Sep 21, 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 3 Target Talk: Tight End Edition.
This spreadsheet lists every tight end that has at least four targets to date. It shows the percentage of their team’s targets and completions they had as well. A disclaimer: it’s only Week 3 so you shouldn’t read too much into anything just yet. That said there may be situations to watch. Here are the cliff notes:
WEEK 2 WINNERS
Brent Celek, TE, Philadelphia Eagles
Celek has shown that the end of last year was not a fluke. Through two games he has 19 targets and 14 receptions for 222 yards, most of it coming in week 2. With the injuries to Maclin and Jackson, Vick has been looking to his tight ends early and often. Even backup Clay Harbor has amassed eight targets. Expect things to continue in a similar manner until the Eagles’ receivers are fully healthy. One thing to keep in mind with Celek is that he has only been targeted twice in the red zone, the same number as backup Clay Harbor. Temper your expectations in standard leagues accordingly.
Dennis Piita, TE, Baltimore Ravens
Pitta impressed yet again in week 2 and is now 4th in the NFL in targets. He has caught 13 of the 24 balls thrown to him and looks to be Flacco’s favorite and most reliable target. We told you to temper your expectations of him last week but this week he is a full go! If Pitta can continue on this track he is almost guaranteed to be a top ten option at tight end. The Raven’s lack of defense this year has led to them passing more and Pitta is the beneficiary. Over a third of Flacco’s passes have been intended for Pitta. Though that number may go down, Pitta should still be in line for 9+ targets per game from here on out.
Tony Gonzalez, TE, Atlanta Falcons
Gonzalez does not seem to age. Now in his 16th season, he looks as strong as ever. Based on his current stats, Gonzalez is on pace to have his best year as a Falcon. He grabbed seven of the ten balls thrown his way in week 2 and has caught both of his red zone targets to date. With the emergence of Julio Jones and slot receiver Harry Douglas, Gonzalez isn’t going to be used as much in the open field but he is still Ryan’s favorite target in the redzone. If you drafted him you can be comfortable knowing you likely got a top 5 tight end at tremendous value in your draft.
Martellus Bennett, TE, New York Giants
Bennett has clearly gained Manning’s trust. His role was expanded this week as the Giants were forced to pass all game. He caught five of the 10 balls thrown to him including a touchdown pass. The Giants won’t have to pass as much in most games so Bennett won’t see double digit targets every week but his red zone usage cannot be ignored. He has been targeted five times in the red zone. He only caught one of those balls but it’s still a revealing stat. Bennett is Manning’s go-to in the red zone. If they can sync up we could see a huge touchdown total.
Todd Heap, TE, Arizona Cardinals
Heap appears to be set up much like Bennett except in a much worse offense with a much worse quarterback. He’s getting the target numbers to succeed; he just isn’t getting quality targets. Heap caught five of nine targets in week 2. Like Bennett he also hasn’t seen the best of luck in the red zone. Heap has been targeted four times inside the twenty but hasn’t been able to convert. Considering how rarely the Cardinals are even in the redzone, he’s going to have to start catching those balls if he has any chance at being fantasy relevant. Keep an eye on him.
Jason Witten, TE, Dallas Cowboys
After a dreadful week 1, Witten looked to be closer to his normal self this week. Whether or not he was playing at full health, Romo certainly treated him like he was. Witten had 10 targets in week 2. He only caught four of those balls and now leads the league in dropped passes but the amount of use he is getting is encouraging. It appears as if the rest of the season will be business as usual for Witten. It’s a good time to trade for him especially in PPR leagues. His value will only grow from here on out.
Dante Rosario, TE, San Diego Chargers
It’d be impossible to write this article without at least mentioning Rosario. In Gates’ absence, he made the most of his opportunity by recording three touchdown receptions. He only had four balls thrown his way but he caught all four at key moments in the game. Rosario isn’t fantasy relevant at the moment but he may just happen to be the very first worthwhile tight end handcuff ever. Gates owners take notice.
WEEK 2 LOSERS
Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Detroit Lions
After heavy use in week 1, Pettigrew caught three of only four balls thrown his way in week 2. The Lions struggled offensively but the lack of tight end use was worrying. Sheffler had only one catch after having five in week 1. If Pettigrew is going to emerge as an elite fantasy tight end, Stafford is going to have to start trusting him when the going gets tough. Until then, This week, the Lions have the matchup against the Titans for Pettigrew to exploit.
Coby Fleener, TE, Indianapolis Colts
Fleener saw a similar drop off in targets to Pettigrew though his drop- off was caused by the Colts’ passing success. Luck looked in sync with wide receiver’s Wayne and Avery. He didn’t need a safe option in week 2. Fleener appears to be down on the list of target priorities and that isn’t likely to change when Collie comes back. The good news is that Fleener does have three red zone targets to date. He should be able to make up for a lack of quantity with an increase in target quality. Fleener is a low end starter right now but he should be benched until he proves he has a set role in the offense.
Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina Panthers
Olsen looked decent in week 1, catching six of his seven targets. He appeared to have a chance to meet his preseason hype. This week came around and Olsen saw only 3 targets in a week where the Panthers passed plenty and scored plenty. He’s not looking like the target priority owners wanted him to be. Brandon Lafell’s strong performances have taken much of Olsen’s bluster and he’ll have to fight to earn it back. As defenses key in on Lafell, Olsen should get some opportunities. He’s still playable right now but keep an eye on his numbers. If they don’t get better in the next couple weeks, they likely won’t get better all season.
Aaron Hernandez, TE, New England Patriots
Not much to say here. Hernandez looks to have a high ankle sprain that will take several weeks to come back from. In his absence Gronkowski should have a field day even with the signing of Winslow. Hernandez owners should look to players like Bennett, Pitta, and Rudolph to fill the lineup void.