By Michael Beller
September 24, 2014

Three weeks into the season, patterns are starting to emerge in each team’s target breakdown. It may just be a little less than one-fifth of the season, but it’s enough time to iron out the statistical anomalies that can result from one bizarre game. With byes starting in Week 4 and some owners undoubtedly starting to feel the pressure of a lackluster start, this is likely the best week of the season to make a big move. The data below can help you zero in on what would be a good trade, and which moves you should avoid.

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All target data is courtesy of, and includes plays that were negated by penalty.

Arizona Cardinals

Larry Fitzgerald -- 25, 8
Michael Floyd -- 23, 1
John Brown -- 17, 4
Andre Ellington -- 14, 2 

Fitzgerald continues to pace the team in red-zone targets, but the interesting development here is the heavy usage of Brown when the Cardinals get in scoring range. That alone makes him a guy worth targeting in deeper leagues. Drew Stanton hooked up with Floyd on a few big plays in the Cardinals’ Week 3 win over the 49ers, resuscitating Floyd’s value. He’s still better off with Carson Palmer, but it was encouraging to see Stanton hit on a couple deep balls.

Atlanta Falcons

Julio Jones -- 33, 3
Harry Douglas -- 17, 1
Roddy White -- 15, 2
Levine Toilolo -- 10, 1
Devin Hester -- 9, 0
Jacquizz Rodgers -- 7, 1
Devonta Freeman -- 7, 2
Steven Jackson -- 4, 1 

Jones was always going to lead this team in targets, and he has been able to rack up huge numbers through three games with White and Douglas both dealing with injuries. Interestingly, Rodgers and Freeman each have more targets than Jackson. It’s clear the Falcons view him as strictly a pure running back, which keeps his ceiling low.

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Baltimore Ravens

Steve Smith -- 32, 8
Dennis Pitta (out for season) -- 23, 4
Torrey Smith -- 20, 2
Justin Forsett -- 15, 2
Owen Daniels -- 10, 4
Bernard Pierce -- 3, 0
Lorenzo Taliaferro -- 1, 0 

It isn’t just that Torrey Smith has 20 targets – four of which came on plays negated by penalty – that is disconcerting. Only three of those traveled more than 20 yards in the air. Smith is at his best when he’s stretching the field, and he just isn’t getting that chance consistent enough this year. Daniels, meanwhile, becomes a decent low-end option at tight end with Pitta out for the season.

Buffalo Bills

Sammy Watkins -- 25, 4
Robert Woods -- 18, 2
Fred Jackson -- 17, 3
Mike Williams -- 10, 4
C.J. Spiller -- 8, 1
Scott Chandler -- 8, 0 

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Watkins doesn’t just lead the team in targets all over the field and in the red zone. He also has eight deep targets, while every other receiver on Buffalo has two. Everything in this passing game runs through Watkins. Also, Jackson has double the targets of Spiller, which suggests he is the better Buffalo running back from week to week.

Carolina Panthers

Greg Olsen -- 28, 3
Kelvin Benjamin -- 28, 1
Jason Avant -- 14, 1
Mike Tolbert -- 11, 0
Philly Brown -- 10, 0
Jerricho Cotchery -- 9, 1
Jonathan Stewart -- 7, 0
DeAngelo Williams -- 1, 0 

It’s a little bit of a disappointment that Benjamin has just one target in the red zone, but that’s a number that should make its way comfortably into double digits this season. Olsen has caught two of his three red-zone targets, and one of those went for a score. He’s a near-lock to be a top-five tight end.

Chicago Bears

Alshon Jeffery -- 31, 2
Brandon Marshall -- 30, 8
Martellus Bennett -- 28, 6
Matt Forte -- 25, 3
Santonio Holmes -- 10, 1 

Don’t assume that Bennett has been so frequently targeted this year only because Marshall and Jeffery have been banged up. Bennett scored the first touchdown of the year for the Bears, and can dominate the middle with the two big receivers drawing so much attention out wide. The per-game targets will likely come down across the board, as the Bears have to get Matt Forte more involved on the ground.

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Cincinnati Bengals

Mohamed Sanu -- 20, 4
A.J. Green -- 20, 2
Giovani Bernard -- 18, 1
Brandon Tate -- 10, 0
Jermaine Gresham -- 9, 2
Tyler Eifert -- 3, 0
Jeremy Hill -- 0, 0 

Looking for another reason why Green is so good. He’s incredibly efficient on deep balls. Green has had four targets that have traveled at least 20 yards in the air this season. He has caught both that have been catchable, totaling 100 yards and a touchdown. 

Cleveland Browns

Andrew Hawkins -- 33, 2
Miles Austin -- 23, 4
Taylor Gabriel -- 14, 2
Jordan Cameron -- 9, 2
Terrance West -- 4, 1
Isaiah Crowell -- 2, 0
Ben Tate -- 0, 0 

Hawkins has been a target monster for the Browns, and he still had 10 balls thrown his way with Jordan Cameron back last week. Cameron will likely lead the team in targets going forward, but Hawkins is capable of being a fantasy option now that bye weeks have begun. Miles Austin is in that boat, as well, after getting four red-zone targets in the first three games of the season.

Dallas Cowboys

Dez Bryant -- 26, 2
Jason Witten -- 18, 1
Terrance Williams -- 15, 4
Cole Beasley -- 13, 2
DeMarco Murray -- 11, 1 

Witten has just one red-zone target through three games, which is all you need to know to see how far the tight end has fallen. His 1.13 yards per route run ranks No. 23 among tight ends who have received at least 25 percent of their team’s targets. He’s simply no better than a matchup play at this point.

Denver Broncos

Emmanuel Sanders -- 33, 4
Demaryius Thomas -- 31, 7
Julius Thomas -- 17, 6
Montee Ball -- 8, 2
Wes Welker -- 8, 0
Andre Caldwell -- 6, 1
Jacob Tamme -- 4, 1 

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Sanders leads the Broncos in targets, receptions and yards, but has yet to get into the end zone. Meanwhile, Demaryius Thomas has been a major fantasy disappointment thus far this year, though he leads the team in red-zone targets. Expect both of those to flip soon. So long as Sanders is getting plenty of targets, he’s going to score somewhere in the neighborhood of six touchdowns this year. Thomas is set for a breakout after the Denver bye. The Broncos wasted no time getting Welker involved in the offense, as Peyton Manning targeted him eight times in his first game.

Detroit Lions

Calvin Johnson -- 34, 5
Golden Tate -- 23, 1
Reggie Bush -- 17, 3
Joique Bell -- 12, 1
Eric Ebron -- 9, 2
Joseph Fauria -- 6, 2 

The Lions play the Jets, who are especially tough against the run, this week. The above numbers illustrate why Bush should still be in lineups, but owners should approach Bell with caution. Bush has more targets and receptions than Bell, and already has had three balls thrown in his direction inside the 20-yard-line. The Lions are likely to focus on the pass this week, and that would suggest more Bush than Bell.

Green Bay Packers

Jordy Nelson -- 38, 6
Randall Cobb -- 22, 5
Andrew Quarless -- 12, 3
Davante Adams -- 10, 2
Eddie Lacy -- 7, 2
Jarrett Boykin -- 7, 2

Until Adams or Boykin significantly distances himself from the other, there just isn’t any fantasy value in the Packers’ third wide receiver. There could, however, be some hidden value in Quarless. If you just lost Dennis Pitta or Kyle Rudolph, you may want to take a shot on Quarless, who looks like the third option in the Green Bay passing attack for the time being. Even though this team struggled last week, it was encouraging to see Aaron Rodgers not back off his connection with Nelson.

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Houston Texans 

Andre Johnson -- 29, 6
DeAndre Hopkins -- 21, 3
Garrett Graham -- 8, 1
Damaris Johnson -- 7, 0
Arian Foster -- 5, 1
Alfred Blue -- 1, 0

Hopkins has been the more productive receiver in Houston, catching 13 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns, but Johnson is getting more opportunities all over the field. Hopkins has four deep targets while Johnson has none, but it’s clear Ryan Fitzpatrick favors Johnson in the red zone. That has to start manifesting itself in touchdowns sooner or later.

Indianapolis Colts

T.Y. Hilton -- 28, 3
Reggie Wayne -- 26, 2
Coby Fleener -- 15, 3
Ahmad Bradshaw -- 14, 6
Hakeem Nicks -- 12, 4
Dwayne Allen -- 12, 3
Trent Richardson -- 10, 0 

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Bradshaw’s six red-zone targets are just six more reasons to prefer him to Richardson for fantasy purposes. Bradshaw has caught all six of those passes, turning three of them into touchdowns. The Colts actually have a pretty remarkable touchdown rate on their targets inside the 20, as they’ve scored eight times on 23 red-zone targets. That speaks to how good Andrew Luck has been this season. 

Jacksonville Jaguars

Allen Robinson -- 18, 2
Allen Hurns -- 18, 0
Marqise Lee -- 15, 1
Marcedes Lewis -- 12, 0
Cecil Shorts -- 10, 1
Toby Gerhart -- 6, 0 

Robinson missed the first game of the season, and he still leads the team in targets -- both overall and in the red zone. The rookie out of Penn State is the No. 1 receiver on this team, and the best fantasy option. Hurns was the darling of Week 1, but he’s completely dependent on big plays. I’d rather have both Robinson and Lee. This entire offense could pick up now that Blake Bortles has ascended to the starter’s role.

Kansas City Chiefs

Donnie Avery -- 20, 4
Travis Kelce -- 15, 3
Anthony Fasano -- 13, 2
Dwayne Bowe -- 12, 0
Knile Davis -- 11, 2
Joe McKnight -- 7, 2
Jamaal Charles -- 5, 0

Kelce barely played in Week 1, and yet he already has 15 targets, including three in the red zone, and a touchdown. He’ll be the most productive pass catcher in Kansas City this year. Davis was great a week ago, but Charles could return to the field this week. Even if Davis has played his way into a greater share of the touches out of the backfield, he won’t have a significant enough share to be worth starting in fantasy leagues when Charles is back.

Miami Dolphins 

Mike Wallace -- 32, 5
Brian Hartline -- 20, 3
Charles Clay -- 19, 3
Lamar Miller -- 15, 4
Knowshon Moreno -- 0, 0 

There seem to be parallel resistance movements against Wallace and Miller that I just can’t figure out. I suppose they’re linked to Ryan Tannehill and some dubious play calling in Miami, but these are two big fantasy weapons, though there is a chance in Miller’s case that only lasts until Moreno returns. However, I wouldn’t assume that he cedes the starter’s job back to Moreno when the latter returns. Miller already has 213 yards on 37 carries, good for 5.8 yards per rush. So long as he remains that effective on the ground, the Dolphins have to get him touches.

Minnesota Vikings

Greg Jennings -- 18, 3
Kyle Rudolph -- 18, 1
Cordarrelle Patterson -- 17, 1
Matt Asiata -- 14, 3
Jerick McKinnon -- 8, 0 

With Rudolph out the next six weeks (groin), all his targets are going to have to go somewhere, and chances are Jennings and Patterson gobble up most of those. The ceiling of Minnesota’s offense increased with Teddy Bridgewater taking over as the starter, but Norv Turner needs to do more to get the ball in Patterson’s hands. He’s the only real playmaker at Bridgewater’s disposal with Adrian Peterson exiled.

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New England Patriots

Julian Edelman -- 32, 6
Rob Gronkowski -- 24, 5
Shane Vereen -- 17, 1
Brandon LaFell -- 14, 1
Kenbrell Thompkins -- 12, 1
Danny Amendola -- 10, 0
Tim Wright -- 5, 1
Stevan Ridley -- 3, 0
Aaron Dobson -- 3, 0

First, take everyone beneath Vereen and pretend like they aren’t even there -- all except for Ridley are completely irrelevant in fantasy leagues, and Ridley goes all his meaningful damage on the ground. Vereen’s one red-zone target is discouraging and driving his disappointing start to the season. Edelman, meanwhile, is a bit of a surprise with six red-zone targets. There’s a real lid on this offense that won’t be lifted until they start hitting on some big plays. Tom Brady is just 1-for-13 on passes that have traveled more than 20 yards in the air.

New Orleans Saints

Jimmy Graham -- 32, 5
Brandin Cooks -- 24, 2
Marques Colston -- 14, 2
Pierre Thomas -- 13, 2
Kenny Stills -- 9, 1
Mark Ingram -- 5, 0
Khiry Robinson -- 1, 0 

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For years, fantasy owners have been able to count on Brees-to-Colston, even with both players approaching the twilight of their careers, but that may no longer be the case, since Colston has just 14 targets through three games. The big play isn’t really part of his repertoire anymore, so he needs as many targets as possible, and needs to be efficient with them, as well. At this point, it’s hard to trust Colston as any more than a WR3.

New York Giants

Larry Donnell -- 22, 4
Victor Cruz -- 22, 1
Rueben Randle -- 21, 5
Rashad Jennings -- 10, 1 

Randle has all the promise in the world, largely because of the way the Giants use him, but he just can’t seem to establish any sort of consistency. He has five targets in the red zone, but has only caught two of them. If he had a better catch rate inside the 20, we could be looking at a legitimate fantasy starter. As it stands, he’s no more than a depth guy. It was encouraging to see Victor Cruz put together a strong game last week, which could be a sign of things to come.

New York Jets

Jeremy Kerley -- 24, 4
Eric Decker -- 16, 1
Jeff Cumberland -- 13, 3
Jace Amaro -- 9, 0
Chris Johnson -- 9, 1
David Nelson -- 8, 1
Chris Ivory -- 5, 1 

The Jets and Geno Smith get a bit of a pass for Decker’s usage in the red zone because he has missed time with a hamstring injury in each of the last two games, but one red-zone target through three games is borderline inexcusable. There’s a reason he led the Broncos in red-zone targets each of the last two years, outpacing Demaryius Thomas. If the Jets want to turn around their red zone offense, the first thing they’ll do is give Decker a chance to make more plays.

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Oakland Raiders

James Jones – 24, 4
Denarius Moore – 20, 1
Mychal Rivera – 15, 0
Rod Streater – 13, 1
Marcel Reece – 11, 1
Darren McFadden – 8, 0
Maurice Jones-Drew – 0, 0
Latavius Murray – 0, 0 

Yuck. There’s just nothing to like here, beyond James Jones in garbage time. The problem with that is it’s so hard to depend on garbage-time production. Jones definitely enters the starting discussion now that we’ve reached the bye-week portion of the schedule, but you’re still going to have to hunt for the right matchup.

Philadelphia Eagles

Jeremy Maclin – 33, 4
Riley Cooper – 20, 4
Darren Sproles – 18, 2
Jordan Matthews – 18, 4
Zach Ertz – 15, 1
LeSean McCoy – 14, 1 

Well that was a fun calendar year or so of fantasy relevance for Cooper, huh? Now that Matthews has shown up for the Eagles, it’s likely only a matter of time before he’s stealing looks from Cooper. The veteran is still lining up with Maclin in two-wide sets, but Matthews could soon take those away, as well. Given the potency of this offense, Matthews could be a WR3 for the rest of the year. There’s bound to be a few duds, but he’s going to put up some big games, as well.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Antonio Brown – 30, 5
Markus Wheaton – 20, 2
Heath Miller – 17, 2
Le’Veon Bell – 15, 0
LeGarrette Blount – 2, 1 

It’s a bit of a surprise that Bell doesn’t yet have a red-zone target, given that he has done everything else for the Steelers this season. I’d expect him to get somewhere in the neighborhood of 5-to-7 on the season, especially since he has out-carried Blount in the red zone, nine to three. That’s just more reason for his owners to be excited about him for the rest of the year.

San Diego Chargers

Eddie Royal – 21, 3
Antonio Gates – 18, 2
Keenan Allen – 18, 3
Malcom Floyd – 14, 2
Donald Brown – 10, 3
Ladarius Green – 9, 2
Danny Woodhead (out for season) – 6, 2

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I was as surprised as anyone to discover that Royal leads the Chargers in targets. I wasn’t a big Allen fan coming into the year, but with three games of near-bupkus production, he has to be coming at a discount in your league. He might be the best buy-low target on the market, in that you can realistically get him at a discount, and he’s likely on the cusp of breaking out in 2014.

Seattle Seahawks

Percy Harvin – 18, 2
Doug Baldwin – 17, 2
Marshawn Lynch – 10, 2
Jermaine Kearse – 10, 1
Zach Miller – 7, 0 

What a bizarre passing offense this is. There really isn’t a high-efficiency guy in the group, and the only pass catcher you can even consider starting at this point is Harvin. The lack of options in the passing game has led the Seahawks to getting Lynch more involved, especially near the goal line. He has caught both of his red-zone targets for touchdowns. If that’s something the Seahawks break out with regularity, Lynch is going to be a top-three back this year.

San Francisco 49ers

Michael Crabtree – 24, 4
Anquan Boldin – 20, 3
Steve Johnson – 14, 1
Vernon Davis – 11, 1
Carlos Hyde – 4, 2
Frank Gore – 2, 0 

Crabtree has been very productive this year, but it would be nice to see Colin Kaepernick target him more frequently deep down the field. Crabtree has just one target that traveled at least 20 yards in the air. Given that this offense has struggled, you’d expect to see an uptick in big-play opportunities for the best player on the offense.

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St. Louis Rams

Jared Cook – 22, 2
Brian Quick – 22, 1
Lance Kendricks – 15, 2
Kenny Britt – 11, 1
Austin Pettis – 8, 3
Benny Cunningham – 8, 1
Zac Stacy – 7, 0 

Quick and Austin Davis really seem to have developed a rapport. They’ve hit on just one deep ball, but they’ve also taken a shot at it at least once per game. The one they did complete went for a 51-yard touchdown. Quick has made haste this year, elevating himself from the waiver wire to a WR3 in just three weeks. You can still safely ignore Britt and Pettis.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Vincent Jackson – 23, 1
Mike Evans – 22, 2
Brandon Myers – 15, 1
Bobby Rainey – 13, 1
Doug Martin – 1, 0 

The good news for the pass catchers in Tampa Bay is that Mike Glennon can’t possibly do any worse than Josh McCown did as the starter. Glennon already has some chemistry with Jackson, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see the two do well together this week. They hooked up on Jackson’s first touchdown of the season after Glennon took over for an injured, ineffective McCown last week. We’ll cover the backfield a little later this week, but expect Martin to be back in the starting lineup this week.

Tennessee Titans

Delanie Walker – 22, 4
Kendall Wright – 22, 1
Justin Hunter – 21, 2
Nate Washington – 15, 1
Dexter McCluster – 6, 1
Bishop Sankey – 1, 0
Shonn Greene – 0, 0

Hunter supporters, allow me a word of encouragement. The breakout train hasn’t exactly gotten going yet, but the Titans are giving him every opportunity. Jake Locker has targeted him on passes of 20-plus yards seven times this year. Only Julio Jones, Calvin Johnson, Jeremy Maclin, Michael Floyd and Sammy Watkins have more. He caught one and dropped another, but the mere fact that the Titans keep going to this well is good news.

Washington Redskins

Pierre Garcon – 33, 1
DeSean Jackson – 24, 3
Niles Paul – 23, 3
Andre Roberts – 16, 3
Roy Helu – 6, 0
Alfred Morris – 0, 0

The obstinacy of the Washington play calling with regard to Morris is infuriating. How does your starting running back have zero targets through three games? Are his hands made of cinder blocks? Even if they don’t plan on him being a huge part of the passing attack, it has to be smart to make the defense at least think he might be an option when Kirk Cousins drops back. Garcon and Jackson have combined for nine deep targets this year. This team is going to try to push the ball down the field as much as it can.

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