Tricks of the trends after Week 4
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.
• Brian Hartline just had 19 targets and 253 yards receiving in an NFL game. Seriously, it just happened in Week 4 against the Arizona Cardinals no less. For the year, Hartline is now third in the NFL with 48 targets and is one of only 10 receivers in the game to have seen at least eight targets in every game this year. We have definitely seen his best game of the year, but Hartline already has two 100-yard games and has a catch of at least 20 yards in every game. With an average of 12 targets per game, Hartline is worth a spot on every team and makes for a solid start in Week 5 against the Bengals.
• While Brian Hartline has his 48 targets through four games, I thought it would be important to point out that Andre Johnson has a grand total of 24. The Texans may be too good to give him the kind of workload he needs to be a dominant Fantasy performer week in and week out.
• We need to start calling Dwayne Bowe the Garbage Man, because no one in the NFL gets it done when it doesn't matter better than Dwayne Bowe . Bowe, who is tied for the league lead with 49 targets through four games, is especially busy when the game is out of hand. 19 of those 49 targets have come after the third quarter this year for Bowe and perhaps more importantly to his Fantasy owners, Bowe has scored all three of his touchdowns in the final stanza.
• The Atlanta wide receiving duo of Roddy White and Julio Jones may be the best in the NFL, but thus far they have been taking turns each week, rather than dominating together. In Weeks 1 and 3, Jones has caught 11 of his 16 targets for 175 yards and three touchdowns, or 35 Fantasy points. In those same games, White has 11 catches of his own for a solid 142 yards and no scores. In the even weeks however, it has been all about the Hot Rod. In Weeks 2 and 4, White has caught 16 of his 23 targets for 271 yards and three scores which is a ridiculous 45 Fantasy points. Jones meanwhile, has been almost invisible in those games, catching just five passes for 44 yards total. I'd like to see Jones be more like White when it is "not his week," or even better for Fantasy owners, how about they both blow up at the same time.
• Larry Fitzgerald and Kevin Kolb apparently sat down and read the Tricks of the Trends a couple of weeks ago and decided they needed to go to quarterback/receiver counseling. Well, kudos to the doctor involved because over the last two weeks, they are looking like Joe Montana and Jerry Rice. After a seven game scoring drought dating back to 2011, Fitz and Kolb are exactly on the same page. In the last two games, Fitzgerald has converted 17 of his 24 targets for 178 yards and two scores. If I am going to nitpick, I would like to see the yards per catch (10.5) and yards per target (7.4) go up, but hey, we can build on this.
• Jerome Simpson only saw five targets in his 2012 debut with the Vikings, but Minnesota hardly threw the ball in their special teams win over the Lions. Those five targets were second on the team and he caught four of them for a team-high 50 yards. That's 10 yards per target, which is right where Simpson was in Cincy last year, so if he is still on your wire,go ahead and add him this week.
• Who leads all wide receivers with four receiving touchdowns? Duh, it's Andre Roberts of the Arizona Cardinals. Fitz and Kolb have worked out their issues as I outlined above, but Roberts can't be ignored either. Roberts has caught 15 of his 25 targets (60 percent) for 229 yards (9.2 yards per target) and the four scores. He is averaging 1.88 points per target thus far, which is the best number among the 70 most targeted receivers in the NFL. Something to keep in mind is that Roberts now has six scores in his last eight games and during that span, he has never produced fewer than seven points when he sees nine targets. With Fitz taking defensive attention on the other side of the field, Roberts is quietly earning more targets with his ability to win one-on-one matchups.
• During the offseason I talked about how Mike Williams would be much more efficient working opposite Vincent Jackson then he was in 2011 as the main man. Well, through four games, Williams is averaging a career best 10 yards and 1.54 points per target and if he can get a few more looks from Josh Freeman (he is currently tied for 53rd at 5.5 targets per game), Williams could be a solid weekly play as your third receiver.
• Through the first three weeks of the NFL season, Martellus Bennett , Dennis Pitta and Kyle Rudolph averaged a combined 24 targets and a whopping 32 Fantasy points per week. In Week 4, they combined for only 10 targets and failed to produce a single Fantasy point. As Jamey Eisenberg likes to say, they were Pittaful. I am not giving up on these three after one bad week, but we have to make sure this radical decrease in targets and production does not continue.
• Who would have thought that after four games, the only pass catchers in the NFL with at least four receiving touchdowns would be the aforementioned Andre Roberts and tight ends Vernon Davis (ok, I can see that), Heath Miller (in three games mind you) and Scott Chandler? Well, Chandler is looking like the real deal and I love his overall involvement in the offense this year. In 2011, Chandler did catch six touchdowns, but averaged just 3.3 targets and 24.3 yards per game. This year, Chandler is averaging 5.8 targets and nearly 45 yards receiving per game. If he can maintain those levels and remain a beast in the red zone, he will be a sneaky Top 12 tight end when it is all said and done.
• Antonio Gates and Jason Witten both got their efficiency in order in Week 4, which was good to see, but only one of them had a substantial workload. You see, Jason Witten saw a season high 14 targets in Week 4 and caught 13 of them for 112 yards and a touchdown. Entering the game, Witten had caught only eight passes for 76 yards on 19 targets. Now poor Antonio Gates has only 18 targets on the season, four more than Witten saw last week. He did catch all three of his targets in Week 4 for 59 yards, but Gates needs more chances to succeed and he should get them in Week 5 against the New Orleans Saints.
• After seeing 25 targets in the first two weeks, Darren McFadden has seen just three total in the last two games. The Raiders need to use their bye week to find better ways to get the ball into the hands of their star running back.
• Target Leaders by position for week 4: Wide receiver: Brian Hartline (19), Larry Fitzgerald (15), Lance Moore (15), Victor Cruz (13), Dez Bryant (13) and Marques Colston (15); Tight end: Jason Witten (14), Rob Gronkowski (11), Jimmy Graham (9) and Brandon Pettigrew (9); Running back: Ray Rice (11) and Marcel Reece (8)
• Matt Schaub has 12 red zone chances and has produced four touchdowns. Meanwhile running backs Arian Foster and Ben Tate have combined for 30 red zone opportunities and seven touchdowns. The Texans are perhaps too good at running the ball and way too good on defense to give Schaub a chance at consistent high-level Fantasy production.
• Russell Wilson is single handedly murdering whatever value the pass catchers in Seattle may have now that the real refs are back on the field. Wilson has 24 red zone chances through four weeks, which tied for the third most in the NFL. Unfortunately, he has only one red zone score and his 4.2 percent red zone touchdown rate is the worst in the NFL among the 25 busiest quarterbacks. The other five quarterbacks with 24 or more chances inside the 20-yard line have combined for 32 red zone scores by comparison.
• Darren McFadden leads all running backs in a dubious category, as his 14 red zone opportunities are the most at the position without a single touchdown in 2012.
• Who is second among all running backs with four red zone touchdowns? If you guessed the wart on Ryan Mathews ' current Fantasy production, the one and only Ewart Haron "Jackie" Battle III, then you are correct. He got all of the red zone work in Week 4 and scored twice against the Chiefs in his second two-touchdown game of the year.
• Three receivers pace the field with three red zone scores after the first four weeks of the season. Julio Jones is not a huge surprise, but I would imagine not too many of us had Andre Roberts and James Jones in our office pools. In fact, James Jones and Andre Roberts have combined for more red zone touchdowns than Jordy Nelson , Greg Jennings , Larry Fitzgerald , Calvin Johnson , Percy Harvin , Wes Welker and Dez Bryant have combined receiving scores from anywhere on the field.
• Alex Smith has three red zone scores on eight pass attempts. Only two of those attempts went the way of Vernon Davis , but both resulted in scores. My advice to Mr. Smith is to please give Vernon the two red zone targets per game that Martellus Bennett is currently receiving from Eli Manning .
• Last week, I highlighted Robert Griffin III for being four for four in goal line chances through the first three weeks of the NFL season. Well, he is now five for five and is like having a goal line back on your team in addition to a quarterback.
• Last week I also noted that Doug Martin was the only runner with four goal line chances and no touchdowns through the first three weeks. Well, Martin is still stuck at zero for four after Tampa Bay elected to give LeGarrette Blount the goal line work in Week 4. Blount made the most of his one goal line chance by converting it into the team's only short rushing touchdown of the year.
• Jackie Battle and Arian Foster lead all running backs with four goal line touchdowns and they are No. 1 and No. 2 in terms of chances at 10 and nine respectively.
• Reggie Bush owners should maybe start to be concerned about Jorvorskie Lane , the big bruising full back has taken the ball at the goal line in each of the last two weeks. He has converted both of his goal line chances into touchdowns and you'd expect that the Dolphins will continue to utilize their big battering ram up close.
• One reason that Larry Fitzgerald is finally scoring with Kevin Kolb under center is that he leads all receivers with four goal line targets this year. If that continues, we will see plenty of scores from the Fitz/Kolb combo.