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The All-Out Blitz - Vol. 27
An Ever-changing Landscape
11/25/10

Aggressiveness is a characteristic that tends to reward fantasy owners more times than not. In the NFL, an offensive line will sometimes hold up long enough to give the quarterback enough time to beat man coverage down the field and make the defense look foolish against a fierce pass rush. More often than not, though, when a defense brings the heat and forces the action, crisis management becomes the name of the game for the opposing team.

In that same vein, I hope to apply that same kind of pressure to the owners in all of my leagues by beating my opponents to the punch in regards to personnel moves. Sometimes, reaching a conclusion about a player too quickly is much like trying to blitz Peyton Manning – dangerous and painful. However, coming to a correct conclusion two weeks or two minutes quicker than your opponents is considered foresight. Fantasy owners can be a uneasy lot, knowing that one two-or-three-game losing streak can wreak irreparable damage to his/her team’s chances to make a visit to the fantasy postseason. But just as it is in the NFL and in life, it’s hard to land the big prize by playing scared. Thus, I will strive each week to help each of you become a smart blitzer, so to speak.


It’s about this time every season when the long NFL season starts wearing on the players just about as much as it does fantasy owners. Injuries strike and, when they do, they seem to quickly erode the depth that both real and fantasy teams try so hard to build throughout the season.

Part of the ebb and flow of the fantasy football season is that it is almost always in a state of flux. But as we have discussed before in this space, injuries tend to level out the playing field and provide opportunities for reserves that we never would have imagined counting on during the fantasy postseason. Given the rash of new injuries over the last two weeks, it seems like a good time to evaluate who will be missing some time and who will directly benefit from their absence in fantasy circles.

Antonio Gates (torn plantar fascia; return unknown) – For whatever reason, fantasy owners have a tendency to dismiss foot injuries. And it is a bit surprising because, for an athlete, the physical game starts with a player’s base (feet and legs). I suppose some of that dismissal can be attributed to the fact that athletes often play through such injuries – especially foot injuries – so owners tend to overlook them. Either way, owners who didn’t realize how painful this injury is prior to Gates’ absence should be getting a pretty good idea now as the TE had a consecutive-games streak of 94 going prior to this injury. Expect Gates to return before the end of the fantasy season, but as we are seeing now, it’s not a given that he’ll be back anytime soon.

Who it benefits: Randy McMichael (so long as his hamstring is not an issue), Kris Wilson, Vincent Jackson, Darren Sproles. McMichael is a serviceable fill-in, but much like Jermichael Finley and Green Bay, the Chargers can’t just plug in the next TE on the depth chart and expect similar numbers. As long as Gates sits, there is a good chance that Philip Rivers will be throwing to Jackson and Malcom Floyd in the red zone with a lot more regularity. As crazy as it sounds, Jackson goes from a 11-week roster stash to a solid fantasy play in Week 12 although owners should realize that players who hold out as long as he did open themselves up to injury (hamstring pulls and the like) because they are not in “football shape”. But Jackson has been practicing with the team for most of this month, which leads to my optimism with him in regards to his potential immediate production and ability to avoid injury.

Hakeem Nicks

The loss of Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith leaves the Giants passing game in a pinch.

Hakeem Nicks (compartment syndrome; three weeks, possibly more) and Steve Smith (pectoral, possibly 2-3 more weeks) – The Nicks’ injury came out of nowhere on Monday and robs the Giants of their most dynamic playmaker in the passing game. Along with the loss of Smith (as well as the season-ending injuries to reserve receivers Victor Cruz and Ramses Barden), New York will field a starting duo of Mario Manningham and the well-traveled Derek Hagan. Eli Manning, who was flirting with top-five QB status last week, now must be considered nothing more than a matchup play in 12-team leagues. Smith said on Monday a Week 13 return is “far-fetched” and stated that he does not anticipate being a full-time player upon his return, meaning his timeline may be about the same as Nick’s.

Who it benefits: Hagan, Manningham, Kevin Boss, Travis Beckum. Hagan figures to slide into Nicks’ spot on offense, although it would be foolish to suggest he’ll average anything close to the 10 targets/game that Nicks did. As the most established receiver remaining on the Giants’ roster, Manningham will garner the most attention from Manning as well as opposing defenses. Even though he is best known as a deep threat, Manningham has shown an ability to fill Smith’s shoes – in the short term anyway. For fantasy owners, Hagan warrants starting consideration from desperate Nicks’ owners in deeper leagues, but expect more reliance on the running game and short throws to Boss. Beckum is an explosive yet raw TE and, as such, is a wait-and-see proposition for fantasy owners. Fortunately, for all parties involved with the Giants’ passing game, they face the porous secondaries of the Jags and Redskins over the next two weeks, which means Manning can still be started, Manningham should be expected to perform at a high level and Hagan should be expected to post low-end WR3 numbers. With any luck, Smith will return for a Week 14 game at Minnesota and Nicks will be able to return in Week 15 vs. Philadelphia.

Mike Williams (sprained foot; unknown return) – The Seahawks’ main man in the passing game was diagnosed with the aforementioned injury, but the Seattle Times is reporting that Big Mike’s injury “could be serious”, with HC Pete Carroll calling the injury “unusual”. With Williams’ big numbers against the best defense vs. opposing WRs coming into Week 11, it goes without saying that Seattle’s highly questionable WR corps just got that much worse.

Who it benefits: Ben Obomanu, Golden Tate, Brandon Stokley, Deon Butler. The door opens yet again for Tate to have some fantasy value this season, but first he’ll need to be fully recovered from his high ankle sprain (always a dicey proposition). Butler recently lost his starting spot to Obomanu, which should give the latter player the best chance for fantasy value from this cast of characters. Given that Tate has been unable to stay healthy or be a consistent route runner all year, it would be hard to put any amount of faith in him as a fantasy player until 2011. The rookie is the best WR of this bench long-term, but for fantasy owners desperate to find a receiver that may be of service to them this season, Obomanu and Stokley may be the best bets in Seattle until Williams can return – if he can. With that said, many owners should have better options already on their bench.

Jahvid Best (turf toes, both feet; may miss Week 12 and figures to be limited all season) – There was some word weeks ago that Best’s toes were improving, but it is becoming more and more clear that we aren’t going to see the best of the rookie until 2011. If, at 2-9, Detroit decides it is time to shut the rookie down at some point soon, he could easily be a huge value pick in next year’s fantasy drafts if Detroit addresses its offensive line like I believe it will. However, there is a lesson to be learned here: toe injuries, particularly turf toes, often leave running backs as shells of themselves in the season they are suffered. Going forward, owners in redraft leagues would be wise to deal a RB who suffers an early-season toe injury if they can get anything close to near-market value for him.

Who it benefits: Maurice Morris, Jerome Felton. It’s amazing how Morris seems to emerge about this time every year with some kind of fantasy value. However, with Kevin Smith out for the year, Morris may once again become an option for desperate owners. A repeat of his 14-touch game in Week 11 this Thursday vs. the Patriots is a reasonable expectation for Morris if Best does not play, although Felton would probably replace him whenever Detroit gets down by the goal line. And if Best ends up on injured reserve at any point, that same kind of workload would also be reasonable going forward. Felton is probably at least one more injury away from being fantasy-relevant. Aaron Brown is next in line after Morris, but isn’t likely to see enough touches to be useful in fantasy leagues, barring an injury to Morris.

Austin Collie (concussion-like symptoms; possibly 1-2 weeks) – Collie was well on his way to another very productive game in Week 11 but reportedly experienced some grogginess after getting hit “pretty good” according to HC Jim Caldwell and was removed from the game. Owners looking for good news for a quick return from Collie will be happy to know that the Colts have yet to rule this as another concussion, so Indianapolis may have prevented the second-year WR from missing significant time or causing himself long-term damage by pulling him early. He’s already been ruled out for this week, but Week 13 is realistic provided he passes his baseline tests again. However, it would not surprise me if the Colts opted to give their slot WR two full weeks to recover, meaning Week 14 may be the target date.

Who it benefits: Blair White. Although he is no Collie, the undrafted free agent has proven to be a very reasonable facsimile. Of all the previous players mentioned above that can expected to contribute in the absence of the player in front of them on the depth chart (and not already a key part of the offense), White is the most likely to come in right away and produce immediately for as long as Collie is out, as his 5-42-2 line from the Colts’ Week 11 loss should attest.

The Bengals secondary
Johnathan Joseph (high ankle sprain; return unknown)
Chris Crocker (torn MCL; out for season)
Roy Williams (concussion; likely 1-2 weeks)
Brandon Ghee (groin; return unknown)

Hardcore NFL fans likely already know that teams usually dress between 8-10 defensive backs for game day. So it goes without saying that when nearly half of a team’s depth chart is depleted during the course of one game, well, bad things will happen. And it got ugly quick for Cincinnati in Week 11 when the Bengals surrendered 35 unanswered points in the second half after jumping out to a 31-14 halftime lead. Cincinnati added CBs Jonathan Wade and Fred Bennett on Monday to fill in for Joseph and Ghee, but both of the new additions are better known for getting burnt and losing jobs on CB-needy teams than they are for locking down receivers.

Who it benefits: Obviously, the Bengals’ upcoming opponents, particularly all QBs and WRs. In one week, Cincinnati went from a poor matchup for opposing QBs and WRs to one of the best. Williams’ loss will be felt more vs. the run, but the other three players will be missed in the passing game. With Wade or Bennett almost guaranteed to start at one corner opposite Leon Hall and Reggie Nelson taking over for Crocker, look for opponents to relentlessly target the WR that is facing Wade or Bennett and to go deep regularly as Nelson has been a disappointment due primarily to his inability to diagnose plays early in center field. Adding to the juicy matchup this secondary will become is the toothless Cincinnati pass rush, which has collected a league-low 10 sacks this season. As bad as the Houston Texans’ pass defense has been all season, the Bengals may be on their way to joining them in terms of ineptitude.

After taking a week off, let’s get back to an abbreviated workload/target analysis:

Note: This week, I’ll be focusing on workloads/targets over each player’s last three games for as some high-profile players have seen their workload/targets drop while others have soared. For the sake of simplicity, I will not go back any further than four weeks ago (to avoid “old” numbers from players who may have missed time due to injury) to get the ” last 3” average. Again, five touches/targets is the cutoff at each position.

 RB Workloads
Rk Player 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Total Avg PPR Pts Last 3
1 Frank Gore 23 27 24 28 22 25 23 30 bye 25 17 244 24.4 197.3 24.0
2 Adrian Peterson 22 33 28 bye 19 25 30 30 19 21 15 242 24.2 206.7 18.3
3 Chris Johnson 31 21 32 22 20 28 26 20 bye 18 23 241 24.1 182.1 20.3
4 Maurice Jones-Drew 26 13 24 28 21 19 21 29 bye 26 26 233 23.3 170.0 27.0
5 Arian Foster 34 22 21 19 13 24 bye 24 31 16 28 232 23.2 251.0 25.0
6 Steven Jackson 26 23 11 25 26 30 24 24 bye 28 14 231 23.1 151.4 22.0
7 Ray Rice 23 20 19 9 31 36 17 bye 29 15 25 224 22.4 165.5 23.0
8 Cedric Benson 16 23 29 15 25 bye 21 23 20 19 28 219 21.9 128.3 22.3
9 Darren McFadden 24 32 27 18 DNP DNP 18 23 21 bye 12 175 21.9 162.9 18.7
10 Rashard Mendenhall 24 24 19 27 bye 30 16 17 25 13 23 218 21.8 152.9 20.3
11 Peyton Hillis 13 11 29 29 14 18 17 bye 32 23 27 213 21.3 204.5 27.3
12 Ahmad Bradshaw 22 17 20 25 19 21 26 bye 23 26 14 213 21.3 154.4 21.0
13 Pierre Thomas 22 26 15 DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP bye DNP 63 21.0 51.0 NA
14 Michael Turner 20 9 32 19 19 16 25 bye 24 17 29 210 21.0 139.3 23.3
15 LeSean McCoy 12 20 13 28 23 25 22 bye 19 16 19 197 19.7 201.7 18.0
16 LaDainian Tomlinson 13 15 18 22 25 18 bye 21 21 24 19 196 19.6 172.4 21.3
17 Knowshon Moreno 16 28 DNP DNP DNP 12 17 15 bye 25 20 133 19.0 121.5 20.0
18 Joseph Addai 16 22 15 19 22 17 bye DNP DNP DNP DNP 111 18.5 86.4 NA
19 Matt Forte 24 15 13 14 24 11 15 bye 17 22 27 182 18.2 159.8 22.0
20 Jahvid Best 19 26 9 17 22 18 bye 17 21 21 7 177 17.7 153.5 16.3
21 Jamaal Charles 12 12 15 bye 19 20 15 26 15 19 16 169 16.9 166.4 16.7
22 Ryan Torain DNP DNP 7 18 20 21 21 12 bye DNP DNP 99 16.5 74.6 NA
23 Thomas Jones 11 23 20 bye 8 20 20 20 19 5 15 161 16.1 103.4 13.0
24 Brandon Jackson 20 12 11 10 15 15 16 17 17 bye 18 151 15.1 124.9 17.3
25 Fred Jackson 6 9 4 3 13 bye 24 23 13 31 24 150 15.0 117.0 22.7
26 BenJarvus Green-Ellis 5 10 17 16 bye 10 11 18 9 22 22 140 14.0 111.5 17.7
27 Ronnie Brown 15 14 13 15 bye 20 11 17 14 12 6 137 13.7 96.3 10.7
28 Cadillac Williams 24 28 11 bye 11 17 12 7 9 7 8 134 13.4 102.4 8.0
29 Shonn Greene 6 16 10 22 10 9 bye 7 12 23 15 130 13.0 66.3 16.7
30 LeGarrette Blount DNP DNP 6 bye 4 0 11 24 13 19 26 103 12.9 69.0 19.3
31 Mike Tolbert 2 17 20 18 14 3 3 15 9 bye 27 128 12.8 124.7 17.0
32 Marshawn Lynch 3 17 14 4 bye 20 24 9 11 15 11 128 12.8 64.5 12.3
33 Felix Jones 10 9 7 bye 19 24 12 11 5 17 14 128 12.8 102.1 12.0
34 Chris Ivory DNP DNP 7 12 10 16 15 7 12 bye 23 102 12.8 52.8 14.0
35 Ryan Mathews 20 7 DNP 10 10 15 10 18 11 bye DNP 101 12.6 68.1 14.5
36 Michael Bush DNP DNP 3 9 29 22 16 10 5 bye 6 100 12.5 85.2 7.0
37 Donald Brown 1 17 7 DNP DNP DNP bye 11 18 12 20 86 12.3 55.1 16.7
38 Clinton Portis 19 13 8 13 DNP DNP DNP DNP bye DNP 6 59 11.8 45.2 6.0
39 Justin Forsett 10 9 20 21 bye 11 11 8 2 12 13 117 11.7 96.5 9.0
40 Chris Wells DNP DNP 14 6 21 bye 14 17 1 DNP 8 81 11.6 44.5 8.7
41 Tim Hightower 17 13 12 7 4 bye 7 1 13 15 15 104 10.4 80.9 14.3
42 Marion Barber 10 11 18 bye 6 13 5 9 6 9 14 101 10.1 54.5 9.7
43 Jason Snelling 3 29 15 9 8 5 9 bye 10 9 4 101 10.1 105.0 7.7
44 Ricky Williams 18 10 7 12 bye 14 11 10 2 13 4 101 10.1 65.5 6.3
45 Jonathan Stewart 5 8 10 8 9 bye 14 15 5 DNP DNP 74 9.3 42.3 11.3
46 Fred Taylor 16 5 6 DNP bye DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP 27 9.0 12.4 NA
47 Chester Taylor 12 6 3 3 20 5 5 bye 11 14 11 90 9.0 51.6 12.0
48 Danny Woodhead 0 DNP 3 9 bye 16 11 11 11 6 11 78 8.7 98.9 9.3
49 Willis McGahee 7 3 7 16 10 DNP 12 bye 9 4 10 78 8.7 65.6 7.7
50 Mike Goodson 3 7 4 1 0 bye 1 5 12 26 27 86 8.6 68.4 21.7
51 Brandon Jacobs 14 4 5 7 10 9 12 bye 11 7 6 85 8.5 79.6 8.0
52 Ladell Betts DNP DNP 0 17 15 7 8 4 14 bye 3 68 8.5 62.1 7.0
53 Reggie Bush 7 9 DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP bye DNP 16 8.0 23.1 NA
54 Keiland Williams 0 4 4 0 2 6 1 9 bye 20 29 75 7.5 89.7 19.3
55 Mike Hart DNP 2 0 2 12 11 bye 15 DNP DNP DNP 42 7.0 30.1 NA
56 Jerome Harrison 10 19 DNP 0 6 DNP DNP bye 2 12 0 49 7.0 35.3 4.7
57 John Kuhn 2 9 8 9 5 5 7 8 15 bye 0 68 6.8 38.2 7.7
58 Laurence Maroney DNP DNP 14 13 6 7 0 0 bye DNP DNP 40 6.7 16.4 NA
59 Darren Sproles 7 9 2 6 5 6 11 8 2 bye 10 66 6.6 89.5 6.7
60 C.J. Spiller 11 5 7 3 6 bye 7 10 8 2 DNP 59 6.6 46.5 6.7
61 Julius Jones 8 4 0 DNP DNP 10 2 10 8 bye 6 48 6.0 27.5 8.0
62 Correll Buckhalter 6 11 10 11 6 6 0 4 bye 2 1 57 5.7 49.6 2.3

Quick Hits: For what it is worth, Peyton Hillis leads the pack with 27.3 touches/game over the last three games. Amazingly, 35 running backs are averaging at least 12 touches over their last three games (16 of them are receiving at least 20 touches/game). Of this group of 35, I want to focus on some of the less- heralded RBs on the fantasy scene:

Fred Jackson is not a new name to owners, but his workload since the Bills’ bye week has been a rock-solid 23 touches/game. Those numbers have been buoyed by the absence of rookie C.J. Spiller over most of the last two games, but HC Chan Gailey will need to ask himself if he wants to mess with a good thing after Jackson played a key role in Buffalo winning its only two games this season. It’s probably not going to matter this week because the Steelers’ defense has shut down much better running games than Buffalo’s, but as Jackson likely finds your bench in fantasy for one week, it may be worth paying attention to the game to see if Gailey will go back to giving Spiller 7-10 touches/game.

Someone finally emerged out of the Carolina backfield to be a productive option. Mike Goodson, who was an early-season option for desperate owners in PPR leagues, has managed to post consecutive 100-yard rushing performances – a benchmark neither DeAngelo Williams nor Jonathan Stewart has surpassed even once this season. One has to believe with Williams out for the season, Goodson has earned himself a 10-12 touch/game workload even when Stewart is able to return. Three of the final five games left on the fantasy schedule are bad matchups for the Panthers’ running game, but Seattle (Week 13) and Arizona (Week 15) should be advantageous for Goodson’s owners, if not Stewart’s.

From being one of the last cuts in Titans’ camp this preseason to an afterthought behind Cadillac Williams early in the season, LeGarrette Blount has quickly emerged as the main man in the Bucs’ backfield. As we discussed last week, he’s not going to give his owners much as a receiver, but he is built like a tank and has workload necessary to finish the season as one of fantasy’s best RBs, although he may not overwhelm in either of the next two weeks (at Baltimore, vs. Atlanta). However, he faces the Redskins, Lions and Seahawks over fantasy’s final three weeks – all of which are in the top half of points allowed to opposing RBs.

I’d like to say I’m surprised that a preseason fifth-string RB is making a fantasy impact for Redskins HC Mike Shanahan, but I’m not. Keiland Williams appeared to be about as long of a shot as there was in August, but Willie Parker was released and Larry Johnson was let go not long after. Clinton Portis did an average job at carrying much of the load throughout the first month of the season, but he gave way to injury-prone Ryan Torain once he tore his groin muscle and is now out for the season. After Portis went down for the first time, Williams became a blip on the radar screen as he served as Torain’s passing-game complement, but after a month-long stretch as the Redskins’ bellcow, Torain is nursing a hamstring. His return date is still unknown, which makes Williams the feature back. (Anyone following this revolving door RB situation may want to make a preemptive strike for James Davis, the Browns’ 2009 preseason darling.) While Shanahan is said to be high on Davis, Washington will ride Williams for as long as Torain is sidelined. As we know, Shanahan isn’t to be trusted long-term with RBs, but Williams hasn’t given him much reason to look elsewhere after putting together two quality games. Until he does upset his coach, Williams’ 19.3 touches/game over the last three games makes him a pretty solid start.

 WR Targets
Rk Player 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Total Avg Rec Catch % Last 3
1 Roddy White 23 12 6 9 8 11 13 bye 6 17 11 116 11.6 79 68% 11.3
2 Terrell Owens 13 11 9 15 12 bye 13 12 14 8 9 116 11.6 62 53% 10.3
3 Larry Fitzgerald 15 12 7 11 9 bye 10 12 10 15 11 112 11.2 55 49% 12.0
4 Reggie Wayne 10 9 7 19 11 9 bye 12 16 6 11 110 11.0 71 65% 11.0
5 Andre Johnson 5 17 7 DNP 13 13 bye 10 7 11 9 92 10.2 56 61% 9.0
6 Hakeem Nicks 8 5 11 9 17 7 14 bye 13 8 9 101 10.1 62 61% 10.0
7 Sidney Rice DNP DNP DNP bye DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP 10 10 10.0 3 30% 10.0
8 Brandon Marshall 13 8 17 8 bye 17 9 7 8 7 6 100 10.0 58 58% 7.0
9 Brandon Lloyd 8 4 10 18 14 10 3 12 bye 10 9 98 9.8 54 55% 10.3
10 Calvin Johnson 10 11 7 11 9 7 bye 15 4 14 10 98 9.8 55 56% 9.3
11 Chad Ochocinco 13 9 12 5 6 bye 16 8 7 13 6 95 9.5 50 53% 8.7
12 Steve Smith (NYG) 8 9 12 8 8 9 11 bye 7 DNP DNP 72 9.0 47 65% 7.0
13 Marques Colston 6 8 5 8 12 6 15 9 9 bye 11 89 8.9 62 70% 9.7
14 Mike Williams (SEA) 6 3 5 5 bye 15 16 5 8 17 7 87 8.7 52 60% 10.7
15 Santana Moss 9 13 8 1 12 12 8 10 bye 5 9 87 8.7 57 66% 8.0
16 Pierre Garcon 10 2 DNP DNP 14 7 bye 11 7 9 9 69 8.6 33 48% 8.3
17 Steve Breaston 7 5 8 DNP DNP bye DNP 11 6 10 12 59 8.4 34 58% 9.3
18 Steve Johnson 5 6 4 7 9 bye 10 10 14 8 11 84 8.4 52 62% 11.0
19 Danny Amendola 9 7 7 8 19 5 5 7 bye 8 8 83 8.3 60 72% 7.7
20 Santonio Holmes SUS SUS SUS SUS 9 5 bye 6 9 8 12 49 8.2 27 55% 9.7
21 Dwayne Bowe 5 5 5 bye 8 9 5 6 12 18 8 81 8.1 45 56% 12.7
22 Wes Welker 11 7 6 10 bye 11 6 5 6 12 7 81 8.1 57 70% 8.3
23 Jabar Gaffney 7 5 14 8 11 8 9 7 bye 5 7 81 8.1 51 63% 6.3
24 Mike Williams (TB) 9 7 6 bye 11 9 11 6 10 7 3 79 7.9 43 54% 6.7
25 Anquan Boldin 10 8 11 10 3 6 13 bye 7 7 4 79 7.9 48 61% 6.0
26 Jeremy Maclin 5 6 7 2 9 7 14 bye 8 6 14 78 7.8 47 60% 9.3
27 Michael Jenkins DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP 11 6 bye 4 10 8 39 7.8 20 51% 7.3
28 Miles Austin 11 15 3 bye 12 5 8 12 6 3 3 78 7.8 49 63% 4.0
29 Austin Collie 12 4 16 7 6 9 bye DNP 2 DNP 6 62 7.8 50 81% 4.0
30 Greg Jennings 10 5 6 5 5 7 10 12 7 bye 9 76 7.6 46 61% 9.3
31 Percy Harvin 5 7 8 bye 10 6 8 8 12 6 5 75 7.5 46 61% 7.7
32 Steve Smith (CAR) 9 8 5 3 DNP bye 8 15 6 6 7 67 7.4 34 51% 6.3
33 Malcom Floyd 12 4 10 3 10 5 DNP DNP DNP bye 6 50 7.1 26 52% 6.0
34 Eddie Royal 10 5 9 8 5 10 7 6 bye 5 5 70 7.0 45 64% 5.3
35 Lee Evans 7 0 8 6 8 bye 10 9 8 5 8 69 6.9 33 48% 7.0
36 Nate Burleson 4 1 DNP DNP 6 9 bye 9 8 8 10 55 6.9 37 67% 8.7
37 Davone Bess 4 1 7 12 bye 9 7 9 8 6 5 68 6.8 49 72% 6.3
38 Brandon Gibson DNP DNP 8 4 6 5 5 7 bye 9 10 54 6.8 31 57% 8.7
39 Jerricho Cotchery 5 7 4 5 10 7 bye 13 5 4 DNP 60 6.7 29 48% 7.3
40 Johnny Knox 7 4 6 2 4 11 12 bye 5 7 8 66 6.6 37 56% 6.7
41 Mike Thomas 7 8 6 7 4 9 1 4 bye 9 10 65 6.5 46 71% 7.7
42 DeSean Jackson 11 7 8 7 3 1 DNP bye 8 3 10 58 6.4 33 57% 7.0
43 Nate Washington 4 9 5 5 7 2 4 9 bye 9 9 63 6.3 29 46% 9.0
44 Deion Branch 3 7 6 2 bye 12 8 3 4 8 10 63 6.3 43 68% 7.3
45 Braylon Edwards 3 6 3 7 11 8 bye 4 8 7 6 63 6.3 33 52% 7.0
46 Dez Bryant 12 2 6 bye 6 2 7 9 10 5 4 63 6.3 44 70% 6.3
47 Derrick Mason 5 6 8 8 6 10 3 bye 5 6 6 63 6.3 37 59% 5.7
48 Mike Sims-Walker 2 12 8 1 5 8 6 10 bye 4 DNP 56 6.2 32 57% 7.0
49 Brian Hartline 3 3 11 9 bye 5 5 8 5 7 6 62 6.2 39 63% 6.0
50 Michael Crabtree 8 3 8 6 14 6 5 5 bye 5 2 62 6.2 36 58% 4.0
51 Louis Murphy 7 10 6 7 4 5 4 DNP DNP bye 6 49 6.1 24 49% 6.0
52 Mike Wallace 5 4 4 6 bye 6 4 4 10 11 6 60 6.0 33 55% 9.0
53 Darrius Heyward-Bey 2 13 11 5 2 4 0 9 5 bye DNP 51 5.7 19 37% 5.0
54 Lance Moore 4 0 7 8 4 4 8 8 8 bye 5 56 5.6 38 68% 7.0
55 Donald Driver 7 5 11 3 8 5 1 3 DNP bye 7 50 5.6 32 64% 7.0
56 Mario Manningham 4 6 9 1 2 6 4 bye 4 16 3 55 5.5 38 69% 7.7
57 Early Doucet 3 DNP DNP DNP DNP bye 8 5 3 10 4 33 5.5 17 52% 5.7
58 Brandon LaFell 8 DNP 6 1 8 bye 6 8 3 4 DNP 44 5.5 20 45% 3.5
59 Jordan Shipley 7 6 3 3 DNP bye 6 6 7 2 9 49 5.4 35 71% 6.0
60 James Jones 3 7 5 1 8 3 8 5 9 bye 5 54 5.4 30 56% 6.3
61 Hines Ward 7 4 3 4 bye 8 10 6 6 1 5 54 5.4 33 61% 4.0
62 Randy Moss 8 10 3 1 10 6 7 2 bye 4 3 54 5.4 23 43% 3.0
63 Laurent Robinson 9 4 DNP DNP 2 0 4 6 bye 6 11 42 5.3 19 45% 7.7
64 Anthony Armstrong 5 2 DNP 3 7 7 4 6 bye 5 7 46 5.1 23 50% 6.0
65 David Gettis DNP 5 5 6 6 bye 9 3 5 3 4 46 5.1 25 54% 4.0
66 Josh Morgan 5 8 4 7 4 6 5 2 bye 4 6 51 5.1 26 51% 4.0

Notable WRs who just missed the cut: Jason Avant, Roy Williams, Earl Bennett, Robert Meachem

Quick Hits: It may surprise you that a whopping 40 receivers have been targeted at least seven times/game over the last three contests. Now if we exclude players such as Sidney Rice (Week 11 was his first game back), Mike Sims-Walker and Donald Driver (players who had a bye week and missed a game), the number shrinks a bit, but even in the mid-to-high 30s, that means every team in a three-WR, 12-team league could theoretically have a starting group of receivers who have all been very active in the passing game recently. Not so surprisingly given his recent touchdown binge, Dwayne Bowe leads the pack over the last three games. I still maintain he will disappoint when it matters the most in the fantasy playoffs, but he has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he can take advantage of matchups. And as long as Tony Moeaki remains sidelined, his only competition for catches figures to be Jamaal Charles, so keep starting him (as if you needed me to tell you that).

Of this group of the 40 receivers, I want to focus some of the more surprising names on the list that have seen at least eight targets/game recently:

I think it is still hard for most owners to acknowledge that Buffalo has a receiver that is fantasy relevant, much less a top 10 wideout. In Steve Johnson, the Bills believe they have they found the complement to Lee Evans they have been searching for since Eric Moulds, although it is worth pointing out that Terrell Owens could have been that player last year if he was working with Ryan Fitzpatrick in HC Chan Gailey’s offense. Nevertheless, the Fitzpatrick-Johnson connection has shredded enough secondaries at this point that he is every bit the quality start that Bowe is. Johnson has posted three 100-yard games in his last five starts and is one of the five receivers in the league to average 11 targets over the last three contests. Next up is Pittsburgh, so don’t be too surprised if he comes back down to earth just a bit. Unlike Bowe, however, I tend to think Johnson will help many owners win their league title with a fantasy playoff slate that features Cleveland, Miami and New England.

Somehow, Arizona has managed to win three games despite looking like one of the worst teams in football for most of the season (the Cards have lost five games by double figures). One thing is for sure, the receivers are not to blame. While the entire fantasy world knows about Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston has been a highly underrated fantasy player this season, especially since his return from injury in Week 8. In PPR leagues, he has scored at least 13.8 fantasy points in all but two games. His 5.8 total in Week 9 probably stopped owners from plugging him in over the last two weeks since a 24.1-point showing in Week 8, but it is hard not to like his situation. Over the next few weeks, the Cards begin a three-game home stretch against the Niners (19th in fantasy points allowed to WRs), Rams (20th), Broncos (18th) before hitting the road against the Panthers (29th) in Week 15. They wrap the fantasy schedule with a home date vs. the Cowboys (5th). Now while the schedule isn’t exactly filled with cupcake matchups, the fact that Breaston always works in single coverage opposite Fitzgerald allows him to put up sneaky good numbers much like Nate Burleson does in Detroit now with Calvin Johnson. And given how often Arizona is playing from behind nowadays, Breaston and Fitzgerald often get a chance to pad their reception totals.

I must admit that I was surprised by the inclusion of Nate Washington on this list. While Randy Moss continues to absorb double teams despite posting one catch and seven total targets over two games, Washington has been targeted nine times in each of his last three games. With Vince Young out for the year, the Tiffin alum makes for a sneaky good play considering the Titans’ remaining schedule, at least until Kenny Britt can return. I understand it is hard to trust any Titans WR with Rusty Smith at QB, but facing the pass defenses of Houston and Jacksonville isn’t exactly a daunting task given the quality of receivers we are talking about here. Owners in a WR crunch (such as the owners of Nicks, the Giants’ Steve Smith and Collie) could do much worse than a WR like Washington that will consistently face single-man pressure against two of the worst secondaries in the league. Kerry Collins, who I highly recommend now for the rest of the season, may be able to return in Week 13, making Washington a possible fantasy standout if Britt is unable to return anytime soon.

Perhaps it is merely a coincidence that Mike Wallace and Santonio Holmes both dealt with suspensions since the former was deemed ready to replace the latter in the offseason. (Holmes’ off-field behavior got him suspended four games by the NFL and ultimately dealt to the Jets. Wallace, as we know, did not sit out but was mostly an afterthought in fantasy for the first month of the season as well while Ben Roethlisberger was serving his suspension.) Over the next four weeks (Weeks 5-8), both Holmes and Wallace tried the patience of their owners as they eased into their new on-field situation (Holmes more so than Wallace). Since Week 9, however, they have been two of the top eight WRs in PPR, performing at an even higher level than Roddy White and Terrell Owens over that time. Given their supporting cast and the value their QBs place on their ability to contribute, I can’t imagine how owners could sit either one the rest of the way.

 TE Targets
Rk Player 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Total Avg Rec Catch % Last 3
1 Chris Cooley 9 3 8 5 12 8 9 7 bye 7 9 77 7.7 49 64% 7.7
2 Jason Witten 8 8 8 bye 9 5 13 12 4 2 5 74 7.4 50 68% 3.7
3 Brandon Pettigrew 2 8 9 11 5 12 bye 5 5 8 9 74 7.4 50 68% 7.3
4 Tony Gonzalez 5 2 9 12 8 7 4 bye 11 5 8 71 7.1 45 63% 8.0
5 Antonio Gates 6 7 13 7 7 3 5 7 DNP bye DNP 55 6.9 40 73% NA
6 Zach Miller (OAK) 8 4 9 13 8 4 6 2 DNP bye 7 61 6.8 36 59% 7.0
7 Dustin Keller 5 9 10 6 5 6 bye 6 5 9 6 67 6.7 35 52% 6.7
8 Kellen Winslow 6 4 6 bye 9 10 10 2 4 6 8 65 6.5 43 66% 6.0
9 Jermaine Gresham 10 5 6 6 6 bye 6 8 3 10 3 63 6.3 42 67% 5.3
10 Vernon Davis 12 7 6 5 7 7 8 1 bye 6 3 62 6.2 38 61% 3.3
11 Ben Watson 6 6 6 10 7 9 2 bye 4 10 1 61 6.1 36 59% 5.0
12 Tony Scheffler 7 4 9 10 6 4 bye 1 5 8 1 55 5.5 32 58% 4.7
13 Todd Heap 11 6 5 5 5 4 5 bye 2 6 6 55 5.5 35 64% 4.7
14 Marcedes Lewis 2 9 5 2 5 6 9 3 bye 6 8 55 5.5 35 64% 5.7
15 Greg Olsen 6 1 6 8 2 4 6 bye 8 6 6 53 5.3 28 53% 6.7
16 Tony Moeaki 4 10 5 bye 4 3 3 4 9 3 DNP 45 5.0 31 69% 5.3
17 Visanthe Shiancoe 7 9 1 bye 7 0 6 5 5 7 3 50 5.0 30 60% 5.0

Notable TEs who just missed the cut: Aaron Hernandez, Brent Celek, John Carlson, Jacob Tamme

Quick Hits: It’s not generally good form to spend a significant amount of time on players who aren’t on the list, but this week will be an exception as I’ll focus entirely on TEs that are falling short on targets/game but are high on potential impact. Tamme’s 12.67 targets/game over the last three weeks dwarfs second-place TE Tony Gonzalez’s eight targets/game over that same time period. Tamme’s dominance in the target category doesn’t figure to end anytime soon with no competition at his position and the Colts’ WR corps a “next man up” situation outside of Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon.

Hernandez has seen his involvement drop drastically over the past two weeks, but I think we can attribute that to the fact that both Pittsburgh and Indianapolis have a pair of great pass rushers off the edge. I find it hard to believe that New England will give the same respect to the defensive ends of Detroit this week or the 3-4 outside linebackers of the Jets and Bills in Weeks 13 and 16, especially considering the rookie caught six passes in each of the games against the Pats’ division rivals earlier in the season. Owners would be wise to consider other options in Weeks 14 and 15 when the likes the Pats go up against the likes of Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews.

One option for Hernandez’s owners in those weeks may be another young athletic freak, Saints’ rookie Jimmy Graham. The former basketball player, known more for blocking shots in college than his ability to score touchdowns, is coming on quickly in Jeremy Shockey’s absence. The Saints identified him as Shockey’s likely successor in this year’s draft and he has done nothing but impress since, especially for a player who is still relatively new to the game of football. If Shockey is forced to miss more time with his rib injury, feel free to plug Graham into your lineup as it is becoming pretty clear that Drew Brees trusts him. With Shockey being listed as questionable on a short week, the Saints may opt to give him another 1 ½ weeks to heal up. If that ends up being the case, Graham would be a terrific play vs. Dallas while you are enjoying your holiday meal.

While you keep track of Shockey’s injury status for this week, also keep an eye out for Vernon Davis. While the Niners’ TE stated earlier this week his ankle injury is not serious, it is the third time this season the University of Maryland product has injured that same ankle. If Davis is forced to miss any time, owners should confidently plug in backup Delanie Walker and expect Davis-like numbers. Since Troy Smith entered the starting lineup in Week 8, Walker has been the 11th-best TE in PPR leagues (10.5 fantasy points/game) and that is with Davis starting. Owners should understand, however, that Davis left two of those three games early. Still, in the one week both players were able to finish, Walker actually still outperformed Davis in PPR (12.0 to 11.9). Granted, it’s not much of a difference and a rather small sample size, but Smith obviously likes throwing to Walker. While we aren’t going to see a waiver-wire phenomenon at TE like Tamme anytime soon, Walker could be potentially valuable down the stretch if Davis was to miss a significant amount of time.

Suggestions, comments, musings about the article or fantasy football in general? e-mail me.