Sep 15, 2012
A big part of predicting the fantasy football output of a player week to week can be found in the stats that player has already accumulated. One of the most important statistics for predicting success of wide receivers and tight ends is the number of times they are thrown the ball. This number, called targets, is one of the most useful in fantasy football especially in PPR leagues.
Last year, after Hines Ward officially lost his starting job in Week 5, a lot of people were pondering on which Pittsburgh wide receiver would take over his role. It seemed like a toss-up but for people watching target numbers it was quite clear. Antonio Brown had already accumulated a large number of targets and quite predictably slipped right into the starting role. Owners that grabbed Emmanuel Sanders (the popular choice) were left disappointed. Those owners ignored the target numbers. There will be an Brown this year and we’re here to give you the inside scoop on target numbers so you don’t have to crunch them yourself.
Just because targets are useful predictors for wide receivers and tight ends does not mean they are meaningless to running backs. On the contrary, target numbers can also be useful in gauging the value of running backs especially in PPR leagues. We’ll be breaking down tight end target numbers as well. Without further ado here is our Week 2 Target Talk: Tight End Edition.
This spreadsheet lists every tight end that had at least two targets in week one. It shows the percentage of their team’s targets and completions they had as well. A disclaimer: it’s only week two so you shouldn’t read too much into anything just yet. That said there may be situations to watch. Here are the cliff notes:
Jeremichael Finley, TE, Green Bay Packers
Finley received more use in week one than ever. His 11 targets set both team and personal highs. This can be chalked up to the 49ers defense shutting down every other major receiver on the team. His numbers should fall back to his normal 6-7 targets a game against normal defenses. Expect a down week against Chicago. The Bears know that with Jennings out, Finley is the next most important target to shut down.
Colby Fleener, TE, Indianapolis Colts
On Sunday Fleener looked like he was the second coming of Dallas Clark. His 10 targets were quite surprising after not seeing much from him in the preseason. We won’t know for sure if this was a fluke or not until next week. If he can sustain 7+ targets a game he could very easily be in the top 10 at year’s end. It will interesting to see what the return of Austin Collie will mean for his (and Wayne’s) target numbers. It’s definitely a situation to watch since the Colts look like they will let loose Luck’s reins in an effort to get back to the offensive style of old.
Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Detroit Lions
Pettigrew saw plenty of work to open the season and appears primed to justify his draft position. With 10 targets, including two red zone targets, he led the Lion. That won’t happen very often. One oddity is that fellow tight end Tony Sheffler was just as productive. For now the two will battle it out for playing time. Even Will Heller got in on the mix. Overall, 20 of the team 47 passes went to tight ends. In addition five of the Lion’s seven red zone passes also went to tight ends. Seems like a lot of tight end use for a team with so many talented receivers. Those numbers should come down as the younger wide receivers like Young and Broyles work their way into the offense. Still, if either Pettigrew or Sheffler were to get injured, the other would become solid gold.
Dennis Pitta, TE, Baltimore Ravens
Pitta had a remarkable day to start the season, catching five of the nine balls thrown to him for 73 yards and a touchdown. He’d look like a really great fantasy option if it wasn’t for Ed Dickson being ahead of him on the depth chart. Pitta had several weeks like this one last year. He also had seven games with two or less targets. His situation has not changed. Until a depth chart or playing time shakeup happens, leave Pitta on waivers for another owner t gamble on.
Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots
Gronkowski and Hernandez both had great. first weeks and their target numbers were healthy for the tight end position. The New England offense appears to be able to support two elite tight ends. One thing that is a little worrying is that in a week where Wes Welker barely played, the two tight ends still got less targets than they averaged last year. Part of this was because the Patriots had success running the ball and part of it was because of improved defensive play. If Welker returns to his normal role and New England continues to have success on the ground, it could greatly damage the value of the tight ends. Keep an eye on this situation if you are a Gronkowski or Hernandez owner so you can spot the sell high point if there is one.
Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina Panthers
There was a lot of offseason speculation that Olsen would be a valuable fantasy player this season after getting the Panthers’ tight end position to himself. Week one seemed to have confirmed this sentiment. Olsen was targeted early and often, catching six of the seven balls thrown to him. It appears that Newton knows what he has in Olsen and will finally give him a chance to shine. The Panthers ran less than expected due to the injury to Jonathan Stewart and the ineffectiveness of DeAngelo Williams. That should change. The run game should actually create more opportunities in the passing game. Olsen should put up solid target numbers all year regardless.
Vernon Davis, TE San Francisco 49ers
Davis’ target numbers suffered this week because of the unexpected success of the running game combined with the surprise lethargy of the Packers’ offense. The 49ers were in ground and pound mode the entire game. Davis’ involvement should increase as the season goes on. It was encouraging to see him grab a red zone touchdown. It appears Moss won’t cut into Davis’ red zone targets as much as originally anticipated. Expect Davis to easily justify his draft position this season.
Fred Davis, TE, Washington Redskins
Davis presents one of the few tight end situations to be worried about. Last year he was hit or miss every week and it was hoped that would change with a better quarterback situation. Well it hasn’t. The Redskins offense was more explosive than ever with Griffin at the helm. They passed plenty, ran plenty and put up points. The problem was that Davis wasn’t a part of this. He got only four targets and caught just two of them. He wasn’t even involved after Garcon went down. Aldrick Robinson came out of nowhere and got seven targets in the second half. This is a situation to be worried about. Davis owners should set up a contingency plan immediately while the waiver wire is still hot.
Jason Witten, TE, Dallas Cowboys
Witten was a late insertion into the lineup for the season opener after dealing with a spleen injury. Not surprisingly he looked rusty and sluggish. He got three targets even in this state. Part of it was the missed practice time and part was him not trusting his body. He’ll play in week two after more than a week to catch up and gain his confidence back. Word is that he’s back to 100%. Expect him to get back to his typical seven or so targets a week. He’s an excellent buy low opportunity right now especially in PPR leagues.
Lance Kendricks, TE, St. Louis Rams
Kendricks saw only two targets this week in a game where Sam Bradford couldn’t get any passing consistency going. Though it’s reasonable to expect that Kendricks’ targets go up from last week, it appears that once again he will be relegated to fantasy irrelevance behind Steven Jackson and whoever the Rams’ slot flavor of the week is. It’s hard to justify owning any Rams receivers until Bradford shows us some daylight. Stay away from Kendricks.
Dustin Keller, TE, New York Jets
The Jets dominated through the air all game on Sunday. Oddly, Dustin Keller only managed a single target. Rather than healing his injured hamstring Keller decided to play. Now after another week he is still hurting. The emergence of Stephen Hill combined with the injury might just spell the end of Keller’s fantasy productivity. With so many great tight end options available, Keller is little more than waiver fodder at this point.