There are likely many of you out there who probably share in my angst regarding the Week 5 Monday night game, but for those who may be oblivious to what went down, allow me to provide a quick recap of what so many of us went through.
In my 12-team PPR home league, I was down 15 points headed into the Monday night game. I had Seattle wide receiver Percy Harvin still to go while my opponent was done for the week. Given the fact that Harvin hadn’t scored more than 16 points since Week 1 and posted just 10 and 11 points in his next two games, there was certainly some trepidation. But with the Washington pass defense having just been shredded by the Giants and had, to date, allowed an average of 237 passing yards with nine touchdowns through the air, there was certainly more than just a bit of confidence that things would work out.
Harvin had two catches for 18 yards early in the second quarter when on a 2nd-and-7 Russell Wilson found him for a 16-yard touchdown strike. A big smile came across my face until a flag on the play revealed an offensive e holding call and the play was nullified. I pissed and moaned for a few moments as the Seahawks called a timeout to regroup.
On the very next play though, Wilson went back to the well and hit Harvin on a short pass that he took 26 yards for another trip to the end zone. Elation restored….at least for the time being. Unfortunately, another flag, this time a questionable false start call on Harvin nullified his second touchdown catch on the night. For a moment there I thought I was somehow being punk’d by my league mates. Two touchdowns wiped out within minutes of each other? I knew my fantasy karma was questionable at times, but this was ridiculous. By the end of the first half, he had four catches for 25 yards and I was still nine points down. However, with the red zone work coming his way, I felt good about the second half.
He added another two catches for nine yards in the third quarter and had me within six points of my competition. I wasn’t exactly brimming with confidence anymore, but I still wasn’t out of it. The fourth quarter opened with a three-and-out for the Redskins and the Seahawks took over. On the fourth play from scrimmage, Wilson finally did it. He hit Harvin for a 41-yard touchdown that put me over the top and into the winner’s circle for the fourth time in this league. Boo-yah!
Or so I thought.
Well wouldn’t you know it; that same dipsh*t on the offensive line, James Carpenter, whose holding penalty cost me my first touchdown, got flagged for unnecessary roughness and BAM! Another touchdown called back, his third of the night. Third! Who has three touchdowns nullified in one game? I knew there would not be a fourth opportunity and I turned off the game and stormed out of the room like a petulant child who was just told by his mother that he couldn’t have another cupcake. Harvin finished the night with four catches for 28 yards and I lost my game by nine points.
But while that sob story is one that many can relate to and others can snicker at, it got me to thinking about the world of targets. If you were to go and look at the box score, Harvin’s numbers look worse than just pedestrian. Four catches on just five targets? How do you have a talent like that on your team and only shoot him five looks all game? To me, that’s a waste of talent, especially in a soft match-up.
I consulted with my colleagues here at Fantasy Alarm and inquired about the targets statistic. By my account, Harvin was targeted a total of eight times, not five. Four catches, yes, but targeted eight times. If the play is nullified, should the targets be nullified as well? Sure, technically, the play never happened, but in reality, a little place I sometimes like to live, Wilson went to Harvin a total of eight times with one of those coming inside the red zone. It’s not that I want credit for those in any way, but when evaluating which players see the most targets, particularly those in the red zone, we should know that there are some missing due to a bonehead lineman or some other lame call.
The folks at the Elias Sports Bureau informed us that targets are not an official statistic. While they may be included in a number of sites, the NFL does not recognize them to be a meaningful stat. I find that a bit inane and will start my own grass-roots campaign to have targets officially included, but in the meantime, we’re going to try to bring change to the industry ourselves. We hope to, at some point soon, bring you an expanded stat line on targets, much in the way tackles are tabulated for defenders. If tackles can be categorized as assisted tackles, solo tackles and combined tackles, then why can’t we have targets, nullified targets and total targets? Just because a play didn’t count, doesn’t mean it wasn’t your receiver the quarterback was throwing to on the play, right?
Again, it’s in the early stages right now, but we recognize the importance of the information and will do our best to feed you as much as we can to give you that extra edge you’ll need to wipe out your competition.
Now let’s hit the weekly targets leaderboard.
Week 5 Target Leaders
As expected, we’re starting to see a lot of the same names here from week to week. Quarterbacks have their favorites and it’s up to you to find out who they are. Five weeks into the season, it’s pretty evident, but there are still a few names whose appearance here may catch your eye.
Matt Forte, RB CHI – While this isn’t the first time we’ve seen a running back on the Weekly Leaderboard, this is Forte’s first appearance of the season. The ground game wasn’t exactly thriving against the Panthers, but the short-passing game certainly was and Forte proved, once again, just how reliable he is and why Jeff Mans ranked him No. 1 overall in the 2014 Fantasy Alarm Draft Guide. Twelve catches on twelve targets for 105 yards and a touchdown was huge for fantasy owners, particularly those in a PPR league. With no change-of-pace back in-house, he’s seeing all sorts of touches both between the 20’s and inside the red zone and Mark Trestman has him as the focal point in this offensive scheme. Even when Brandon Marshall gets healthy and the passing attack starts to really click, Forte is going to remain a beast for his fantasy owners.
Kelvin Benjamin, WR CAR – There’s not much to say here with regard to Benjamin’s performance. Rookies are going to have their ups and downs throughout the year, but when you’re only hauling in three catches on 11 targets, the quarterback isn’t going to look to you as a reliable guy too often. He’s now sporting just a 51.1-percent catch rate overall and that’s just not going to cut it when you’ve got a sure-handed Greg Olsen in-house. Hell, even Jerricho Cotchery has a better catch rate.
Allen Robinson/Allen Hurns, WR JAC – The game against the Steelers may have been close, but with little or no ground game to fall back on, Blake Bortles is going to be forced to air it out on a regular basis. Regular-time or garbage-time, it doesn’t really matter. With no Cecil Shorts or Marqise Lee, these two are going to see plenty of work in the coming weeks.
Jared Cook, TE – STL – Good evening, Mr. Cook. We’ve been expecting you. Of course, we were expecting you last season, but we can be content with the “better late than never” philosophy here. He now has 19 targets over his last two games and with the way Austin Davis is slinging the rock, he’s going to see a whole lot more in the future. Brian Quick has garnered the most looks from Davis thus far, but with little or no supporting wideouts, Davis is going to have to continue incorporating Cook a whole lot more. The two red zone targets are also very encouraging.
Pierre Thomas, RB NO – With the loss of Jimmy Graham to a shoulder injury, the Saints went back to what they know and that is a number of dump-offs to the running back. Darren Sproles was the man in New Orleans before he headed north to the Eagles and the talk was that Thomas, who had 77 receptions last season, would fill that void. In the three games prior to this, they deviated from the plan and went 1-2. Their return to it this week at least fired up the offense enough to put up 37 points. Look for them to continue.
Overall Target Leaders
Target Percentage Leaders
Just as we see in the Weekly Leaderboard, we’ve got plenty of the same names atop the list for target percentage as well. We may see some variance as the season progresses, but for now, it’s the usual suspects. So rather than discuss them, let’s highlight one of my favorite things to monitor – top tandems. We’ve got a number of situations developing where quarterbacks have not one but two favorites and fantasy owners are finding both players to be deliciously productive.
Demaryius Thomas/Emmanuel Sanders, WR DEN – Peyton Manning has always been fantastic at spreading the ball around and this year is no different. Thomas and Sanders have seen 43 and 42 targets respectively and both make for outstanding options for fantasy owners. Thomas has the fewer receptions and lower catch rate, but considering the deep balls and high-risk throws that go to him, it should be expected. He does get the red zone looks though which obviously make up the difference in fantasy for the extra yardage that Sanders has accrued. In PPR leagues both are money in the bank while in standard, Thomas has the edge from the touchdown work. Should Sanders start picking up the red zone looks more and continue to see as many targets, he could actually vault past his partner in crime in non-PPR play.
Michael Crabtree/Anquan Boldin, WR SF – These two are in a near identical situation that Thomas and Sanders are in, save for the fact that the guy throwing the ball isn’t nearly as good as theirs. Still, Boldin is producing well for his owners as the sure-handed go-to guy for Colin Kaepernick while Crabtree also produces, but in a red zone type of way. Their target rates are identical, but come the end of the year, you should probably view Crabtree as the better option, particularly in standard play. He who does the most end zone dancing gets the most fantasy love.
Red Zone Target Leaders
Allen Robinson, WR JAC – We touched on Robinson up above, but let’s also note that he’s the one who is seeing the majority of red zone work on that team. His 44.4-percent red zone target rate ranks second amongst all players with 30 or more targets on the season. Of course, the Jags do end up in the red zone fewer times than most teams, but when they get there, at least Robinson gets his number called often.
Greg Olsen, TE CAR – Another guy we mentioned above and to see him here should come as no surprise considering what we said up above. Olsen is the most sure-handed guy on that Panthers team and Cam Newton knows it. Always has been. His 326 yards and four touchdowns ranks him in the top five of all tight ends for fantasy purposes.
Week 6 Match-Up to Watch
Baltimore Ravens at Tampa Bay Buccaneers – While many will be looking to that Sunday night Giants/Eagles game for a points bonanza, you can probably find just as much action here at a substantially lower price. Neither team has a particularly strong ground game and both have highly suspect pass defenses. The Bucs are giving up an average of 292 passing yards per game and have been burned for 10 passing touchdowns this year. Steve Smith and even Torrey Smith should fare extremely well, but I’ve got my eyes on tight end Owen Daniels this week. The Bucs rank 25th in the league against the tight end position and both Daniels and Flacco have now been working together long enough now to build that rapport. On the other side, the Ravens are allowing close to 270 yards per game through the air and while they’re a little stingy in the red zone, the size and speed of Vincent Jackson and Louis Murphy could put up some real nice points here.