Aaron Hernandez and a collection of curious onlookers (Getty Images)
Aaron Hernandez barely finished inside the top-10 at his position in Week 13 fantasy scoring, and he failed to visit the end zone. Thus, I won't try to convince you that he carried anyone into the fantasy playoffs, single-handedly. In fact, Hernandez had a somewhat sloppy day, with an ugly drop on the Patriots' opening series, plus another near-catch that skipped off his outstretched hands (and, if caught, would have resulted in a touchdown). He was also the targeted receiver on Tom Brady's first quarter interception.
Again: It wasn't a flawless day for No. 81.
However, Hernandez finished second among all tight ends in total targets in Week 13, tied with Jacob Tamme (13), behind only Brandon Myers (15). He hauled in a season-high eight balls for 97 yards, playing every snap in New England's division-clinching win. He was certainly more useful for fantasy purposes than he'd been the prior week, when he drew only three targets, catching two.
No, we can't say for sure that Hernandez is fully recovered from his early-season ankle injury — the Pats may list him as "questionable" for the rest of his career — but, based on Sunday's usage, you have to reassign him to the top-tier among the tight ends.
The schedule ahead isn't ideal for Hernandez — vs. Houston, vs. San Francisco, at Jacksonville — but he's obviously still tied to an elite offense and a matchup-proof quarterback. Plus Gronk remains sidelined with no clear ETA. Hernandez was started in just 70 percent of Yahoo! leagues last week; that number clearly needs to climb in Week 14.
Week 13 target leaders, 2012
You'll notice that I've added some clutter data to the target leader board this week. There are plenty of ways to slice up the target stats; maybe we'll try something new next time. Please think of the comments section as a big suggestion box — like the kind Cam Newton wanted a few weeks back.
• Check out the Week 13 stats for Rams receiver Chris Givens: 14 targets, 11 catches, 92 yards. He accounted for a huge share of Sam Bradford's total passing stats (26 completions, 221 yards). No other St. Louis wide receiver saw more than four targets on Sunday. Givens has a friendly schedule upcoming (at Buf, vs. Min, at TB), he's only 15 percent-owned, and Danny Amendola is still dealing with a heel injury. Add as needed.
Chris Givens (Getty)• Cecil Shorts and Sidney Rice will apparently both need to navigate the NFL's concussion protocol this week, although we heard favorable reports on both players Sunday night. Rice actually tweeted that he cleared, but his head coach indicated otherwise on Monday. So we wait.
• Note that Colts receiver Donnie Avery is one of just 19 players to have reached the 100-target plateau this season. He's coming off his best game of the year (by far), and his highest target total. Obviously Avery hasn't exactly made the absolute most of his opportunities (49 catches, 675 yards, 3 TDs), but there's no doubt he has the full confidence of his rookie QB. Andrew Luck is on pace to reach 670 pass attempts this season, so you can expect Avery — and TY Hilton, and various other Colts — to deliver a few more useful fantasy lines.
[Dennis] Allen confirmed that he benched wide receiver Denarius Moore and cornerback Ron Bartell for a spell because of inconsistent play.
Moore was replaced by rookie Rod Streater down the stretch after failing to hold on to several catchable passes.
"Yeah, took him out there at the end," Allen said of Moore. "Dropped a couple balls, and we got to make plays when you've got opportunities. Both those guys. It wasn't from a lack of effort, but we've got to make plays when we've got an opportunity."
You'll notice that it was Oakland rookie Juron Criner, not Streater, who actually made an appearance among the target leaders. Criner is a fifth-rounder from Arizona, and he's drawn 21 targets over the past three weeks (though he hasn't done a whole lot with 'em: 10 catches, 72 yards, TD).
• Mike Thomas now finds himself just below Megatron and Brandon Pettigrew in the Lions' receiving hierarchy, following the Week 13 injury to Ryan Broyles (right ACL). Titus Young, of course, remains in exile. Tight end Tony Scheffler obviously gets interesting as well; he hauled in three balls for 55 yards on five targets in the Week 13 loss to Indy.
• Jared Cook enthusiasts, please note the target number above (12). You can't be surprised that he only caught four balls. Cook always seems to binge at the end of the year, setting himself up for another summer of sleeper hype, so I have no doubt it will happen again this December. Do whatever feels right with this information, gamers.