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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.

They say that the cream always rises to the top and finally here in Week 6, weíre starting to see the evidence. While this weekís list of target leaders is riddled with big names that we expect to see here on a regular basis, the Target Percentage Leaderboard (TPL) is also starting to take shape as weíre starting to see a greater line of separation between the contenders and the pretenders. Names that we would expect to see up top, both in actual targets and total fantasy points, have steadily risen while those flash-in-the-pan guys who may have started off hot are coming back to Earth and slowly starting to fade into obscurity. Of course, there are notable exceptions, but that's what the term "breakout season" is all about.

So letís take a look at some of the notables from Week 6 and afterward, we'll see how they fit in with the overall TPL...

Top Targets from Week 6

Player Name Pos Team Yards TD Pass Att Targets Recpt RZTgts RZTgt% Catch % Target %
Dez Bryant WR DAL 95 2 36 15 13 5 62.5% 86.7% 41.7%
Wes Welker WR NE 138 1 58 14 10 2 22.2% 71.4% 24.1%
Percy Harvin WR MIN 133 0 52 14 11 0 0.0% 78.6% 26.9%
Calvin Johnson WR DET 135 0 45 13 6 1 10.0% 46.2% 28.9%
Victor Cruz WR NYG 58 1 28 13 6 3 42.9% 46.2% 46.4%
Jordy Nelson WR GB 121 3 37 12 9 3 37.5% 75.0% 32.4%
Larry Fitzgerald WR ARI 93 1 36 12 6 1 100.0% 50.0% 33.3%
Brandon Lloyd WR NE 80 0 58 12 6 0 0.0% 50.0% 20.7%
Andre Johnson WR HOU 75 0 38 12 8 1 20.0% 66.7% 31.6%
Donnie Avery WR IND 60 0 44 12 4 0 0.0% 33.3% 27.3%
A.J. Green WR CIN 135 2 46 11 7 2 100.0% 63.6% 23.9%
Steve Johnson WR BUF 82 0 33 11 6 0 0.0% 54.5% 33.3%
Kenny Britt WR TEN 62 1 44 11 4 3 50.0% 36.4% 25.0%
Kyle Rudolph TE MIN 56 1 52 11 6 2 40.0% 54.5% 21.2%
Jeremy Maclin WR PHI 130 1 46 10 6 1 25.0% 60.0% 21.7%
Randall Cobb WR GB 102 0 37 10 7 2 25.0% 70.0% 27.0%
Reggie Wayne WR IND 87 0 44 10 5 0 0.0% 50.0% 22.7%
Antonio Gates TE SD 81 2 41 10 6 3 75.0% 60.0% 24.4%
Mario Manningham WR SF 72 0 37 10 5 0 0.0% 50.0% 27.0%
Michael Jenkins WR MIN 67 1 52 10 6 0 0.0% 60.0% 19.2%
Nate Washington WR TEN 57 0 44 10 3 1 16.7% 30.0% 22.7%
Antonio Brown WR PIT 20 0 40 10 4 0 0.0% 40.0% 25.0%

Not too many unfamiliar faces this week, are there? In fact, of the top 10 most targeted receivers this week, only one, Donnie Avery, was found outside the top 30 NFL receivers and drafted later than the seventh round. As I said in the beginning, the cream always rises to the top.

While Jason Witten and Miles Austin have both been favorites of Tony Romo in the past, itís obvious this season that Dez Bryant has moved into that role. His target percentage has steadily increased each week and the fifteen targets he saw in Week 6 vaults him over Witten for the Cowboys' target lead this season. Thatís definitely something you should be watching when discussing trades, especially if someone is trying to price gouge you on Austin or Witten. Also, if youíre looking to buy on Bryant, donít be discouraged by all of this criticism he is taking for some of his dropped passes. Yes, he had five red zone looks this week and only came down with two scores, but of the top 60 most targeted receivers in the NFL right now, Bryant still ranks eighth with a 70.8-percent catch rate. If his drops were that devastating or even common, Romo wouldnít be looking his way as often as he does.

Kudos to you if you exhibited patience with Jordy Nelson and didnít deal him off for some one-week wonder. While he wasnít doing much end zone dancing before this week, you were wise to pay close attention to the fact that he was still the most targeted receiver on the Packers. It was only a matter of time before he broke out, evidenced in Week 6.

Not only did Mario Manningham have a breakout week for targets, but heís also now found his way onto the TPL down below. With defenses making it a point to clamp down on Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis, 49ers quarterback Alex Smith has made a concerted effort to build his on-field rapport with Manningham. He had his first touchdown reception last week and with 10 targets this time out, itís apparent that his opportunities are growing.

Vikings receiver Michael Jenkins makes an appearance this week, but youíll probably want to take that with a grain of salt. His 10 targets were a product of both Minnesota having to air it out after falling behind the Redskins and the fact that Jerome Simpson was out again with a back injury. If Simpson is out for any length of time, then Jenkins might see a few extra looks his way, but overall, the Vikings donít fall behind like that too often and the majority of targets still belong to Percy Harvin and Kyle Rudolph.

This week, Antonio Gates makes his first appearance of the season in this column and it should be the first of many. Unlike others that show up here and not below in the TPL, Gates, now healthy, should continue to appear on the Weekly Targets Leaderboard and will begin his ascension on the TPL in no time. In fact, his 16.7-percent target rate just missed the cut-off this week, so once heís back from his Week 7 bye, expect him to establish himself as a mainstay.

Now letís take a look at the overall...

Target Percentage Leaderboard

Player Name Pos Team Yards TD Pass Att Targets Recpt RZTgts RZTgt% Catch % Target %
Brandon Marshall WR CHI 496 3 156 56 35 7 43.8% 62.5% 35.9%
Reggie Wayne WR IND 593 2 221 70 41 7 26.9% 58.6% 31.7%
Vincent Jackson WR TB 370 4 145 46 20 6 35.3% 43.5% 31.7%
A.J. Green WR CIN 628 6 216 67 43 10 37.0% 64.2% 31.0%
Steve Johnson WR BUF 316 3 184 57 27 7 33.3% 47.4% 31.0%
Victor Cruz WR NYG 496 6 227 70 43 11 28.2% 61.4% 30.8%
Dwayne Bowe WR KC 423 3 217 66 34 3 30.0% 51.5% 30.4%
Larry Fitzgerald WR ARI 430 3 221 67 36 11 26.8% 53.7% 30.3%
Percy Harvin WR MIN 540 1 210 62 49 3 10.7% 79.0% 29.5%
Wes Welker WR NE 622 2 243 66 48 6 17.1% 72.7% 27.2%
Steve Smith WR CAR 388 0 140 38 21 2 11.8% 55.3% 27.1%
Brian Hartline WR MIA 514 1 198 53 29 7 24.1% 54.7% 26.8%
Danny Amendola WR STL 395 2 186 49 32 6 35.3% 65.3% 26.3%
Michael Crabtree WR SF 337 1 176 44 30 1 8.3% 68.2% 25.0%
Antonio Brown WR PIT 346 1 197 49 29 0 0.0% 59.2% 24.9%
Dez Bryant WR DAL 364 2 197 48 34 5 27.8% 70.8% 24.4%
Greg Olsen TE CAR 293 1 140 34 22 5 29.4% 64.7% 24.3%
Calvin Johnson WR DET 558 1 231 56 35 5 14.7% 62.5% 24.2%
Davone Bess WR MIA 388 0 198 47 28 3 10.3% 59.6% 23.7%
Brandon Lloyd WR NE 401 1 243 57 34 7 20.0% 59.6% 23.5%
DeSean Jackson WR PHI 465 1 231 54 29 4 19.0% 53.7% 23.4%
Eric Decker WR DEN 441 3 227 53 34 10 30.3% 64.2% 23.3%
Tony Gonzalez TE ATL 430 4 236 54 43 5 16.1% 79.6% 22.9%
Julio Jones WR ATL 376 4 236 54 30 10 32.3% 55.6% 22.9%
Roddy White WR ATL 553 4 236 53 37 8 25.8% 69.8% 22.5%
Sidney Rice WR SEA 280 2 152 34 20 7 25.0% 58.8% 22.4%
Justin Blackmon WR JAX 119 0 148 33 13 2 11.1% 39.4% 22.3%
Kendall Wright WR TEN 285 2 234 52 33 8 26.7% 63.5% 22.2%
Andre Johnson WR HOU 358 2 190 42 25 3 17.6% 59.5% 22.1%
Donnie Avery WR IND 258 1 221 47 21 4 15.4% 44.7% 21.3%
Demaryius Thomas WR DEN 542 3 227 48 32 3 9.1% 66.7% 21.1%
Jordy Nelson WR GB 410 4 227 48 32 6 20.0% 66.7% 21.1%
Marques Colston WR NO 444 4 240 50 28 13 32.5% 56.0% 20.8%
Anquan Boldin WR BAL 429 1 212 44 28 4 22.2% 63.6% 20.8%
Jason Witten TE DAL 276 1 197 40 27 3 16.7% 67.5% 20.3%
Owen Daniels TE HOU 357 3 190 38 26 3 17.6% 68.4% 20.0%
Dennis Pitta TE BAL 243 2 212 42 25 6 33.3% 59.5% 19.8%
Kyle Rudolph TE MIN 225 5 210 41 25 9 32.1% 61.0% 19.5%
Vernon Davis TE SF 340 4 176 34 23 2 16.7% 67.6% 19.3%
Mike Williams WR TB 332 3 145 28 15 4 23.5% 53.6% 19.3%
Mario Manningham WR SF 258 1 176 33 24 3 25.0% 72.7% 18.8%
Malcom Floyd WR SD 418 1 209 39 25 0 0.0% 64.1% 18.7%
Brent Celek TE PHI 357 1 231 43 25 5 23.8% 58.1% 18.6%
Andre Roberts WR ARI 286 4 221 41 22 4 9.8% 53.7% 18.6%
Brandon Pettigrew TE DET 261 1 231 42 26 4 11.8% 61.9% 18.2%
Denarius Moore WR OAK 287 2 195 35 17 5 22.7% 48.6% 17.9%
Fred Davis TE WAS 312 0 170 30 23 2 11.8% 76.7% 17.6%
Jermaine Gresham TE CIN 306 2 216 38 25 5 18.5% 65.8% 17.6%
Jimmy Graham TE NO 252 3 240 42 25 7 17.5% 59.5% 17.5%
Ray Rice RB BAL 233 0 212 37 24 2 11.1% 64.9% 17.5%
Scott Chandler TE BUF 219 4 184 32 17 3 14.3% 53.1% 17.4%
Nate Burleson WR DET 224 2 231 40 26 4 11.8% 65.0% 17.3%
Rob Gronkowski TE NE 356 3 243 42 29 7 20.0% 69.0% 17.3%
Mike Wallace WR PIT 345 4 197 34 21 6 23.1% 61.8% 17.3%
Miles Austin WR DAL 331 3 197 34 20 3 16.7% 58.8% 17.3%
Heath Miller TE PIT 237 4 197 34 25 10 38.5% 73.5% 17.3%
Brandon Gibson WR STL 275 2 186 32 20 2 11.8% 62.5% 17.2%
Brandon LaFell WR CAR 226 1 140 24 13 3 17.6% 54.2% 17.1%
Andrew Hawkins WR CIN 329 2 216 37 25 3 11.1% 67.6% 17.1%
Torrey Smith WR BAL 394 4 212 36 21 2 11.1% 58.3% 17.0%

Similarly to the Week 6 Targets Leaderboard, the best of the best, or at least those that should be scoring the most fantasy points if we go by draft position, are rising to the top here. Out of the first dozen names listed, only Brian Hartline is considered an outlier with respect to early-season expectations. And even he, after zero targets this week, is beginning to slide back down.

Though Wes Welker will likely remain on this leaderboard throughout the season, one should take notice of his slight drop in target percentage this week. While Iím sure that the match-up with the Seahawks defense was a contributor, the return of Aaron Hernandez is likely to affect Welkerís targets as the season progresses. Remember, Welkerís target percentage was down at 22.0-percent before Hernandez got hurt and only climbed to its current mark in his absence. I'm not saying heís going to be a bust, but he might not be as productive as youíd like.

The Greg Jennings injury isnít just helping Jordy Nelson in the targets department, but also Randall Cobb, who has turned out to be a very reliable receiver for Aaron Rodgers this season. Heís not the deep threat that Nelson may be, but Cobb has done well with yards after the catch and has been a big part of the Packers short-passing game as defenses are trying to take away the downfield bombs. Another 10 targets this week actually has him breaking into the TPL for the first time since Week 1 and for as long as Jennings remains out, Cobb should continue to get the looks.

My fantasy man-crush on Andrew Hawkins appears to finally be over. After three straight disappointing weeks in which he had favorable match-ups, it might be time to cut the cord. I donít recommend dropping him outright just yet, but if weíre going by the TPL, Hawkins has begun to plummet down the rankings and is getting less and less attention from Andy Dalton. While he may have three red zone targets over his last three games, thatís not nearly enough to keep him in your active lineup.

If you want to see the perfect example of "sharing the love," then look no further than the Atlanta Falcons. Tony Gonzalez, Roddy White and Julio Jones are all nicely tucked together here on the leaderboard with target percentages of just under 23-percent. Matt Ryan has no problem with equal distribution, since it helps keep defenses from keying in on one guy in particular. Jones might have to increase that catch rate if he wants to continue to see the same amount of looks as the other two, but his passes are coming through an awful lot of traffic as well, so a little leeway is allowed.

With the injury to Danny Amendola, we were wondering just who on that Rams team would step up and take his place as Sam Bradfordís go-to guy. Well, after nine targets this week, the appearance of Brandon Gibson probably gives us our answer. However, donít rule out Chris Givens just yet, as he saw seven targets this week and has been a growing part of the Ramsí overall passing game this year.

Just missing the cut this week, but likely to re-appear on the TPL next week include: Antonio Gates (16.7%), Jacob Tamme (16.7%), Darren McFadden (16.4%), Darren Sproles (16.3%), Jeremy Kerley (16.1%)

TPL Risers to Monitor: Mike Williams (TB), Nate Burleson, Denarius Moore
TPL Fallers to Monitor: Brian Hartline, Michael Crabtree, Rob Gronkowski

Week 7 Match-Up to Watch: Tennessee Titans at Buffalo Bills Ė this game could turn into a fantasy dream as two of the leagueís worst pass defenses match up for this one. Combined, theyíve allowed 3,292 yards through the air with 26 passing touchdowns. The average pass goes for 12.9 yards against Buffalo while the average against Tennessee is 11.3. Kenny Britt, Nate Washington, Kendall Wright and even Jared Cook should have strong days against the Bills while Steve Johnson, Donald Jones and Scott Chandler should all have equally solid days against the Titans.

Week 7 Potential Breakouts: Donnie Avery, Stephen Hill, Martellus Bennett

Week 7 Potential Busts: Steve Smith (CAR), Vernon Davis, Josh Gordon

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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