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 passing game targets.
Julio Jones dominated the targets in Atlanta, as he usually does, seeing 42.5 percent of the team's passing looks in Week 9. Of course, for fantasy, that is tremendous. Such a heavy workload makes Jones a candidate for a blowup week every time he hits the field. However, the lack of ancillary pieces continues to hurt the Falcons offense. Of course, I always advocate a team funnels the targets through their top players. However, without a complimentary wide receiver threat that you can throw the ball to more than 10 percent of the time, the size of the pie shrinks for Devonta Freeman, and Jones sees less scoring chances in the red zone. The quarterback play also takes a hit, as demonstrated by Matt Ryan's decline of late, which cuts into the offense's efficiency.
Jacob Tamme has some use in fantasy as a player who keeps getting looks, but a passing game that has him getting 10 targets isn't a great one. Again, this lack of complimentary players makes the margin of error for Freeman and Jones quite tiny. The Falcons need Leonard Hankerson to get healthy, and figure back into the rotation.
The Bills featured a low-volume passing attack in their win over Miami, and that's the way they want it to go every week. Sammy Watkins, finally healthy, enjoyed a breakout game by seeing 66.7 percent of the team's targets, and hauling in all of them. He's the only game changing force in their passing game, and the team desperately needs him to be the healthy game-changing force he was on Sunday every week. As long as he's on the field, and Buffalo is on schedule, none of the other receiving threats on this team should even be on fantasy rosters.
Another low volume passing attack, the targets distribution is just Greg Olsen, one receiver and some scraps. Jerricho Cotchery was that one receiver on Sunday, where it is normally Ted Ginn, but isn't worth keeping on you fantasy radar. Ginn's fade to the background may have been precipitated by his drop-filled Week 8 effort. Corey Brown snagged a deep shot for his second score in as many weeks. A solid route runner, he's worth keeping an eye on for deep redraft and dynasty leagues. Brown did play the most snaps of any Carolina receiver in Week 9.
The real story is Devin Funchess finally getting into the box score in a significant way for Carolina. Their most physically gifted receiver, Funchess finally played up to his potential by boxing out defenders and getting downfield. This was a tremendous sign, as he often failed to use his size at Michigan. However, Funchess only saw 13.8 targets and played just 27 percent of the snaps in a low-volume pass offense. We'll need to see him string some of these big moments together before rushing out to say he's arrived.
Expect the trend of Jay Cutler pummeling Alshon Jeffery with targets to continue as long as the two are in the lineup together. Jeffery saw an inordinate 42.1 percent of the targets on Monday night after averaging in the mid-thirties the previous two games. With Matt Forte down, Jeffery is clearly the best threat on this team, and Cutler doesn't mind throwing it to him blindly. He's a WR1 from here on out. A touchdown made this a positive fantasy game for Martellus Bennett, but he's become something of an afterthought in the downfield portion of this offense. Monday night marked the fifth fame this season where Bennett averaged under 10 yards per reception.
The Bengals didn't have to do much to win this game, and their passing distribution reflects that. Marvin Jones, A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert were the only players with more than one target. It's hard to take any of this as a reflection of what's to come, with the ease of the win, but we know those three are the locked-in top threats of the Bengals passing game. As mentioned in this column before, Jones, Eifert and Green can all come with some weekly volatility because of the depth on the team. Green suffered this week, and it's at the point where we can't trust him as an every week WR1.
If you're a Travis Benjamin or Gary Barnidge owner, Thursday night was the startling reminder of what a Johnny Manziel-led passing game does to your fantasy assets. No Browns receiver caught more than three passes, or cracked 40 yards receiving. Barnidge led the team in targets, but Manziel can't put it into small windows for Barnidge to go up and get it against NFL defenders. Josh McCown perfected that in the week's previous. Benjamin has the ceiling with Manziel we saw earlier in the season, but also this ghastly floor. Fantasy owners need to actively root for McCown's return this week, and quite frankly, first round investment aside, Manziel hasn't shown the Browns anything to the point where they need to rush him into the starting spot.
Welcome back, Dez Bryant. Matt Cassel showed the understanding that the best way to make this passing game go is to just get Bryant the ball in high-value situations. Bryant still needs time to get all the way back, and did look gassed at the end of the game. However, you can stop wondering whether to start him every week.
In a move that needed to happen long ago, Cole Beasley passed up Terrance Williams in the passing pecking order. Williams just doesn't do anything well enough to warrant consistent playing time. When the offense is firing on all cylinders Beasley, your run of the mill slot receiver, can make plays underneath as a safety valve. However, this is an outlier game, and mostly came on the back of Darren McFadden getting just one target. This sort of performance is far from the expected norm.
Owen Daniels had his own brand of a revenge game against his current team and longtime head coach for going out and trading for Vernon Davis. The veteran tight end strung up his best game of the season, and made several vertical plays down the field. While Daniels isn't on our radars now, this does give us hope that Davis can have a big slice of this pie when he gets up to speed. For now, Davis and his one passing target can't be on your starting radar until we see him actually do something in this offense.
James Jones continues to fade into the background. One of the most obvious regression candidates, based on his low volume of targets and unsustainable touchdown rate, Jones is someone best left on your bench. Davante Adams, on the other hand, posted a solid stat line and made several nice receptions when not doing battle with Josh Norman. He should be owned in all leagues. Adams' redraft and dynasty price got out of hand every step of the way this offseason, on the back of a ton of hype and not much stellar film to support it from his rookie year. However, he's a skilled player who can make due as a WR4.
Randall Cobb is still dominating the targets, but struggling to with consistency. He only caught 33.3 percent of his Week 9 targets. The bulk of his production came on a 53-yard catch and run where he dusted the Panthers third cornerback for a score. The Packers offense is still struggling to run their offense through a slot receiver, and they only scored seven points before a minute left in the third quarter. He may be a good sell-high candidate.
The Colts did solid work in spreading the ball around in their first game under new coordinator Rob Chudsinski. No pass catcher saw more than 17.1 percent of the team's targets. Donte Moncrief has 48 yards the last two weeks facing the Panthers and Broncos secondary. He and Andrew Luck were simpatico in the early part of the season, especially in the red zone, but he's fallen off in the face of the league's two best secondaries. If you can buy him on the low from an impatient owner, or he gets dropped this week, he's still worth a spot on fantasy rosters as the matchups get light.
Two wide receiver offenses are the best for fantasy football, and the Jaguars arguably have one of the best emerging one-two punches. Allen Robinson dominates the target share, and roasted through Revis Island this week. He proved he's matchup proof. Allen Hurns continues to hold a strong slice of the pie, and can make due when the matchup is right. Other than that, there isn't much here, and that includes Julius Thomas. His 20 percent share of the targets is nice, but he's behind both Allens in terms of player quality, and chemistry with the quarterback.
Jarvis Landry continues on as the target hog of the offense, even if the results are meager for standard leagues. His stock remains the same as ever. Rishard Matthews lost looks to Kenny Stills, but that speaks more doom for Matthews than positivity for Stills. A ton of fantasy owners rode the former during his hot stretch, but that time may be coming to a close. It's fair to wonder if players the team invested more in, like Stills and DeVante Parker (if healthy), get more run as Miami's playoff hops dwindle.
For the first time since the Vikings bye week, Stefon Diggs did not lead the team in targets. This was a tough matchup against an improved Rams stop unit, and he suffered through some rookie mistakes of his own. It's always important to monitor how young players who emerge from the shadows handle the extra attention paid to them in the weeks following their breakout. Diggs came up short in that test on Sunday. Charles Johnson's snap share rose to 38 percent, but he only saw two targets. He has a long way to go before earning roster consideration, but he should be playing ahead of the ineffective Mike Wallace.
Brandon LaFell's breakout game was easy to see coming, as the Patriots were insistent on getting him going despite lapses in his first two games of the season. He saw 23.1 percent of the targets, and is the only wide receiver capable of making downfield plays with regularity. With Dion Lewis now gone from the rotation, ancillary players like LaFell and Amendola should get more targets on a weekly basis, especially the latter in the short areas of the field. However, as is often the case, removing a player who was performing at such a high level is a net negative for everyone on offense.
Willie Snead dominated the target load, with a 25.6 percent share on Sunday. He's their most reliable receiver, and carries the safest floor for fantasy. No shade to Brandin Cooks, of course, who has now strung together three good fantasy games. My issue with Cooks this offseason was the ridiculous third round price people paid for him, not his long term potential as a player. Especially now that they're targeting him down the field more often, with Snead and Watson operating underneath, Cooks can thrive on his more natural skill set.
However, just be aware that there is volatility here. Cooks still struggles with bodies around him, and if Brees can't lead him on deep shots, he won't make those plays. His value is still dependent on those big plays, and the road will get rocky if Brees slows off his torrid pace from the last two games. Cooks' stock is on the rise, but don't go back all in just yet.
The Giants finally adopted the "Just Throw it To Your Good Players" philosophy and it worked. Instead of distributing the ball semi-evenly, the Giants called plays on Sunday to get the ball to Odell Beckham regardless of the coverage. He saw a wild 42.5 percent of the team targets, but suffered through some inconsistent quarterback play to only catch 52.9 percent of his targets. While this sort of target distribution can work for New York, keep an eye on whether they keep it up in other matchups. Lovie Smith and this incarnation of his defense is well-known for their vanilla tendencies and not doing much to slow down top threats. It's fair to wonder whether the Giants go back to their usual "get everyone involved" distribution against a better pass defense.
The week provided just another reminder that this passing offense is all Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall, who owned 26.5 and 23.5 percent of the team's target share. Decker is the reliable underneath receiver and red zone threat, while Marshall is the downfield jump-ball maven in traffic. Both are fantasy starters going forward.
Clive Walford is the only ancillary player worth monitoring. He saw five targets, but hauled in just one catch, albeit for a touchdown. The Miami product looks like a mismatch for deficient athletes assigned to guard him in the middle of the field. If he emerges as the third fiddle in this improving offense, we must take notice, even if it's more so for the future.
Jordan Matthews posted a stat line like the one we were hoping for when he was a popular third or fourth round pick. He dominated the target share, taking a third of the looks with the next highest pass catcher getting 16.7 percent. He efficiently caught 75 percent of his targets, and broke several tackles on way to longer gains in the middle of the field. When the Eagles offense got rolling, Matthews' play saw a spike, and that is no coincidence. That's how it goes for slot receivers. Whether this is an outlier or the beginning of a tide turn depends less on Matthews, and more on his surroundings. It certainly looked like the bye week helped clear his head, and get past drop issues. That needed to happen, and Matthews needs to play with confidence if he's going to get the most out of his skill set. He's worth buying low on for an investigative effort is his owner still has no faith in him. His Week 10 opponent, the Dolphins, struggle to cover receivers and tackle consistently in a similar vein to the Cowboys.
In case you forgot that Antonio Brown is right up there with the best receivers in the NFL, he did plenty to remind you on Sunday. The performance came at a cost, with Ben Roethlisberger going down with a foot injury. He could miss the next game before Pittsburgh's bye week. However, we know the potential that exists when this duo sees the field together, and Landry Jones displayed a far better ability to get Brown near his ceiling than Mike Vick did.
Martavis Bryant struggled through some of the miscues still present in his game, dropping a few passes amid mental mistakes. However, the team stuck with him through it, and he saw the seven targets. He rewarded his team's faith with a clutch first down late in the game, and an absolutely special touchdown reception in the red zone. Both players were greeted by a chorus of support from Mike Tomlin and veteran players. This team wants him to succeed, and that narrative matters. You play Martavis every week, and find a way to deal with hiccups, just like his real team does.
Injuries continue to mount for this Chargers team, as Malcom Floyd joined Keenan Allen and Ladarius Green on the injured list this week. As expected, Steve Johnson took over the lead wide receiver role, and saw 24.4 percent of the team's targets. Most of those were of the short, quick-hitting variety. That role may make him more conducive to starting in a PPR format only, as Antonio Gates and Danny Woodhead should continue dominating the red zone looks. Dontrelle Inman fumbled, but is still worth keeping an eye on, as the injuries to Allen and Floyd could potentially have him in line for a year-long starting spot (depending on Floyd's status). If you have extra roster space, consider stashing him.
There's nothing to see here, and a quarterback change didn't alter that course. Depth receiver Quiton Patton did get some more run than usual, as we usually see happen when a backup quarterback takes over. Garrett Celek has some Danger Zone appeal as a touchdown threat in the red zone with Vernon Davis gone, if you're ever totally desperate for a tight end streamer.
The team signed Wes Welker Monday, but that probably doesn't change much for the St. Louis passing game. Wes Welker's play drastically dipped his last season and a half in the league, and he's a major concussion risk. To top it all off, there may not be a worse quarterback-receiver fit in the league than Foles-Welker, the latter of whom needs a timing based anticipation passer to play his game.
One of the most lopsided shares of the weekend, Mike Evans saw 52.8 percent of the Buccaneers targets while the next highest receiver merely took five targets. While Evans posted 152 yards, and made some big plays, he left over 100 yards on the field with five or six inexcusable drops. Evans just isn't playing well on a consistent basis, and has a long way to go in hitting his full potential. Jameis Winston needs more targets to go to, especially in the intermediate range, for this offense to function properly. For fantasy, however, we enjoy Evans' target load to provide a safe floor for a player that has one of the highest weekly ceilings in the NFL.
In another forthright move by the Titans under a new head coach, they said Dorial Green-Beckham would be more involved and he was. He led the team in targets with 10. As a pure specimen, he's one of the most talented young wideouts in the game. The coaching staff needs to get in Mariota's ear and encourage him to keep throwing in No. 17's way in the hope he rewards them with eye-popping and game-tilting plays, ala Kelvin Benjamin from 2014. Whether that happens or not will determine whether he's a factor in the fantasy playoffs, but he's worth a speculative add for now.
Even though much of his production came off a fluky tipped touchdown catch and run, Delanie Walker remains a starting fantasy tight end as long as Mariota is under center.
You have to feel for Kirk Cousins in this game, as almost all of his pass catchers let him down. Pierre Garcon committed a number of drops, and Jordan Reed mishandled a few himself. Reed's touchdown came in the final thirty seconds of the game. DeSean Jackson looked at least a week away from being ready to make a fantasy impact.
The only consistent player on this offense Sunday was slot receiver Jamison Crowder. He's someone to monitor for if/when Washington upgrades the quarterback position in the offseason.