Tricks of the trends after Week 9
Will Hakeem Nicks break out of his funk? Is T.Y. Hilton a no-brainer waiver wire pick this week? Nathan Zegura dives deep into the numbers in his latest edition of Tricks of the Trends.
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.
• Julio Jones is starting to flash the dominant big play ability I was expecting coming into 2012 and that has led to back-to-back games of more than 100 yards receiving. Despite seeing only 11 targets in his last two games, Jones has caught 10 of them for 252 yards receiving and one touchdown. When you consider that he is averaging 25.2 yards per catch over the last two weeks, his efficiency metrics will blow your mind. Jones has caught 91 percent of his passes and is averaging a ridiculous 22.9 yards and 2.7 Fantasy points per target. He is a superstar ladies and gentlemen and if he can continue to hit big plays, while sprinkling in some touchdowns, Julio Jones will be right at the top of the rankings at the end of the season.
• Speaking of being at the top of the rankings, how about the run that Brandon Marshall is on right now. In his last five games, Marshall has been absolutely dominant and it makes you wonder why only one team was willing to pony up some mid-round draft picks to get a bona fide difference maker. During this span, Marshall has been targeted 59 times (nearly 12 per game) and has caught 43 of them for 583 yards and six touchdowns. He has not been held below 81 yards receiving in any game, has three 100-yard efforts and has scored in four of the five games. Marshall is catching 73 percent of his targets, is averaging 9.9 yards per target and a very impressive 1.59 Fantasy points per target. When you consider that Jay Cutler has not exactly been setting the world on fire and that no other Chicago wide receiver has 200 yards or three touchdowns receiving it becomes even more impressive. Brandon Marshall is in the discussion of Fantasy MVP right now with his consistently dominating performances.
• If Marshall is in the running for Fantasy MVP, I will cast a vote for Hakeem Nicks as the Fantasy LVP after his pathetic one catch for 10 yards performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 9. He is not even on the injury report anymore and has been practicing every day for a couple of weeks, so that is no longer to blame. In his last four games, Nicks has seen 26 targets and has caught just 13 of them for 153 yards and no touchdowns. He is catching just 50 percent of his targets and is averaging 5.8 yards per target and 0.58 Fantasy points per target. He does not have a single game of even six Fantasy points during that span and if he keeps this up, his Week 2 blow up of 25 Fantasy points may beat his rest of season total. At least his bye week is coming up so you don't have to play him in Week 11!
• Brian Hartline made a return to Fantasy relevance in Week 9 with eight catches for 107 yards on 12 targets against the Indianapolis Colts. The 12 targets were extremely significant as an examination of Hartline's 2012 season showed one critical trend. In the three games this year when Hartline has seen 10 or more targets, he has produced 100 yards every single time. When he has seen fewer than 10 targets in a game, Hartline has yet to top 60 yards receiving. So, if you have Hartline on your Fantasy teams, you might want to tweet Ryan Tannehill and tell him to throw it to Hartline 10 times every single week.
• Is Justin Blackmon on the verge of being a Fantasy producer? It sure is tough to be optimistic, but Blackmon seems to have been stepping up his play the last few weeks. He has posted his best Fantasy games ever of six and nine points respectively in his last two games and even hauled in his first NFL touchdown. Blackmon saw 17 targets in those two games and caught nine of them for 99 yards and a score. While he has posted his best games, his efficiency is still putrid with a 53 percent catch rate and just 5.8 yards per target. Until those numbers start to jump, it will be tough to get too excited about the first receiver taken in this year's draft.
• Andre Johnson has not scored a touchdown since Week 3 and that is the sales pitch you should use when trying to trade for him right now. Despite not finding the end zone in well over a month, Johnson is starting to come on strong and the touchdowns will come. In his last three games, Johnson has been targeted at least 10 times every week and has caught at least eight passes for 75 yards in each game. He caught eight passes for 118 yards last week and now has 25 catches for 279 yards on 32 targets in the last three games. With that kind of consistent catch and yardage volume, finding the end zone will get Johnson back into the Top 10 at his position.
• Put T.Y. Hilton on your radar screens immediately people. Andrew Luck is better than advertised and with Donnie Avery leaving Week 9 with an injury, Hilton could get the chance to really step up. He is a big play threat who averages a very healthy 15 yards per catch and he has shown that when he gets the chance to make plays, he delivers. Hilton saw a career-high 11 targets last week and caught six of them for 102 yards and a touchdown in the Colts' big win over the Miami Dolphins. Hilton has seen eight or more targets in three games now and he has produced at least 100 receiving yards with a touchdown in two of those games. He could very well be a big time superstar in the making and if you need receiver help, snag him off of the waiver wire.
• Is it time to sell high on Percy Harvin? You all know that he is my guy, but I am seeing some troubling trends from Christian Ponder that are showing up in Harvin's stat line. Ponder has been held to 111 or fewer passing yards in three of his last six games. It should come as no surprise to you that Harvin has been under 40 yards receiving in all three of those games, including two of the last three. Harvin is coming off of a season-low two catches for 10 yards against the Seattle Seahawks and with a bye week coming up in Week 11, Harvin will be giving you a zero then too. When you consider that Harvin is averaging just 5.95 yards per target over his last three games (down from nearly 10 earlier in the year), things are not looking as bright as they once were. Should the Vikings decide to switch quarterbacks, Joe Webb will have a negative impact on Harvin's numbers because he is not even close to the passer that Ponder is and he will not force feed the ball to Percy either.
• Titus Young really struggled against the Jags in Week 9 because the Lions did not have to throw the ball very much in their blowout win. Young caught only two of his five targets for 20 yards, but fear not ladies and gentlemen, he should bounce back against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 10. The Vikings have allowed the opposing No. 2 receiver to score in three straight games and they have four touchdowns during that span. Look for Young to bounce back in Week 10 giving him three solid games in his last four.
• Last week I asked the following question: Is there trouble on the Tony Gonzalez front? I would have to say the answer now is clearly yes there is. Gonzo has now been held under 60 yards and without a touchdown in four of his last five games and has seen just five targets in three of those games. He is not a big play guy, so he needs volume to produce and he is not getting it at all.
• Dwayne Allen is another rookie to keep an eye on in Indianapolis. With Coby Fleener out, Allen had a career day in Week 9, catching six of his seven targets for 75 yards. He posted his personal best in receiving yardage in each of the last two weeks, while catching an impressive 83 percent of his 12 targets and averaging 10.9 yards per target. If you need a tight end over the next couple of weeks, I think Allen is earning a bigger role from his quarterback Andrew Luck .
• Brandon Myers is one of the best stories of the 2012 season and it got even better in Week 9 as he finally hauled in his first touchdowns of the year. Myers has been a rock for Carson Palmer this year, catching nearly everything thrown his way. For the season, Myers has caught 39 of his 50 targets (78 percent) for 442 yards (8.84 yards per target) and the two scores he hauled in last week. Myers is on pace for a season of 78 catches, 884 yards and four scores which would surely land him in the Top 12 of the position. With Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson both potentially out for a while; look for the Raiders to really air the ball out and for Myers to continue to produce. After all, he saw a season high 13 targets last week which was the most of any tight.
• Marcel Reece could play a lot of running back for the Oakland Raiders if both Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson are out. Last week, Reece played out of the backfield and caught eight passes for 95 yards and a touchdown. He has produced at least four catches and 54 yards receiving in three of his last five games overall and with the injuries, he should be even more involved. If you are hurting at running back in a PPR league, you could do a lot worse than Reece the next few weeks.
• Target Leaders by position for Week 9: Wide receiver: Brian Hartline (12), Larry Fitzgerald (12), Josh Morgan (12), T.Y. Hilton (11), Eric Decker (11) and Victor Cruz (11); Tight end: Brandon Myers (13), Greg Olsen (nine) and Rob Housler (nine); Running back: Marcel Reece (nine), Trent Richardson (nine) and Fred Jackson (seven)
• The red zone is the key for consistent touchdown production at any position and that is especially true of quarterbacks. Early in the year, Carson Palmer had the great yardage totals, but he was not getting it done in the red zone. From Week 1 to Week 6, Palmer produced only four red zone scores and had a 16.7 percent red zone scoring rate. In his last three games, Palmer has become a legit Fantasy starter thanks to a red zone scoring barrage. In those games, Palmer has a produced six red zone scores (tied for second among all quarterbacks) and has a 25 percent scoring rate from inside the 20-yard line. With Darren McFadden hurt (a theme in this week's TotT), Palmer will have to carry this offense and he certainly looks to be up to the task.
• Robert Griffin III has had two bad Fantasy performances in a row and one of the main reasons for that is that teams have shut him down as a runner in the red zone. In the first six games of the year, RG3 scored five red zone rushing scores on 13 attempts and that was a huge part of his Fantasy value. In his last three games however, teams have clamped down on RG3 who has not found the end zone on any of his seven rushing attempts. RG3 only has multiple passing touchdowns in two of his nine NFL games, so he needs those rushing scores to keep the Fantasy points at elite levels.
• Arian Foster has scored in every game this year and leads the NFL with 10 red zone rushing scores. The fact that Ray Rice is second with six red zone rushing scores is probably not all that surprising either. However, Andre Brown is also tied for second with six red zone rushing scores, which is a definite shocker. Even more impressive to me, is that Brown has scored six times on only 14 carries and his red zone scoring rate is 37.5 percent, which is the best mark among the 34 running backs who have seen at least 10 red zone carries.
• Mikel Leshoure scored three red zone touchdowns last week and now has the third best red zone scoring rate among the 34 busiest runners at 30.5 percent. Hey Detroit, please feed the ball to Mr. Leshoure.
• In the pre-season, Eric Decker was my pick to be the red zone monster for Peyton Manning in Denver, which is why I thought he had 10-touchdown potential. Well that may have been a big understatement! Decker has been the go-to-guy inside the 20 for Manning, but the level of success that this pair has enjoyed has been unparalleled. Decker is second among all receivers with 15 red zone targets and is tied with James Jones for an NFL best seven red zone scores! Decker is on pace for 14 red zone touchdowns and his 46.6 percent red zone trails only James Jones and A.J. Green among the 20 most targeted receivers. It should also be noted that Decker has nine more red zone targets and five more scores than Demaryius, which is a big reason why Decker has seven scores to four for DT.
• Torrey Smith needs to get some more red zone targets and he needs to get them now! Smith has been targeted only four times inside the 20-yard line this year, but every one of those targets has produced the very same result: touchdown! He is four for four on the year and Joe Flacco would be wise to utilize Smith more often in scoring situations.
• There are three quarterbacks with at least seven goal line touchdowns this year. Ben Roethlisberger (eight) and Peyton Manning (eight) are setting the pace. The third amigo in this elite group just so happens to be Peyton's replacement in Indianapolis, Mr. Andrew Luck .
• Andre Brown is the goal line back in New York and Ahmad Bradshaw owners can start the crying now, because he is not going away anytime soon. Brown has a goal line touchdown in three straight games and he has scored on 60 percent of his chances, best in the NFL. Bradshaw will need to score from five yards or more out because when they get to the goal line, Andre Brown will get the ball and right now he deserves it.
• Isaac Redman made the most of his start in Week 9 and further muddied up a crowded Pittsburgh running back situation. One thing is clear to me however and that is that Redman should be the team's goal line back even when everyone is healthy. Redman has scored on both of his goal line carries this year while the other Steelers backs have failed to convert a goal line rush all year.
• Mike Williams is not only a big play wide receiver, because with two goal line receiving touchdowns, he is tied for second at his position. The only wide receiver with three goal line scores this year is Eric Decker , who you already know has been dominant inside the 20.