Tricks of the trends after Week 15
Thanks to Matthew Stafford for reading last week's column and getting my man Calvin Johnson the targets he deserves.
Megatron saw 14 targets against the Raiders and delivered a career day with nine catches for 214 yards and two touchdowns. It was only the first time since Week 10 that he had received 10 or more targets and I am here to plead for 10-plus targets for Megatron every week. This year, Calvin has seen 10-plus targets in six games and in those six games he has caught 42 passes for 702 yards and nine touchdowns! That translates to roughly 22.1 points per game, which can lead us to only one conclusion: Throw him the damn ball!
Target observations after Week 15 ...
• Maybe Mike Williams was not able to get open against the Cowboys in Week 15, but a wide receiver cannot be expected to produce without receiving any chances, literally. Williams did not see a single target in the blowout loss to the Cowboys last Saturday and left his owners with a disappointing zero. How could he not receive a single target? That's the real question and it certainly makes it even tougher to contemplate starting Williams in Week 16 against the Panthers. After all, Williams had seen seven or more targets in 10 of his last 11 games before Week 15 and then did not get a single pass. It's tough enough when you have been as inefficient as Williams this year -- who is averaging just six yards per target -- but it is another issue when you do not even get a chance to produce. Williams had five catches for 93 yards in his last game against Carolina, but that was with Josh Johnson at quarterback. Josh Freeman shoulder is clearly an issue and there are many receivers I would rather start than Williams in this critical week.
• Jabar Gaffney has been an unsung hero of the playoff run, especially in point-per-reception leagues. Over the last two games, Gaffney has seen 17 targets and has caught 12 passes for 177 yards and a touchdown. He is averaging 11.5 points per game in standard scoring leagues in those two games and is at a whopping 17.5 points per game in point-per-reception leagues. With the awful secondary of the Vikings (28 points per game to wide receivers over the last four games), look for Gaffney to continue to be an important part of winning Fantasy Football teams as a quality wide receiver who is still available in 33 percent of leagues.
• Demaryius Thomas continued his excellent play in Week 15 with another big-time performance. He now has 100 yards or a touchdown in three straight games and is taking full advantage of being targeted like a star receiver. Thomas saw 13 more targets in Week 15 and caught seven on them for 116 yards. He has 18 catches for 338 yards and three scores over the last three weeks and should be in your lineups again in Week 16 against the Bills.
• Please start Jake Locker in Tennessee! Locker played another half of a quarter and threw a touchdown to his main man Nate Washington . Washington has four touchdowns and 202 receiving yards with Locker in four and half quarters of play. With the Jaguars up next (who have given up a league high nine touchdowns to the opposing top target and 34 touchdowns to opposing number one receivers in their last 46 games), Washington could lead the charge for a Fantasy Bowl title if he can get Locker as his quarterback.
• I wish I could tell you that Percy Harvin just did not get any opportunities to make plays in Week 15, but the fact is that he saw seven targets against the Saints. Those seven targets produced three catches and only eight yards for Harvin, who had scored in four straight games and who had been the top receiver in all of Fantasy over the last five weeks. He has seen at least seven targets in six straight games and I would expect Harvin to bounce back against the Redskins.
• Tip your cap to the Chiefs secondary who completely shut down the Packers receivers in Week 15. Green Bay's receivers saw 16 targets in that game and combined for a grand total of 10 catches for 106 yards and one touchdown. They averaged just 7.1 yards per target as a group including Randall Cobb , but Jordy Nelson , James Jones and Donald Driver were held to just 4.4 yards per target as the team's starters. Jones and Nelson entered the game averaging over 12 yards per target each and were reduced to nothing on Sunday. That was a bad time for the most efficient receivers in the NFL to suddenly become below average.
• Is anyone playing better than Marques Colston right now? Colston has caught 15 of his last 16 targets for 196 yards and two touchdowns. When you consider that his teammate Lance Moore has also caught nine of his last 12 targets for 111 yards and two touchdowns, maybe the question should be is anyone playing better than Drew Brees ?
• Malcom Floyd is a huge reason for Philip Rivers recent success. Floyd is averaging 13.2 yards per target, second only to Jordy Nelson among the 80 most targeted receivers in the league. Floyd is another big-time playmaker for defenses to contend with and when he is healthy along with Antonio Gates , Vincent Jackson and Ryan Mathews , the Chargers are as dynamic as any offense in the league.
• Another game and another scoreless Sunday for Austin Collie , who still holds the infamous honor of leading the league with 79 targets and no touchdowns. Collie is the only receiver with more than 50 targets who has not yet scored a touchdown. Wow. In other news, Chad Johnson finally scored his first touchdown of 2011. Hooray!
• Jermaine Gresham has been getting plenty of chances to make plays over the last three weeks, but his efficiency has been non-existent. Gresham has seen 19 targets in his last three games, but he has caught only nine of them for 98 yards. He has caught just 47 percent of his targets and has been averaging just five yards per target during that span, which is atrocious for a tight end. Unless he gets those metrics fixed in practice this week, it is tough to trust Gresham in your Super Bowl.
• Kahlil Bell has taken over in the receiving department for Matt Forte . In the last two games, Bell has seen 11 targets and has 10 catches for 67 yards and a touchdown. Look for Bell to catch another five or more passes in Week 16 against the Packers, making him a solid flex in all formats and a sleeper second running back in point-per-reception leagues.
• Target Leaders by position for Week 15: Wide receiver: Roddy White (16) and Calvin Johnson (14); Tight end: Aaron Hernandez , Brandon Pettigrew and Jared Cook (11); Running back: Chris Johnson and Ray Rice (11)
• Yards Per Target Leaders among qualifying players by position after Week 15: Wide receiver: Jordy Nelson (13.5) and Malcom Floyd (13.2); Tight end: Rob Gronkowski (10.9) and Jake Ballard (9.9); Running back: Michael Bush (9.3) and Fred Jackson (9.0)
• Worst Yards Per Target among qualifying players by position after Week 15: Wide receiver: Andre Caldwell (4.7) and Austin Collie (4.7); Tight end: Chris Cooley (5.0) and Marcedes Lewis , Dallas Clark (5.3); Running back: Sammy Morris (0.0) and Willis McGahee (2.8)
• One reason David Akers is having such a good year is the complete ineptitude of the 49ers in the red zone. Quarterback Alex Smith 14.8 percent red zone scoring rate is the worst among the 25 quarterbacks with at least 40 red zone chances. With all of those drives stalling up close, it is no surprise that Akers leads the NFL with 12 multiple field goal games in 2011.
• LeSean McCoy is a touchdown machine. McCoy leads all non-quarterbacks with 17 red zone touchdowns in 2011 and his 26.2 percent red zone scoring rate is the best among the 14 busiest runners inside the 20. In fact, he is having such a great year that he trails the next three busiest running backs inside the 20 by only two touchdowns. McCoy's 17 scores have come on 65 targets plus carries, while Arian Foster , Frank Gore and Cedric Benson have a combined 19 red zone scores on 169 opportunities.
• Roddy White , Calvin Johnson , Laurent Robinson and Plaxico Burress lead all receivers with seven red zone scores. White has really come on strong of late and is becoming a monster touchdown machine when you need it the most, while Robinson is the most efficient of the bunch with a 70 percent red zone scoring rate. Trailing that quartet are two undersized slot receivers in Wes Welker and Lance Moore , who both play with some great quarterbacks and who have each caught six touchdowns inside the 20.
• Rob Gronkowski (11) and Aaron Hernandez (six) have combined for 17 red zone scores this year, which is amazing for two tight ends on the same team. It is even more amazing when you consider that they have more touchdowns inside the 20 combined than Vernon Davis (four), Dallas Clark (two), Jermichael Finley (six), Jason Witten (three) and Marcedes Lewis (zero) combined.
• Ryan Mathews has scored on four of his five goal line chances this year, which is a league best 80 percent goal line touchdown rate among the backs with at least five chances. His teammate, Mike Tolbert , has four goal line scores on 16 chances. Give the ball to Mathews Norvall! That also bodes very well for Mathews in 2012 should Tolbert leave via free agency, because if he becomes a full time and goal line back, Mathews will have top five potential.
• Since BenJarvus Green-Ellis barely receives 10 carries in his games, it is a good thing he has remained a stud at the goal line. The Law Firm has been the most efficient goal line runner among the 10 busiest goal line backs this season as has scored eight times on 16 carries, good for a 50 percent scoring rate. The worst among the top 10 in chances has been Frank Gore , who has just a 23.8 percent scoring rate, which is another reason that David Akers is the main point scorer in San Francisco.
• For as dominant as A.J. Green has been in other aspects of his game, he has to get better in scoring situations if he wants to be a top five Fantasy receiver. Green has just one touchdown on six targets inside the five yard line, which is the second worst scoring rate among the most targeted receivers.
• In a battle of Brandon's, who do you think leads this trio in terms of goal line touchdowns in 2011: Brandon Marshall , Brandon Lloyd or Brandon LaFell ? We can cross Lafell off of that list right? Wrong! Marshall and Lloyd have yet to score a goal line touchdown this year despite seeing 11 targets combined (seven for Marshall and four for Lloyd). Lafell meanwhile has converted both of his targets inside the five yard line into touchdowns. That's another clear example of what a wacky league the NFL can be at times.
Target Conversion Rate or Catch Rate (TCR): The percentage
of a player's targets (passes thrown to them) that are converted
into receptions. Over 60 percent is excellent, 66 percent is elite
and under 52.5 percent is worrisome.
Yards per Target (YPT): A player's receiving yards divided by his targets. In other words, the numbers of yards a team gains on average every time they attempt a pass to a certain player. Over 10 is exceptional, over 8 is solid and 6 or lower is horrendous.
Red Zone Opportunities: A player's total number of pass+rush+targets inside the opponent's 20 yard line
Red Zone TD Rate: The percentage of a player's Red Zone opportunities that result in a TD
Goal Line Opportunities: A player's total number of pass+rush+targets inside the opponent's 5 yard line
Goal Line TD Rate: The percentage of a player's Goal Line opportunities that result in a TD
Consistency Rate: The percentage of quality starts a player gives you out of 16 games. For QBs that is a game with 300+ yards passing OR multiple TDs. For RBs/WRs: A game with 100+ yards rush/rec or a game with a TD. For TEs: A game with 60+ yards receiving or a TD. For a Kicker: A game with multiple FGs.
Big Game Rate: The percentage of dominant starts a player gives you out of 16 games (games missed with injury count as a bad game since they do not help your Fantasy teams). For a QB that is a game with 300+ yards and 2+ TDs or 200+ yards and 3+ TDs. For a RB/WR that is a game with 100+ combined rush/rec yards and a TD or a game with multiple TDs. For a TE that is a game of 60+ yards and a TD, 100+ yards or a game with multiple TDs.