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Oct 30

Touches and Targets Week 8: 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 9 We focus our attention on the pass catchers in this segment but address the touches and targets of ball carriers in a separate post.

Wide Receiver and Tight End Targets Week 8

  • Dez Bryant saw just six targets catching three balls for 72 yards, and two scores. We also saw his reaction to this (though, in fairness, the unrest seems to be more about a general team effort than his lack of looks). To close the first half Terrance Williams saw five consecutive pass targets. He caught one for four yards. That’s kind of how his whole day went, until a 60 yard score rescued his fantasy line and seemingly his team at the time. Williams played 53 snaps and drew 10 looks, so he’s a big part of the Dallas pass game (as he should be). One does wonder though if a 20% catch rate game is the type of effort required to keep Miles Austin completely at bey. With that said, the most likely scenario when all receivers are healthy involves Austin competing with Beasley and Harris for snaps in the slot, as opposed to cutting into Williams’ time too significantly.
Calvin Johnson's game this week was memorable, to say the least, but the data tells us a lot more about this contest (Photo: Julian H. Gonzalez, Detroit Free Press).

Calvin Johnson’s game this week was memorable, to say the least, but the data tells us a lot more about this contest (Photo: Julian H. Gonzalez, Detroit Free Press).

  • While Calvin Johnson has been impressive for his whole career, and beyond dominant for the last two and a half seasons, it seems fairly clear that having Diddy handle all the off-field stuff is helping. Again, I don’t know what more to say but to provide numbers: he was targeted 17 times, catching 14 balls for a near-record 329 yards. That’s a 23.5 yard per catch average on 14 grabs… that average over 4 catches translates to a great day for a WR. I was actually mentally typing an article this week on how, despite Johnson’s success, Monte Kiffin’s defense was doing a great job against the pass for the second consecutive week. And then the second half happened. This defense is still one to target for opposing WRs, though, I’m not entirely writing off Brandon Carr as a shutdown corner.11 of Johnson’s 14 catches came against Carr who allowed a total of 284 yards on the day. For some perspective, he has given up just 24 catches and 317 yards all season coming into the game. In other Lions bullet points Joseph Fauria saw 0 targets on 15 snaps, proving that he is an impossible start and we’re just going to have to live with the weeks that he posts 20 points on the waiver wire, and Kris Durham was the next most targeted receiver. With Ryan Broyles going down to injury, Durham won’t see any of his slot snaps, but, should only stand to increase his already impressive workload on a weekly basis, at least until Nate Burleson comes back.
  • Marvin Jones had progressively been seeing more targets than Mohamed Sanu coming into the week despite playing less but this week was almost unbelievable in it’s contrast. Sanu played 56 snaps but drew just three targets, catching one ball. Jones played 19 times, running 13 routes, and drawing eight targets. He caught all eight balls for 122 yards and four scores, all easily career highs. Moving forward, assuming that a >20% TD rate relative to snaps played is unsustainable, it would be nice to see Jones’ snaps come up a bit. Still, he’s well ahead of Sanu as the 2nd most valuable Bengals WR. Andrew Hawkins‘ impending return shouldn’t affect Jones too greatly as Jones spends just 17.1% of his time in the slot.
  • Just as Brandon Gibson was becoming interesting as one of Ryan Tannehill‘s preferred redzone targets he suffered an unfortunate season ending injury. Rishard Mathews was next in line for Miami – he caught three balls on six targets after Gibson went down, making him the guy to own if you’re in an AFC East only league. Mike Wallace drew 10 looks but caught just three balls. Over his last four games he’s been targeted 43 times making just 18 catches without a score. Things aren’t going well between he and Ryan Tannehill.
  • Aaron Dobson played 73.5% of New England’s offensive snaps this week and fared well on five targets, including a nice adjustment on his touchdown and a smooth play coming back for a ball along the sideline. Kenbrell Thompkins, meanwhile, played just 17.9% of snaps, the lowest percentage of any wideout – behind even Austin Collie – and drew just one target. While Dobson has been drawing more looks than Thompkins for a few weeks, this is the first game in which he received significantly more time on the field. He’s the player with the draft pedigree, and the one that was expected to see the most use this season. Perhaps he’s simply caught up and passed the undrafted product.
  • Jordan Cameron stayed relevant this week with a four target, four catch, 81 yard performance but he was third on the team in looks behind Davone Bess. The four looks were his lowest since he saw the same number in Week 5.
  • Dwayne Bowe was Kansas City’s 3rd most targeted WR (three of them, one catch for a measley seven yards) a week after I said it looked like they were interested in getting him back in the mix. Adjust expections, avoid if possible. Blech. Dexter McCluster, meanwhile, has 14 targets over the past two weeks and posted a nice effort in Week 8 with seven catches, 67 yards, and a score.
  • As efficient as Cam Newton has been it is becoming hard to trust members of the Panthers passing game on a weekly basis. Ted Ginn and Brandon Lafell each are boom or bust candidates (drawing six and five targets respectively this week) and Steve Smith seems to be catching more short and intermediate passes rather than getting open downfield. He’s on pace to post the lowest yard per catch rate of his career. With 7 targets and 4 grabs a YPC of 10 he won’t pay the fantasy bills.
  • Vincent Jackson picked up most of his yardage in garbage time, but he was targeted 13 times again this week marking double digit looks every game he has played with Glennon. Meanwhile, Mike Williams is shut down for the year. Look for Tiquan Underwood who played 60 of 71 snaps and drew four targets this week to be the main beneficiary.
  • Only five 49ers drew targets (two of them backs) as Colin Kaepernick threw just 16 passes against Jacksonville. That number is likely to come up a hair in an average week, but, he’s not throwing the ball enough for anyone other than Anquan Boldin to be a top 75 WR play in any given week. Kyle Williams drew 3 targets on 27 snaps. I haven’t reviewed the film for formations, but, the snap numbers suggest that the 49ers went with just one wideout for a minimum of 50% of the game. Eventually, Michael Crabtree returns and perhaps that changes the dynamic a bit – as will an improvement in the quality of the competition – but for right now, this is how it’s going to work in San Francisco.
  • Mike Brown found the endzone on five targets and three catches, playing 41 of 75 snaps. There is an argument to be made that the Jags offense will pass enough to support three usable wide receivers but they don’t have the quarterback play to back it up.
  • I have no explanation for the fact that Rueben Randle received just one target this week, nor can I tell you why Hakeem Nicks was Eli Manning‘s most popular target a week after going two for nine against the Vikings and generally seeming disinterested. Lets not get over excited about the 12 targets for Nicks, though, he caught just seven balls for an average of 7.3 yards. I’ll say that I think this was just an anomalous week with regard to Randle.
  • It wasn’t that Riley Cooper didn’t have opportunities – he saw five targets, the same number that he turned into 120 yards two weeks ago, it’s just that he’s not a trustable option. Particularly as the Eagles shuffle QBs. This offense is looking like it might be a steaming pile of Barkley the next time it gets on the field, so, downgrade everyone for the time being.
  • David Nelson was on the field for more than 50 snaps for the second consecutive week and has drawn 18 targets over that span, including 11 this week. His 80 yards easily led the Jets, and, Nelson could be a player of interest moving forward with Santonio Holmes‘ ambiguous return timeline.
  • Harry Douglas drew a massive 18 targets against the Cardinals catching 12 balls for 122 yards. Matt Ryan put 61 balls in the air against the Cardinals so that number won’t come every week, but, a week after drawing eight looks on 28 attempts he saw slightly more than 25% of the targets, which seems to be a fair number to assume moving forward. Tony Gonzalez saw eight balls thrown his way, but caught just three of them for 26 yards. Until Roddy White returns and proves effective or teams start realizing that Douglas can hurt them in single coverage, Tony G is going to see a lot of two man coverage and as a result our expectations need to be adjusted (read, note to self, seriously, stop ranking him as a top 2 TE). Drew Davis played virtually all the snaps and saw seven targets a week after getting just two against the Bucs. He’ll have work every week, even when White returns.
  • Both Jarrett Boykin and Jordy Nelson caught all of their five and seven respective targets. Nelson went over 100 and had two scores but Boykin’s numbers are notable in that he caught 80% of his passes last week and 100% this week after being elevated to the starting job following a 1/5 outing in Week 6.
  • Thad Lewis seems to have finally found his rapport with Steve Johnson. Stevie J and Scott Chandler posted identical 11/7/72 lines this week while Johnson got into the endzone against the Saints. That marks consecutive 11 target weeks for Johnson a player gaining strong back-end WR2 momentum with Lewis in the lineup at QB.
  • With Lance Moore‘s return (4-3-34-TD) Kenny Stills didn’t notice an effect on his relative snapcount. He played 42 of them, just behind Marques Colston‘s 45. Colston did draw six targets but isn’t getting a lot of exciting looks and while he made three catches he racked up just 18 yards. Stills, meanwhile, made three catches on four targets for 129 with two touchdowns including an impressive 69 yard score. Stills’ four targets and nine over his past three games aren’t really sustainable in every week starter category, but, he’s certainly worth an add. Colston isn’t really in the every week discussion anymore, either.
  • On the strength of back to back eight and nine target outings with more than 80 yards apiece Denarius Moore had just four targets and two catches. Of course, Oakland didn’t do a lot through the air in general so it isn’t as if we can see Moore is being phased out, just hope for a better week this time out against the Eagles.
  • With 14 targets that translated to 90 yards on eight catches Jordan Reed had a nice week, particularly in PPR formats. What is most impressive about that is that he did it on a night where the rest of the offense struggled. The pundits got this one right… Reed is a very useful TE1 moving forward. Pierre Garcon was targeted 11 times and made 7 catches, they just weren’t of the downfield variety (sub-7 YPC).
  • After being the most productive Denver receiver throughout the month Eric Decker drew seven targets catching four balls for 42 yards. Both Welker and Thomas had 10 looks and a touchdown. Again, there is enough volume here to keep everyone relevant weekly.
  • It was an interesting Monday night for Golden Tate who a) scored Seattle’s only offensive points b) got in trouble from the referees and his coach for taunting and c) caught 4 of 5 targets for 13 yards outside of his 80 yard score. To me, even with Sidney Rice out, this feels like a sell opportunity for Tate. The loss of Rice does help mitigate some of the impact of Harvin’s return on Tate, mind you… it does less to help Doug Baldwin who is Seattle’s primary slot guy for the time being but saw just one target in Week 8.
  • St. Louis’ passing game looked a lot like you’d expect a Kellen Clemens led attack to. 54 yards led the team and no pass catcher had more than four receptions. I mentioned heading into the game that I was interested to see if Tavon Austin got more involved in the short passing game with Clemens under center. He did not (2/3/9). So, that’s pretty much the end of that for this season.

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