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On Target: More Than Just The Looks

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 or follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy. For questions, thoughts or comments you can email him at

Once again, itís time to start analyzing those targets. One of the things that you may have noticed, without even looking at the hard data, is that some of those marquee players we drafted in the top five rounds are not seeing the same number of targets this season; at least, not the targets we expected. Vernon Davis seems to be getting phased out of the 49ers passing game while super-studs like Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald just arenít cutting the mustard either. Sure, there are mitigating circumstances surrounding all of them, but the bottom line is that without targets, there will be no fantasy points. Letís take a more in depth look, starting with the top performers from Week 8.

Top Targets from Week 8

Player NamePosTeamYardsTDPass AttTargetsRecptRZTgtsRZTgt%Catch %Target %
Jason WittenTEDAL1670622218436.4%81.8%35.5%
Miles AustinWRDAL133062169218.2%56.3%25.8%
Steve SmithWRCAR118039167233.3%43.8%41.0%
Brandon MarshallWRCHI9802814900.0%64.3%50.0%
Rob GronkowskiTENE146238138541.7%61.5%34.2%
Cecil ShortsWRJAX11604912800.0%66.7%24.5%
Percy HarvinWRMIN9013512700.0%58.3%34.3%
Reggie WayneWRIND91038117125.0%63.6%28.9%
Clyde GatesWRNYJ82054117112.5%63.6%20.4%
Dustin KellerTENYJ67054117112.5%63.6%20.4%
Andre RobertsWRARI6505211700.0%63.6%21.2%
Mike WilliamsWRTB68136116337.5%54.5%30.6%
Dez BryantWRDAL11006211500.0%45.5%17.7%
Larry FitzgeraldWRARI52052115233.3%45.5%21.2%
Jeremy KerleyWRNYJ43054115112.5%45.5%20.4%
Michael FloydWRARI36052115116.7%45.5%21.2%
Jeremy MaclinWRPHI33035106125.0%60.0%28.6%
Jimmy GrahamTENO63142105133.3%50.0%23.8%
Marques ColstonWRNO6304210500.0%50.0%23.8%
Titus YoungWRDET10024999112.5%100.0%18.4%
Demaryius ThomasWRDEN13713097333.3%77.8%30.0%
James JonesWRGB7803697120.0%77.8%25.0%
Brandon PettigrewTEDET7404997225.0%77.8%18.4%
Mike WallaceWRPIT6203397428.6%77.8%27.3%
Darren SprolesRBNO5614297266.7%77.8%21.4%
Wes WelkerWRNE4803896216.7%66.7%23.7%
Michael JenkinsWRMIN780359400.0%44.4%25.7%
Davone BessWRMIA280249400.0%44.4%37.5%
Santana MossWRWAS2113494222.2%44.4%26.5%

The Giants pass defense is normally strong against opposing tight ends, so one of the biggest surprises this week was not only that Jason Witten had such a productive game, but that he took such a high percentage of targets throughout the game. Granted, Tony Romo throwing 62 times in a game, youíre bound to see some outlandish numbers, but it was interesting to see him go back to the way things were a couple of years ago when it was Romo to Witten all day long. Weíll have to see how long this lasts, but next week against Atlanta is supposed to be another tough one for the tight end position.

While I wish I believed in Blaine Gabbert a little more, I am definitely starting to be a believer in Cecil Shorts. This makes two weeks in a row that he is found on the weekly targets leaderboard and he now has 188 yards and a touchdown in that span. He still doesnít get any looks in the red zone, but that might just be more because the Jaguars themselves have a tough time getting into the red zone, let alone getting anyone some looks in there.

I have zero faith in Clyde Gates lasting in this section beyond this article, however, you can probably get used to seeing Dustin Kellerís name here quite often. The Jets tight end is not only healthy, but also still a favorite of Mark Sanchez in the passing game. He should continue to rack up some decent catches and yards moving forward and will undoubtedly also find his way into the end zone.

Similarly to Gates, I have no faith in Michael Floyd lasting here either. Heís definitely got talent, but with Fitzgerald and Andre Roberts leading the charge, Floyd will be more of a contingency plan. His spot here can be attributed to the complete absence of a running game against the Niners this week.

And finally, while Calvin Johnsonís struggles continue, we may be witnessing a Titus Young breakout. With Nate Burleson lost for the season and Megatron looking more like Minitron, Young has a golden opportunity to step it up here and become a serious fantasy player. Heíll lose a few looks to newcomer Ryan Broyles, but after a game like this week, he will definitely warrant a spot in several lineups next week against Jacksonville.

Now letís get to the overallÖ

Target Percentage Leaderboard

Player NamePosTeamYardsTDPass AttTargetsRecptRZTgtsRZTgt%Catch %Target %
Brandon MarshallWRCHI675421680501147.8%62.5%37.0%
Reggie WayneWRIND75722889254928.1%58.7%31.9%
Percy HarvinWRMIN6673262796039.4%75.9%30.2%
Victor CruzWRNYG650729689521326.5%58.4%30.1%
A.J. GreenWRCIN636724473441139.3%60.3%29.9%
Vincent JacksonWRTB626522366291336.1%43.9%29.6%
Steve JohnsonWRBUF38742196432730.4%50.0%29.2%
Steve SmithWRCAR58902166335516.1%55.6%29.2%
Dwayne BoweWRKC49232517237325.0%51.4%28.7%
Larry FitzgeraldWRARI511330985451325.0%52.9%27.5%
Calvin JohnsonWRDET63812767541916.7%54.7%27.2%
Brian HartlineWRMIA55512225933926.5%55.9%26.6%
Wes WelkerWRNE73623238360815.4%72.3%25.7%
Michael CrabtreeWRSF44032185539315.8%70.9%25.2%
Davone BessWRMIA4160222563238.8%57.1%25.2%
Jason WittenTEDAL48712937051721.9%72.9%23.9%
Antonio BrownWRPIT4801268634000.0%63.5%23.5%
DeSean JacksonWRPHI52412666234520.0%54.8%23.3%
Eric DeckerWRDEN484525759381228.6%64.4%23.0%
Andre JohsnonWRHOU44422275234315.8%65.4%22.9%
Julio JonesWRATL499526559351026.3%59.3%22.3%
Tony GonzalezTEATL45942655946513.2%78.0%22.3%
Demaryius ThomasWRDEN67942575739614.3%68.4%22.2%
Marques ColstonWRNO580531970401530.6%57.1%21.9%
Sidney RiceWRSEA36732104628824.2%60.9%21.9%
Mike WallaceWRPIT459426858361022.7%62.1%21.6%
Roddy WhiteWRATL59142655740821.1%70.2%21.5%
Brandon LloydWRNE435332369371121.2%53.6%21.4%
Dez BryantWRDAL48822936241618.8%66.1%21.2%
Owen DanielsTEHOU41642274833421.1%68.8%21.1%
Mike WilliamsWRTB43642234725822.2%53.2%21.1%
Donnie AveryWRIND34612886029618.8%48.3%20.8%
Brandon PettigrewTEDET37412765738713.0%66.7%20.7%
Anquan BoldinWRBAL45312555231418.2%59.6%20.4%
Greg OlsenTECAR34712164429722.6%65.9%20.4%
Kendall WrightWRTEN35132966040923.7%66.7%20.3%
Miles AustinWRDAL56142935934721.9%57.6%20.1%
Rob GronkowskiTENE580732364431426.9%67.2%19.8%
Andre RobertsWRARI4545309613659.6%59.0%19.7%
Justin BlackmonWRJAX1930229451827.1%40.0%19.7%
Dennis PittaTEBAL27622555030731.8%60.0%19.6%
Danny AmendolaWRSTL39522524932625.0%65.3%19.4%
Torrey SmithWRBAL4354255492529.1%51.0%19.2%
Jordy NelsonWRGB53253005740820.0%70.2%19.0%
Denarius MooreWROAK419426951261128.2%51.0%19.0%
Malcom FloydWRSD4611243462900.0%63.0%18.9%
James JonesWRGB401730056361127.5%64.3%18.7%
Jeremy KerleyWRNYJ47822755130720.6%58.8%18.5%
Brent CelekTEPHI38912664828624.0%58.3%18.0%
Kyle RudolphTEMIN24252624727928.1%57.4%17.9%
Heath MillerTEPIT336626848351636.4%72.9%17.9%
Cecil ShortsWRJAX40032294120517.9%48.8%17.9%
Jermaine GreshamTECIN32522444328517.9%65.1%17.6%
Jeremy MaclinWRPHI32832664626624.0%56.5%17.3%
Michael JenkinsWRMIN2871262452400.0%53.3%17.2%
Mario ManninghamWRSF27812183728421.1%75.7%17.0%
Andrew HawkinsWRCIN34622444127310.7%65.9%16.8%
Darren McFaddenRBOAK19002694529512.8%64.4%16.7%
Randall CobbWRGB46343005042615.0%84.0%16.7%
Brandon GibsonWRSTL38122524228312.5%66.7%16.7%

The first thing that I notice this week is the rise of Percy Harvin. Sure, heís been amongst the top 10 in target percentage for most of the season, but with the yardage he is also racking up, he is really establishing himself as one of the gameís top performers. If he only saw a few more looks inside the red zone, heíd be absolutely perfect.

Tampa Bay wideout Mike Williams is really starting to make a climb here. Not only is he seeing more targets, but heís also getting a few extra red zone looks as well. Vincent Jackson owners should take notice, as most of Williamsí targets in recent weeks have come at the expense of Jacksonís work with the team. Jackson wonít be phased out, but with a more spread-out passing game, his chances of another 200-plus yard game have greatly diminished.

In addition to the aforementioned Vernon Davis, there are a few other tight ends who are seeing their target percentage drop. The Ravensí Dennis Pitta definitely leads the way, but Carolinaís Greg Olsen, San Diegoís Antonio Gates and Denverís Jacob Tamme are all seeing a reduction in work.

While Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker continue to compete for Peyton Manningís attention on the field, Iím noticing that as Decker is seeing an overall increase of targets, Thomas is starting to see more red zone work. Between this group and that of the Falcons, I canít to see the numbers as to who might be the most balanced passing attack in the game.

I am not only going to stand by my claim, but reiterate it once again, that you might want to consider shopping Wes Welker. Even with Aaron Hernandez out of action, Welker saw fewer targets this past week and is likely to continue a slight downward trend. Opposing defenses are keying in on him while guys like Rob Gronkowski and Brandon Lloyd are stealing most of Tom Bradyís attention.

Another faller in the TPL you may want to consider dumping has been Miami receiver Brian Hartline. With the absence of quarterback Ryan Tannehill, Davone Bess seems to be getting a majority of the looks. After averaging almost 12 targets a game through the first four weeks of the season, he is now averaging less than four targets per game over his last three.

Just Missing the Cut This Week: Vernon Davis (16.5%), Darren Sproles (16.3%), Lance Moore (16.6%), Jimmy Graham (16.3%), Brandon LaFell (16.9%), Leonard Hankerson (16.1%)

TPL Risers to Monitor: Davone Bess, Cecil Shorts, Mario Manningham

TPL Fallers to Monitor: Greg Olsen, Dez Bryant, Vincent Jackson

Week 9 Match-Up to Watch: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Oakland Raiders Ė Itís always fun, and makes for great fantasy point potential, when you have two mediocre-to-poor pass defenses matching up while respective offenses seem to be on the rise. Josh Freeman has been lighting is up for the Bucs lately while utilizing Mike Williams, Tiquan Underwood and even Dallas Clark a little more. The Raiders pass defense has allowed an average of just 236 passing yards per game, but theyíve given up 12 passing touchdowns and have little or no pass rush to pressure Freeman. Meanwhile, Carson Palmer and Denarius Moore have rekindled their bromance while Darrius Heyward-Bey, Brandon Myers and even Rod Streater are looking good lately. They get the pleasure of facing an atrocious Bucs pass D that has allowed an average of 310 passing yards per game with nine touchdowns.

Potential Week 9 Breakouts: Darrius Heyward-Bey, Alshon Jeffery, Brandon LaFell

Potential Week 9 Busts: Steven Johnson, Jason Witten, Percy Harvin

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