Tricks of the trends after Week 11
Here is a deep dive behind some of the key statistics (targets, red zone and goal line) for Fantasy Football success to help give you a little edge in your weekly quest for victory.
• Do you remember back in Week 5 when we were complaining about Andre Johnson lack of involvement in the Houston passing game? It was for good reason. In the first five games of 2012, Johnson saw a grand total of 30 targets and caught 17 of them for 283 yards and two touchdowns. To put that into perspective, Johnson saw 19 targets and caught 14 of them for 273 yards and a touchdown in Week 11! From Week 6 to Week 11, Johnson has been the target of 60 passes and has 43 catches for 587 yards and one score. In other words, his workload has doubled and his production has more than doubled. Johnson has not seen fewer than nine targets in any of his last five games and looks poised to finish the year out as one of the top Fantasy wide receivers.
• If you were to ignore the two games where Dez Bryant played at less than 100 percent and produced a grand total of 29 yards receiving, you would certainly have to put his name on the list of the most dominating receivers in the NFL right now. Since Week 4, Bryant has not been held below 87 yards other than the two hiccups, has three 100-yard games and has scored four total touchdowns in five games. In those five games, Bryant has been targeted 59 times and has caught 41 of them for 542 yards and four touchdowns. Bryant has seen at least 11 targets in four of the five games and is delivering superstar efficiency. He is catching 69 percent of his passes, averaging 9.2 yards and 1.3 points per target while posting a very solid 15.64 points per game. He is becoming the go-to-guy for Tony Romo and Bryant looks like he may finally be realizing his unlimited potential.
• T.Y. Hilton is back on the map after a six catch, 100-yard and two-touchdown game against the Patriots in Week 11. Hilton has topped 100 yards with a touchdown in two of his last three games and with Donnie Avery battling a concussion, he could get the start in Week 12. The last time we were in this situation, Hilton did not catch a single pass following his big game, but Avery was active. If Avery misses Week 12 against Buffalo, Hilton has to be considered a viable option for your teams. After all, Hilton has been targeted eight or more times in four games for his career. In three of those games, he has produced 100 yards receiving and a touchdown, so clearly this is a guy who can produce when given the chance. He will be a star in 2013 and could really help you down the stretch in 2012 if he can move into a bigger weekly role, because all he does is produce.
• Justin Blackmon just caught seven of his 13 targets against the Texans for 236 yards and a touchdown in Week 11. That is not a misprint. Blackmon produced just 14 yards fewer in Week 11 than he had in his first nine games total. He has a touchdown in two of his last three games and seemed to click very well with Chad Henne , which is something to keep an eye on.
• Wes Welker has been battling an ankle injury and it certainly seems like it is hurting his production. Despite seeing 10 targets and catching at least six passes per game over the last four weeks, Welker has not topped 80 yards in any contest and has not found the end zone during that span. That is a stark contrast to the first six weeks of the year, where Welker saw 11 targets per game and produced at least 95 yards five times, 100 yards four times and scored two touchdowns. In the first six games of the season, Welker caught 73 percent of his targets and averaged 9.4 yards and 1.2 points per target, which are elite numbers. In the last four games, Welker is catching 64 percent of his targets and is averaging just 6.8 yards and 0.68 points per target. With Rob Gronkowski out, Welker will need to play a bigger role and I am not sure he will be up to the task of battling an injury and increased defensive attention.
• Randall Cobb has scored a touchdown or topped 100 yards receiving in six straight games for the Packers and has been a darling of this column for weeks. The kid can flat out play the game and is well on his way to superstardom whether or not Greg Jennings comes back. Cobb has six scores in his last four games alone and in his six-game run, he is averaging a ridiculous 1.8 Fantasy points per target. He was off the charts with his efficiency as a rookie and now with a bigger workload he is producing even more. Cobb has also added 67 yards rushing during his run to the top of the Fantasy charts and as I said one month ago, we are looking at a Top 12 Fantasy receiver on Draft Day in 2013.
• Julio Jones needs more targets. The talented receiver for the Falcons is not even averaging six targets per game over the last four weeks and despite that pathetic level of opportunity he is still producing. Jones has caught 17 of those 23 targets for 360 yards (90 yards per game and a solid 15.7 yards per target), but has not scored over the last four weeks. He needs more chances to produce and when you consider that Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez have seen 40 and 33 targets respectively over the last four games, it is clear that there is room for more work for Jones. Don't blame the ankle either, because Jones saw seven targets in Week 11, his highest total of the last four weeks.
• Last week I wrote that "I think we have to pay attention to Danario Alexander ," and after a monster Week 11 performance of 96 yards and two touchdowns against the Broncos, I would say he is demanding our attention. Against Denver, Alexander caught seven of his 11 targets for 96 yards and the two scores, giving him a grand total of 15 catches for 291 yards and three scores on just 21 targets since playing for San Diego. Alexander is averaging 13.6 yards and 2.23 points per target. He is the new No. 1 receiver in San Diego and as long as he stays healthy, I expect him to produce given his similar size, speed combination of one Vincent Jackson .
• Add Marques Colston to the list of receivers who need to see a few more targets as well. Colston thankfully has scored in two of his last three games because he has only seen 16 targets total. Those 16 targets have led to 11 catches for only 141 yards, so Colston is not even averaging 50 yards per game over the last three. When you consider that he is still posting a solid 8.8 yards per target average, it is clear that a lack of chances is to blame. Hey Drew, throw my man Colston the ball!
• Jermichael Finley only saw three targets against the Lions in Week 11, but he sure made the most of them as they resulted in three catches for 66 yards and a touchdown. Finley finally had an efficient game and if he can keep this up, he has the chance to be a Fantasy starter down the stretch. Hopefully, this is just the first of many solid games for Finley, who battled the drops and terrible efficiency early in the season.
• Dallas Clark has scored in back-to-back games and has a touchdown in three of his last five games as Josh Freeman continues to light up the scoreboard. Clark is coming off of his best game of the year, as he saw 11 targets and caught seven of them for 58 yards and a touchdown in the team's overtime win against the Panthers. Clark should always have advantageous matchups with teams focusing on Vincent Jackson , Mike Williams and Doug Martin , so he is someone to consider if your waiver wire is bare and you just lost Rob Gronkowski .
• Brandon Myers is the only tight end in the NFL to have 10 or more targets in three of his last five games. Over the last five weeks, Myers is averaging nearly nine targets, six catches, 53 yards and 0.6 touchdowns per game. That translates to just about nine Fantasy points per week and it should not surprise you to learn that Myers has been a Top 5 point scorer among tight ends in both standard and PPR leagues. With a terrible Oakland defense forcing the Raiders to throw it 45 times per game, Myers will remain a stud for your teams.
• Trent Richardson is a great young runner, but he is also very solid in the pass game, which only increases his overall value. In his last two games, Richardson has been targeted 17 times and has caught 12 of them for 80 yards. Those are a nice bonus for his Fantasy owners and it should be noted that T-Rich has caught at least four passes in six games this year and has eclipsed the 30-yard receiving mark five times. T-Rich is a full-time featured back who can do it all and that's why he is a Top 10 back the rest of the way in 2012 and will be a solid first round pick again in 2013.
• Target Leaders by position for Week 11: Wide receiver: Andre Johnson (19), Reggie Wayne (18), Dez, Bryant (15), Justin Blackmon (13) and Roddy White (13); Tight end: Dwayne Allen (11), Dallas Clark (11), Brandon Myers (10) and Tony Scheffler (10); Running back: Trent Richardson (eight) and LeSean McCoy (seven)
• Josh Freeman has become the most efficient quarterback in the red zone in 2012, which is a huge reason why he thrown for multiple passing touchdowns in six straight games. Freeman is tied for fifth among all quarterbacks with 16 touchdown passes inside the opponent's 20-yard line, which is impressive in its own right. It is even better when you realize that no quarterback in the entire league has turned a higher percentage of their red zone passes into touchdowns than Freeman, who is tops with a 35.6 percent touchdown rate.
• Cam Newton touchdowns have been utterly disappointing and his efficiency, or should I say lack thereof, in the red zone is the main culprit. Among the 24 busiest quarterbacks inside the 20, Newton is worst in the NFL with a 44 percent completion rate. His 16.7 percent red zone scoring rate is the third worst and that is why Newton has really struggled to deliver the Fantasy points we had hoped for back in August.
• In case you were wondering, Eli Manning currently has the worst red zone scoring rate among all quarterbacks at 14.0 percent, which is just another reason he has not thrown a touchdown in three straight weeks.
• When you drafted Stevan Ridley you could not have hoped for more involvement from the second year runner in the red zone. Ridley is second in the NFL with 44 rushes inside of the 20-yard line and is also tied for second with seven red zone rushing scores. He will easily hit double-digit touchdowns this season for his Fantasy owners and has turned out to be one of Draft Day's best values. With that kind of workload in scoring situations, Ridley will remain a Fantasy stud. After all, he has only four fewer red zone carries than Frank Gore , Chris Johnson and Matt Forte combined!
• Jonathan Dwyer may run like Jerome Bettis, but he doesn't score touchdowns like The Bus. Dwyer is one of only two running backs with 10 red zone carries and no scores this year. Dwyer and his 17 carries are far and away the leader over Curtis Brinkley , who saw 11 red zone carries early in the year and also failed to score for the Chargers.
• Here is another Julio Jones workload gripe from yours truly: In the first six games of 2012, Jones saw 10 red zone targets and produced four red zone touchdowns. In his last four games, Jones has only been the target of one red zone pass and it should not surprise you to learn that he does not have a single score during that span. Throw this man the ball!
• Aaron Rodgers (75 percent and six passing scores), Carson Palmer (70 percent and seven) and Josh Freeman (70 percent and seven) are the leaders in goal line touchdown rate through the first 10 weeks of the season. Our poor friend Eli Manning is actually dead last in this department as well with only one passing touchdown on nine passing attempts, which is absolutely horrendous.
• Steven Jackson is starting to produce for his Fantasy owners and that is a very good thing. If he can get better at the goal line it will be a great thing, because Jackson's touchdowns would come much more regularly. Despite taking five goal line carries this year, Jackson has yet to score a goal line rushing touchdown. No other runner has taken as many carries as Jackson without a goal line rushing touchdown this year, so old man river needs to step it up!
• There are four running backs who are averaging negative yards per carry on their rushes inside of the five yard line. They are Chris Johnson at -0.33 yards per carry, Trent Richardson at -0.25 yards per carry and LeSean McCoy at -0.13 yards per carry. It also probably does not surprise you to learn that they have combined for just three goal line touchdowns on 15 carries for a poor 20 percent scoring rate. The fourth member of this infamous quartet may surprise you however as it is Stevan Ridley , who is averaging -0.21 yards per carry, but has five goal line scores, third most in the NFL. Somehow Ridley manages to go forward for his Fantasy owners while going backwards, which is mighty impressive if you ask me.
• Is there anything that A.J. Green can't do? Green is the only player (non-quarterback) in the NFL to score a touchdown in each of the last nine games. That's a perfect 100 percent scoring rate for Green since Week 2 and it should not surprise you to learn that he has also turned all three of his goal line targets into scores in 2012. He may very well be the best receiver in the NFL and the consistency of his performance despite not having any other real help in the passing game has been nothing short of remarkable.