Nov 27

Touches and Targets Week 12: 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 your fake season’s stretch run. 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.

Touches and Targets Week 12 Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

  • Dez Bryant lost some yards and a catch on review, but still finished with nine grabs and 86 yards on 15 targets. That number tends to fluctuate from week to week but it may be telling that Bryant got more involved in the first week where Jason Garrett was back relaying plays to Tony Romo (for the sake of distinction, he’s still not calling them). It’s also worth noting that Jason Witten drew seven targets including some red zone looks and turned in a two TD effort against New York. He may be due for an increase in work as well, keep an eye on things next week. Witten has scored four of the seven TDs that the Giants have allowed to TEs this season. More troublesome news: I can’t make any sense of the Miles Austin/Terrance Williams situation. Austin returned, and played slightly more snaps than Williams (50-43) though both were on the field a great deal. Cole Beasley saw just nine snaps. Williams drew the start. He saw two targets, Austin three, and each caught one ball. At that rate neither is useful, and it appears that they may continue to adversely effect each other’s fantasy value this season. Still, Witten may have been a bigger part of the gameplan because he crushed the Giants and Bryant won’t get 15 looks every week so it is a situation to monitor.
  • Marques Colston drew another six targets. He turned them into just 40 yards but led all non-Jimmy-Graham Saints and has 20 looks over the three game stretch since he took a week off to rest. Despite limited use early this season, Colston actually boasts a top 24 WR rating (QB rating when thrown to). He’ll be a useable WR2 down the stretch provided that keeps up. Kenny Stills saw just two targets, catching both for 22 yards and shooting a bit of a hole in my “he’s good against any team that is in the top 10 in 20 yard pass plays allowed” theory, but I’m still looking at him in those matchups down the stretch as a WR4 with upside.
Josh Gordon had a huge second half against the Steelers, abusing Ike Taylor in the process (Photo: USAT Images)

Josh Gordon had a huge second half against the Steelers, abusing Ike Taylor in the process (Photo: USAT Images)

  • Cleveland QBs (if you’re keeping track there were two of them after Jason Campbell was knocked out of the game after an unpenalized blow to the head) threw for an average of 3.45 yards per attempt to receivers not named Josh Gordon (that includes another awful day from Jordan Cameron whose receiving yards were in the thirties again while making just three catches on nine targets). Gordon, though, fared a little better. His 14 catch, 237 yard outing is one of the lines of the season. He absolutely abused Ike Taylor (nine catches on 11 targets), marking the third time in four games that a WR has scored more than 25 points on Pittsburgh.
  • Since returning to the lineup Roddy White has had 12 targets. A per game average of four, which is low enough on it’s own. When considering that he drew just two this week (catching both for 24 total yards), and one in Week 10 it’s even more disappointing. Harry Douglas remains the only Atlanta receiver you can start as a WR2/3 with any confidence (9/11/79). Darius Johnson did draw the start this week and caught six balls on eight targets, but his losing a crucial fumble doesn’t bode well for future opportunities. Keep an eye on his snap count next week, though if you’re interested and are desperate at wideout.
  • After much fuss was made about Stephen Hill‘s playing time this week relative to David Nelson; Geno Smith had more catches than both of them: neither caught a ball on one and three targets respectively. While Hill drew the start, Nelson still played more snaps (40-26). I was intrigued by Santonio Holmes‘ Week 11 result (2/8/70) thinking that if he turned a few of those missed targets into catches he could have a big game. Instead, he cut the targets in half and maintained the catch rate. With Geno Smith back under center, and a matchup against a Dolphins defense that has allowed just one TD to WRs this season, Holmes is out of the conversation for Week 13 but it will be interesting (especially if a change is made at QB) to see what his workload looks like and go from there.
  • While he drew the start and played a healthy 45 snaps in his return to the lineup Marlon Brown saw just three targets (so did Torrey Smith, a fantasy travesty really) while Jacoby Jones drew 6 and caught 4 balls for 103 yards and a score thanks to Ed Reed‘s gift to his former team. Brown hasn’t seen more than three looks since October (though there was a bye and a missed game in there), so if I’m in a position where I have to hope for a big game I’ll go with Jones over him – which was the plan to start the season anyhow. Jones, though, had just four targets combined in his last two games – while the upside is there, the floor is pretty low.
  • Joe Haden came into this week on a strong stretch of shutting down opposing WR1, so I was hard on Antonio Brown. Instead, with one strong adjustment and a juggling catch, Brown had a big game. In fact, he had a strong game all around catching six balls on 10 targets for 92 yards and a score. All but one of his grabs came matched up against Haden, as well. Jerricho Cotchery, waiver wire darling, was barely used (one target, despite playing almost 70% of Pittsburgh’s snaps) while both Emmanuel Sanders and Heath Miller were perfect (6/6, 5/5) against an underwhelming secondary behind Haden.
  • Mike Glennon used just three TE/WRs on Sunday, and Vincent Jackson was the least targeted of the three (we saw that coming after 10 catches on 11 targets last week). Glennon took deep shots effectively to both Jackson and Tiquan Underwood, the latter of whom caught three of five targets for two scores and over one hundred yards. Meanwhile Tim Wright dominated underneath, catching eight balls for 75 yards.
  • Detroit let one get away again, late and it was a pretty ugly ‘real world’ performance from Matthew Stafford. One of the picks was entirely not on him but the remainder weren’t very good. Still, he made a number of receivers relevant: Kris Durham still had six targets in Nate Burleson‘s return and two TEs found the endzone. There is enough volume here to support multiple start-worthy players each week. Calvin Johnson had another 100 yard outing – Darrelle Revis wound up on the sideline but Megatron had gone 3/4/44 beforehand – and Nate Buirleson returned with a 100 yard game of his own, posting seven receptions on 10 targets and adding a score. While he won’t get to that level every week Burleson is a more dangerous weapon than Kris Durham as their second receiving threat and had been averaging 7.67 targets and 7 catches per game before his injury.
  • If it ever was in question, and we tried to tell you it wasn’t in this space last week, the Cordarrelle Patterson vs. Jarius Wright ROS conversation was rendered moot this week. Patterson led the team in targets (11) and catches (8) by wide margins while Wright played half as many snaps and was targeted just once. Jerome Simpson played more than either and made two catches on three looks, but, Patterson tied with him for the team lead in receiving yards. 54 yards on eight catches is far from exciting but that marks 20 targets in two weeks for Patterson and should lead to plenty more work as the season closes.
  • It is hard to draw much from the distribution in Green Bay’s passing game this week given that the game saw a complete extra frame and an extra QB as well, so we’ll leave the receivers alone. All have use. James Jones and Jarrett Boykin did see virtually all of their yardage with Matt Flynn, though. Aaron Rodgers seems likely to miss this week’s game, but should be back by Week 14 so we’ll have to hope that Flynn can keep the offense moving for one more week. Detroit is a stiffer test than Minnesota, but they are allowing the 3rd most fantasy points to QBs over the past four weeks, so it isn’t daunting in the slightest. Take note that Brandon Bostick saw five targets. He made just one catch, but the TE is someone to keep buried on your radar.
  • A week after I’d buried Ted Ginn in this section, he saw 10 targets from Cam Newton. He caught just three balls for 11 yards, but the number of looks is interesting. Brandon LaFell had half as many and caught two balls, for 36 yards. He remains ahead of Ginn for me and is of equivalent interest to Steve Smith on a week to week basis. Smith posted a season high in yards (69) on five catches and seven targets. That season high number is underwhelming from the veteran, but, he’s getting steady use and has now been over 60 yards in three straight games. If it feels like Greg Olsen has been in the endzone every week, it should. He’s scored in four of the last five, though, this week’s made tons of sense given that Miami has allowed just one touchdown to receivers all season. Owners of Steelers, Bills and Patriots need to take note of that heading into the fantasy playoffs.
  • As the weekend drew nearer, I continually moved Mike Wallace down my rankings when seeking an opportunity to give more love to upside plays. After all, he’d had eight catches for 54 yards in the last two games and hadn’t topped 100 yards since Week 5. Instead, against one of the league’s bottom three WR matchups, he made five catches for 127 yards (on 10 targets) including a 53 yard touchdown and another long gainer. Wallace gets two top 10 WR matchups over the next four weeks and will be worth a look in those outings, particularly if Ryan Tannehill keeps taking shots deep. The two had struggled to connect on deep balls this season, but the sophomore QB managed to complete three of seven throws over 20 yards against Carolina – for perspective, just two QBs have completed more than 50% of their passes beyond 20 this year (Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers).
  • If you’re paying attention to Kenny Britt‘s 2014 audition, you should note that he dropped both of the balls thrown his direction against Oakland. Otherwise, Ryan Fitzpatrick threw just one incompletion to his wide receivers all day (we’ve covered Kendall Wright‘s big game elsewhere). Of note, his seven targets were his fourth fewest all season. He’s getting consistent volume and has been turning in PPR numbers all year. Justin Hunter had a great game, too, with six catches on six targets for 109 yards and a score. He goose-egged last week but has more value than Nate Washington down the stretch, averaging more looks than the vet over the past three games. Delanie Walker had just 46 yards receiving but picked up another eight targets. He’s averaging 7.67 over the past three weeks.
  • Rod Streater had another nice day with Matt McGloin under center, catching five balls on six targets for 93 yards. This week’s total was aided somewhat by Denarius Moore sitting out (that may not be a short-term thing) and Mychal Rivera‘s early exit – I don’t want to make light of a head injury suffered on a vicious blow but that cheap shot cost me a few daily games – but it is good to see Streater carry over production from Week 11. The Raiders have the Cowboys, Jets and Chargers remaining on the schedule – all juicy matchups in your fantasy playoffs (even the Chiefs suddenly look vulnerable).
  • It’s time to take note of Ladarius Green in San Diego. This week, he was targeted five times (the third most on the team) and made three catches for 80 yards and a score. Last week it was 4/5/81. His work seems to be coming at the expense of Vincent Brown (one target this week) but with two strong games in a row it is becoming apparent that San Diego is consciously trying to get him involved. Keenan Allen shook off an injury to make nine catches on 12 targets and top 100 yards again. He’d been in the 40s for two straight weeks and the matchup was tough, so this one came as a surprise, but Allen owners will be very happy to see that the injury shouldn’t be expected to affect his performance moving forward.
  • Kansas City’s struggles on defense might be great news for Dwayne Bowe. Better news: Denver comes to town next week, so they’ll continue for at least one more game. It is no huge coincidence that Bowe has had two of his strongest fantasy games in the last two weeks with KC losing both games. This week, he was the 3rd most frequently targeted WR (nine for McCluster and six for Avery, both of whom had nice games, and six for Bowe – five according to the box score) on the roster, but, he found the endzone again. I like a 5/6/51/TD performance much better than last week’s 4/13/57/TD game. We’ve ripped Bowe’s use incessantly in this spot all season, but if the KC defense loses some steam and Alex Smith needs to take some shots, he may just be relevant down the stretch. Bowe is a weekly WR3 in my eyes and a WR2 play in the right matchup.
  • Josh McCown is doing a fine job of keeping Chicago’s pass catchers relevant. Brandon Marshall had double digit catches and targets (10/11) and Martellus Bennett got it going again, drawing six looks, catching four balls for 62 yards, and finding the endzone. Earl Bennett and Alshon Jeffery flip-flopped target frequency this week with the former picking up eight of them but that trend won’t continue. We’re due to have at least one more week with McCown and the matchup with Minnesota is appealing for all parties.
  • It was not a strong day at the office for Chris Givens or Austin Pettis. Givens drew six targets and caught none of ’em, while Pettis didn’t see a single look on ten snaps. The St. Louis offense produced all the same, though. Jared Cook was the lone useful strict-pass-catcher with 4/4/80 and a score, while Tavon Austin had two catches for 39 yards to go with his 65 yard rushing score. Again, it is great to see St. Louis committed to getting him involved this week after a Week 11 bye. While he had just three touches, there were five targets for him and he played on 54% of St. Louis’ offensive snaps – both up from his last time out. He’ll always be a bit of a boom/bust proposition, but, both the target and the time on field numbers are promising for more booms as the season draws to a close.
  • After Cecil Shorts was vocal about his limited use last time out, he received a healthy 11 targets – converting eight of them. This falls more in line with what should be expected of him to close the season. Ace Sanders, meanwhile, had 61 yards on five targets and four catches. There are two ways to assess the performance… you can be impressed that he followed an eight catch, 10 target game with a solid encore or you can be concerned that 51 yards come on one play leaving an average of 2.5 yards a catch otherwise. I’m inclined to sit in the first camp… Jacksonville needs a second receiver on the field opposite Shorts to close the year and an average of 7.5 targets over the past two weeks is more volume than many receivers see.
  • Good news, DeAndre Hopkins owners: he rebounded from last week’s benching to play in 54 snaps, virtually equivalent to Andre Johnson. Bad news: he saw just four targets. Worse news: he caught one of them, for eight yards. Hopkins suffered as part of a putrid day from the Texans offense. The shine has worn off the Andre Johnson-Case Keenum connection, too. Though, I’m still ranking AJ as a weekly WR1. I think. Garrett Graham drew eight targets, and while he gained just 32 yards I think we can be pleased that he led the team in looks after last week’s big game. (Better news: he’ll have a QB to throw him the ball next year).
  • The Arizona Cardinals held Andrew Luck and company in check this week. Patrick Peterson, as he often does, did a great job against T.Y. Hilton (limiting him to one catch on five targets, Hilton caught all four of his other opportunities against different defensive backs) and there simply isn’t a strong enough supporting cast to get much else done. Coby Fleener saved his fantasy day with a late TD and finished 4/8/55, while Darrius Heyward-Bey saw six targets to five for Lavon Brazill.
  • It was just another seven catch, 100 yard day at the office for Michael Floyd who has averaged 9.67 targets per game over his last three. Larry Fitzgerald has three touchdowns over that same span, and while Floyd is doing the work in the middle of the field Fitz is the preferred redzone wideout. With Carson Palmer stringing together strong turnover free games in both Week 11 and 12 the two are both startable commodities down the stretch. Andre Roberts and Rob Housler had five targets apiece.
  • The Cowboys did a great job against Victor Cruz, making him a focus of the game plan and as such Eli Manning looked his way just four times. In a typical week (and with Nicks back on the field) that number should rebound. Rueben Randle saw just five targets filling Nicks’ role, but fared well on them (3-64). I wouldn’t read too much into Brandon Myers‘ fantasy line. He made a nice catch on his touchdown, but, we’d be staring at yet another sub 3 point outing had the Cowboys remembered they were supposed to tackle him after the catch – he had four targets and hasn’t topped that number since Week 5.
  • If you find yourself needing to ask: who will the Broncos turn to at TE with Julius Thomas out, you now have an answer. Jacob Tamme drew five targets and caught five balls for 47 yards and a score against New England. Virgil Green wasn’t really used as a receiver (1/2/3 yards). DeMaryius Thomas had Peyton Manning‘s other passing touchdown but was held in check for most of the night by Aqib Talib. Overall, Thomas had four catches for 41 yards and a score on nine targets and went 3/6 specifically against Talib, including the TD. Still, New England’s top corner is a tough matchup when healthy. Beyond that, Wes Welker drew eight targets but had a quiet day (4/31) and Eric Decker was barely used. As Denver deliberately shifts to a more run centric approach, and if Manning continues to bear the label of a guy that struggles in the cold, we’ll have to adjust our expectations a bit on these receivers. You’re not sitting any of them, but, this game could be representative of that shift… (or, next week they could all top 15 fantasy points).
  • Since going bonkers in the Pittsburgh game, Aaron Dobson hasn’t really been a factor. He didn’t really see the field in the second half while Kenbrell Thompkins finished with nine targets and six catches, for 56 yards after going 2/2 in a similar situation last week against Carolina. Unfortunately, these two to appear to be back in a place where you can’t trust either of them in a given week. Frankly, it’s kind of the same story for Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola as well. Edelman was Brady’s most trusted receiver in this one and that’s a role he’s played in other games as well, but, his 11 targets marked the first time he’s seen more than four since Week 7 and it’s the first time he’s been over 60 yards since Week 4 so lets not make him into some type of a must start. In two games since the bye, Amendola is averaging just 31 yards. I’ll still roll the dice as a WR3 but, again, I’m tempering expectations. Rob Gronkowski is the same ole Gronk, though. He had 10 targets, seven catches, 90 yards and a score and has gone over 10 points in every game but one since his return.
  • The early word is that Michael Crabtree will be good to go this weekend, and the hope is that means that Colin Kaepernick can build on one of his strongest performances of the season. It also means that Mario Manningham will likely see fewer than his six targets but all others should retain their approximate value. Vernon Davis (4/7/70/1) and Anquan Boldin (5/6/94/2) should still see their fair share of looks each week. In fact, Crabtree’s return probably lowers the weekly floor on each player as defenses can’t key on taking either man out of the game. Here’s hoping that Crabtree can break the ridiculous trend of no one other than Davis and Boldin catching a touchdown this season.
  • The passing game was ugly in Washington this week. Even Robert Griffin II (the QBs dad, if the missing I didn’t tip you off) knows that. Still, while Pierre Garcon owners in standard leagues are miserable about his 48 yard outing, you have to be encouraged by double digit targets. Not all matchups will be against San Francisco – and PPR leaguers will take the eight catches. Beyond that, Josh Morgan was surprisingly the biggest beneficiary of Leonard Hankerson‘s injury, drawing the start and six targets. He played a roughly equal amount of snaps to Santana Moss and Aldrick Robinson but they drew just four and two targets respectively. Morgan caught five balls for 45 yards and the one missed connection was a deep ball that he was running wide open on. After not playing a single snap last week, Morgan has some appeal moving forward… more than the other two anyhow.

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