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Every week I examine the pass catchers with the most targets and the running backs with a surprising number of total touches for the week that was in the NFL. Want to know who's becoming a big part of their teams' passing game? Want to know who's a one-week fancy, not worthy of starting or being picked up in free agency? Here's your fix. So let's get to it, because I have the premiere of Sons of Anarchy to prepare for.
I admit I wasn't a big Anquan Boldin fan heading into the season. But you can't let the facts get in the way of your August opinions. In one game, Boldin has become Michael Crabtree -- the possession receiver that Colin Kaepernick turned into a fantasy star a year ago. We've seen it in each of the last couple of seasons: a young quarterback (Cam Newton, Andrew Luck), turns the older past-his-prime receiver (Steve Smith, Reggie Wayne) back into a statistical version of his younger self. For now, Boldin needs to be in your lineup at the very least as a flex, but more likely as a No. 2.
I refuse to get on the Brian Hartline train. A year ago, he had his monster 253-yard game against Arizona, but was pretty pedestrian the rest of the season. It was hard to justify him as even a bye-week flex. Miami would have to become the 2013 version of the Detroit Lions -- throwing it over 700 times -- to make Hartline fantasy relevant. This 15-target, 114-yards-with-a-TD-day could be as good as it gets for him in 2013. Someone's going to pick him up -- let them. You concentrate on nabbing some of the other players with strong debuts -- Terrelle Pryor, Julius Thomas, Jared Cook -- or even Le'Veon Bell if he's available. Because that's who's going to eventually be the No. 1 RB for Pittsburgh.
Kenbrell Thompkins didn't give you a lot of production Week 1, but his 14 targets from Tom Brady tell you he's very involved in the Patriots offense. Is he good enough to start this Thursday night against the Jets? Normally I'd say "not yet", but if theres no Danny Amendola in addition to Shane Vereen and Zach Sudfeld being out? You can flex him if your other options are limited, but only if you're desperate - because the Jets are pretty good against the pass. But at the very least he's worthy of a roster spot to see how he progresses. Brady has to throw the football somewhere, right?
Jordan Cameron is pretty simple to analyze. I don't know how he's still available in ANY leagues, but if he is in yours, you pick him up immediately and put him in your starting lineup. Don't worry about the possibility he'll see less attention when Josh Gordon comes back. Cameron's the focal point in the middle of the field and in the red zone.
Emmanuel Sanders was the top-targeted WR for Pittsburgh in Week 1. He was a deep sleeper for me this pre-season and he's living up to that -- at least off the bat. He won't be a highly sought-after free agent, so you could probably get him with your 2nd or 3rd round pick in free agency. I love his potential as he's gained the trust of Ben Roethlisberger. With Mike Wallace and his 119 targets in 2012 off in Miami, those passes have to go somewhere. If they go to Antonio Brown and Sanders almost equally? You'll have a heckuva flex player on your hands, or at the very least a good bye-week replacement. Get ahead of the curve on him. Especially because the Steelers are going to be awful this season and will find themselves throwing the football more than ever.
Randall Cobb, Miles Austin and Dallas Clark also had 12 targets apiece in Week 1. There are too many talented TEs to start instead of Clark right now. The big question is if these new players can keep it up, but for now there are better fantasy options than him. Austin's value hasn't changed for me. He's too much of a risk/reward to play on a consistent basis. When we get to the bye weeks, sure I could give him a whirl, but he has to do it through Week 4 for me to consider him in a bigger role.
So much for the return of Ahmad Bradshaw. The first 11 running back carries of the game for Indianapolis went like this: Vick Ballard -- 10, Bradshaw -- 1. Overall, Ballard had 14 touches compared to eight for the ex-Giant. Does this mean Ballard is worth a flex play instead of Bradshaw? No. What it means for now is neither player is trustworthy enough to start. Don't waive Bradshaw just yet, because he may have value as the season goes on and his health gets back to normal. If Ballard is available in your league and you have a roster spot for him? Pick him up and see if he blossoms. They're definitely wait-and-see guys.
DeAngelo Williams had a much better game than plenty of us anticipated against Seattle. 20 total touches (17 carries, 3 receptions) resulted in an even 100 yards -- not bad for the horrible matchup he had going in against the Seahawks defense. In Week 2, Williams plays at Buffalo, who just gave up 158 yards on the ground to New England. As Michael Fabiano always says, "It's all about the matchups." This week is a great one for Williams and he needs to be in as your flex, possibly as a low-end No. 2 if you're hurting for production at RB.
Jason Smith writes fantasy and other pith for nfl.com. You can see him as the host of NFL Fantasy Live that airs Sunday through Friday on NFL Network at 5pmET/2pmPT and also at 1amET/10pmPT. Listen to him on the NFL Fantasy Live podcast available at nfl.com and on itunes. Reach out to him on Google plus or on Twitter @howaboutafresca. He only asks you never bring up when the Jets play poorly.