2012 Target Report: NFC South

Throughout the year I highlighted various statistical facts and trends in my Tricks of the Trends article. With the year now complete, it is time to look back at each team and see what we can learn from the 2012 target, red zone and goal line data as we begin our preparations for the 2013 Fantasy season. I will profile each division separately and our seventh division to examine is the NFC South.

Atlanta Falcons

Target Leaders: Roddy White (143/8.9 per game), Julio Jones (128/8.0), Tony Gonzalez (124/7.8)
Catch Rate Leaders: Jacquizz Rodgers (89.8 percent), Jason Snelling (88.6 percent), Tony Gonzalez (75 percent), Harry Douglas (64.4 percent)
Yards Per target Leader: Roddy White (9.5), Julio Jones (9.4)
Fantasy Points Per Target Leader: Julio Jones (1.4 -- ninth best in NFL), Roddy White (1.24), Tony Gonzalez (1.14)
Red Zone Quarterback Performance: Matt Ryan -- 26.8 percent touchdown rate (97 opportunities -- second most/ 26 touchdowns -- fifth most)
Red Zone Carry Leader: Michael Turner (52 -- seventh most/10 -- fourth most)
Red Zone Target Leader: Julio Jones (20/seven -- both sixth most), Roddy White (20/four), Tony Gonzalez (17/eight -- both second most among tight ends)
Red Zone Touchdown Rate Leader: Tony Gonzalez (47.1 percent), Julio Jones (35 percent)
Goal Line Quarterback Performance: Matt Ryan -- 42.3 percent (26 opportunities/11 touchdowns -- second most)
Goal Line Carry Leader: Michael Turner (22 -- second most/seven -- fourth most)
Goal Line Target Leader: Julio Jones (eight/one), Roddy White (seven/three)
Goal Line Touchdown Rate Leader: Tony Gonzalez (60 percent)

The Falcons had one of the most complete passing games in the NFL in 2012 and produced three Fantasy stud pass catchers in Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez. ... The emergence of Julio Jones actually benefitted White in 2012. White set career highs in both yards per target (9.5) and Fantasy points per target (1.24) in 2012, which is very impressive considering his yards per target averages the prior three years were 7.2, 7.8 and 6.9. White’s 14.7 yards per catch were his highest since 2008. He had just four red zone touchdowns in 2012 on 20 targets and could take a backseat to the more efficient Julio Jones going forward. ... Jones was a beast in 2012, averaging 9.4 yards per target and led the team with a 15.2 yards per catch average, a 1.4 Fantasy points per target average, 10 touchdowns and seven red zone touchdowns. I just want more targets for Julio because in 10 career games with nine or more targets, Jones averages 7.4 catches for 105 yards and 0.9 touchdowns per game. That translates to 16 Fantasy points per week and 118 receptions for 1,680 yards and 14.4 scores over a 16-game season. Give him the ball! ... Hopefully Tony Gonzalez returns after a remarkable 2012 that saw him catch 93 passes for 930 yards and eight touchdowns. Gonzo added 14 catches for 129 yards and two scores in two playoff games, as well. He caught 75 percent of his targets and can certainly still play at a high level. I am sure the Falcons want him back and talks are already ongoing to get him back for 2013. Gonzo also is a force in the red zone, where his 47.1 percent scoring rate was the best on the team. He also scored eight red zone touchdowns, second most among all tight ends. ... Matt Ryan was Top 5 in both red zone touchdowns (26) and goal line touchdowns (11) and his trio of studs was a big reason why. ... Michael Turner is not likely to return to Atlanta, which means someone will get many chances to rack up touchdowns in 2013. Turner had at least 10 rushing scores in five straight seasons with the Falcons and the team’s commitment to the run in scoring situations had a ton to do with that. Turner has more goal line rushes than anyone in the NFL over the last three years with 76 and is second with 28 scores. Someone will pick those up in 2013, which equals a solid Fantasy opportunity. ... Jacquizz Rodgers caught an impressive 89.8 percent of his targets last year and averaged a healthy 7.6 yards per catch (6.8 yards per target). If Rodgers can take on an expanded role, he will be one to watch in PPR formats after hauling in 53 passes a year ago. ... The Falcons have three studs in Matt Ryan, Julio Jones (who could jump to the Top 3 at receiver with 150 targets in 2013) and Roddy White, who will make this one of the more exciting and potent passing attacks in the NFL. ... The big questions for 2013: Will Tony Gonzalez return? If not, will Atlanta snag a Dustin Keller-type free agent? Who will pick up the 10 rushing touchdowns left behind by Michael Turner?

Carolina Panthers

Target Leaders: Steve Smith (138/8.6 per game), Greg Olsen (104/6.5), Brandon LaFell (76/5.4)
Catch Rate Leaders: Jonathan Stewart (73.9 percent), Mike Tolbert (69.2 percent), Greg Olsen (66.3 percent)
Yards Per target Leader: DeAngelo Williams (9.4), Brandon LaFell (8.9), Steve Smith (8.5), Greg Olsen (8.1)
Fantasy Points Per Target Leader: DeAngelo Williams (1.51), Brandon LaFell (1.21), Greg Olsen (1.1)
Red Zone Quarterback Performance: Cam Newton -- 16.9 percent touchdown rate - worst among the 30 busiest quarterbacks in the red zone (89 opportunities/ 15 touchdowns)
Red Zone Carry Leader: Cam Newton (30/seven), DeAngelo Williams (23/three), Mike Tolbert (14/seven)
Red Zone Target Leader: Greg Olsen (14/four), Steve Smith (14/two), Louis Murphy (13/one)
Red Zone Touchdown Rate Leader: Mike Tolbert (50 percent), Cam Newton as a rusher (23.3 percent)
Goal Line Quarterback Performance: Cam Newton -- 34.4 percent (32 opportunities -- most in NFL/11 touchdowns -- second most)
Goal Line Carry Leader: Cam Newton (14/seven), Mike Tolbert (eight/seven)
Goal Line Target Leader: Steve Smith (five/one)
Goal Line Touchdown Rate Leader: Mike Tolbert (88 percent), Greg Olsen (67 percent)

Cam Newton was the No. 1 Fantasy quarterback from Week 10 on in 2012, but still has room for improvement. The new general manager in Carolina could really help him out by adding a quality No. 2 receiver who could excel in the red zone. You see, Newton had a 16.9 percent red zone touchdown rate in 2012, the worst among the 30 busiest quarterbacks. That number becomes even scarier when you consider he had just a 13.5 percent red zone scoring rate as a passer, also worst in the NFL. Paging Dwayne Bowe. ... Steve Smith averaged a respectable 8.5 yards per target in 2012, but that was down nearly two yards from his 2011 levels. Add in the fact that Smith remains a liability in the red zone (14 percent scoring rate) and that he caught just 52.9 percent of his targets and you can see Cam needs one more receiver. Smith did finish strong with three scores in his final five games, but had just four touchdowns on the season. The scores could remain a problem if teams limit his big plays again in 2013. ... Brandon LaFell led the receivers with averages of 8.9 yards and 1.21 Fantasy points per target. Those are both excellent numbers, but LaFell did not look like a player ready to really break out. He may get another chance if the Panthers do not add/draft a receiver and he is worth keeping on your radar screens as a sleeper in 2013 if that happens. Still, LaFell averaged less than 9.0 points per game when targeted seven or more times per game, so keep that in mind. ... Greg Olsen showed real signs of improvement in 2012 and I think he can become a star for Cam Newton in 2013. Olsen jumped from a 50 percent catch rate, 6.0 yards per target and 0.9 points per target in 2011 to a 66 percent catch rate, 8.1 yards per target and 1.1 points per target in 2012. Olsen was the team’s best red zone receiver and he could see an even bigger role in 2013. Nineteen tight ends saw 80 or more targets in 2012 and Olsen’s 8.1 yards per target ranked second among them. Olsen averaged more than nine points per game in the seven games in which he saw seven or more targets and did not produce fewer than five catches or 53 yards in any of them. Olsen has Top 5 tight end potential if he gets up to seven or eight scores in 2013. ... The running back situation will change a lot in 2013 for the Panthers as DeAngelo Williams is expected to depart. If that happens look for Jonathan Stewart to get the chance to carry the load, but he should not get the ball near the stripe. Mike Tolbert scored on seven of his eight goal line carries for a league-best 87.5 percent scoring rate. Tolbert now has 23 goal line rushing scores over the last three seasons, third most in the NFL behind only Arian Foster and Michael Turner. ... Cam Newton remains one of the premier short-yardage runners in the NFL. He has 15 goal line rushing scores over the last two years, third in the NFL. ... with one more receiver (especially one who can dominate in the red zone), Carolina could become a complete offense that will be a nightmare for opposing defenses. Look for Cam to continue his improvement in 2013 and he could easily finish the year as the No. 1 Fantasy quarterback.

New Orleans Saints

Target Leaders: Jimmy Graham (135/9.0 per game), Marques Colston (130/8.1), Darren Sproles (104/8.0), Lance Moore (104/6.9)
Catch Rate Leaders: Pierre Thomas (73.6 percent), Darren Sproles (72.1 percent, Marques Colston (63.8 percent)
Yards Per target Leader: Joe Morgan (18.1), Lance Moore (10.0), Marques Colston (8.9)
Fantasy Points Per Target Leader: Joe Morgan (2.26), Marques Colston (1.35), Lance Moore (1.35)
Red Zone Quarterback Performance: Drew Brees -- 34 percent touchdown rate (103 opportunities/ 35 touchdowns) -- He was tops in the NFL in all three categories
Red Zone Carry Leader: Mark Ingram (21/four), Pierre Thomas (16/one)
Red Zone Target Leader: Marques Colston (23/10) -- both third most in NFL, Darren Sproles (19/five), Jimmy Graham (17/eight) -- both second among tight ends, Lance Moore (15/four)
Red Zone Touchdown Rate Leader: Jed Collins (67 percent), David Thomas (57.1 percent), Jimmy Graham (47.1 percent), Marques Colston (43.5 percent)
Goal Line Quarterback Performance: Drew Brees -- 42.3 percent (26 opportunities/11 touchdowns -- second most)
Goal Line Carry Leader: Mark Ingram (four/two)
Goal Line Target Leader: Jimmy Graham (six/three), Darren Sproles (six/two)
Goal Line Touchdown Rate Leader: Pierre Thomas (67 percent)

As long as Drew Brees is the quarterback of the New Orleans Saints, this will be the most prolific passing attack in the NFL. Brees threw for 5,177 yards and 43 touchdowns in 2012, making him the only quarterback in NFL history to throw for 5,000 yards and 40 touchdowns in back-to-back seasons. Brees was dominant in the red zone, where he led the NFL in touchdown rate, touchdowns and opportunities. In fact, Brees’ 35 red zone touchdowns were more than every quarterback not named Aaron Rodgers or Peyton Manning had from anywhere on the field. ... Marques Colston is in the perfect offense for his skill set, and it shows. Colston has produced between 70 and 84 catches, 1,022 and 1,154 yards, seven and 10 touchdowns and an 11th and 19th place Fantasy finish at receiver in four straight seasons. His 1,154 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2012 were both the second most of his career. Colston’s metrics were again outstanding as he caught 64 percent of his targets (for the third straight year), averaged 8.8 yards per target and 1.35 Fantasy points per target (13th best in NFL). Colston dominates in the red zone, where he scored all 10 of his touchdowns on 23 targets, both third most in the NFL. ... Lance Moore is quietly an efficiency machine who caught 62.5 percent of his targets, averaged 10 yards per target (fourth) and 1.35 Fantasy points per target. Moore set career highs with 16 yards per catch, 10 yards per target and 1,065 receiving yards in 2012. He has 34 touchdowns in his last four full seasons and has been a Top 36 Fantasy receiver in every one of those years. Moore is a solid mid-round selection once again in 2013 and he will try to build on a career-best eight games with 10 or more Fantasy points. ... Looking for a deep sleeper? Check out Joe Morgan. He led all receivers with at least 20 targets by averaging 37.9 yards per catch, 18.1 yards per target and 2.26 Fantasy points per target. Morgan could emerge into a new-age Robert Meachem who is capable of a big game at any time, but will likely be too inconsistent to count on week in and week out. ... Jimmy Graham took a step back in 2012, but injuries may be to blame. Graham still caught 85 passes for 982 yards and nine touchdowns, but his efficiency was down across the board. He saw his catch rate fall from 66 percent to 63 percent, his yards per target fall from 8.9 to 7.3 and his Fantasy points per target fall from 1.33 to 1.13. Look for those numbers to find some middle ground in 2013 and Graham will be back over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns, putting him right at the top of the tight end class. After all, Graham is a red zone monster (over 40 percent scoring rate for his career) and turned eight of his nine red zone catches into scores in 2012. ... Darren Sproles is the best receiving back in the NFL and New Orleans is the perfect offense for him. He averages 80.5 receptions, 690 yards and seven touchdowns per season on 8.6 yards per catch. Sproles had as many goal line receiving touchdowns (two) as team-leader Mark Ingram had goal line rushing scores in 2012. Ingram did score on two of his four goal line carries in 2012, but will need more chances both at the stripe and between the 20 yard lines to become a Fantasy stud. Keep in mind that the Saints ran 31 plays inside the opponent’s 5-yard line last year and 25 of them were passes, which at 80.6 percent was by far the highest rate in the NFL. ... Bottom line is that the Saints are Fantasy and efficiency gold when it comes to the passing game in today’s NFL.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Target Leaders: Vincent Jackson (147/9.2 per game), Mike Williams (126/7.9), Dallas Clark (75/4.7), Doug Martin (70/4.4)
Catch Rate Leaders: Doug Martin (70 percent), Dallas Clark (62.7 percent)
Yards Per target Leader: Vincent Jackson (9.4), Mike Williams (7.9)
Fantasy Points Per Target Leader: Vincent Jackson (1.27), Mike Williams (1.22)
Red Zone Quarterback Performance: Josh Freeman -- 27.3 percent touchdown rate (77 opportunities/ 21 touchdowns)
Red Zone Carry Leader: Doug Martin (55 -- fifth most/six)
Red Zone Target Leader: Vincent Jackson (20 -- most in NFL/six -- seventh among receivers), Mike Williams (19/six -- seventh among receivers)
Red Zone Touchdown Rate Leader: Dallas Clark (33 percent), Mike Williams (31.6 percent), Vincent Jackson (30 percent)
Goal Line Quarterback Performance: Josh Freeman -- 52.9 percent (17 opportunities/nine touchdowns)
Goal Line Carry Leader: Doug Martin (18/five)
Goal Line Target Leader: Mike Williams (six/four)
Goal Line Touchdown Rate Leader: Mike Williams (67 percent)

Doug Martin burst onto the scene in 2012 as a Fantasy stud and I think he keeps it going in 2013. Martin can run and catch the ball (49 catches for 472 yards and a touchdown), so he can help in any situation. His 9.6 yards per catch average was fifth best among the 50 most targeted running backs and his 6.7 yards per target was 10th. Martin needs to improve in scoring situations however, as his 10.9 percent red zone scoring rate was the third worst among the 20 busiest backs. ... Vincent Jackson proved me wrong with a monster 2012 season that saw him set career highs in catches (72) and yards (1,384). Jackson only caught 49 percent of his targets, but he still managed to average 9.4 yards per target thanks to an impressive 19.2 yards per catch average. Jackson averaged 2.1 yards per target more than Josh Freeman’s 7.3 yards per attempt in 2012. Jackson also turned in his best career performance in the red zone, with personal bests in terms of targets (20) and touchdowns (six). He has at least eight touchdowns and has been a Top 12 Fantasy receiver in each of his last four full seasons. ... Mike Williams makes a much better second option and he showed that with 996 yards and nine touchdowns thanks to career best in terms of yards per catch (15.8) and yards per target (7.9). Williams was a stud again in the red zone with six scores, but did most of his damage near the goal line. He led all receivers with four goal line receiving touchdowns in 2012. Williams still had six games with fewer than 40 yards receiving, but produced 10 or more points eight times. ... The one element missing from this passing game is a dominant tight end and I would love to see one of the good free agents end up in Tampa. Dallas Clark and his 9.3 yards per catch and 5.8 yards per target averages did not cut it. ... Tiquan Underwood is a serviceable third receiver but I think that the Bucs need a high catch rate slot receiver like Danny Amendola to make this a complete passing game and to help out the sometimes inconsistent Josh Freeman. After all, the Bucs did not have any of their top three receivers over a 50 percent catch rate, which is unacceptable. ... Speaking of Freeman, he had four rushing scores in 2011, but none in 2012 (he also had none in 2009 and 2010). This team is one piece away from having an awesome passing game. ... Doug Martin and Jackson remain the Fantasy jewels here, but Williams is a solid option if he maintains his touchdown production and a new tight end or slot receiver could really open things up.

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