Opportunity Report: Week 12 passing game targets

Opportunity is the name of the game in fantasy football. Talent matters, of course, but we want players who see a healthy volume of targets and touches to anchor our lineups, especially in daily fantasy. Every week in the revamped Opportunity Report, we'll look at all the passing targets for every NFL team. See Part one (above link) for backfield touches.

The Cardinals passing game distribution returned to a bit of normalcy in Week 12. Larry Fitzgerald dominated the target share at 35 percent, John Brown played second-fiddle while others sprinkled in after them. The team and beat writers said Michael Floyd and Brown were both a full-go prior to the game, so his role will be interesting to monitor. He could go back to spot player with Brown fully healthy, or perhaps he was just a decoy for one week.

As mentioned last week, the Falcons are clearly playing a game of sentiment when it comes to Roddy White. Credit to the veteran however, this was his best game of the season. It seems odd to say, but Matt Ryan's poor play is currently dragging this entire offense down. As a result, only Julio Jones holds any tangible value at the moment, and even his consistency and ceiling may be in question. Ryan's mistakes are finally making those two dates with Josh Norman in the fantasy playoffs look worth fretting over.

Despite two ugly interceptions, one of which was obviously returned for a score, Matt Schaub played better than expected. As such, Kamar Aiken maintained starting value for his fantasy owners. Once again Aiken dominated the target share, and played sound football. He made a heads up athletic play on his touchdown, and got open consistently against a poor secondary. Aiken looks like a long-term fringe no.2 or no. 3 receiver in an NFL offense, but he will see the volume of a no. 1 for the rest of the season. Of course, Schaub does take the ceiling off everyone else in this offense, including the previously emerging Crockett Gillmore. It's hard to trust any of these non-Aiken players as anything more than an upside risky start going forward.

After gathering nine targets in the first half, Sammy Watkins only saw one target the rest of the game. Whatever you think about Watkins the player, that is simply inexcusable for the Bills. To compound the troubling nature of the split, Watkins was eviscerating the Chiefs secondary. He's a dynamic young player, but this is what happens on Rex Ryan teams. Last year Eric Decker was the first Jets player under Ryan to accumulate more than 110 targets. Per Footballguys' Chase Stuart, Watkins has zero games this year with more than 60 and less than 158 receiving yards. His inconsistent target share and some hiccups still remaining in his play make Watkins the most volatile asset in fantasy football.

Devin Funchess led the Panthers in wide receiver snaps for the second straight week, but only finished tied for third in target share. Unless game script makes it a necessity, the team will not rely on him as a major piece of the passing game. Despite some pristine flashes, his play has not dictated they change that plan.

Now that he's healthy, for the moment, Alshon Jeffery will regularly finish at the top of the Bears target distribution. The player to monitor here is once again Zach Miller. He was not necessarily efficient with his targets, but finished second on the team with 22.6 percent of the team's looks, including a red-zone touchdown. Martellus Bennett was the only other Chicago player seeing regular opportunities when Jeffery played, and Miller took all those looks with Bennett out on Thanksgiving. He's outplayed Bennett for over a month now, and it's worth asking whether he should have this job for himself.

With Tyler Eifert leaving this game early, 10 players received a target for the Bengals. With Andy Dalton operating at his efficient best, the top two players (Green and Eifert) posted stat lines pleasing for their fantasy owners. Of course, that left those playing Marvin Jones and Giovani Bernard's PPR owners in a bind. As mentioned throughout the course of this column, even at its best this offense cannot support four receiving weapons on a weekly basis.

Hopefully the national television audience was enough for the masses to realize what a fine season Travis Benjamin is having in 2015. He's been a top player for the Browns and a strong WR3 for fantasy owners. Josh McCown at quarterback elevates his target share and floor, but he caught his touchdown reception with Austin Davis (replacing an injured McCown) behind center. Benjamin carries a tremendous ceiling each week with his deep speed, and is a tough player to bench, especially if McCown makes it back from yet another injury. Brian Hartline saw an inordinate amount of touches, but the team does need someone to run short routes out of the slot. However, for this offense going forward, it should be just plenty of Benjamin and Gary Banridge with a healthy amount more of Duke Johnson sprinkled in out of the backfield.

With Tony Romo out for the rest of the season, you're sending all of these players except Darren McFadden and Dez Bryant back to the waiver wire. With Bryant, unless you have three options far superior to him, he'll be near impossible to deploy as anything worse than an every week flex. Even with Matt Cassel at quarterback, his ability in the red zone and subsequent touchdown upside is hard to leave on the bench.

Demaryius Thomas was determined to outdo Davante Adams for the worst wide receiver game of Week 12. The PatriotsLogan Ryan defended him well, but Thomas failed on multiple contested catches and let several passes slip through his hands. It was a nightmare outing for Thomas in his second full game with Brock Osweiler, and it had little to do with their lack of experience together. The targets are there, however, and the Broncos date with the Chargers next week could provide him with a rebound spot.

Emmanuel Sanders came roaring back off the injury report and far outplayed all other Denver pass catchers. His owners had to be please that he still saw over 20 percent of the targets after reports foretold a potential decrease in his role. Keep in mind, however, Sanders looks like the deep threat of this offense right now. While Osweiler's big arm keeps that in play, his inexperience could also make sanders quite volatile for the stretch run.

Sanders' explosion came at the expense of the tight ends. After accumulating double digit targets in Week 11, the duo of Owen Daniels and Vernon Davis only saw eight in this contest.

After struggling to find their way for most of this season, the Lions passing offense found their way the last few weeks. Detroit is getting the ball to their best players. Calvin Johnson owns more than a 35 percent share of the targets, and dominates the red zone looks. Golden Tate comes in second and is a PPR fiend in the short areas of the field. Theo Riddick is a dangerous threat out of the backfield, and should routinely finish behind the two receivers in the pecking order. With this kind of split, the Lions' offensive players can all hit their ceiling in fantasy, and the team can be pesky down the stretch.

The Packers have to stop throwing to Davante Adams this much. If you stretched out his last three games into a 16 game sample he would finish with 192 targets but only 688 yards and no touchdowns. Green Bay's receiving corps is a total nightmare right now.

While the split looks like how we drew it up, the results do now. In a pristine matchup, DeAndre Hopkins put up his worst fantasy game of the season. You have to give credit to the much-maligned Brandon Browner, who lined up across from him on most of his routes, for playing well. Ryan Griffin has long been an interesting talent, but we'll chose to ignore this performance for now. Coming into the game, the Saints ranked as one of the bottom five teams in terms of stopping the tight end.

With Matt Hasselbeck under center, the size of the pie in Indianapolis is much smaller than when Andrew Luck is slinging for them. However, we now know who slices off the biggest pieces of the offense. This passing game runs through T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief alone, as no other player saw more than 10.3 percent of the targets. Moncrief, in particular, played superbly. He managed a number of tough catches in traffic, including several third down conversions. Both players are every week plays in fantasy.

Outside of his Week 1 slipup, it's hard to argue that Allen Robinson has been the most consistent wideout in the NFL. He regularly leads the team in target percentage and hasn't finished with less than four catches or 51 yards in any game since the opener. Allen Hurns left the game in the second half on a stretcher with a concussion, or there would have been more from him. If he misses any time, Julius Thomas' reemergence becomes all the more interesting. He's finished inside the top two in team target percentage each of the last two games, and Week 12 was his best Jaguars performance.

Owning a massive 40.7 percent share of the team targets, Jeremy Maclin dominated this game. Coming off a stretch of tough matchups, Maclin is set to make waves in the fantasy playoffs. He draws Oakland twice, San Diego, Baltimore and Cleveland to wrap up the season. If your league's trade deadline is still open, consider making a move for him. Maclin is on pace to finish with 134 targets this year, and thus presents a reasonable floor.

DeVante Parker's arrival as the second-most targeted receiver was interesting and unexpected. He saw a total of eight snaps from Weeks 8 to 11, but was on the field for 59 plays in Week 12. Rishard Matthews is set to miss a chunk of time with multiple fractured ribs suffered yesterday. Parker showed off his immense physical talent on his touchdown catch late in the game, and could make several big plays of that ilk down the stretch if forced into action. Even more important, he's a name to watch for 2016 as a sleeper when this coaching staff is, hopefully, more stable.

Kyle Rudolph carried over his big game last week into a solid PPR outing for Week 12. At this point, it's hard to have any confidence starting Stefon Diggs. Teams have officially caught up to him, and his ceiling is greatly depressed when he doesn't crack 10 targets in a game.

Thankfully, Rob Gronkowski's injury is not believed serious and he may only miss one week. If he does sit in Week 13, Scott Chandler, who led the team in targets, becomes a prime tight end streamer. It appeared as if Tom Brady and Bill Belichick identified the portion of the Denver defense that covers tight ends as the weakest part, which contributed to Chandler and Gronk leading the team in targets. However, with a pure evaporation in quality receiver play, Chandler could crack 10 targets for the second straight week if Gronk sits out.

There was a word of caution provided for buying Brandin Cooks as an every-week play in the last edition of this column. The Saints offense is not as good as their high moments indicated. The Texans defense had their number, and the team failed to score an offensive touchdown for the first time in the Sean Payton era. Cooks is also still not a consistent enough player to warrant seeing a big chunk of the target percentage, and once again finished jumbled with other players for seconds. He's much like DeSean Jackson at this point, an excellent and talented big-play threat that can make or break your week.

Odell Beckham Jr. once again made an eye-popping catch, and dominated the target share. This was a horrendous game for Eli Manning, even if some of the picks came off defenders' hands. It's probably worth chalking this one up as a mulligan for ancillary players like Dwayne Harris and Rueben Randle.

We know this offense solely runs through Marshall and Decker, while Enunwa and Devin Smith provide interesting pieces to watch for dynasty leagues.

This was a rebound game for the Oakland passing game, as Derek Carr chucked up 330 yards and three scores. Seth Roberts doesn't figure to post another stat line like this, but is worth keeping an eye on. His role was on the uptick of late, and this is not his first game with a strong showing of big plays. The offense flows through Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, but Roberts may be a player on the rise for dynasty leagues.

Jordan Matthews' touchdown came in garbage time in the closing moments, so feel free to ignore that. He was the leading non-Sproles receiver with only five targets. Don't bother with any of these players for fantasy leagues until this team gets out of disaster mode.

Markus Wheaton almost recorded more receiving yards in this game than he had throughout this entire season (273 entering this game). This was a clear outlier game in a contest where Pittsburgh made an effort to slice up the Seattle secondary. Expect to see more regular performances out of Martavis Bryant and Antonio Brown, and less of Wheaton going forward. The Seahawks struggle to defend the middle of the field right now, and do not have a strong slot corner. We'd guess this was a pure scheme breakdown, and not an emergence for Wheaton.

Dontrelle Inman looks to have grabbed the No. 2 receiver job for himself in San Diego. He's a talented player who can make due on a regular target load. He's worth WR4/flex consideration in deeper leagues, and will make for an interesting DFS value down the stretch.

Blaine Gabbert is making use of the tight end, but Anquan Boldin is the only receiver worth paying attention to in this offense. He has 93 yards in both of the game he and Gabbert have played together. In fact, it's Shaun Draughn who leads the team in targets, and the only player worth starting in fantasy.

With Jimmy Graham out for the season, Doug Baldwin looks primed to assume a decent chunk of his vacated targets. Baldwin is a player who always heats up later in the season, and has 339 yards and four touchdowns over the last three games. He may be a sneaky WR3 play in standard leagues, and a regular starter in PPR going forward. Tyler Lockett saw just three targets, but is another player who deserves a bump with Graham out for the year. Whether the team sees it that way is another question.

The Rams threw almost 50 passes for no logical reason, and still none of the receivers did anything of true consequence. Just keep it moving right along.

With Vincent Jackson back in tow, it's hard for Mike Evans to make good in fantasy when he plays poorly. During Jackson's absence, Evans averaged 13.25 targets per game, so he could still drop passes and post fantasy numbers. However, now that they are splitting the top of the target load, that becomes more of an issue. Constant issues in Evans' game are becoming a bit concerning at this point, but he's still one of the more physically overwhelming receivers in the NFL, and can right the ship at any moment.

Delanie Walker is the only receiver who matters in this passing offense for fantasy purposes. Marcus Mariota is a smart passer who spreads the ball around and won't force passes to anyone at this point in his development. Walker is the only one he looks to on a consistent basis, and is the only regular play from the Titans in fantasy. Kendall Wright is an unrestricted free agent this year, and it's worth wondering if he rebounds on a team that better understands his talents. The team has made him more of a gadget threat than reliable receiver at this point, which is curious.

Washington

When Washington is at home in favorable spots, Kirk Cousins and the passing offense can get the job done. Jordan Reed is an every-week start at tight end, and a now healthy DeSean Jackson is back to being one of the league's best deep threats.

Matt Harmon is an associate fantasy writer/editor for NFL.com, and the creator of #ReceptionPerception, who you can follow on Twitter @MattHarmon_BYB.

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