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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.

While youíd like to think that a teamís overall game plan is fairly set in stone for the season by now, obviously with a few tweaks here and there, key personnel injuries always thrust a monkey wrench into the finely tuned machines that we expect to see every Sunday. Some injuries have less of an impact to the overall product, but the quarterback injuries suffered in Week 10 are going to have much bigger ramifications than, say a change at free safety or even at fullback. Moving to a back-up quarterback comes pretty close to changing the landscape of a teamís offense and one of the biggest impacts you might see come Week 11 is target distribution.

As weíve seen on the running Target Percentage Leaderboard (TPL), there is no question that quarterbacks have their favorites. Some favor certain players for red zone work, some seek out the same targets on key third down situations, and some just prefer to go to one particular guy throughout the entire game. These are the guys they practice with throughout the week and these are the guys they find themselves in the trenches with for each and every game. But take one of them out of the equation and, more often than not, the other suffers.

Similarly to the starters, the back-ups also tend to have their favorites. While Alex Smith is practicing with Michael Crabtree and Randy Moss, Colin Kaepernick is getting his work in with Kyle Williams. Ben Roethlisberger is working on plays with Mike Wallace while Byron Leftwich has trained to look for Jerricho Cotchery in similar schemes. Will Jason Campbell lean on Brandon Marshall the same way Jay Cutler does or will Earl Bennett start to see a few extra looks here and there?

With the recent increase of quarterback injuries weíve seen, along with other changes, such as the return of Jake Locker, you may see a slight shift in overall targets from some of our favorites this year. With any luck, the injuries wonít keep too many guys out, but when youíre sifting through the waiver wire looking for that WR3 to start, take the rapport between back-up QBs and back-up WRs into account.

Now letís take a look at what Week 10 actually brought usÖ

Top Targets from Week 10

Player Name Pos Team Yards TD Pass Att Targets Recpt RZTgts RZTgt% Catch % Target %
Tony Gonzalez TE ATL 122 2 52 15 11 5 50.0% 73.3% 28.8%
Laurent Robinson WR JAX 77 0 47 15 9 0 0.0% 60.0% 31.9%
Hakeem Nicks WR NYG 75 0 46 14 9 1 20.0% 64.3% 30.4%
Calvin Johnson WR DET 207 1 42 13 12 1 33.3% 92.3% 31.0%
Brandon Marshall WR CHI 107 0 33 13 8 0 0.0% 61.5% 39.4%
Roddy White WR ATL 114 0 52 13 7 1 10.0% 53.8% 25.0%
Cecil Shorts WR JAX 105 1 47 13 6 1 33.3% 46.2% 27.7%
Danny Amendola WR STL 102 0 41 12 11 2 33.3% 91.7% 29.3%
Jeremy Maclin WR PHI 93 1 41 12 8 1 50.0% 66.7% 29.3%
Demaryius Thomas WR DEN 135 0 38 11 9 0 0.0% 81.8% 28.9%
Reggie Wayne WR IND 96 0 26 11 8 0 0.0% 72.7% 42.3%
Wes Welker WR NE 74 0 38 11 6 0 0.0% 54.5% 28.9%
Greg Olsen TE CAR 102 2 36 10 9 3 60.0% 90.0% 27.8%
Brian Hartline WR MIA 79 0 39 10 8 1 25.0% 80.0% 25.6%
Jason Witten TE DAL 47 0 26 10 8 2 50.0% 80.0% 38.5%
A.J. Green WR CIN 85 1 30 10 7 3 33.3% 70.0% 33.3%
Donald Jones WR BUF 74 1 40 10 6 2 20.0% 60.0% 25.0%
Lance Moore WR NO 91 0 32 9 7 0 0.0% 77.8% 28.1%
Kyle Rudolph TE MIN 64 1 32 9 7 1 14.3% 77.8% 28.1%
Marcel Reece RB OAK 56 0 46 9 7 1 25.0% 77.8% 19.6%
Steve Johnson WR BUF 86 0 40 9 6 3 30.0% 66.7% 22.5%
Dwayne Bowe WR KC 55 0 26 9 4 0 0.0% 44.4% 34.6%
Martellus Bennett TE NYG 37 0 46 9 4 2 40.0% 44.4% 19.6%
Andre Johnson WR HOU 35 0 26 9 4 0 0.0% 44.4% 34.6%
Brandon Pettigrew TE DET 32 1 42 9 3 1 33.3% 33.3% 21.4%

Tony Gonzalez carried quite the load this past week, racking up 15 targets, but while he and Roddy White captured almost all of Matt Ryanís attention, the distribution was also injury related, since Julio Jones tweaked his ankle early in the first quarter and had to head back to the locker room. Meanwhile, the Falcons fell behind the Saints and were in need of some catch-up. This resulted in a pass-heavy game plan and Jonesí usual targets being distributed amongst the aforementioned duo. When Jones returned, he took back a few of those targets, but without being at 100-percent, Ryan continued to look for Gonzalez and White more often. Being so, keep an eye on Jonesí ankle injury this week. Both White and Gonzalez are must-starts anyway, but with a potentially heavier workload, they could be even more explosive. I mean, did you see those red zone targets for Gonzo?

After what we saw in Week 9, it shouldnít come as much of a surprise to see Laurent Robinson sharing the targets lead for the week. Upon his return, Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert looked for Robinson quite often in the red zone and their on-field rapport looked even stronger than it did before Robinson got hurt. Though he didnít garner any red zone looks this week, you should still expect to see more of Robinson over the coming weeks, especially as the Jags find themselves relying on the pass more with Maurice Jones-Drew still out.

It was a big week for Hakeem Nicks, but as youíll see below, it still wasnít enough to keep him on the overall TPL. Normally, we would consider this to be an outlier, but Nicks has been battling injuries most of the year. When healthy, he should be leaned on heavily, particularly with what we saw this week, when the Bengals used Leon Hall to blanket Victor Cruz, who was also dealing with a rib injury. If Eli Manning and the Giants passing game can get back on track, you should expect to see Nicks here almost as often as Cruz.

Do you think Sam Bradford is happy to have Danny Amendola back? Iíd say so. It was almost 13 targets and 12 catches with an additional 80 yards for Amendola this week had an illegal formation call not nullified the opening play of the overtime period.

With Steve Smith getting Champ Baileyíd this week, itís no surprise to see Greg Olsen have such a big game. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was forced into throwing underneath the Broncos defense most of the time and Olsen was a huge beneficiary. As a favorite target most of the year anyway, Olsen should continue to see significant targets and red zone looks the rest of the way.

Donald Jones saw a lot more action this week and with the head injury to Fred Jackson, it is more than likely that Buffalo will employ a more pass-heavy offense, even when theyíre not forced to play catch-up. His 10 targets this week helped nudge him up on the TPL below and given the Bills remaining schedule, Jones could be there to stay.

Target Percentage Leaderboard

Player Name Pos Team Yards TD Pass Att Targets Recpt RZTgts RZTgt% Catch % Target %
Brandon Marshall WR CHI 904 7 275 103 67 14 46.7% 65.0% 37.5%
Reggie Wayne WR IND 931 3 362 112 69 10 28.6% 61.6% 30.9%
Dwayne Bowe WR KC 626 3 306 91 49 3 21.4% 53.8% 29.7%
A.J. Green WR CIN 820 9 316 92 58 15 36.6% 63.0% 29.1%
Vincent Jackson WR TB 769 6 273 77 36 14 34.1% 46.8% 28.2%
Steve Smith WR CAR 649 1 275 77 39 7 17.1% 50.6% 28.0%
Victor Cruz WR NYG 743 7 376 104 60 13 23.2% 57.7% 27.7%
Larry Fitzgerald WR ARI 585 4 355 97 51 14 25.9% 52.6% 27.3%
Brian Hartline WR MIA 741 1 299 81 49 10 25.6% 60.5% 27.1%
Steve Johnson WR BUF 502 4 297 80 41 10 28.6% 51.3% 26.9%
Percy Harvin WR MIN 677 3 316 85 62 5 11.4% 72.9% 26.9%
Wes Welker WR NE 810 2 361 94 66 8 14.0% 70.2% 26.0%
Andre Johnson WR HOU 597 2 280 71 46 3 13.6% 64.8% 25.4%
Jason Witten TE DAL 585 1 354 89 66 9 22.0% 74.2% 25.1%
Michael Crabtree WR SF 510 4 243 61 44 4 19.0% 72.1% 25.1%
Calvin Johnson WR DET 974 2 401 96 60 10 14.9% 62.5% 23.9%
Davone Bess WR MIA 536 0 299 71 42 3 7.7% 59.2% 23.7%
Demaryius Thomas WR DEN 891 4 330 76 54 6 11.5% 71.1% 23.0%
Greg Olsen TE CAR 497 3 275 63 43 10 24.4% 68.3% 22.9%
Roddy White WR ATL 823 4 351 80 54 11 22.4% 67.5% 22.8%
Tony Gonzalez TE ATL 617 6 351 79 61 10 20.4% 77.2% 22.5%
Eric Decker WR DEN 598 7 330 74 48 15 28.8% 64.9% 22.4%
DeSean Jackson WR PHI 686 2 348 78 42 7 19.4% 53.8% 22.4%
Sidney Rice WR SEA 475 6 255 57 34 8 21.1% 59.6% 22.4%
Mike Williams WR TB 568 5 273 59 31 9 22.0% 52.5% 21.6%
Mike Wallace WR PIT 539 6 330 71 42 12 21.8% 59.2% 21.5%
Marques Colston WR NO 652 7 378 80 47 18 31.0% 58.8% 21.2%
Danny Amendola WR STL 497 2 293 61 43 8 26.7% 70.5% 20.8%
Brandon Lloyd WR NE 480 3 361 75 42 12 21.1% 56.0% 20.8%
Torrey Smith WR BAL 548 7 313 64 31 5 16.7% 48.4% 20.4%
Anquan Boldin WR BAL 548 1 313 64 40 5 16.7% 62.5% 20.4%
Donnie Avery WR IND 519 1 362 74 38 6 17.1% 51.4% 20.4%
Miles Austin WR DAL 669 4 354 72 43 8 19.5% 59.7% 20.3%
Dez Bryant WR DAL 590 3 354 71 45 7 17.1% 63.4% 20.1%
Antonio Brown WR PIT 499 1 330 66 42 0 0.0% 63.6% 20.0%
Owen Daniels TE HOU 478 5 280 56 37 4 18.2% 66.1% 20.0%
Julio Jones WR ATL 703 5 351 70 44 11 22.4% 62.9% 19.9%
Kendall Wright WR TEN 390 4 353 70 43 11 25.6% 61.4% 19.8%
Jeremy Kerley WR NYJ 535 2 300 59 35 7 19.4% 59.3% 19.7%
Andre Roberts WR ARI 540 5 355 68 40 5 9.3% 58.8% 19.2%
Rob Gronkowski TE NE 611 8 361 69 46 15 26.3% 66.7% 19.1%
James Jones WR GB 462 8 330 63 40 12 27.9% 63.5% 19.1%
Malcom Floyd WR SD 572 3 300 57 39 0 0.0% 68.4% 19.0%
Justin Blackmon WR JAX 250 1 314 59 26 3 7.5% 44.1% 18.8%
Jimmy Graham TE NO 533 7 378 71 45 10 17.2% 63.4% 18.8%
Dennis Pitta TE BAL 376 3 313 58 37 9 30.0% 63.8% 18.5%
Cecil Shorts WR JAX 561 4 314 58 29 6 15.0% 50.0% 18.5%
Kyle Rudolph TE MIN 306 6 316 58 34 10 22.7% 58.6% 18.4%
Denarius Moore WR OAK 575 5 377 68 34 11 22.0% 50.0% 18.0%
Randall Cobb WR GB 500 6 330 59 45 7 16.3% 76.3% 17.9%
Jeremy Maclin WR PHI 449 4 348 62 36 8 22.2% 58.1% 17.8%
Jordy Nelson WR GB 532 5 330 58 40 9 20.9% 69.0% 17.6%
Jermaine Gresham TE CIN 448 3 316 55 37 6 14.6% 67.3% 17.4%
Heath Miller TE PIT 431 6 330 57 43 17 30.9% 75.4% 17.3%
Brent Celek TE PHI 467 1 348 60 36 9 25.0% 60.0% 17.2%
Donald Jones WR BUF 380 4 297 51 32 8 22.9% 62.7% 17.2%
Lance Moore WR NO 585 2 378 64 40 6 10.3% 62.5% 16.9%
Vernon Davis TE SF 404 4 243 41 29 2 9.5% 70.7% 16.9%
Andrew Hawkins WR CIN 394 3 316 53 34 7 17.1% 64.2% 16.8%

While the question was posed above, as to how much Jason Campbell will lean on Brandon Marshall if Jay Cutler is out for any length of time, itís doubtful that Marshall will fall off his perch atop the leaderboard here. He may not see as many targets per game as he normally does, but heíll still dominate percentage-wise. Campbell is still a gunslinger at heart and will try to find Marshall as often as he can, but we might also see Lovie Smith turn to the run a lot more.

Also mentioned briefly above, but definitely worth its own mention here, is the 49ers situation. Vernon Davis has already been off the TPL more than heís been on it, as defenses continue to cut off his routes and stifle his big-play ability down the sidelines, but now weíve seen Mario Manningham fall off as well and Michael Crabtree could be headed down soon too. Colin Kaepernick is much more of a scramble-and-run type quarterback than he is a pocket-passer and if Alex Smith misses any significant time, then all three will continue to see a reduction in targets. Defenses will always have to play the Niners as a run-first team, but even more so now as Kaepernick, even during his decent second half this week, seemed tentative to throw the ball downfield.

A return to some red zone work for both Dennis Pitta and Kyle Rudolph this week resulted in touchdowns for both. While you canít rely on an outright return to the way things were for both tight ends in the early weeks of the season, itís good to see them both getting a little something back for right now. Keep an eye on the red zone looks for both as each one can and should be a favorite of their respective QBs once inside the 20.

Andrew Hawkins may have nabbed himself some extra red zone work and a touchdown this week, but he continues to creep further down on the TPL and could find himself off the list come the conclusion of Week 11. Itís not so much that he is being phased out as it is that other receivers seem to be garnering more attention from their quarterbacks than Hawkins does from Andy Dalton. His target percentage has remained relatively unchanged, but with other receivers growing within their own passing games, there seem to be better options elsewhere.

The rise of Cecil Shorts has many fantasy owners taking notice and he is becoming quite the hot topic in trade talks recently. It was presumed that his role would be reduced with the return of Laurent Robinson, but it has been the frustrating Justin Blackmon who has seen the steady decline. Shorts, with yet another 100-yard week, is quietly gaining must-start status.

I had Malcom Floyd tabbed as a possible breakout last week and while he did find the endzone, even after missing some of the game due to a hit to the jaw, I find it extremely disconcerting that he still has zero red zone targets this year. Even if the match-up seems favorable, his chances of scoring are greatly reduced and itís just way too difficult to rely on someone like that.

Just Missing the Cut This Week: Scott Chandler (16.5%), Golden Tate (16.5%), Brandon Gibson (16.4%), Dexter McCluster (16.3%), Hakeem Nicks (16.2%)

TPL Risers to Monitor: Jeremy Maclin, Cecil Shorts, Kyle Rudolph
TPL Fallers to Monitor: Golden Tate, Brandon Gibson, Mario Manningham

Week 11 Matchup to Watch: New Orleans Saints at Oakland Raiders Ė With the Raiders running game decimated by injuries, Carson Palmer will continue to take it to the air, especially against a 31st ranked Saints defense that gives up an average of 307 passing yards per game and has allowed 19 touchdowns through the air this season. Denarius Moore and Darius Heyward-Bey should get plenty of action this week, and if Brandon Myers returns form his concussion, he should also see plenty of work, particularly in the red zone. For the Saints, do we even have to mention their offensive prowess in the passing game? Oakland may only allow an average of 258 yards through the air each game, but with 17 passing touchdowns allowed and a minimal pass rush, Drew Brees should have no problem finding Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston and Lance Moore on a regular basis.

Potential Week 11 Breakouts: Steve Smith (CAR), Brent Celek, Steve Johnson
Potential Week 11 Busts: Torrey Smith, Michael Crabtree, Tony Gonzalez

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