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On Target: Time for Owners to Retire Smith

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

While we're starting to see a lot of the same names appear on the weekly targets leaderboard, these larger-than-normal bye weeks are allowing us to get a glimpse of some names we may have normally bypassed. That's because, with six teams on a bye, the player pool for the week thins out immensely, and you're really left with some tough decisions. Most of the time you end up starting players you may not have ever started before. This week, we're looking at the same issue as another six teams are off, and your choices for that third wide receiver or that flex position look more and more difficult. Let's start with the Week 8 targets leaderboard and highlight a few receivers to illustrate what we're talking about.

Week 8 Target Leaders

(Click column headings to sort.)

Harry Douglas, ATLWR1210611812333.366.729.5
Calvin Johnson, DETWR3291481614550.087.533.3
Jordan Reed, WASTE90039148125.057.135.9
Antonio Brown, PITWR82045139114.369.228.9
Vincent Jackson, TBWR79051135350.038.525.5
David Nelson, NYJWR8003712800.066.732.4
Hakeem Nicks, NYGWR51039127233.358.330.8
DeSean Jackson, PHIWR6303411800.072.732.4
Steve Johnson, BUFWR72139117133.363.628.2
Scott Chandler, BUFTE72039117133.363.628.2
Pierre Garcon, WASWR46039117125.063.628.2
Demaryius Thomas, DENWR75144117640.063.625.0
Emmanuel Sanders, PITWR88145117214.363.624.4
Terrance Williams, DALWR6413010200.020.033.3
Cecil Shorts, JACWR74035107420.070.028.6
Justin Blackmon, JACWR3103510420.040.028.6
Josh Gordon, CLEWR13213610500.050.027.8
Dexter McCluster, KCWR6713610700.070.027.8
Victor Cruz, NYGWR8603910700.070.025.6
Mike Wallace, MIAWR41042103433.330.023.8
Wes Welker, DENWR81144106520.060.022.7

Leaderboard First-Timers

David Nelson, WR NYJ -
Dealing with an array of injuries at wide receiver, the Jets ended up signing the former Bills role player hoping he would help sustain drives with his ability to make some of the short-yardage, clutch grabs that made him such an integral part of the Bills passing game before he got hurt last season. It took him two games to get acclimated, but he's been fairly consistent the last two weeks. The 12 targets he saw Sunday are definitely a little high for what he's likely to see on a regular basis, but given the score of the game and the Jets' need to air it out and move downfield quickly, you can see why he received so much attention. With another six teams on bye this week and the Jets facing the high-octane Saints offense, we could see more of the same, which would make Nelson another solid choice as a bye-week replacement. Long-term, there are probably a lot more options you'd like to have in there, but for these weeks where the player pool is thin, Nelson could be a nice help.

Scott Chandler, TE BUF -
Every now and then you see Chandler start to garner a little more attention, and when that coincides with one of these bye weeks, he stands out even more. Similarly to Nelson and the receivers, Chandler isn't one of the more popular choices at tight end until you realize that there are so few quality ones available in a bye week. With some of the more high-profile names like Antonio Gates, Martellus Bennett and Coby Fleener off in Week 8, Chandler looked like a solid play. This week, with tight ends like Julius Thomas and Vernon Davis off, Chandler again becomes a solid play.

Emmanuel Sanders, WR PIT -
OK, so Sanders isn't exactly a first-timer, but the 11 targets he saw in Week 8 marked his highest total since Week 1 when he saw 12 balls thrown his way. After the Steelers bye in Week 5, Sanders fell off the map a bit as he saw just eight targets in two games. With a strong matchup against the Patriots in Week 9 (they rank 31st against WR2) and then even softer matchups against Buffalo and Detroit, Sanders could be a decent play even beyond these big bye weeks.

Dexter McCluster, WR KC -
Sunday was McCluster's best showing of the year with a season-high 10 targets and a much-needed trip into the endzone. With a banged up Dwayne Bowe blanketed by Joe Haden, McCluster found himself open a little more often downfield and Alex Smith took full advantage. With the player pool thinned out for another week and the Chiefs matching up with Buffalo, McCluster should be on your radar again if you're weak at wide receiver.

Other Notes:

Harry Douglas, WR KC -
It's been two weeks since the Falcons lost Julio Jones and in that span, Douglas has averaged 135 yards per game and found the endzone once. With the seven targets he saw in Week 7 and now the 18 in Week 8. it's safe to assume that he's the new No. 1 stud in Atlanta. He not only has the ability to turn out great performances, but he's also got the trust of Matt Ryan. That should go a long way this season.

Josh Gordon, WR CLE -
What better way to transition to the overall targets leaderboard than to throw a little love Gordon's way? While many will prefer the marquee names like Brandon Marshall and Larry Fitzgerald, make sure you know what you're bypassing when you choose them over him. He just racked up his third 100-plus yard game and scored his third touchdown of the season. He has 582 yards on the season, and that's even after missing the first two games. It might be a little nerve wracking that Jason Campbell is now his quarterback, but hey ... Marshall has Josh McCown throwing to him and Fitz' situation continues to look awful. If someone's talking trade with you, don't dismiss Gordon so quickly in favor of a "bigger" name.

Now let's look at the rest of the overall.

Overall Targets Leaderboard

(Click column headings to sort.)

Vincent Jackson, TBWR623427390411741.7%45.6%33.0%
Cecil Shorts, JACWR565128187462423.5%52.9%31.0%
A.J. Green, CINWR734527584461929.4%54.8%30.5%
Calvin Johnson, DETWR821733879472837.8%59.5%23.4%
Pierre Garcon, WASWR512227778471937.5%60.3%28.2%
Victor Cruz, NYGWR67743117747925.0%61.0%24.8%
Dez Bryant, DALWR641829576452628.9%59.2%25.8%
DeSean Jackson, PHIWR67352767445925.8%60.8%26.8%
Antonio Brown, PITWR630226273561025.8%76.7%27.9%
Wes Welker, DENWR555933272503530.6%69.4%21.7%
Andre Johnson, HOUWR58402807148410.0%67.6%25.4%
Julian Edelman, NEWR462230770481427.3%68.6%22.8%
Eric Decker, DENWR669333270462419.4%65.7%21.1%
Demaryius Thomas, DENWR685633269481516.1%69.6%20.8%
Brandon Marshall, CHIWR540524668461724.3%67.6%27.6%
Hakeem Nicks, NYGWR52103116734825.0%50.7%21.5%
Jordan Cameron, CLETE596632367492537.5%73.1%20.7%
Mike Wallace, MIAWR398127164301124.1%46.9%23.6%
Larry Fitzgerald, ARIWR470528564361532.0%56.3%22.5%
Jamaal Charles, KCRB383228664411724.3%64.1%22.4%
Anquan Boldin, SFWR55121986238829.2%61.3%31.3%
Jimmy Graham, NOTE630827162401327.8%64.5%22.9%
Steve Johnson, BUFWR387327362331538.1%53.2%22.7%
Torrey Smith, BALWR62912696131514.3%50.8%22.7%
Tony Gonzalez, ATLTE395330659382126.3%64.4%19.3%
Josh Gordon, CLEWR58233235932710.0%54.2%18.3%
Kendall Wright, TENWR43312305840821.7%69.0%25.2%
Alshon Jeffery, CHIWR561224657331624.3%57.9%23.2%
Emmanuel Sanders, PITWR39622625731819.4%54.4%21.8%
Steve Smith, CARWR335320256321838.5%57.1%27.7%
Brian Hartline, MIAWR43822715635413.8%62.5%20.7%
Jason Witten, DALTE403329556371221.1%66.1%19.0%
Kenbrell Thompkins, NEWR334430756231830.3%41.1%18.2%
Davone Bess, CLEWR26103235628712.5%50.0%17.3%
Antonio Gates, SDTE497227455421316.7%76.4%20.1%
Michael Floyd, ARIWR43322855534828.0%61.8%19.3%
Golden Tate, SEAWR43932135432827.3%59.3%25.4%
T.Y. Hilton, INDWR4122229542713.8%50.0%23.6%
Jordy Nelson, GBWR649724954391527.0%72.2%21.7%
Greg Little, CLEWR218132354211217.5%38.9%16.7%
Nate Washington, TENWR43922305226513.0%50.0%22.6%
Robert Woods, BUFWR30522735222619.0%42.3%19.0%
Harry Douglas, ATLWR489130652351415.8%67.3%17.0%
Julius Thomas, DENTE451833252392021.0%75.0%15.7%
Jerome Simpson, MINWR42202435127312.5%52.9%21.0%
Jason Avant, PHIWR28612765125925.8%49.0%18.5%
Jared Cook, STLTE375229850291514.9%58.0%16.8%
Tavon Austin, STLWR207229849311214.9%63.3%16.4%
Aaron Dobson, NEWR324230749261321.2%53.1%16.0%
Denarius Moore, OAKWR431419248271535.0%56.3%25.0%
Justin Blackmon, JACWR415128148291619.6%60.4%17.1%

While normally we would talk about the target and target-percentage leaders, you'll see if you sort the table by each column that we'd be discussing the same players once again. Obviously, they're worth looking at for your starting lineup, but we just don't need to beat that dead horse again, do we? Instead, let's talk about the receivers who while appearing on the leaderboard aren't really providing owners with a strong value. They may see targets and get some attention by appearing on this leaderboard, but when push comes to shove, you're probably better off looking for someone else.

Steve Smith, WR CAR -
So many fantasy owners are still clinging to Smith, but is he really worth it anymore? Is he even worthy of your third receiver spot? In a PPR league, maybe. He's making roughly five catches per game, which always helps. But the fact that he hasn't tallied more than 70 yards in a game this year and has just three touchdowns shows you just how much value he's lost over the years. There's always a chance he and Cam Newton connect for a big game, but at 34 and obviously having lost more than just a step, Smith has less upside than the many lesser-known names out there you might rather have the rest of the way.

Jason Avant, WR PHI -
He doesn't really have the speed he once had, and his reliability is coming into question nowadays with that weak 49-percent catch rate. He's seeing plenty of targets, but that probably has more to do with the fact that the only other legitimate receiver on the Eagles is DeSean Jackson, rather than his actual talent level. He averages roughly three catches per game and has just two with 50 yards or more. This is definitely one of those cases where it's not always just about seeing the targets.

Davone Bess/Greg Little, WR CLE -
Here's another pair of receivers appearing here because of a lack of options on the rest of the team. Josh Gordon dominates the looks in Cleveland while Little and Bess fight for scraps. Bess might be able to make some key third-down grabs, but overall, neither has value in the fantasy world despite seeing enough targets to keep them in the top 50. If you're even considering using one, you better be in a 20-team league with absolutely no one else left on your waiver wire.

Red Zone Targets Leaders

While Wes Welker, Calvin Johnson and Jordan Cameron continue to dominate the red-zone targets, there are a few names creeping up the ladder in Dez Bryant, Cecil Shorts and Eric Decker. Bryant is really a no-brainer, as he and Tony Romo are so in sync that former favorites Jason Witten and Miles Austin have completely fallen out of favor in Dallas. Shorts, provided he is healthy, has become just as important to Chad Henne as Justin Blackmon is and is well deserving of the extra looks he sees each week. Decker is an interesting one. Although he's up there with 24 red-zone targets, you'll notice that his red-zone target percentage actually sits below 20 percent, which is unusually low for someone this high up on the list. He's obviously on the field for the majority of red-zone plays, but with so many other targets available to Peyton Manning, he's simply not drawing all the looks he could be drawing. A bit of a decoy perhaps? I'd really like to hear from Peyton as to why Welker consistently sees so much more work in the red zone. His catch rate isn't that much better than Decker's, is it?

Potential Risers
(those who failed to crack the leaderboard this week)

Kris Durham
Greg Jennings
Rueben Randle
Vernon Davis
Jordan Reed

Potential Fallers:

Aaron Dobson
Tavon Austin
Robert Woods
Kenbrell Thompkins
Jared Cook

Week 9 Matchup to Watch:

San Diego Chargers at Washington Redskins -
While no one likes seeing a west coast team travel across country, the Chargers are coming off a bye week, so they're plenty rested and definitely ready for this one. Neither pass defense is particularly strong as both rank 25th or lower in total passing yards allowed and each one has given up a rash of touchdowns through the air. Neither team's ground game is especially great either, though each has shown flashes, so you have to assume that the quarterbacks will takr over - especially because opposing quarterbacks have a 102.1 rating against the Chargers and a 100.7 rating against the Redskins. Look for Philip Rivers to hit Keenan Allen and Antonio Gates early and often while Robert Griffin III finds his own tandem of Pierre Garcon and Jordan Reed. With the defensive matchups here, if I were a gambling man, I'd be taking the over on the line (51).