Targets and receptions … It’s a lot like the chicken or the egg.
What leads to reliable fantasy wide receivers and tight ends? Is it their number of catches or the number of times they are targeted in the passing game? Catches are obviously pivotal to a player’s performance, especially in points per performance leagues, but the number of opportunities that a player has to make catches is very important, too.
You don’t have to look any further than to last year’s fantasy scoring leaders to see the value of tracking the number of times a player is targeted when considering your options. In standard PPR scoring leagues in 2010, of the Top 15 wide receivers, 10 were among the Top 15 targeted wideouts. Seven of the Top 10 tight ends meet the same criteria.
In Week 1, the top targeted receivers were overwhelmingly among the top scorers. Twenty-one of the 36 wide receivers and tight ends that were targeted eight or more times scored double digits. Only 11 other receivers or tight ends scored double figures and of them, three wideouts (Ted Ginn Jr., Randall Cobb and Eric Decker) found most of their success in the return game. Beware of inflated numbers from special teams contributions. Cobb was added in a ton of leagues this week, yet he only was targeted twice in the Gree Bay Packers’ offense. Many other owners rushed to add Ginn completely disregarding that he didn’t have a single pass thrown his way. Keep the real source of a player’s numbers in mind as you make your roster decisions.
Here is quick look at several players who received a good number of targets, but failed to register great numbers. Keep these guys in mind as they build rapport with their quarterback and start to apply their talent where the opportunity already awaits.
Jerome Simpson put up solid numbers late last season and was targeted nine times in the Cincinnati Bengals’ opener. His numbers should improve as the season progresses and he and Andy Dalton start to click. Simpson should have a spot on most rosters in 12-team, mixed leagues as a reserve.
Antonio Brown was a popular sleeper pick in drafts this season and had nine balls thrown his way in Week 1. Brown looks like a big play wideout and his value will be largely tied to his ability to haul in a couple of long passes or get in the end zone. Keep a close eye on Brown and see if his ability to get open propels him ahead of Emmanuel Sanders in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ pecking order.
Many people will point to the return of Vincent Jackson as the reason for Malcolm Floyd’s mediocre performance. Don’t write Floyd off so quickly. His eight targets in the San Diego Chargers’ high-powered offense will result in respectable fantasy numbers more often than not going forward. Make a move for Floyd if you have a less knowledgeable owner in your league.
Make sure to pay attention to number of targets that players are getting and dig deeper than the surface as you seek to improve your team throughout the season. Good luck!