NFL Target Town: Week 1
September 11, 2013 | John Kerwin
Week 1 is in the books, and watching it unfold was like opening that first gift on Christmas morning. The only thought after it is unwrapped, what’s next?
If you’ve read my previous work then you know I have emphasized ‘opportunity’ is a critical aspect of the game of fantasy football. Some players are definitely more talented than others, but if your players aren’t touching the ball, they aren’t scoring you points. One of the most crucial categories in a receiver’s stat line is targets. It is easy to identify whom the quarterback has the best chemistry with and trusts the earliest in the season. We enter the season fairly blinded by the hollow stats accumulated throughout the preseason, and end up thrown curveballs once the season begins and Week 1 culminates.
I have broken down the Top 10 wide receivers from Week 1 as far as total targets, and I have also listed the snaps, receptions, yardage, catch percentage, and touchdown totals to accompany these target statistics. An abundance of targets is always a plus, but just like Larry Fitzgerald exemplified last season; targets don’t always tell the entire story. Game flow, injuries, and coverage can drastically impact target statistics. Pay attention to how effective the listed players were with the targets they received.
The Targets And Attention Is Consistent…
Anquan Boldin was astonishingly the top target monster during the initial week. The ageless wonder put on a show during his first game for the San Francisco 49ers. Boldin was a machine hauling in 13 of those targets for 208 yards, and both of those statistics were tops in the NFL this past week. Boldin has quickly emerged as a must-start fantasy option in the absence of Michael Crabtree, and playing the favorite of Colin Kaepernick along with Vernon Davis. Don’t sleep on Boldin and take his week 1 stat line for granted, because No. 81 has some juice left in the tank.
Speaking of ageless how about Andre Johnson? I faintly remember reading about him losing a half step, but whoever conjured that nonsense up must’ve been very mistaken. Johnson is still the go-to target for Matt Schaub and will continue to see the bulk of targets for the remainder of this season. Feel free to start him with confidence each week, as usual.
Larry Fitzgerald is back! It didn’t take a genius to realize that Fitz would elevate with a capable quarterback under center, and he showed us all why he should still be considered an elite threat. Hauling in eight of his 14 targets for 80 yards and 2 touchdowns is exceptional. He is my candidate for fantasy comeback player of the year, and his rapport with Carson Palmer will continue to progress as the season continues.
Vincent Jackson was not highly touted heading into this fantasy season, but I’m still confused as to why not? It didn’t take long for VJax to swivel heads, and his 154 receiving yards on seven receptions isn’t a fluke. His 13 targets compared to Mike Williams’ eight just proves that VJax is still Josh Freeman’s main target.
A.J. Green is simply a beast, and there is no denying this. If there is a player we can legitimately consider a threat to Calvin Johnson’s throne at this point, it has to be AJG. I was talking up Dez Bryant and Brandon Marshall all offseason, but AJG quickly reminded me why he is one of the most talented wide outs in the NFL. Racking up 162 yards, nine receptions, and two touchdowns on 13 targets makes for a heck of a fantasy day. Andy Dalton knows whom his best player is, and he isn’t afraid to show it. Expect a lot more of this the remainder of the season.
I think someone forgot to mention to Miles Austin that this was supposed to be Dez Bryant’s season to solidify him as one of the top three receivers in the game. A great later-round pickup that showed the production will come with the targets. He didn’t wow anyone with his 72 yards, but his 10 receptions on 11 targets was the highest catch percentage in the league this week. Keep an eye on Austin moving forward, because Tony Romo has always trusted him when healthy. Austin will continue to see targets with secondaries focusing on Dez. You may hold exceptional value if he is your WR3-WR4.
Garnered Looks, Just Not The Trust…
Danny Amendola looked great is his first stint with the Patriots, but is back to his usual ways on the injury report. Count on this type of frustration to carry-on as it always has with Amendola. When healthy, he provides a very high ceiling, but how many games can we count on him for? Be ecstatic when he is healthy and in your lineup, but don’t count on him for more than 12-games this season.
Brian Hartline is the definition of slow and steady wins the race. A monster breakout last season left people salivating when they swooped him up off the waiver wire, but their hopes and dreams quickly faded back to reality. His nine receptions for 114 yards on 14 targets were great, but I wouldn’t count on this consistently. Brandon Gibson also attracted 10 targets, and it is only a matter of time before Mike Wallace works himself more into the offense. I would be very weary of counting on this type of action from Ryan Tannehill on a weekly basis.
Kenbrell Thompkins was one of the stars of the preseason. The departure of Wes Welker, the loss of Aaron Hernandez, and temporary absence of Rob Gronkowski left a lot of targets on the table. We all knew Amendola would see his share, but we knew one of the rookies would have to step-up. Thompkins didn’t disappoint as far as snaps and targets, but his measly four receptions for 42 yards on 13 targets were pitiful. I can say confidently start him this Thursday with Amendola out of the lineup, but if Julian Edelman continues to shine then Thompkins may take a backseat when Amendola and Gronk return. His short-term value is much higher right now than I expect it to be later in the season.
The Pittsburgh Steelers…were absolutely terrible. I’m sad I even have to elaborate on any of their skill positions after Week 1, but Emmanuel Sanders did sneak his way into the top 10-target list. I still like Antonio Brown as the go-to receiver for Ben Roethlisberger, and I wouldn’t count on Sanders more much more than a flex play at this point. The 12 targets were promising, but the Steelers had no identity. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw an entirely new game plan come Week 2.
Honorable Mentions: Brandon Marshall (10/8/104/1), Wes Welker (11/9/67/2), DeSean Jackson (9/7/104/1), Reggie Wayne (8/8/96/2), Victor Cruz (7/5/118/2).
Dishonorable Mentions: Calvin Johnson (8/4/37/0), Dez Bryant (8/4/22/0), Dwayne Bowe (6/4/30/0).
I also felt obligated to delve into the tight tend targets from Week 1 as well. With the increased depth we’ve seen over the past few years at the position, it isn’t just one or two guys and everybody else like it has been. I didn’t dig quite as deep at this position, and kept it within the Top 5 players.
You Can’t Fool Us…
Ironically, the top-targeted tight end this week was the only guy I’m not buying moving forward, Dallas Clark. I understand there is a large void to be filled with Dennis Pitta and Anquan Boldin no longer on the roster, but the game flow against the Broncos left Joe Flacco throwing the ball 62 times. I don’t expect this type of unbalanced offense to be so drastic, and Clark didn’t look that great with his 12 targets. On paper he did haul in seven of them for 87 yards, but he has a terrible drop on the goal line, and a few others that just showed us Clark can’t be trusted as a starting option. It didn’t hurt his cause that his counterpart Ed Dickson was next to terrible as well. I just can’t put much faith in Clark at this point just because he saw 12 of a whopping 62 targets on Sunday.
Welcome To The Tight End Penthouse…
Jordan Cameron was probably the number one sleeper option on most boards heading into the season. He displayed his versatility and athleticism at the position all preseason, and his rapport with Brandon Weeden was evident. It is always tough to buy into a Browns player as being fantasy relevant, but Cameron showed us he is the real deal in Week 1. A team high 11 targets, nine receptions, 108 yards, and one touchdown. That is quite the stat line for a tight end that was invisible last season. I expect this trend to continue and Cameron to play a major role with Josh Gordon finishing up his suspension next week. Gordon will take away some of the targets to go around when he returns, but Cameron will continue to be a favorite of Weeden.
Jared Cook was my primary target at tight end in nearly every draft this year. You could draft him in the 9th-11th round the majority of the preseason. Everyone is aware of his talent, but he was only to be considered a big play tight end who will disappear in some games due to lack of targets. Everyone preaching anything close to that can eat their words. Cook was the most impressive tight end of Week 1, and his seven receptions on 10 targets, 141 yards, and two touchdowns helped fantasy owners in a monstrous way. There are plenty of young receivers on the Rams roster, and that is exactly why I expect Sam Bradford to lean on Cook everywhere on the field. Keep this guy in your starting lineups until further notice.
It is about time Vernon Davis played like his is capable of. We had all heard Davis mention his chemistry building with Colin Kaepernick heading into this season, and it was on full display Week 1. Six catches on nine targets, and racking up 98 yards, and 2 two touchdowns on top of that is stellar. There are plenty of extra targets to share with Michael Crabtree out indefinitely, and Boldin and Davis both took advantage of the opportunity. I am buying into what I saw from Davis, and just hope his weekly disappearing act doesn’t haunt us all again this season.
Jason Witten was a PPR monster last season, and even with all the praise Dez has been getting all year, nobody ever doubted Witten. He was a favorite of Tony Romo in Week 1, especially in the red zone. His eight catches on nine targets were great, but his 70 yards and two touchdowns capped off a solid fantasy outing. With secondaries focusing on Dez this season, and Austin looking to be back in solid form, I expect Witten to have another great year. He doesn’t have a whole lot of flash in his game, but he doesn’t need it. Continue plugging him in and putting up consistent points each and every week.
Honorable Mentions: Kellen Winslow (7/8/79/1), Jermichael Finley (8/5/56/1), Julius Thomas (7/5/110/2), Owen Daniels (7/5/67/2).
Dishonorable Mentions: Tony Gonzalez (6/3/36/1), Jimmy Graham (7/4/45/1), Kyle Rudolph (4/2/27/0), Brandon Pettigrew (4/2/6/0).
This wraps up my target recap for Week 1. Make sure you utilize the statistics and information you gathered from reading this correctly, and don’t just start players because they had the most targets. This is a great look as to what we can expect moving forward, but we will see how consistent this all remains in Week 2. Proceed with intelligence my friends.