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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.

If youíre still reading this column right now, then either youíve advanced to your fantasy championship or youíre still in such disbelief from so many nightmarish Week 15 performances that youíre grasping at straws, desperate to find answers to how your team could have collapsed so easily. If itís the former, then congratulations are in order. Iím both happy for and proud of your achievements. If itís the latter, then I donít really know what to say. Mentally, Iím giving you a big olí hug and telling you that itís going to be all right, but really, Iím in just as much shock as you are right now. Week 15 caused a lot of head-scratching for many of us.

Before we starting pointing fingers and playing the blame game, letís take a look at those who did us right; those who continued to step up their games and produced when we needed it most. We can thank the quarterbacks for always looking our way, but without the talents of some of these wide receivers and tight ends, none of us would be doing any endzone dancing at this time of year.

Top Targets from Week 15

Player Name Pos Team Yards TD Pass Att Targets Recpt RZTgts RZTgt% Catch % Target %
Aaron Hernandez TE NE 92 1 65 20 10 1 50.0% 50.0% 30.8%
Calvin Johnson WR DET 121 0 50 17 10 1 33.3% 58.8% 34.0%
Brandon Lloyd WR NE 190 0 65 16 10 0 0.0% 62.5% 24.6%
Andre Johnson WR HOU 151 1 31 13 11 2 40.0% 84.6% 41.9%
Steve Johnson WR BUF 115 1 43 12 8 1 33.3% 66.7% 27.9%
Antonio Brown WR PIT 76 1 40 12 8 0 0.0% 66.7% 30.0%
Dallas Clark TE TB 42 0 54 12 8 1 20.0% 66.7% 22.2%
Michael Crabtree WR SF 107 2 25 12 7 1 25.0% 58.3% 48.0%
Vincent Jackson WR TB 91 0 54 12 6 0 0.0% 50.0% 22.2%
Pierre Garcon WR WAS 65 0 37 12 6 1 33.3% 50.0% 32.4%
Danny Amendola WR STL 58 1 55 12 6 2 28.6% 50.0% 21.8%
Eric Decker WR DEN 133 1 28 11 8 1 20.0% 72.7% 39.3%
Cecil Shorts WR JAX 101 0 34 11 6 5 50.0% 54.5% 32.4%
Justin Blackmon WR JAX 93 0 34 11 6 1 10.0% 54.5% 32.4%
Steven Jackson RB STL 73 0 55 10 8 0 0.0% 80.0% 18.2%
Dennis Pitta TE BAL 125 2 40 10 7 1 33.3% 70.0% 25.0%
Miles Austin WR DAL 79 0 42 10 7 0 0.0% 70.0% 23.8%
Dexter McCluster WR KC 59 0 32 10 7 0 0.0% 70.0% 31.3%
A.J. Green WR CIN 57 1 27 10 6 3 60.0% 60.0% 37.0%
Danny Woodhead RB NE 23 0 65 10 5 0 0.0% 50.0% 15.4%
Mike Wallace WR PIT 95 0 40 10 4 2 66.7% 40.0% 25.0%

Once again, weíre all starting to see the Aaron Hernandez everyone thought they were getting when they drafted him as high as the fourth round during the preseason. Tom Brady obviously has no qualms about going to Brandon Lloyd or Wes Welker, but itís no secret that he loves to go to his tight end more than anyone else. Before Rob Gronkowski got hurt, he was dominating in target percentage and now over these last two weeks, a healthy Hernandez is doing the same. While the Jags, before this week, ranked eighth against opposing tight ends, they still give up an average of 52 yards per game to the position and Hernandez should do just fine.

The 49ers may not throw the ball all that often (just 25 pass attempts in Week 15), but Michael Crabtree is still coming up huge for fantasy owners at just the right time. Heís now seen double-digit targets in each of his last three games and has come down with 23 receptions for 301 yards and two touchdowns. Heís been money in the bank in PPR leagues and rock solid in standard play, but he faces a tough match-up with Seattle in Seattle next week. The last time these two teams faced off, he had just four catches for 31 yards, so be careful. Even if the quarterback is different, the defense remains the same.

It was nice to see Pierre Garcon hop onto the targets leaderboard this week even without Robert Griffin III under center. Thereís still plenty of talk about him only coming back when heís ready, so a good rapport between Garcon and Kirk Cousins is going to be helpful if the two are paired together again next week when the Skins head to Philadelphia.

Welcome back, Eric Decker! Oh man, had it been a rough five weeks heading into this match-up with the Ravens. Decker had fallen off the map for a while, but bounced back a little during Week 14. Despite the soft match-up with the Ravens, he was still a questionable start this week as owners just werenít sure if he was going to see the big targets again. So a special thanks to Peyton Manning for making your fantasy dreams come true as Decker was a beast this week and will hopefully continue when the Broncos host the Browns in Week 16.

The Chiefs are bad. Thereís no other way to say it. They could actually be worse than the Jets. However, with Dwayne Bowe out, it looks like Dexter McCluster is the guy to own moving forward. Again, the team is bad and your expectations should be pretty darn low, but if youíre somehow crazy desperate for a third wide receiver, heís the guy who will be seeing plenty of targets. Sure, itís Brady Quinn throwing the ball, but McCluster didnít really have such a bad game this week. Definitely more solid in PPR play, but actually has a solid match-up against a suspect Colts secondary next week.

And finally, how about Cecil Shorts getting half the red zone looks this week? Unfortunately he didnít convert any, but one game back from a concussion and he puts up over 100 yards and still garners all those looks inside the 20? He should be a beast next week when the match-up is right.
And now for the overall...

Target Percentage Leaderboard

Player Name Pos Team Yards TD Pass Att Targets Recpt RZTgts RZTgt% Catch % Target %
Brandon Marshall WR CHI 1398 10 428 164 107 17 38.6% 65.2% 38.3%
A.J. Green WR CIN 1208 11 474 144 85 22 36.1% 59.0% 30.4%
Reggie Wayne WR IND 1234 4 564 171 97 15 26.3% 56.7% 30.3%
Steve Johnson WR BUF 891 6 450 129 69 16 29.6% 53.5% 28.7%
Steve Smith WR CAR 1056 3 427 121 66 13 22.4% 54.5% 28.3%
Michael Crabtree WR SF 868 7 371 105 73 8 19.0% 69.5% 28.3%
Andre Johnson WR HOU 1360 4 485 135 93 7 15.6% 68.9% 27.8%
Calvin Johnson WR DET 1667 5 642 174 106 15 16.5% 60.9% 27.1%
Wes Welker WR NE 1172 4 565 151 100 16 20.8% 66.2% 26.7%
Larry Fitzgerald WR ARI 674 4 525 139 61 18 29.0% 43.9% 26.5%
Victor Cruz WR NYG 1019 9 499 132 79 19 22.9% 59.8% 26.5%
Brian Hartline WR MIA 1002 1 444 117 67 12 19.7% 57.3% 26.4%
Vincent Jackson WR TB 1226 8 477 125 62 16 25.0% 49.6% 26.2%
Dwayne Bowe WR KC 801 3 438 114 59 4 10.8% 51.8% 26.0%
Davone Bess WR MIA 778 1 444 105 61 5 8.2% 58.1% 23.6%
Demaryius Thomas WR DEN 1210 8 511 119 78 17 21.5% 65.5% 23.3%
Jason Witten TE DAL 923 2 578 132 97 12 16.9% 73.5% 22.8%
Roddy White WR ATL 1156 5 539 123 79 16 20.5% 64.2% 22.8%
Mike Wallace WR PIT 823 8 521 114 63 15 21.4% 55.3% 21.9%
Justin Blackmon WR JAX 707 3 493 107 51 7 12.5% 47.7% 21.7%
Sidney Rice WR SEA 734 7 364 79 49 13 25.5% 62.0% 21.7%
Greg Olsen TE CAR 747 5 427 92 59 12 20.7% 64.1% 21.5%
Anquan Boldin WR BAL 828 4 491 105 58 9 20.9% 55.2% 21.4%
Eric Decker WR DEN 923 9 511 109 72 21 26.6% 66.1% 21.3%
Tony Gonzalez TE ATL 880 8 539 113 87 16 20.5% 77.0% 21.0%
Mike Williams WR TB 799 7 477 99 50 14 21.9% 50.5% 20.8%
Randall Cobb WR GB 892 7 479 99 77 7 11.7% 77.8% 20.7%
Julio Jones WR ATL 1071 9 539 111 69 18 23.1% 62.2% 20.6%
Jeremy Kerley WR NYJ 739 2 433 89 53 9 15.0% 59.6% 20.6%
Dez Bryant WR DAL 1087 10 578 118 79 14 19.7% 66.9% 20.4%
Kendall Wright WR TEN 586 4 495 101 62 13 22.4% 61.4% 20.4%
Donnie Avery WR IND 743 3 564 114 55 13 22.8% 48.2% 20.2%
Brandon Lloyd WR NE 840 4 565 113 67 13 16.9% 59.3% 20.0%
Percy Harvin WR MIN 677 3 425 85 62 5 9,1% 72.9% 20.0%
Torrey Smith WR BAL 767 7 491 98 44 7 16.3% 44.9% 20.0%
Hakeem Nicks WR NYG 692 3 499 97 53 17 20.5% 54.6% 19.4%
Owen Daniels TE HOU 662 6 485 93 56 10 22.2% 60.2% 19.2%
Cecil Shorts WR JAX 925 7 493 94 49 15 26.8% 52.1% 19.1%
Kyle Rudolph TE MIN 434 8 425 81 48 15 27.3% 59.3% 19.1%
Marques Colston WR NO 949 8 579 109 68 19 21.6% 62.4% 18.8%
Jermaine Gresham TE CIN 699 5 474 89 61 13 21.3% 68.5% 18.8%
Miles Austin WR DAL 898 5 578 108 62 12 16.9% 57.4% 18.7%
Jimmy Graham TE NO 779 8 579 108 69 15 17.0% 63.9% 18.7%
Antonio Brown WR PIT 668 3 521 97 59 0 0.0% 60.8% 18.6%
Jeremy Maclin WR PHI 719 5 533 99 57 14 25.0% 57.6% 18.6%
Andre Roberts WR ARI 697 5 525 96 56 7 11.3% 58.3% 18.3%
Denarius Moore WR OAK 724 6 565 101 47 14 20.0% 46.5% 17.9%
Dennis Pitta TE BAL 613 7 491 87 57 12 27.9% 65.5% 17.7%
Heath Miller TE PIT 771 8 521 92 68 20 28.6% 73.9% 17.7%
Danny Amendola WR STL 634 3 488 85 57 12 23.1% 67.1% 17.4%
Malcom Floyd WR SD 814 5 489 85 56 0 0.0% 65.9% 17.4%
Josh Gordon WR CLE 759 5 498 85 45 9 15.8% 52.9% 17.1%
James Jones WR GB 622 12 479 81 51 16 26.7% 63.0% 16.9%
Brandon Myers TE OAK 743 4 565 94 72 13 18.6% 76.6% 16.6%
Nate Washington WR TEN 710 4 495 82 43 7 12.1% 52.4% 16.6%
DeSean Jackson WR PHI 700 2 533 88 45 8 14.3% 51.1% 16.5%
Golden Tate WR SEA 556 7 364 60 40 11 21.6% 66.7% 16.5%
Scott Chandler TE BUF 546 6 450 73 42 10 18.5% 57.5% 16.2%
Dexter McCluster WR KC 417 1 438 71 48 6 16.2% 67.6% 16.2%
Greg Little WR CLE 551 2 498 80 44 6 10.5% 55.0% 16.1%
Lance Moore WR NO 890 5 579 93 57 13 14.8% 61.3% 16.1%

The most notable absence from the above table has to be Bears receiver Brandon Marshall. He still saw the bulk of the targets this week, which keeps him atop the TPL again, but with just seven looks this week, he didnít get a whole lot of his usual opportunities. That should be rectified by a match-up with Arizona who just coughed up 121 yards to Megatron this past week.

Itís tough as a fantasy owner to watch Larry Fitzgerald and Victor Cruz drop here on the TPL at this point in the season. These are names that we drafted early with the hopes of them carrying much of our receiving crops this year and weíre sitting here now pushing these guys aside for lesser receivers with better match-ups. Fitz now has 10 catches for just 89 yards and no touchdowns over his last five games and while he is still seeing 26.5-percent of the teamís targets, the most on the team, his quarterback situation has helped flush his fantasy value down the toilet. As for Cruz, heís had just two 100-yard games in his last seven and has only found the endzone twice in that span. Eli Manning can definitely take some of the blame, but with so many teams amping up their coverage on him, itís getting awfully difficult to trust him in a tough match-up. Not that the Ravens are too tough a match-up, but the trust factor isnít quite back to 100-percent yet.

Vincent Jackson is another one whose production has tapered off here in the second half. Heís still seeing the majority of targets on that squad, but both Dallas Clark and Mike Williams are seeing a fair amount as well and that, plus a sub-par catch rate, is dragging Jackson down. He needs just one more TD to match a career high for the season, but with a tough match-up with the Rams, heís going to have to step it up a lot more these next two weeks.

Things have certainly calmed down as far as target percentage for tight ends, hasnít it? Back after Week three, there were 16 tight ends found on the TPL with somewhat dominating red zone numbers as well. Today, there are only 10 and the red zone numbers are right about near league average. Granted, weíve had situations like Gronkowski getting hurt and Hernandez not playing in enough games to crack the current TPL, but guys who started off strong like Jimmy Graham, Kyle Rudolph, Brent Celek and Brandon Pettigrew have all dropped in overall target numbers and arenít putting up the points we may have though the position was going to provide for us this season. Meanwhile, guys like Vernon Davis and Jermichael Finley have all but fallen off the map completely.

Just Missing the Cut This Week: Josh Morgan (16.0%), Kenny Britt (16.0%), Martellus Bennett (15.6%), Andrew Hawkins (14.8%)

TPL Risers to Monitor: Justin Blackmon, Brandon Lloyd, Josh Gordon
TPL Fallers to Monitor: Brandon Myers, Kenny Britt, Cecil Shorts

Week 16 Matchup to Watch: New England Patriots at Jacksonville Jaguars Ė After watching Tom Brady light up the Houston Texans a few weeks ago and then mount a crazy comeback against the highly ranked 49ers pass defense, fantasy owners should be licking their chops to get their Patriots active against a Jaguars pass defense that allows an average of 246 passing yards per game with 19 passing touchdowns on the season. Their mark of just 15 sacks translates to a poor pass rush, so with a whole mess of time, you can bet Brady will carve up that secondary with Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez and Brandon Lloyd. But donít go dismissing the Jags just yet as the Patsí passing defense ranks 29th in the league and gives up 270 yards per game with a whopping 26 passing touchdowns this year. Chad Henne may not be the best, but heís familiar with the Patriots from his Miami days, has an improving Justin Blackmon, and has a now-healthy Cecil Shorts. Throw the bomb-a-rooskie should be this gameís tag-line.

Potential Week 16 Breakouts: Justin Blackmon, Danny Amendola, Heath Miller
Potential Week 16 Busts: Dennis Pitta, Michael Crabtree, Nate Washington

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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