Targets are the lifeblood of any receiver (or any tight end, or, to an ever-increasing degree, any running back). Without a sufficient number of targets, no pass catcher can produce. Moreover, targets deep down the field or in the red zone are more valuable, given that they are the ones that typically result in touchdowns. Quite often, there is hidden value in the target numbers, and with the diffusion of fantasy football information, every little bit that you have and your rival owners don’t can be crucial. We’ll strive to provide you with this information every week in the Target Report.
Targets are the lifeblood of any receiver (or any tight end, or, to an ever-increasing degree, any running back). Without a sufficient number of targets, no pass catcher can produce. Moreover, targets deep down the field or in the red zone are more valuable, given that they are the ones that typically result in touchdowns. Quite often, there is hidden value in the target numbers, and with the diffusion of fantasy football information, every little bit that you have and your rival owners don’t can be crucial.
We’ll strive to provide you with this information every week in the Target Report. We will examine targets from the previous week’s games and keep track of the season-long totals, as well. The goal is to unearth some of the gems that may be lurking beneath the surface and apply what has already transpired to how a team’s offensive philosophy may impact your fantasy team in the future.
The first number listed next to each player is the snaps played out of his team’s total snaps for the game, followed by the player's receptions and targets.
Seattle Seahawks 36, Green Bay Packers 16
Jordy Nelson – 61/62, 9, 14
Randall Cobb – 57/62, 6, 9
Jarrett Boykin – 49/62, 0, 0
Andrew Quarless – 46/62, 3, 4
Eddie Lacy – 31/62, 3, 3
James Starks – 25/62, 2, 3
Richard Rodgers – 20/62, 0, 0
Doug Baldwin – 57/70, 3, 5
Zach Miller – 56/70, 3, 4
Jermaine Kearse – 54/70, 1, 3
Marshawn Lynch – 45/70, 1, 1
Percy Harvin – 39/70, 7, 7
We know exactly where Aaron Rodgers’ bread is buttered, and that shows up in these Week 1 numbers. Nelson got 14 targets, while Cobb got nine. You can expect those two to lead the Packers in targets every single week. Nelson was targeted just once on a pass of 20-plus yards down the field, but that likely has more to do with the Seahawks defense than anything else. Somehow, Boykin got zero targets. That could have a little something to do with Richard Sherman. Expect that to be an anomaly. Boykin is still a strong depth play. That Lacy got three targets in limited time suggests he might be a bigger part of the passing game than previously expected. It can’t hurt to put in a call to his owner to see if he’s available.
Harvin caught all seven of his targets, and while they went for just a total of 59 yards, it was clear that he will bring an element to the Seattle offense it sorely lacked last year: playmaking ability deep down the field. Harvin’s catch rate is always going to be pretty high given that he gets a lot of receptions on screens and other quick throws. He got three targets behind the line of scrimmage, though they only produced six yards with 18 yards of run after the catch. The one time he was targeted on a pass that traveled at least 10 yards in the air, he picked up 17 yards after the catch for a long reception of 33 yards. Expect the Seahawks to use him more like that as the season moves forward.
Atlanta Falcons 37, New Orleans Saints 34 (OT)
Jimmy Graham – 67/76, 8, 10
Marques Colston – 65/76, 5, 8
Brandin Cooks – 53/76, 7, 8
Pierre Thomas – 35/76, 6, 7
Julio Jones – 70/75, 7, 9
Roddy White – 70/75, 5, 7
Harry Douglas – 69/75, 6, 7
Levine Toilolo – 54/75, 3, 6
Devin Hester – 21/75, 5, 6
There isn’t a whole lot of surprise in the usage of Graham or Colston. They were both out there as much as possible and were frequently targeted by Brees, as expected. The most interesting guy here is Cooks. He played 53 snaps and was never once asked to pass block. That means he ran 37 routes, just three fewer than Graham. The usage here tells you that he will be a major part of this offense, even when Kenny Stills is back. With the production he gave the Saints on Sunday, expect him to be the No. 2 receiver all season.
Thomas started the season off right with seven targets. Mark Ingram had double the carries, but just one target. There’s a pretty clear division of labor here, but it’s one that doesn’t at all limit Thomas’ ceiling. He looks like a reliable RB3 based on Week 1.
As was the case with the Saints, not a whole lot of intrigue at the top of the depth chart. Jones and White were on the field all game and did some real damage with their fair share of targets. Douglas, however, may not be the afterthought many thought he would be with Jones and White healthy. He played just one fewer snap than those two and received seven targets, tied with White for the second-most. Douglas was likely aided by all the scoring and the fact that Matt Ryan attempted 43 passes. His ceiling is still limited with the big boys healthy, but he may be worth a waiver claim given his strong showing on Sunday.
Hester is also an interesting case. The most important place to focus is his 21 snaps played. That’s exactly 28 percent, a total that not many players could convert into fantasy relevance. Hester's Week 1 target rate and catch rate could prove anomalous within the next few weeks. This Atlanta offense is vastly different than any of the ones he played in with Chicago, but there are just too many mouths to feed here. Don’t take his role in the offense in this specific game as a sign of big things to come the rest of the season.
Minnesota Vikings 34, St. Louis Rams 6
Kyle Rudolph – 58/61, 2, 4
Cordarrelle Patterson – 48/61, 3, 5
Greg Jennings – 47/61, 6, 7
Adrian Peterson – 45/61, 2, 3
Lance Kendricks – 54/70, 2, 3
Jared Cook – 49/70, 4, 8
Brian Quick – 48/70, 7, 9
Kenny Britt – 44/70, 0, 3
Tavon Austin – 33/70, 3, 3
Quick sure does seem to have a stranglehold on the top receiver job in St. Louis. He had as many targets as Britt, Austin and Chris Givens combined. Perhaps most interesting was where he did the majority of his work. He caught all four of his targets that were between the numbers and thrown 10-to-19 yards in the air, going for a total of 79 yards. Quick is a big guy at 6-foot-3 and 218 pounds. If he can own the middle of the field for Shaun Hill or Austin Davis or Case Keenum or whoever ends up being the Rams’ quarterback, he could be a nice little steal for fantasy owners willing to jump on board this week.
Fantasy owners should be careful not to overestimate the Week 1 performances of Rudolph and Patterson. While Rudolph was on the field for all but three plays, he ran just 23 routes, and was targeted on only four of those. Patterson, meanwhile, got just five targets, catching three passes for 26 yards. It took a 67-yard-touchdown run – an explosive play, to be sure, but still somewhat gimmicky – for him to have a big day. Patterson didn’t make any plays down the field as a receiver, and Matt Cassel still seemed to prefer Jennings, who led the team with seven targets. I’m still not fully buying this as Patterson's breakout season. I’d consider floating his name with that highlight-reel play as the baited hook in a trade. It might also be time for the Vikings to throw the ball in Peterson’s direction more often.
Pittsburgh Steelers 30, Cleveland Browns 27
Andrew Hawkins – 40/68, 8, 10
Miles Austin – 37/68, 2, 3
Taylor Gabriel – 34/68, 2, 6
Jordan Cameron – 23/68, 2, 5
Antonio Brown – 72/72, 5, 6
Markus Wheaton – 68/72, 6, 7
Heath Miller – 65/72, 3, 4
Le’Veon Bell – 58/72, 6, 7
Justin Brown 56/72, 3, 4
If Cameron’s shoulder injury forces him to miss some time, Hawkins could be the main beneficiary. After Cameron left the game, Hawkins got eight targets over the final two quarters and change, catching seven of them for 86 yards. Cameron was well on his way to being a target beast for his fantasy owners, getting the ball thrown his way five times in Cleveland’s four possessions. Interestingly, while Hawkins is just 5-foot-7, Brian Hoyer targeted him over the middle all day in the spots usually inhabited by Cameron. It could just be that the Browns wanted to attack that part of the Pittsburgh defense, but if this is a trend, Hawkins may be very profitable for fantasy owners if Cameron is out. He’s another receiver worth bidding on this week. The main takeaway from the breakdown between Austin and Gabriel is that somehow the latter got double the targets. They can both safely be ignored.
If you need any indication as to what kind of team the Steelers are these days, look no further than the fact that Brown played every snap and Wheaton played three more than Miller. This is a high-octane offense that is going to be exciting for fantasy owners all season. Bell may prove to be the running back steal of the draft given his heavy involvement in the offense. He turned 27 touches into 197 yards and a touchdown. Wheaton has to be a waiver-wire target in all leagues. I’d prioritize him ahead of Allen Hurns given the explosiveness of this Pittsburgh offense. He ran routes on 55.6 percent of Pittsburgh’s plays on Sunday. If that rate holds, he’s going to be a true breakout player this year.
Philadelphia Eagles 34, Jacksonville Jaguars 17
Marcedes Lewis – 72/76, 6, 9
Allen Hurns – 69/76, 4, 9
Marqise Lee – 67/76, 6, 10
Toby Gerhart – 48/76, 2, 2
Mike Brown – 31/76, 3, 5
Jeremy Maclin – 79/87, 4, 10
Riley Cooper – 77/87, 4, 7
Brent Celek – 59/87, 3, 4
LeSean McCoy – 58/87, 6, 6
Jordan Matthews – 58/87, 2, 4
Zach Ertz – 54/87, 3, 5
Darren Sproles – 33/87, 4, 6
Hurns became the first waiver-wire darling of the season after catching four passes for 110 yards and two first-quarter touchdowns on Sunday. Understand that his performance didn’t come from nowhere. He had the most receiving yards in the preseason and shot up the Jacksonville depth chart in training camp. This is a team desperate for playmakers, and Hurns can be that guy. Just one of his nine targets traveled less than 10 yards in the air, and three were more than 20 yards. He caught two of those for 70 yards and a touchdown.
The Jaguars deployed Lee in more of a possession role. Five of his targets were shorter than 10 yards, with one coming on a screen behind the line of scrimmage. He got one target deep down the field that he promptly dropped. The bet here is that when Cecil Shorts returns, Lee will be the one to suffer, not Hurns.
The Eagles have an interesting offense as a whole, but this target breakdown is actually pretty boring. Maclin led the way with 10 targets, catching four for 97 yards and a touchdown, though his day looked lost until his 68-yard score. Still, if you stayed away because of injury concerns, you will be sorely disappointed. The McCoy/Sproles workload split bears monitoring, but we’ll expand on that in the Running Back Committee Watch that debuts later this week. On the surface, those snaps-played numbers might seem troubling for Ertz owners. However, he ran eight more routes than Celek, while the latter was on the field for 10 more run plays.
New York Jets 19, Oakland Raiders 14
Rod Streater – 54/56, 5, 7
Denarius Moore – 50/56, 2, 8
James Jones – 31/56, 3, 3
Maurice Jones-Drew – 30/56, 2, 3
Darren McFadden – 27/56, 1, 1
Eric Decker – 67/72, 5, 6
David Nelson – 59/72, 1, 1
Jeff Cumberland – 57/72, 4, 5
Jeremy Kerley – 46/72, 5, 5
Chris Johnson – 35/72, 5, 5
Chris Ivory – 28/72, 0, 0
Jace Amaro – 22/72, 2, 4
It was just one game, but Week 1 did nothing to convince the fantasy community to invest in the Oakland passing attack. The first ugly number that jumps out is the meager 56 plays the Raiders were able to run. Derek Carr was under pressure on 15 of his 19 dropbacks, which made it nearly impossible to make any plays down the field. Jones was the assumed No. 1 receiver coming into the season, but he played by far the fewest plays among the team's top three, and also got the fewest targets. However, he was also the only one to catch a pass for more than 20 yards. He has always had that ability to make big plays, so the Raiders will almost certainly have to get him on the field more often starting next week. He remains the only receiver on this team worth owning in most formats.
This is exactly why Eric Decker still should have been drafted as a starting fantasy receiver, even though he left behind Denver's offensive utopia. He played 67 snaps on Sunday. No other Jets receiver played 60. He’s going to rack up the targets this year, and while he may not score more than six or seven times, he’ll likely push north of 1,000 yards. Amaro’s sleeper candidacy took a major hit in Week 1 with Cumberland playing more than double the snaps, running 13 more routes, and getting one more target. I’d still hold in deep leagues where he was drafted, though.
Cincinnati Bengals 23, Baltimore Ravens 16
A.J. Green – 63/67, 6, 9
Mohamed Sanu – 62/67, 4, 5
Jermaine Gresham – 61/67, 2, 5
Giovani Bernard – 58/67, 6, 10
Brandon Tate – 41/67, 4, 6
Jeremy Hill – 10/67, 0, 0
Tyler Eifert – 8/67, 3, 3
Dennis Pitta – 83/88, 10, 15
Torrey Smith – 77/88, 3, 7
Steve Smith – 64/88, 7, 15
Justin Forsett – 57/88, 5, 6
Jacoby Jones – 48/88, 2, 7
Marlon Brown – 40/88, 0, 1
Owen Daniels – 30/88, 4, 5
Bernard Pierce – 8/88, 0, 0
Eifert owners (not to mention the Bengals and Eifert himself) have every right to be very disappointed that he dislocated his elbow. Andy Dalton targeted him three times on just six routes, and Eifert pulled in all three for 37 yards. One of those targets was for longer than 10 yards. If you have the roster space to stash him while he’s injured, do so. He’s going to be heard from again this season.
Green’s target chart is a thing of beauty. Four of his seven targets traveled at least 20 yards in the air. He caught two of them for 100 yards and a touchdown. It feels like this happens every week. Tate got one more target than Sanu in 14 fewer routes, and he got the only downfield target that didn’t belong to Green. There isn’t a whole lot of breakout potential for either player, but if you’re inclined to get one of them, Tate is the guy. As for Bernard, the 10 targets say it all. Even if and when Hill gets more snaps, Bernard is going to get his 20 touches per game.
The Forsett-Pierce-Lorenzo Taliaferro breakdown will be interesting going forward, but we’ll cover that in greater detail in the Running Back Committee Watch. As you’re making your bids, though, keep in mind that this is going to be a muddled situation for some time, with three largely unheralded backs. The bet here is that not one Raven ends up as a top-30 running back.
Pitta ran just one fewer route than Torrey Smith and seven more than Steve Smith. He got looks all over the field, though nine of his 15 targets were across the middle. He’s also one of the few pass-catching tight ends to out-snap his team’s top receiver. Add in Daniels’ five targets, and Joe Flacco threw 20 passes to tight ends last week. Get ready for a breakout campaign from Pitta.
There has likely never been a better time to trade Steve Smith than right now. Fifteen targets will not be the norm for him, and the big catch is that 10 of those were for fewer than 10 yards. He only caught one ball that traveled more than 10 yards in the air, and that was his 80-yard touchdown on which the Cincinnati secondary somehow lost him. Torrey Smith and Pitta are the top two options in this offense.
Buffalo Bills 23, Chicago Bears 20 (OT)
Sammy Watkins – 55/58, 3, 4
Robert Woods – 53/58, 4, 6
Scott Chandler – 38/58, 0, 0
Mike Williams – 30/58, 2, 3
C.J. Spiller – 29/58, 3, 3
Fred Jackson – 28/58, 3, 3
Martellus Bennett – 70/74, 8, 10
Matt Forte – 70/74, 8, 9
Brandon Marshall – 69/74, 8, 12
Josh Morgan – 49/74, 1, 3
Alshon Jeffery – 37/74, 5, 6
Santonio Holmes – 28/74, 2, 5
There is both good and bad in Watkins’ numbers. The obvious bad part is that he got just four targets. The good, however, is that he played all but three snaps and had run blocking assignments on 29 plays. The Bills would not have put him in those situations if his ribs were a major issue. What’s more, two of his four targets traveled at least 20 yards in the air. The Bills need playmakers, which is why they paid such a steep price to move up and grab Watkins. He will only become a more significant part of the offense as the season progresses. Woods was the only other receiver to register much of a pulse against the Bears, but he remains just a deep league option. Overall usage will likely dictate the target breakdown between Spiller and Jackson. They’re both capable pass catchers and blockers, so it’s unlikely that one will dominate obvious passing downs.
Week 1 was pretty much business as usual for the Bears. Marshall and Jeffery were each targeted on more than 23 percent of their routes run. Marshall had five targets for more than 10 yards, and one for more than 20, while Jeffery had three and two of those, respectively. Forte proved once again why he is PPR gold, catching eight of his nine targets for 87 yards. The only one he didn’t catch was a drop on a wheel route that would have gone for a long touchdown. Don’t expect 10 targets to become the norm for Bennett. Jeffery’s knee injury, which isn’t thought to be serious, forced more balls in Bennett’s direction. This is going to be a wildly productive passing offense all year long.
Owners in deeper leagues should keep an eye on Santonio Holmes’ usage. He got one fewer target than Morgan and Micheal Spurlock combined, so he’s clearly the No. 3 receiver in this offense. Three of his five targets traveled more than 10 yards in the air, including one that was 20-plus. There could be some sneaky value here.
Houston Texans 17, Washington Redskins 6
DeSean Jackson – 61/66, 8, 9
Pierre Garcon – 57/66, 10, 12
Andre Roberts – 50/66, 1, 3
Logan Paulsen – 45/66, 2, 2
Niles Paul – 26/66, 4, 4
Jordan Reed – 7/66, 1, 1
Andre Johnson – 60/61, 6, 9
DeAndre Hopkins – 56/61, 4, 5
C.J. Fiedorowicz – 56/61, 0, 1
It was just one week, and Jordan Reed left the game early due to injury, but it’s safe to say the workload concerns for both Garcon and Jackson were just a tad overblown. Garcon got his seemingly customary 12 targets, catching 10 of them for 77 yards. Most of his targets were for fewer than 10 yards, but two were for longer than 20. While he didn’t catch either of them, it was encouraging to see him and Griffin test the Texans down the field. It was a bit of a head scratcher that Jackson got just one target of longer than 10 yards, and none for more than 20. He’s at his best when he’s taking the top off the defense, and for whatever failings Griffin might have, he has always been able to throw the deep ball, going back to his days at Baylor. If I’m a Jackson owner, I feel confident chalking this up to a one-week fluke and look on the bright side represented by his nine targets.
With Reed injured, do not fall victim to the Paul bluff. He may have had 86 yards, but Garcon and Jackson will dominate this offense. Also, don’t be surprised to see Alfred Morris get more carries. He had 91 yards on just 14 totes against a solid Houston defense last week. You can do better than Paul.
Believe it or not, Johnson, Hopkins and Fiedorowicz are really the only Texans pass catchers worth discussing. If Week 1 is any indication, Johnson is going to have a monster year, regardless of who the Houston quarterback is. He got nearly half the team’s targets, pulling down six balls for 93 yards. Five of his nine targets traveled at least 10 yards in the air, and he caught four of them for 47 yards. He also took a screen for 23 yards. The Texans are going to ask Johnson to do a lot in their offense, and the veteran has always been up to the task. Another 100-catch, 1,200-yard season seems likely.
The Texans deployed Hopkins all over the field, as he got targets outside the numbers to the right and left, as well as across the middle. He hit on one big one, though, and that’s going to be how he remains relevant in fantasy leagues this year. Expect the Texans to give him at least one opportunity per game to make a play down the field.
Tennessee Titans 26, Kansas City Chiefs 10
Nate Washington – 78/82, 4, 6
Kendall Wright – 65/82, 6, 7
Delanie Walker – 64/82, 3, 4
Justin Hunter – 52/82, 3, 8
Dexter McCluster – 20/82, 1, 2
Donnie Avery – 56/58, 7, 13
Frankie Hammond – 55/58, 1, 2
Jamaal Charles – 55/58, 4, 4
Anthony Fasano – 53/58, 3, 6
Junior Hemingway – 33/58, 0, 2
Travis Kelce – 19/58, 3, 5
Hunter led the way for the Titans with eight targets, catching three of them for 63 yards. All but two of his targets were longer than 10 yards, and three were longer than 20. He caught one of those, and took it 16 yards after the catch for a total of 39 yards. You may not have seen Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr in action last week, but Pro Football Focus did. The football analytics godsend graded both in the bottom eight in coverage among corners last week. The Hunter breakout hits this Sunday.
Remember our discussion all preseason about how Wright would easily increase his touchdown output if he got the same number of targets and receptions? Two touchdowns out of 94 catches and 140 targets is nothing more than a fluke. It started last week, when he caught six of his seven targets, including one for a six-yard score. Between him and Hunter, the Titans have a true possession receiver and a deep threat, and that makes this passing offense sneakily good. Wright didn’t have one target that traveled more than 15 yards in the air, but he still put up 10.7 points in standard-scoring leagues and was a monster in PPR leagues.
Andy Reid, what are you doing? How does Charles get just 11 touches? How does Kelce only play 19 snaps? This was a nightmare of a gameplan from the Chiefs, and the target numbers bear that out. There’s not really a whole lot of usable information for fantasy owners here, because we have to assume this was an anomaly that will be corrected in future weeks. Dwayne Bowe is also back after serving a one-game suspension, so the 13 targets for Avery will naturally come down.
There is one little tidbit worth taking away, however. First, Avery had four targets of at least 20 yards, and four more for at least 10 yards. This team needs someone other than Charles who can make big plays. This sort of breakdown suggests they might believe Avery is that guy.
Miami Dolphins 33, New England Patriots 20
Julian Edelman – 83/86, 6, 9
Danny Amendola – 61/86, 3, 5
Shane Vereen – 61/86, 5, 8
Kenbrell Thompkins – 46/86, 5, 10
Brandon LaFell – 39/86, 0, 6
Rob Gronkowski – 38/86, 4, 11
Stevan Ridley – 22/86, 2, 2
Charles Clay – 68/76, 2, 6
Brian Hartline – 64/76, 2, 4
Mike Wallace – 53/76, 7, 11
Knowshon Moreno – 49/76, 0, 0
Brandon Gibson – 36/76, 1, 1
Lamar Miller – 26/76, 4, 5
We knew the Patriots would be one of the most interesting teams to watch in Week 1, and though they got shut down in the second half, they did not disappoint when it came to intrigue. To wit:
We may have potentially overstated the downfall of Julian Edelman, and I was admittedly part of that chorus. He played all but three snaps and clearly has Tom Brady’s trust. He got nine targets, three of which traveled longer than 20 yards. Edelman caught one of those for 44 yards. Brady targeted him early, often and in all parts of the field. He has WR2 potential.
Who cares about limited snaps? So long as Gronk is out there, Brady is going to get him the ball. He ran just 25 routes, but had the ball thrown in his direction on 11 of them. Most of his targets were what we would classify as middle-middle. That’s in between the numbers and 10-to-19 yards down field. Remember these numbers if and when Bill Belichick uses the phrase “limited snaps” leading up to Sunday. If Gronk plays for the Pats, he plays for his fantasy owners.
Shane Vereen flashed his RB1 potential in PPR leagues. He caught five of his eight targets for 35 yards and ran the ball seven times for 36 yards and a touchdown. Nearly all of his targets were for fewer than 10 yards, but the Patriots did tried to pop the Dolphins once with a shot deep down the right sideline. It was an incompletion, but the mere fact that that play is in the playbook is good news for Vereen’s fantasy owners. He’s a must-start.
Mike Wallace owners, do not consider this a sell-high moment. While you should always be willing to listen to trade offers, it seems he and Ryan Tannehill have finally found something together in Miami. Wallace got more than one-third of the targets last week, catching seven of them for 81 yards and a score. Six of his targets traveled at least 10 yards in the air, with three going for more than 20 yards. He’s the clear top option in the passing game, and this Miami offense might be a bit friskier than anyone thought. What’s more, he didn’t drop any passes on Sunday, and caught two of his five targets -- including his touchdown -- when matched up with Darrelle Revis.
Carolina Panthers 20, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 14
Greg Olsen – 69/71, 8, 11
Jerricho Cotchery – 60/71, 4, 4
Kelvin Benjamin – 59/71, 6, 8
Jason Avant – 36/71, 1, 1
Mike Tolbert – 33/71, 2, 4
DeAngelo Williams – 26/71, 0, 1
Jonathan Stewart – 25/71, 3, 3
Vincent Jackson – 57/57, 4, 9
Mike Evans – 54/57, 5, 9
Brandon Myers – 48/57, 6, 8
Chris Owusu – 30/57, 2, 2
Doug Martin – 29/57, 1, 2
Bobby Rainey – 28/57, 2, 2
Austin Seferian-Jenkins – 20/57, 1, 2
Olsen and Benjamin and Benjamin and Olsen. That’s the takeaway from the Panthers’ Week 1 win over the Buccaneers. These two guys are going to be the focal point of the Carolina passing game all season. That they were both able to put up big games with Derek Anderson against what should be at least a league-average Tampa Bay defense speaks volumes about what they can both do over the course of the full season.
Olsen had six targets go for at least 10 yards in the air. He caught three of those for 47 yards and a touchdown. He was targeted deep down the field once and on one screen. Six of Benjamin’s eight targets traveled at least 10 yards, and three went more than 20. He caught one of those for a ridiculous touchdown. The Panthers understand who their playmakers are and will do what it takes to get it in those guys’ hands. For now, I’m starting both Olsen and Benjamin every week.
The Buccaneers won’t be the only team to struggle against the Panthers’ defense this year, but things could get very ugly in Tampa Bay. This line is a mess, affording Josh McCown precious little time to let his receivers get down field. He was under pressure on half of his 40 dropbacks, including both of his interceptions. That helps explain McCown's 5.2 yards per attempt. It was a frustrating day for Jackson, who caught just four of his nine targets for 36 yards. Seferian-Jenkins started to put together the makings of an interesting day, but he was forced to leave due to injury. Myers got eight targets in his stead. Those of you prospecting for tight ends should keep an eye on the big rookie from Washington.
San Francisco 49ers 28, Dallas Cowboys 17
Vernon Davis – 57/58, 4, 6
Anquan Boldin – 49/58, 8, 9
Frank Gore – 42/58, 0, 0
Michael Crabtree – 37/58, 2, 4
Brandon Lloyd – 22/58, 0, 1
Steve Johnson – 19/58, 2, 2
Carlos Hyde – 15/58, 0, 0
Jason Witten – 73/73, 2, 6
DeMarco Murray – 64/73, 3, 4
Terrance Williams – 63/73, 4, 7
Dez Bryant – 55/73, 4, 6
Cole Beasley – 47/73, 4, 5
This has to begin with an appreciation for Boldin, a perennially underrated fantasy commodity who just keeps getting it done. He caught eight of his nine targets for 99 yards. He was targeted just once deep down the field, and of course he caught that, adding on 13 yards after the catch for a long reception of 37 yards. Colin Kaepernick’s quarterback rating when throwing to Boldin was a robust 118.2. He’s a touch more valuable in PPR leagues, but either way Boldin is a guy who we should be trusting going forward.
Crabtree will clearly play more than 63.8 percent of the 49ers’ snaps most weeks. The good news is that he was out there on nearly all of Kaepernick’s dropbacks. He definitely wasn’t his usual self on Sunday. It might be worth checking with his owner to see if you can get him at a bit of a discount this week.
Zero passes to the running backs is a bit of a surprise, but Gore long ago ceased being a big-time pass-catching back. We’ll have more on these two later in the week.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the Cowboys’ breakdown is that Bryant was not targeted on one pass outside the numbers. He did all of his work in the middle of the field, exposing himself to the types of hits that limited his snap count in this game. The Cowboys simply have to get him on the sidelines more often to keep him healthy.
Tony Romo was just 1-for-5 on passes that traveled at least 20 yards in the air. They weren’t exactly coming up short, though. His back doesn’t seem to be a major concern at this time. While Witten caught only two passes for 14 yards, Romo did look for him on deep balls. That would be a welcome development for his fantasy owners. Don’t get too excited about Beasley’s usage last week. Part of it was driven by Bryant’s health, and all five of his targets were for fewer than 10 yards.
Terrance Williams caught three passes on targets of more than 10 yards for 48 yards, but he also showed why his ceiling is a bit limited, even in what should be a good offense. He had just one yard after the catch on four receptions. He’s not exactly a dynamic receiver.
Denver Broncos 31, Indianapolis Colts 24
Reggie Wayne – 71/76, 9, 13
T.Y. Hilton – 67/76, 5, 11
Hakeem Nicks – 59/76, 5, 5
Coby Fleener – 50/76, 3, 8
Ahmad Bradshaw – 45/76, 5, 6
Dwayne Allen – 39/76, 4, 5
Trent Richardson – 30/76, 3, 4
Emmanuel Sanders – 72/77, 6, 9
Julius Thomas – 70/77, 7, 8
Demaryius Thomas – 69/77, 4, 11
Montee Ball – 68/77, 2, 2
Andre Caldwell – 42/77, 2, 5
Cody Latimer – 0/77, 0, 0
The Colts have a bad defense and a below-average running game. Andrew Luck may not have to throw the ball 53 times every game, but he is going to be among the league leaders in attempts this year. That is great news for anyone who owns someone in this passing game.
We just appreciated one veteran, so how about another? Reggie Wayne should have a bust in Canton one day, but he’s still doing work on the field. He caught nine of his 13 targets for 98 yards and was the best receiver out there for the Colts. Hilton may be the big-play guy now, but it’s pretty clear where Luck turns when he needs a key conversion. He caught four of his seven targets that went at least 10 yards for a total of 73 yards. As usual, the Colts moved him all over the field. He caught all three of his targets with Aqib Talib in coverage for 40 yards. All Wayne didn’t do on Sunday night was get in the end zone. He’ll rectify that in short order.
Hilton needs to hit on the big plays down the field to turn a profit for his fantasy owners, and he didn’t do that on Sunday. As such, he had just five receptions for 41 yards. The good news is that he got two targets that traveled 20-plus yards in the air. The Colts will keep taking shots with him. Eventually, they’ll connect. He was completely stymied by Talib, catching just one of his five targets with the star corner in coverage.
Bradshaw hit huge on screens, taking three of them for 39 yards. He simply did everything better than Richardson, and has to get more playing time going forward. I’d be bidding on him aggressively this week.
Raise your hand if you had Sanders getting more snaps than both of the Thomases in the first week of the season. It’s clear that the Broncos plan to feature Sanders while Wes Welker is out, and perhaps even after the latter returns from his suspension. Sanders had two targets for more than 20 yards, another for more than 10, and one screen pass among his nine targets. He has to be started every single week.
There’s no reason to fret over Demaryius Thomas. For whatever reason, he and Peyton just couldn’t connect on Sunday night. Everyone is going to put up a clunker every now and again. He was deployed in much the same way he was a year ago, but things just didn’t work out against the Colts.
You just can’t cover Julius Thomas with a linebacker. He torched Jerrell Freeman and D’Qwell Jackson for a combined four catches, 85 yards and two touchdowns. His target chart looks more like that of a receiver, getting one target for 20-plus yards, two more of at least 10 yards and one screen. He’s a matchup nightmare who will continue to haunt defenses.
Cody Latimer getting zero snaps was certainly a surprise. He can still be a long-range option, though. I wouldn’t cut him unless I was desperate for the roster spot.
Detroit Lions 35, New York Giants 14
Victor Cruz – 59/62, 2, 6
Rueben Randle – 58/62, 2, 3
Larry Donnell – 55/62, 5, 8
Jerrel Jernigan – 53/62, 4, 7
Rashad Jennings – 42/62, 4, 5
Andre Williams – 20/62, 0, 1
Golden Tate – 55/68, 6, 6
Calvin Johnson – 54/86, 7, 11
Brandon Pettigrew – 43/68, 1, 1
Jeremy Ross – 35/68, 0, 0
Joique Bell – 35/68, 1, 1
Reggie Bush – 31/68, 6, 6
Joseph Fauria – 29/68, 1, 3
Eric Ebron – 18/68, 0, 2
No offense looked more out of sorts than the Giants did on Monday night. Cruz had just two receptions, but he also had two drops on balls that would have significantly padded his yardage total. Tight end Larry Donnell had the best night, but he also was totally clueless on a hot read that resulted in an interception for Eli Manning. There was very little happening down the field, with Manning attempting just two passes that traveled more than 20 yards in the air.
Randle logged the most disappointing performance. He got just three targets, catching two of them for one yard. None went longer than nine yards in the air. While there are some weapons on this offense, there are also some real problems that could hamstring it all season. I’d be starting Cruz but staying away from the rest of the pass catchers this week.
Jennings was Monday's lone bright spot for New York's passing game. He looked great as a receiver, catching four of his five targets for 50 yards. He showed an understanding of how to set up his blocks, as three of his catches and 45 of his yards came on screen plays. He nearly got in the end zone on one, taking it all the way down to the 1-yard-line.
So Calvin Johnson had a pretty good game, huh? It was just more of the same from him. Seven catches, 11 targets, 164 yards, two scores, and a handful of highlights. Five of his targets were for more than 20 yards. He caught three of them for 105 yards and both touchdowns. He is, quite simply, unguardable.
While Bush got six targets to Bell’s one, Bell played more snaps and the touches were split right down the middle, which each back getting 15. Bush is more the home-run hitter and pass catcher, with Bell serving as the more reliable runner. In games like this where the Lions are ahead comfortably, expect Bell to play more.
Tate had a great showing in his first game as Johnson’s sidekick, catching all six of his targets for 93 yards. He ran mostly short and intermediate routes, but he and Stafford connecting on one deep shot down the right sideline for 44 yards. Any tiny bit of pressure that he can take off Johnson makes this offense that much more dangerous. You want to invest in the Lions. Tate might be the cheapest way possible.
Arizona Cardinals 18, San Diego Chargers 17
Keenan Allen – 61/62, 5, 9
Antonio Gates – 54/62, 6, 10
Malcom Floyd – 53/62, 4, 6
Eddie Royal – 36/62, 1, 6
Danny Woodhead – 32/62, 1, 1
Ladarius Green – 26/62, 2, 2
Ryan Mathews – 24/62, 2, 2
Michael Floyd – 66/74, 5, 7
Larry Fitzgerald – 63/74, 1, 4
John Carlson – 62/74, 1, 1
John Brown – 44/74, 2, 5
Andre Ellington – 41/74, 5, 5
Jonathan Dwyer – 24/74, 2, 3
Rob Housler – 22/74, 1, 3
Ted Ginn – 20/74, 2, 3
There were two very interesting developments with the Chargers on Monday night. First was the breakdown of snaps and targets for Gates and Green. Gates played 28 more snaps and got eight more targets than the youngster many expected to take over the primary tight end role this year. Gates looked far from finished, catching eight balls for 81 yards, including a long of 34 yards. Green, on the other hand, ran only 10 routes, less than one-third of Gates’ total. The Chargers may just be easing Green in, but Gates looks like the tight end to own in San Diego. He should be bid on in leagues where he was passed over in the draft.
The other development was the odd disappearance of Keenan Allen. He had just one target that was longer than 10 yards, and that resulted in a dropped pass. All eight of his other targets were across the short middle. He caught five and dropped one for just 37 yards. He was a darling of many this preseason, but there’s also a reason to trust a guy with a track record. That’s not to say you should be panicking on Allen just yet, but he is, by no means, the slam dunk many thought he was.
Michael Floyd, however, does appear to be a slam dunk. He repeatedly pushed back the Chargers secondary, taking the top off and stretching the field for Carson Palmer. Three of his targets traveled at least 20 yards in the air. He caught two of them for 92 yards, including a long of 63. He didn’t have any drops, and Palmer had a rating of 113.7 when throwing to him. There is legitimate top-10 receiver upside here.
Larry Fitzgerald, meanwhile, went without a target for the first three quarters of a game for the first time in his career. That certainly isn’t a reason to panic, but there is reason to believe that he’s now the No. 2 receiver in Arizona. Rookie John Brown was a fixture of the passing game, playing in 44 snaps and getting five targets. He showed nifty moves in getting into the end zone for what proved to be the game-winning touchdown. His role in a potent passing offense should make him a hot waiver-wire target this week.
Finally, Andre Ellington put the fantasy community back at ease by playing and looking pretty good for a guy dealing with a foot injury. He caught all five of his targets for 27 yards, and the Cardinals didn’t seem to have to scale anything back for him. He wasn’t particularly effective on screens, though, getting just 11 yards on three such plays.