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 all the passing targets for every NFL team. See Part one (above link) for backfield touches.
In all honesty, this split looks quite similar to the one we discussed last week. Michael Floyd finished with the team lead in targets for the second week in a row, and looks like he's locked-down a lead role in this passing attack. He's a bit volatile with holes still in his game, but his weekly upside demands you play him. John Brown, on the other hand, continues to operate as a strong all-around option who can also break big plays.
Benching Julio Jones was never advisable, but Josh Norman did do a number on him. Jones had just six catches for 42 yards in the first three quarters, and snagged the last 46 yards on one catch after Norman left the game. However, Jones' target share in the offense always presents that safe floor. Even when these two square off in Week 16, you'll be hard pressed to sit him.
Kamar Aiken turned in a fine game, but the change in quarterback saw his target share drop from consistently over 25 percent down to 17.5 percent. Matt Schaub came from a system that prioritized thumping your main weapons with targets over and over. Jimmy Clausen is far less predictable. If you are an Aiken owner, it feels a bit more comforting to see Schaub behind center. As strange as that is to say.
Sammy Watkins showed us why, despite the narrative, targets are not the only thing holding Sammy Watkins back from being an elite producer on a week-to-week basis. There are still some hiccups in his game that prevent the Bills and Tyrod Taylor from leaning on him in the same way the Texans do with a DeAndre Hopkins type. Of course, for fantasy, we'll take 81 yards and a touchdown.
Robert Woods is a quality player. He'll never get the targets needed on a consistent basis to produce in this offense as currently constructed. However, for dynasty leagues, he's one to track in case his career ever takes a turn.
There was not much passing volume to go around in this game, and Ted Ginn was the only one to really make due on his limited looks. He did so in a major way, of course, with two long bomb touchdowns on his only catches. That makes it four touchdowns in two games for Ginn, which is quite the boost if you flexed him in a playoff matchup. However, one look at the target shares for each player lets you know just how much fire you're playing with if you choose to start him in any given week.
Jay Cutler and Alshon Jeffery both bounced back after weaker outings in Week 13. The Bears quarterback ended up with a solid stat line against a poor pass defense, mostly thanks to successfully feeding Alshon Jeffery with targets yet again. Zach Miller started at tight end, and played really well. Unless you have a top option, he should be an every-week starter for your fantasy team. Cutler funnels targets to that position.
There's a school of thought that the quarterback change to AJ McCarron in the wake of Andy Dalton's thumb injury may actually be a positive for A.J. Green's target projection. Often times, when an inexperienced quarterback comes in as a substitute, he'll lean heavily on one top threat. That's what McCarron did with Green on Sunday, and it's right in line with how he played with Julio Jones and Amari Cooper at Alabama. An inconsistent targets share was an issue all season for Green, and perhaps this changes that outlook.
Even with Johnny Manziel under center, not much changed for the Cleveland Browns offense. We're at a point where we can stop discussing Manziel as if he cannot even run a functional NFL offense, we must give him that. Brian Hartline saw plenty of volume over the last month, but was lost for the season with a broken collarbone in this contest. In all likelihood, the extra targets he got lately will just trickle back to Travis Benjamin, who played at less than 100 percent. You can approach this group as you have all season.
Vernon Davis was well on his way to a monster day in this spot. While 7-74 is a fine outing, we all know there could have been more had Davis not dropped a wide open, potentially scoring bomb. Davis himself admitted after the game he let it slip because he knew it was a big play. Regardless, we can come out of this game feeling better about potentially streaming him during the fantasy playoffs. He looked tremendous on a few catch and runs. Other than that, the only other layer to look at here is Demaryius Thomas. Brock Osweiler went downfield to Emmanuel Sanders in the New England game, but has otherwise kept the reins on himself. Sanders just is not involved in this offense enough to trust, and Thomas can only be expected to haul in short passes with regularity.
After the game, Jim Caldwell intimated that you spread the ball around in order to win games in the NFL. That's why Calvin Johnson let you down in the fantasy playoffs, and that's also why Jim Caldwell won't be an NFL head coach for much longer.
This was the sort of floor production, and target share we expected to see from Randall Cobb all season. Perhaps his shoulder injury, which he said would nag him all season, is finally close to healthy. Cobb certainly looked more comfortable after the catch, and extending for passes on Sunday than he has at any other point this season. While we can't feel totally locked in, if he gets 36.4 percent of the targets on a weekly basis, he'll produce as a WR2 in fantasy. We'd advise taking the risk to start him when the Packers travel to Oakland next week to find out.
The Patriots routinely take away the opposition's top threat, and they've used Devin McCourty and Logan Ryan in bracket coverage lately to do so. It was no coincidence that Hopkins caught his 40-yarder down the sideline after McCourty left the game. So while fantasy owners hem and haw on Twitter about targets, and of course it is always wise to throw to your good players, there is a game plan aspect at play in the real football contests. Hopkins will almost certainly bounce back with a stat line more in line of what we expect come this Sunday.
You weren't thrilled with what you got from Allen Robinson, but he did reclaim a safe floor with a touchdown reception late in the game. These games happen, it's in the nature of the wide receiver position. It's especially likely when your offense punts or fumbles on seven of its first eight possessions, but your team still ends up gaining a 30-16 lead on the back of defense and special teams scoring. Try not to worry yourselves unnecessarily, fantasy owners.
At this point, you can stop starting Travis Kelce every week. While we know he has talent, he's put up some inconsistent tape this season and that target share is just far too up and down.
After a five target anomaly game, Jarvis Landry was the clear focal point of the Dolphins passing offense garnering 43.9 percent of the targets. When the team went to an up-tempo game, a plan you could question, getting the ball in Landry's hands was the goal. Frankly, there was more for him in this game. Tannehill missed him on a long pass down the middle of the field, and Landry also committed a ghastly drop down the sideline. Either way, we can feel better about viewing Landry as an every week WR2 again.
You can question the Dolphins decision to funnel so much volume Landry's way, but they don't really have a choice when they pass the ball. Without Rishard Matthews, they don't have a consistent secondary option in the passing game. DeVante Parker is still living off flashes at this point, and looked lost a number of times last night. He's still a puppy in terms of route running, and didn't fight for a contested catch late in the game.
The Patriots did not need much effort from their passing game, or even their offense in general, to secure a victory in this spot. It ended as one of their lowest volume aerial days on the season. However, that is not a trend we should expect to continue, especially with Rob Gronkowski back in the fold.
Brandon LaFell can be dropped in fantasy. Hopefully you were not starting him anymore, but there is nothing to hold on to here. He once again finished right up there with the team lead in targets, but did nothing of note. He just is not playing good football right now.
If you've been trusting Brandin Cooks as a WR1, you got burned. As mentioned in this column for the last several weeks, he is still a volatile player, and this was his fifth game this season with under 50 receiving yards. His supporters wanted to sell him as an Antonio Brown type, but we should view him more on the DeSean Jackson axis of NFL receivers. That will lead to some feast or famine stat lines, as we see, especially when he plays away from the fast track of the Superdome.
Willie Snead returned to garner 19.5 percent of the team's targets. He's a more reliable route runner and underneath player than Cooks is, at this point. Their target shares should be deadly close for the remainder of the season.
It's all about Odell Beckham. We are so privileged to be fans of the game at the same time he is playing it. In terms of the Giants offense, it's time to view Will Tye as a legitimate contributor. He's had at least five targets in four of his last five games, and Eli Manning and the Giants have long held a preference for the tight end positon as a steady short passing option. If you don't have a top-five tight end at the position, Tye is well worth weekly consideration as a streamer.
It's been a rough stretch of games for Michael Crabtree, and especially Amari Cooper. The rookie had struggles with contested catches and drops in spurts over his college career, and those still exist. Of course, the positives far outweigh the negatives with Cooper, and we are not worried long term. Both he and Crabtree's target shares wavered in recent weeks, along with Derek Carr's play. However, the Raiders quarterback mounted a resilient effort to win on Sunday, and has legitimate emerging ancillary threats in Seth Roberts and Clive Walford. Perhaps those two eat into Crabtree and Cooper's looks, but the trend of the target shares could easily reverse back to the concentrated split of the early season. In a potential shootout with the Packers in Week 15, bet on the latter happening. We have faith that the mid-season Raiders offense, along with the stellar all-around play of the Carr, Crabtree and Cooper trio, is the real version.
It was good to see Nelson Agholor get on the board, and the next few weeks will be important to watch his progress for dynasty owners and next season. However, no one on this team routinely cracks 20 percent of the target share. Avoid this offense by committee at all costs.
The injury to Andy Dalton allowed the Steelers to take the air out of the ball rather early, and the team didn't need to push the ball downfield. All the pass catchers posted competent stat lines in PPR leagues. With a daunting matchup for the wideouts ahead as the Denver defense comes into town, all of them presenting reasonable floors in a bad game script was encouraging.
Other than Antonio Gates as a floor play TE1, we're done with this offense for fantasy. Injuries sadly robbed us of a quality unit.
For the first few games of the Blaine Gabbert experience, we could count on him peppering the tight ends, Anquan Boldin and Shaun Draughn with targets. Those three players (Blake Bell at tight end) came away with nine combined targets in this game. While Quinton Patton and Jerome Simpson carrying the passing game is almost certainly the makings of an outlier game, we won't recommend playing anyone from this offense in a discovery edition next week.
At this point, if you're not starting Doug Baldwin every week you are the one to blame for missing out. Baldwin averages eight targets per game since Seattle's loss to Arizona, and that's more than enough to make due every week with Russell Wilson playing out of his mind. Tyler Lockett may also be in that weekly starting stratosphere, with four touchdowns in as many games, and seven targets in back to back games. Lockett has an astonishing 80.4 percent catch rate this season.
Just like we said last week, there is nothing here.