Fantasy Football 2013: Targeting Targets
2 +2 = 4.
It’s pretty simple, right?
Fantasy football is chock-full of math. Sure, there are statistics up the wazoo, and many numbers from recent seasons that help make cases for certain players. However, there is one simple formula that is as self explanatory as they come.
Opportunity + targets = fantasy production.
It’s common sense, really. Players who get the more volume have a higher percentage of posting better numbers than those with less. So, with that being said, I thought the end of Week 4 would be a good time to dive into the league’s most targeted wide receivers thus far, and analyze which guys will see this production continue over the course of the season.
Cecil Shorts, Jacksonville Jaguars (51 targets): It’s official. The Jaguars absolutely despise fantasy football and are making Shorts’ owners everywhere suffer. I mean, why else would they continue to place Blaine Gabbert under center. To put it nicely, he is a big, stinking pile of suck. Still, Shorts has been producing thus far, mostly because he is tied for the league lead in targets through four games. Shorts has seen double-digit targets in every single game this season, but again, he had his two best outings when Chad Henne was under center. In two games with Henne, Shorts has seen a combined 29 targets and has caught 16 balls for 236 yards. The Jaguars are looking like the worst team in football right now, so they should be throwing the ball quite a bit, which means more looks for Shorts from whoever is playing quarterback. The volume will be there for Shorts all season, but how much volume? Justin Blackmon is slated to return from his suspension next week, so some of those targets will go to Blackmon. I don’t expect Shorts to finish the season with the most targets by any means, but he’ll be up there.
Andre Johnson, Houston Texans (47 targets): Staying in the same division, Johnson is picking up right where he left off in 2012. He’s inside the top-five in targets, is leading the league in receptions (34), but has yet to find the end zone. Of course, the Texans will either run it in when up close, or Matt Schaub will find one of his tight ends like he always does, but still, Johnson has been very productive for fantasy owners, especially in PPR formats. He’s seen double-digit targets in three of four games, and would have eclipsed that number in Week 3 if he didn’t exit early with an injury. Like I said, he’s been terrific for PPR purposes, hauling in at least five passes in every game this year (12,8,5,9). He’s been banged up quite a bit to start the season, but if he can stay on the field, Johnson can easily finish the year among the top-three wide receivers in targets. The touchdowns may be few and far between, but he could very well end up leading the league in receptions.
Pierre Garcon, Washington Redskins (44 targets): A lot of people where high on Garcon coming into the season, and for good reason. When healthy last season, the Redskins were 9-1 with him in the lineup, and he was unquestionably Robert Griffin III’s favorite target in the passing game. When he came back from injury last season (weeks 12-17), Garcon was targeted a healthy 46 times, and because of that volume, he scored 62 fantasy points, which was good for top-20 among receivers. So far this season, Garcon has benefited from staying on the field, hauling in 29 balls for 339 yards and two scores. He ranks as the number 10 fantasy wideout through four weeks. Because the Redskins defense is so atrocious, RG3 may have to air the ball out quite a bit to keep up, which means more looks for Garcon. A top-15 fantasy finish is very much in the realm of possibility, barring injury, of course.
Jordan Cameron, Cleveland Browns (43 targets): Yes, Cameron, a tight end, is tied for sixth in the NFL in targets through four games. Honestly, it shouldn’t really surprise anyone, as Cameron has arguably been the fantasy MVP early on. Double-digit targets in three of four games this season, Cameron has now caught 30 balls, which is fifth in the league, and a franchise record through the first four contests. He is the red zone master, already having hauled in five touchdowns. Any concerns of his production with Brian Hoyer under center should be put to bed, as Cameron has caught 16 balls on 21 targets for four touchdowns with Hoyer under center. Keep in mind that’s only in two games. With Trent Richardson and the running game out of the picture, Hoyer has been slinging the ball all over the place, attempting 92 passes in just two weeks. Cameron is in store for a gangbusters season. Buckle up.
Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers (42 targets): I wrote about my love for Brown this season during the preseason, but I’d like to again proclaim my love towards the Pittsburgh wideout. Sure, the Steelers are 0-4 for the first time in years, but Brown has been one of the bright spots for this unit. He ranks 4th in the league in receptions (32) and after publicly announcing that he needs the ball more, that’s exactly what has happened. Over the last two weeks, Brown has been targeted 13 times each, while hauling in 21 balls. He has been a PPR monster, and considering the Steelers look so uncharacteristically bad this year, I foresee a lot of passing in quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s future. Call me crazy, but I think Brown will continue to find himself inside the top-10 in targets, receptions, and if he finds the end zone about eight or nine times, he could very well finish as a top-1o fantasy wide receiver this season. The man crush is real, folks.
Note: Obvious studs like A.J. Green and Julio Jones are among league leaders, but they are studs, so, yeah.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.