RotoWire Partners

On Target: More Than Just The Looks

Howard Bender

Howard Bender

Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over a decade on a variety of web sites. For more from him, you can find his personal musings on his blog RotobuzzGuy.com or follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy. For questions, thoughts or comments you can email him at rotobuzzguy@gmail.com.

Before we get to the meat of this article, allow me to start by telling you the goal of this column. Ultimately, the aim of this piece is to be a key resource when making those tough decisions about which receivers and tight ends to start once you get beyond the no-brainers. Jeff Erickson's Weeky Rankings are an invaluable tool, yet people still seem to have a tough time deciding between a player he ranks 40th, and one he ranks at 45. With Jeff's rankings, and this column as an added resource, you will have much more data and insight at your disposal to make the best possible lineup decisions.

Tracking targets is one of the best ways to help decide which receivers to start each week. In a vacuum, players who see the most targets in a game are afforded the most opportunities to rack up yardage and score touchdowns. Simple, right? However, with many other factors to take into account, fantasy owners need to go beyond just a cursory glance of who sees the most looks in a game. Is a player seeing the most targets on his team? If his quarterback throws 40 times a game, what percentage of those throws are going towards a specific receiver? Does he catch everything that comes his way? How many of his targets are coming in the red zone, as opposed to between the 20s?

Each week, a Targets Leaderboard will be compiled with the previous week's information available; and from there, we will discuss a number of players of interest. We'll look into both their individual and team situations to determine how worthy they are of a start, or if some of the data is just an anomaly rather than a trusted number. Though they will regularly appear on the leaderboard, we will not be discussing players like Calvin Johnson and Julio Jones. Frankly, if you are even thinking about starting a guy like Kevin Ogletree over one of them, then maybe fantasy football isn't your thing. However, if you're debating between Ogletree or Stephen Hill or Titus Young, this should be the place to go to get answers to your questions.

After first identifying the 60 most targeted players from Week 1, I decided to organize the leaderboard by Target Percentage; as I think that, over the course of the season, it will be the most telling stat. How often a player is targeted in his team's passing attack tells you plenty about his role in the offense, and ultimately, his fantasy value. A high Target Percentage means a player is getting the ball more often than most and has significantly more opportunities to rack up yardage, find the end zone, and, in the end, put up strong fantasy numbers.

Both Catch Percentage and Red Zone Target Percentage are important to watch as well, but both become subsets of the overall Target Percentage. If a player has a low Catch Percentage, there is little chance of him seeing a decent Target Percentage. Simply put, a quarterback isn't going to throw to a guy who can't hold onto the ball. Similarly, a high Red Zone Percentage may not necessarily indicate a high-scoring player if he lacks the yardage. Sure, he may grab the six points for the touchdown reception, but without strong yardage numbers, his point total may not be as glamorous as hoped. Think of these players like touchdown vultures amongst running backs. However, even a player who has a low Red Zone target Percentage can still produce boatloads of points if he has a high Target Percentage since he racks up a ton of yards each game and still occasionally finds the end zone.

With all that understood, let's take a look at the Target Leaderboard after Week 1 and discuss a few players of interest and what we can expect in the coming weeks.

Player Name Pos Team Yards TD Pass Att Targets Recpt RZTgts RZTgt% Catch % Target %
Brandon Marshall WR CHI 119 1 35 15 9 2 13.3% 60.0% 42.9%
Vincent Jackson WR TB 47 0 24 10 4 2 20.0% 40.0% 41.7%
Reggie Wayne WR IND 135 0 45 18 9 4 22.2% 50.0% 40.0%
Darren McFadden RB OAK 86 0 46 18 13 0 0.0% 72.2% 39.1%
Kevin Ogletree WR DAL 114 2 29 11 8 3 27.3% 72.7% 37.9%
Danny Amendola WR STL 70 0 25 9 5 0 0.0% 55.6% 36.0%
Michael Crabtree WR SF 76 0 26 9 7 0 0.0% 77.8% 34.6%
Victor Cruz WR NYG 58 0 32 11 6 2 18.2% 54.5% 34.4%
Steve Smith WR CAR 106 0 33 11 7 2 18.2% 63.6% 33.3%
Andre Johnson WR HOU 119 1 31 10 8 1 10.0% 80.0% 32.3%
Steve Johnson WR BUF 55 1 32 10 4 0 0.0% 40.0% 31.3%
Larry Fitzgerald WR ARI 63 0 36 11 4 2 18.2% 36.4% 30.6%
Dexter McCluster WR KC 82 0 33 10 6 1 10.0% 60.0% 30.3%
A.J. Green WR CIN 70 0 37 11 5 1 9.1% 45.5% 29.7%
Percy Harvin WR MIN 84 0 27 8 6 1 12.5% 75.0% 29.6%
Santonio Holmes WR NYJ 68 0 27 8 4 0 0.0% 50.0% 29.6%
Julio Jones WR ATL 108 2 31 9 6 3 33.3% 66.7% 29.0%
Dennis Pitta TE BAL 73 1 32 9 5 3 33.3% 55.6% 28.1%
Demaryius Thomas WR DEN 110 1 26 7 5 0 0.0% 71.4% 26.9%
Eric Decker WR DEN 54 0 26 7 5 2 28.6% 71.4% 26.9%
Braylon Edwards WR SEA 43 0 34 9 5 3 33.3% 55.6% 26.5%
Sidney Rice WR SEA 36 1 34 9 4 4 44.4% 44.4% 26.5%
Kyle Rudolph TE MIN 67 0 27 7 5 0 0.0% 71.4% 25.9%
Roddy White WR ATL 87 0 31 8 6 3 37.5% 75.0% 25.8%
Brandon Lloyd WR NE 69 0 31 8 5 0 0.0% 62.5% 25.8%
Owen Daniels TE HOU 87 0 31 8 4 1 12.5% 50.0% 25.8%
Jeremy Maclin WR PHI 96 1 56 14 7 3 21.4% 50.0% 25.0%
Jermichael Finley TE GB 47 1 44 11 7 1 9.1% 63.6% 25.0%
Andre Roberts WR ARI 54 1 36 9 5 2 22.2% 55.6% 25.0%
Andrew Hawkins WR CIN 86 0 37 9 8 0 0.0% 88.9% 24.3%
Antonio Gates TE SD 43 0 33 8 4 1 12.5% 50.0% 24.2%
Laurent Robinson WR JAX 66 0 39 9 5 0 0.0% 55.6% 23.1%
Mohamed Massaquoi WR CLE 41 0 35 8 3 0 0.0% 37.5% 22.9%
Aaron Hernandez TE NE 59 1 31 7 6 1 14.3% 85.7% 22.6%
Coby Fleener TE IND 82 0 45 10 6 0 0.0% 60.0% 22.2%
Brian Hartline WR MIA 50 0 36 8 3 2 25.0% 37.5% 22.2%
Donald Jones WR BUF 41 1 32 7 5 1 14.3% 71.4% 21.9%
Rod Streater WR OAK 27 1 46 10 4 1 10.0% 40.0% 21.7%
Jermaine Gresham TE CIN 30 0 37 8 3 3 37.5% 37.5% 21.6%
Brandon Pettigrew TE DET 77 0 48 10 5 2 20.0% 50.0% 20.8%
Randall Cobb WR GB 77 0 44 9 9 0 0.0% 100.0% 20.5%
Greg Jennings WR GB 34 0 44 9 5 0 0.0% 55.6% 20.5%
Antonio Brown WR PIT 74 0 40 8 4 0 0.0% 50.0% 20.0%
Emmanuel Sanders WR PIT 55 0 40 8 4 0 0.0% 50.0% 20.0%
Marques Colston WR NO 71 0 56 11 4 1 9.1% 36.4% 19.6%
DeSean Jackson WR PHI 77 0 56 11 4 0 0.0% 36.4% 19.6%
Davone Bess WR MIA 45 0 36 7 5 2 28.6% 71.4% 19.4%
Nate Washington WR TEN 53 1 43 8 2 0 0.0% 25.0% 18.6%
Cecil Shorts WR JAX 74 1 39 7 4 0 0.0% 57.1% 17.9%
Lance Moore WR NO 120 1 56 10 6 0 0.0% 60.0% 17.9%
Jimmy Graham TE NO 85 1 56 10 6 3 30.0% 60.0% 17.9%
Donnie Avery WR IND 37 1 45 8 3 3 37.5% 37.5% 17.8%
Heath Miller TE PIT 50 1 40 7 4 4 57.1% 57.1% 17.5%
Nate Burleson WR DET 69 0 48 8 6 0 0.0% 75.0% 16.7%
Tony Scheffler TE DET 30 0 48 8 5 2 25.0% 62.5% 16.7%
LeSean McCoy RB PHI 26 0 56 9 6 0 0.0% 66.7% 16.1%
Jordy Nelson WR GB 64 0 44 7 5 0 0.0% 71.4% 15.9%
Calvin Johnson WR DET 111 0 48 7 6 1 14.3% 85.7% 14.6%
Darren Sproles RB NO 35 1 56 8 5 4 50.0% 62.5% 14.3%
Brent Celek TE PHI 65 0 56 8 4 1 12.5% 50.0% 14.3%

The player that seems to be drawing the most interest right now is Dallas wide receiver Kevin Ogletree, who saw a team-high 11 targets and had the highest Target Percentage of any Cowboys receiver. Can we expect more of the same in weeks to come? Probably not. Ogletree's success directly correlates with the injury-riddled Dallas receiving corps. Once Miles Austin, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten are over their injuries, none of which seems overly serious, Ogletree is bound to get fewer looks. It's not the same situation as last season when Austin was out for an extended period of time and Laurent Robinson became a hot commodity. While you may want to give Ogletree a look if you have bench space available, I wouldn't break the FAAB budget for him after one week.

There were encouraging target numbers for veteran receivers Vincent Jackson and Reggie Wayne, who were both leaned on by their new quarterbacks. Jackson and Josh Freeman need to work more on their rapport and timing, but one week of a low Catch Percentage isn't going to put Jackson on the back burner.

Both Danny Amendola and Michael Crabtree look like valuable possession receivers, as each racked up the highest Target Percentage for his team. As trusted receivers, both should also see an increase in red zone targets, which should ultimately bump their scoring up a few notches. In the meantime, their overall yardage totals should make them strong plays in all leagues, and their high Target Percentage should make them even more valuable in PPR formats.

Dexter McCluster made a huge splash in the targets department for the Chiefs this week, but that might have had more to do with the Falcons focusing on Dwayne Bowe than anything else. It wouldn't be a surprise to see Bowe show up here in place of McCluster over the next few weeks.

Since Todd Heap's injuries and subsequent departure from Baltimore, Joe Flacco has used Ed Dickson as more of a red zone option than anything else - much in the same mold as Ben Roethlisberger uses Heath Miller in Pittsburgh. But with the work that Dennis Pitta put in Monday, we could be looking at a change here, and Flacco could start to incorporate Pitta more in the passing attack while both tight ends share the red zone looks.

Were Coby Fleener's 10 targets and 22.2% Target Percentage a surprise to anyone? With an already-established rapport with Andrew Luck, this guy is going to get a serious amount of work this year.

Even with a receiving corps that centers around Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb could turn into a strong play, especially in PPR leagues, as opposing defenses could be inclined to follow the 49ers' gameplan and keep the deep coverage strong. That should open things up in the short passing game, which would benefit Cobb moving forward.
Cecil Shorts played a big role in Week 1 for the Jaguars, but it's probably just a matter of time before it's Justin Blackmon racking up more targets in Jacksonville.

Rod Streater? A nice debut, but he's probably not an option once Denarius Moore returns. Still, with Jacoby Ford hurt, he should have a hold on the Raiders' third receiver role.

Players to watch based on high Red Zone Targets and high Target Percentages include: Reggie Wayne Kevin Ogletree (unless the others are back at full health), Dennis Pitta, Sidney Rice, Braylon Edwards (until Golden Tate returns), Eric Decker and Jermaine Gresham.

As we gather more data about opposing pass defenses in the weeks ahead, we'll start taking a look at favorable matchups and sleepers for the upcoming week. The sample size just isn't large enough right now to determine which defenses are going to give up the most points to receivers in a given week. Right now the bottom five pass defenses are St. Louis, Washington, Indianapolis, Cincinnati and New Orleans. None of those comes as much of a surprise, but that group has the potential to change fairly quickly in the weeks ahead as the stats even out.

Have a question or need some advice from Howard Bender? Follow @rotobuzzguy on Twitter, or feel free to e-mail him at rotobuzzguy@gmail.com