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On Target: Jackson Cashes In

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

Now that the Week 7 dust has settled and you're done licking your wounds from what was probably one of the more brutal weeks in the NFL in a long while, it's time to get back to business. The week is over. Put it past you. No more lamenting over lost players. There may be crying in fantasy football, but it's done in private, far away from the derisive glare of your fellow owners. They're making fun of you and your team enough already. There's no reason to give them more fodder.

With all the quarterbacks and running backs who have been lost this season, your need to start strong wide receivers and tight ends is even greater than before, especially if you're sitting on the bubble of your playoff picture and need to find a way in. And if you're already inside that bubble, you need to do whatever it takes to maintain your position inside. Targets, targets, targets. Big targets, a lot of yards, touchdowns and, of course, red zone looks - that's what it's all about. But you know this already, which is why you're reading this article. So let's stop wasting time and get to the meat of it all.

Week 7 Target Leaders

(Click column headings to sort.)

Vincent Jackson, TBWR1382442210950.045.550.0
Rob Gronkowski, NETE11404617800.047.137.0
Dez Bryant, DALWR110047168320.050.034.0
Calvin Johnson, DETWR155251159314.360.029.4
Steve Johnson, BUFWR61032136450.046.240.6
Cecil Shorts, JACWR80036138437.561.536.1
Eric Decker, DENWR150149138533.361.526.5
Kendall Wright, TENWR9804112900.075.029.3
Wes Welker, DENWR96049127533.358.324.5
Jason Avant, PHIWR32049123266.725.024.5
Brian Hartline, MIAWR69037116228.654.529.7
T.Y. Hilton, INDWR2703811200.018.228.9
Brandon Marshall, CHIWR75028106133.360.035.7
Jeremy Kerley, NYJWR97133108228.680.030.3
Jarrett Boykin, GBWR103136108250.080.027.8
Mike Wallace, MIAWR7603710500.050.027.0
Hakeem Nicks, NYGWR28039102240.020.025.6
Nate Washington, TENWR62041103133.330.024.4
Michael Floyd, ARIWR71045106114.360.022.2
Greg Jennings, MINWR41053104125.040.018.9

Vincent Jackson, WR TB -
This was quite the week for Jackson, who topped the weekly leaderboard with a whopping 22 targets. The 45.5-percent catch rate leaves little to be desired, but there's as much of that on Mike Glennon for his throws as there is for Jackson and any missed catches. The important thing, though, is the number of opportunities Jackson sees each week. He's seen fewer than 11 targets just once this season and just these last two weeks he's seen 36 targets and has turned them into 19 catches for 250 yards and four touchdowns. It may not be so bountiful for Jackson each and every week, but Glennon's options are basically limited to him and Mike Williams, so you can probably count on a significant number of targets the rest of the way.

Rob Gronkowski, TE NE -
Well, that certainly didn't take long at all, did it? In his first game back Gronkowski saw a whopping 17 targets, and that's probably just the tip of the iceberg. Tom Brady has been so heavily reliant on Julian Edelman that some new blood was definitely a necessity for New England. Gronk will continue to see a high number of looks each and every week and becomes an immediate must-start now that he's ready for game action.

Steve Johnson, WR BUF -
The normally reliable and PPR-friendly Johnson is sure having his difficulties this season what with the tenuous quarterback situation in Buffalo. The 13 targets he saw this week were the most he's seen since Week 3, but the yards gained are leaving little to be desired. Obviously, stability at the quarterback position is key, but really ... is Thaddeus Lewis really the answer? Probably not. But with EJ Manuel still a few weeks away, Johnson's owners may just have to sit patiently on the veteran wideout and patiently wait until he has someone with a more reliable arm throwing him the ball. He could be a serious asset come fantasy playoff time when a better quarterback is getting him the ball, so dropping him for some flavor of the week might not be the best course of action.

Jason Avant, WR PHI -
Avant makes a rare appearance on the target leaderboard this week, but before you go picking him up to replace your injured Reggie Wayne, keep in mind that it's highly unlikely you'll see him here again this season unless the Eagles are forced to go with Matt Barkley under center again, and even then, he's a risky play. The two have worked together often in practice, so it's to be expected that the quarterback will favor whomever he's more comfortable with on the field, but with Michael Vick likely to return in Week 8, the tilt in targets will head back DeSean Jackson's way again soon.

Jarrett Boykin, WR GB -
Finally, a waiver pickup who doesn't disappoint and one who will actually last more than just one week. While the return of James Jones likely will cut into Boykin's future targets, the second-year receiver is still going to be an active part of the passing game, especially if he proves that he's consistently reliable. Replacing Randall Cobb means a lot of possession work, so Boykin will probably be a few ticks better in a PPR league, but should he continue to see a decent percentage of red-zone looks, then he'll prove his worth in standard scoring leagues as well.

Seeing a bunch of new faces on the weekly leaderboard is fine for the short-run, but year-long consistency is the key. That is, unless you like taking big chances each week playing the matchups, which few people really feel comfortable doing. So with that, let's turn our attention to the overall targets leaderboard and see if we can't find a few names worthy of targeting for our lineups on a regular basis.

Overall Targets Leaderboard

(Click column headings to sort.)

Vincent Jackson, TBWR544422277361441.246.834.7
A.J. Green, CINWR619524577431739.155.831.4
Cecil Shorts, JACWR491124677392024.450.631.3
Andre Johnson, HOUWR58402807148410.067.625.4
Dez Bryant, DALWR569626570422225.060.026.4
Brandon Marshall, CHIWR540524668461724.367.627.6
Julian Edelman, NEWR455228568461429.067.623.9
Pierre Garcon, WASWR466223867401839.359.728.2
Victor Cruz, NYGWR59142726740931.859.724.6
DeSean Jackson, PHIWR61052426337927.658.726.0
Jordan Cameron, CLETE515628763452539.571.422.0
Eric Decker, DENWR627328863422121.166.721.9
Calvin Johnson, DETWR492629063332336.852.421.7
Wes Welker, DENWR474828862443032.771.021.5
Torrey Smith, BALWR62912696131514.350.822.7
Antonio Brown, PITWR54822176047929.278.327.6
Jimmy Graham, NOTE593623759371021.962.724.9
Julio Jones, ATLWR580224559411717.669.524.1
Reggie Wayne, INDWR503222958381226.965.525.3
Kendall Wright, TENWR43312305840821.769.025.2
Demaryius Thomas, DENWR61052885841911.570.720.1
Alshon Jeffery, CHIWR561224657331624.357.923.2
Jamaal Charles, KCRB337225057361725.763.222.8
Larry Fitzgerald, ARIWR422426757321227.356.121.3
Anquan Boldin, SFWR49521825634730.060.730.8
Hakeem Nicks, NYGWR47002725527622.749.120.2
Antonio Gates, SDTE497227455421316.776.420.1
Kenbrell Thompkins, NEWR334428555231832.341.819.3
Mike Wallace, MIAWR35712295427721.750.023.6
T.Y. Hilton, INDWR4122229542713.850.023.6
Jason Witten, DALTE388326554351222.264.820.4
Nate Washington, TENWR43922305226513.050.022.6
Michael Floyd, ARIWR41612675232727.361.519.5
Steve Johnson, BUFWR315223451261438.951.021.8
Tony Gonzalez, ATLTE369324551352027.568.620.8
Greg Little, CLEWR210128751201218.439.217.8
Brian Hartline, MIAWR40122295031417.462.021.8
Steve Smith, CARWR293317049281847.657.128.8
Robert Woods, BUFWR29822344921622.242.920.9
Josh Gordon, CLEWR45022874927710.555.117.1
Julius Thomas, DENTE422828849362025.073.517.0
Jerome Simpson, MINWR4040222482629.154.221.6
Davone Bess, CLEWR23402874825713.252.116.7
Golden Tate, SEAWR34611954727525.057.424.1
Jason Avant, PHIWR23212424722824.146.819.4
Martellus Bennett, CHITE356424647322032.468.119.1
Emmanuel Sanders, PITWR30812174624620.852.221.2
Jordy Nelson, GBWR526522046321125.069.620.9
Tavon Austin, STLWR198226746291217.563.017.2
Randall Cobb, GBWR378222045291528.164.420.5
Danny Woodhead, SDRB314327445401422.988.916.4

One note before we continue - after this week, we'll pull off the names of those who won't be playing again for the duration of the season. There's no need to keep looking at Julio Jones' name and stats, as it's probably just bumming out his owners; or ex-owners as the case may be. That should make some room for a few extra names at which we should probably be looking.

Target Percentage Leaders

Once again, we've got the same four guys - Vincent Jackson, A.J. Green, Cecil Shorts and Anquan Boldin - sitting atop the target percentage leaderboard. But while all four are must-own guys, not all are must-starts. Green and Jackson absolute must-starts and, for the most part, as long as Shorts is healthy, you'll want him in there as Jacksonville likely will be playing from behind each week and airing it out heavily in the second half. But Boldin remains a tough play on a regular basis thanks to the double-teams he sees each week. Until the 49ers land themselves another viable option at receiver, Boldin remains a very risky play. He hasn't picked up more than 90 yards in any game over the last six weeks and he has just one touchdown in that span. He may be seeing the most targets on his team, but he's been unable to do much with them.

Red-Zone Target Leaders

Wes Welker, WR DEN (30) -
With another five red-zone targets Sunday, Welker continues to lead the pack. His target percentage remains comparable to both Eric Decker's and that of Demaryius Thomas, but it's the red-zone looks that have made Welker the most valuable receiver on that team, despite having more than 100 fewer yards than each of the other two.

Jordan Cameron, TE CLE (25) -
The increased time spent working with Brandon Weeden finally payed off as Cameron grabbed his first touchdown Sunday in three weeks. Couple that with the presence of Josh Gordon spreading the field and drawing coverage, and suddenly you have the Cameron we saw in the first four weeks of the season. Unfortunately though, the Browns are going with Jason Campbell this week, and while he could rely on the second-year tight end as well, there is an air of uncertainty that has surrounded Campbell for years now. That certainly won't help Cameron's overall stock. In addition to the change in quarterback, another issue working against Cameron is the additional coverage he is starting to see. With Gordon being the only receiver drawing coverage his way and a lack of a ground attack for Cleveland, Cameron is being targeted by the defense and he is starting to see his routes cut off. That probably won't affect him when the Browns are deep in the red zone, but his overall yardage totals may start to suffer even more.

Calvin Johnson, WR DET (23) -
Is there anything that really needs to be said about this guy? Far too many were losing faith in him which is astounding, but thanks to a 155-yard, two-touchdown performance Sunday, the opportunity to buy low has long since passed. If he's on a team in your league that lacks depth, then putting together a package for him is a must. You may not land him, but wouldn't you be bummed if someone else did before you even made the effort?

Potential Risers
(those who failed to make the overall leaderboard):

Denarius Moore
Rueben Randle
Greg Jennings
Vernon Davis
Darren Sproles

Potential Fallers:

Jason Avant
Tavon Austin
Robert Woods
Davone Bess
Kenbrell Thompkins

Week 8 Matchup to Watch

Washington Redskins at Denver Broncos -
While it's blatantly obvious that all Denver receivers are a must-start each and every week, this week's matchup with the Redskins is particularly tasty. The Skins defense is giving up an average of 263 passing yards per game and has allowed 11 touchdowns through the air this year. While you could say they've held their own against some potent offenses like Philly and Dallas, there's a familiarity there as division rivals that they don't have with Peyton Manning, who will be looking for obvious retribution after last week's loss. On the other side, come on. The Skins put up 45 points on a much sturdier Bears defense, and RG3 looks like a man on a mission now. New favorite target Jordan Reed and wide receiver Pierre Garcon are must-starts this week and should be lighting up the scoreboard for fantasy owners everywhere.