind the rookie and his talent, but it begs the question as to whether or not he’ll keep his job when (if) Miles Austin returns to health should the catch rate continue down a similar path. Ingram had a great game too, but 11 of his carries came in the second half and I’d still expect him to be the least useful of the three in weeks where New Orleans isn’t in such a position of control.
  • With a patchwork offensive line and facing a strong secondary Ryan Tannehill wasn’t able to get a lot done deep, or on the outsides, and that’s why we saw such a heavy workload for slot receiver Rishard Matthews who had a career day against the Buccaneers. Matthews was targeted 14 times and made 11 catches for 120 yards and both Miami touchdowns. Mike Wallace managed to make four catches on seven targets but for a paltry 15 yards. The matchups get better for Wallace but the blocking may not. He’s a WR3 at best moving forward. Tannehill completed just two of eight throws while under pressure this week, a sign that doesn’t bode well if we expect his already league high 37 sacks to increase while the line tries to get settled with two new bodies involved.
  • It was another quiet week for Vincent Jackson, but he did see eight targets from Mike Glennon and is averaging almost 12 per game with the rookie under center so let’s not call doomsday on his value just yet. Still, while Jackson is 2nd in the league in targets he’s just 18th in receptions (46/100) and there has to be some concern regarding the quality of the passes coming his way.

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