Each week, Targets and Touches breaks down the pass catchers who saw the most number of passes come their way, and the running backs who garnered the most touches. I have two words for this edition of Targets And Touches: Cecil. Shorts. There's actually much more than this, but do you really need any more than Cecil Shorts? Okay, you probably do. So from London to San Diego, here's T-N-T.
A trio of Jets (Jeremy Kerley, Dustin Keller, and Clyde Gates) also had 11 targets each. Can't say the Jets didn't try in this game! Kerley is a decent flex option because he's the only reliable wideout the Jets have. He has routinely led the Jets in targets since Santonio Holmes got hurt. Keller can become a weekly tight end play due to the dearth of production from the position this year. A viable start for a tight end is five to seven fantasy points and Keller can give you that. More importantly, he can do it consistently because A) he's in a contract year and B) he's always been Sanchez' favorite target and now there's no one else to throw it to.
Jason Witten with his ridiculous 22 targets, Miles Austin, and Dez Bryant all appear in the top ten this week. Witten is back to being a weekly play for you (see above: Tight end position, dearth of production) as is Austin. Bryant, boy does he remain an enigma. And I mean Jim Carrey-in-Batman Edward Nygma enigma. He can dominate games but still drops passes and doesn't come through at the worst times. But fantasy-wise? He's actually been consistent lately, as he's been over 95 yards receiving in three out of the Cowboys last four games. He's a solid flex but no more - for now.
Steve Smith may have a little left in the tank yet. It was impossible to recommend him against the Bears Sunday, but he still had a huge day and nearly hauled in an acrobatic touchdown that would have meant even more fantasy points. It's hard to say which direction the Panthers season goes at this point, after a week of controversy and then a near-upset that falls painfully short. Emotionally they may be at zero. But Smith is worth a flex the next two weeks at Washington and home against Denver and then you can see where things stand.
Okay everyone, take your finger off of the Gronk Panic Button. The last two weeks he's back to being the Gronk he was in 2011: getting separation off the line and catching passes in wide open space. It doesn't matter who's playing alongside him, or who he's sharing the field with. While Brady will spray the ball around a lot, he'll always come back to Gronkowski as his go-to-guy. Gronk is back. And Gronk like to dance like Buckingham Palace guards after touchdown.
I've been waiting for Cecil Shorts to make his debut in Targets And Touches, and here he is! Cecil Shorts everyone! And no, it's not that I just like saying 'Cecil Shorts.' (Which I obviously do). I know, I'm talking about adding a Jacksonville Jaguars wideout to your roster, but Shorts is worth a gamble. He can catch the ball anywhere on the field, he's explosive and has the trust of Blaine Gabbert. (Witness Justin Blackmon running the wrong route on fourth down that effectively ended the game against Green Bay.) Sunday was his fourth game this season with double-digit fantasy points. Think of him like you think of Josh Gordon. So pick him up and give him a whirl in your flex - he has great matchups the next two weeks against Detroit and Indianapolis, the latter of which he burned earlier this season for an 80-yard TD.
I would be more upset at myself for waiving Mike Williams if it wasn't to pick up Santana Moss. But Williams is for real, knocking on the door of the top twenty list for fantasy points at wideout in 2012. But he's an every-other-week player. Here's his fantasy points on the season, week-by-week: 7.20, 11.90, 3.30, 11.50, 0.00 (bye), 17.30, 3.60, 12.80. Yes, he's the Lamar Odom of fantasy football. So I guess that means don't play him next week at Oakland (okay, not really, I'd still play him but I'll be nervous).
On the opposite side of things, Roddy White had just four targets in the Falcons win over the Eagles. I know, figuring out which Falcons wide receiver will have a big game is tough. Sometimes it's Julio Jones, sometimes it's Roddy White. While you're still playing both of them, maybe this can help: In four road games, White has just 18 catches for 248 yards and no touchdowns. Also in four road games, Julio Jones has 26 for 392 and all of his five touchdowns. Again, not saying you're benching either of these guys, but if this holds true through 11 or 12 weeks? You may have a decision to make. But looking ahead for White, he's 30 now and will most likely be a No. 2 fantasy wideout next season. He's the least dynamic of the duo, and his game has slowed down a hair.
As far as Touches go, in the same game, Ryan Mathews had 26 touches while Trent Richardson totaled 25, both in the top five in the category for Week 8. Mathews is slowly getting more and more responsibility, but his fumble-itis continues to hold him back from the confidence San Diego needs to have in him to make him their go-to player. So his fantasy production won't be what it could be. Richardson? What can I say. Dude is a beast. Rib injury? I'll give you 122 yards and a touchdown against the number two defense against the rush in the league. Rib injury. Pshaw.
Jason Smith hosts NFL Fantasy Live on the NFL Network and writes fantasy and other pith for NFL.com. Talk to him on Twitter @howaboutafresca, and listen to his Fantasy Podcast with Michael Fabiano and Elliot Harrison every week on nfl.com. He only asks you never bring up when the Jets play poorly.