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Week 4 Target Watch: NFC

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Raymond Summerlin examines why Jimmy Graham deserves to be the first non-running back off the board in …

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Welcome to the NFC targets and touches for Week 4 of the NFL season. The AFC portion will be up tomorrow, so set your DVRs for that. And if you are new to the column let me take you through a quick look at how I set things up. You'll see something like this "Julio Jones: 9-14-12 (35)” which just means that Jones had 9 targets in Week 1, 14 targets in Week 2 and 12 in Week 3 with 35 total.  It’s like taking candy from the store after paying for it.

Before we get started this week with the NFC targets and touches, I thought you’d like to see the top “20” target leaders so far this season. You’ll see Cecil “Garbage Time” Shorts in the lead, with the tight end phenomenon known as Jimbo Graham close behind.  Most of them make sense when you think about it, so take a look, think about it, and make some sense then Follow me on Twitter to explain it all to me.

1. Cecil Shorts: 11-14-15 (40)

2. Jimmy Graham: 7-16-15 (38)

3. Pierre Garcon: 11-13-13 (37)

4. Julio Jones: 9-14-12 (35)

4. A.J. Green: 13-14-8 (35)

4. Andre Johnson: 16-13-6 (35)

7. Julian Edelman: 9-18-7 (34)

8. Randall Cobb: 12-10-11 (33)

9. Jordan Cameron: 13-7-11 (31)

9. DeSean Jackson: 9-15-7 (31)

11. Torrey Smith: 8-13-9 (30)

11. Greg Little: 10-12-8 (30)

11. Calvin Johnson: 9-8-13 (30)

11. Emmanuel Sanders: 12-10-8 (30)

11. Vincent Jackson: 13-11-6 (30)

16. Steve Johnson: 6-10-13 (29)

16. Brian Hartline: 15-8-6 (29)

16. Antonio Brown: 7-9-13 (29)

16. Anquan Boldin: 17-4-8 (29)

20. Brandon Marshall: 10-10-8 (28)

20. Davone Bess: 10-8-10 (28)

20. Eric Decker: 7-13-8 (28)

20. Demaryius Thomas: 11-6-11 (28)

20. Kenbrell Thompkins: 14-7-7 (28)

Arizona Cardinals

Larry Fitzgerald: 14-5-6 (25), Andre Roberts: 9-8-4 (21), Michael Floyd: 6-7-6 (19), Andre Ellington: 3-2-6 (11), Jim Dray: 2-7-0 (9), Jaron Brown: 2-2-2 (6), Rashard Mendenhall: 1-2-1 (4), Alfonso Smith: 1-1-1 (3), Rob Housler: dnp-dnp-3 (3), Stepfan Taylor: 0-0-1 (1), Kory Sperry: 1-0-0 (1)

The Cardinals’ offensive line woes cropped up again this week against the Saints and it kept Carson Palmer and his receivers pretty much bottled up.  In a 31-7 loss the Saints you would think Palmer would have more than 35 attempts, but no such luck. The Saints under Rob Ryan aren’t a cake matchup at this point for passing attacks.

Larry Fitzgerald tied with Michael Floyd and Andre Ellington for targets, with Ellington getting such a large percentage based on dump-off-ability. Their schedule isn’t exactly great going forward, so keep expectations down some.

Rashard Mendenhall came into this game with a toe injury, but it’s hard to tell if that limited his snaps or not since they were in garbage time come from behind mode for much of the game and the receiving back, Ellington, saw the most snaps with 27 to Mendenhall’s 23 and Alfonso Smith’s 18. I suspect Smith’s touches were due mainly to keeping Mendenhall healthy.

Rob Housler saw the bulk of the tight end snaps with 39 compared to Jim Dray’s 18. He had three targets and caught one. This game wasn’t quite indicative of the offense running smoothly by any means, and it was Housler’s first game back, so I’m not ready to make any declarations on his usage just yet.

Atlanta Falcons

Julio Jones: 9-14-12 (35), Tony Gonzalez: 6-8-5 (19), Harry Douglas: 6-5-6 (17), Jason Snelling: 3-4-5 (12), Steven Jackson: 8-2-dnp (10), Roddy White: 2-3-4 (9), Jacquizz Rodgers: 1-4-3 (8), Bradie Ewing: 1-1-dnp (2), Levine Toilolo: 0-1-1 (2), Drew Davis: 0-0-1 (1)

Roddy White was once again limited, but did have more snaps than Harry Douglas for the first time this season. The problem was his lack of production once again.  His 30 routes run was just four off of Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez’s number and three ahead of Douglas, but he was fifth on the target list with four to Douglas’ six. He’ll need to practice all week for me to plug him back into the lineup.

Julio Jones had another big day with 12 targets and nine receptions for 115 yards.  With White hobbled, Jones leads all receivers with 373 yards. The Falcons need White back, but Jones’ Fantasy owners wouldn’t mind him taking a couple more games off.  The only player with over 10 targets that has a better catch percentage than Jones is Nate Burleson at 82.6% while Jones is at 81.8%. That’s darn good for a player who doesn’t play in the slot.

The backups to Steven Jackson split time fairly evenly with Jacquizz Rodgers getting 43 snaps to Jason Snelling’s 36. Rodgers had 21 looks and accumulated 93 yards while Snelling had 16 looks and had 111 yards and a touchdown. That’s two games in a row he’s outproduced Rodgers even though he had less touches. Rodgers looked good against the Dolphins so it’s not as if Snelling just blew him away, but Snelling’s nose for the end zone is winning out so far.

Carolina Panthers

Greg Olsen: 10-8-8 (26), Steve Smith: 8-11-7 (26), Ted Ginn: 1-8-4 (13), Brandon LaFell: 0-6-5 (11), DeAngelo Williams: 3-0-2 (5), Mike Tolbert: 1-3-0 (4), Armanti Edwards: 0-2-0 (2), Domenik Hixon: dnp-0-1 (1)

Cam Newton is sitting at 23rd in completion percentage and 28th in yards passing, but he finally got his fantasy points against the Giants in a blowout.  His seven rushing attempts for 45 yards and a touchdown are the most promising of all his stats since Mike Shula hasn’t been using him in the run game much early this season. His three touchdown passes came on just 15 completions and a 55% completion rate. I’m not sold he’s going to turn things around abruptly in the passing game, so I hope Shula allows him to run more going forward.

The Panthers ran the ball 46 times in the blowout and 23 of those were for DeAngelo Williams who rushed for 120 yards. He still was barely used in the passing game with two targets which he caught one of for negative three yards. With Jonathan Stewart getting closer to returning and the Panthers getting a bye this week it might be a good time to trade him for someone with more upside, especially with Mike Tolbert and Cam Newton getting red zone carries.

Brandon LaFell caught two touchdowns after not making any sort of impact on the first two games of the season. He’s still behind Ted Ginn for targets this season and it will be difficult for him to ever come close to those three receptions for two touchdowns again.

Chicago Bears

Brandon Marshall: 10-10-8 (28), Alshon Jeffery: 8-5-8 (21), Matt Forte: 6-11-4 (21), Martellus Bennett: 6-9-5 (20), Earl Bennett: 1-2-3 (6), Steve Maneri: 0-1-1 (2), Michael Bush: 1-0-1 (2),

Alshon Jeffery saw an uptick in targets after a dip in week two, which he caught seven of the eight.  Martellus Bennett was the big target loser of the fantasy relevant receivers. They were facing a tough Steelers’ defense, so it’s not like they were going to put up huge fantasy numbers or get a ton of productive targets anyway, but it will be difficult for four players to consistently put up fantasy numbers, even in the pass oriented Trestman offense. Bennett’s red zone looks, Brandon Marshall’s total target numbers and Matt Forte’s Matt Forteness will keep those three pretty consistent, but Earl Bennett will most likely start hurting Jeffery.

Michael Bush has been named the goal line back for the Bears, which was somewhat up in the air even in this game with Forte getting a five-yard touchdown run. But Bush has always been the better goal line back of the two. Forte has had 60 rushing attempts from the five-yard line or closer in his career and just converted 12 of those into touchdowns. As a Bear Michael Bush has converted six of 10 attempts inside the five for touchdowns. It limits Forte somewhat, but it’s not like he’s been converting goal line looks all that often anyway.

Dallas Cowboys

Dez Bryant: 8-13-6 (27), Jason Witten: 9-8-6 (23), Miles Austin: 12-4-5 (21), DeMarco Murray: 10-6-3 (19), Terrance Williams: 4-3-0 (7), James Hanna: 0-5-0 (5),

Gavin Escobar: 2-1-2 (5), Dwayne Harris: 3-1-1 (5), Phillip Tanner: 1-0-0 (1), Lance Dunbar: dnp-1-0 (1), Cole Beasley: dnp-dnp-1 (1)

Tony Romo was extremely efficient against the Rams completing 17 of his 24 passes for 210 yards and three touchdowns. His 71% completion rate actually dropped him to 72.2% for the season, just below Peyton Manning’s 73%.  He spread the ball around well, completing passes to seven different players and touchdowns to Dwayne Harris and Gavin Escobar with Miles Austin leaving the game with a hamstring injury.

If Austin is out for any time it looks like Terrance Williams would be next in line since he saw the most snaps after him, but he didn’t have one target. It doesn’t look like one guy will step up to play a significant role at this point.

DeMarco Murray put the Rams out of their misery rushing 27 times for 175 yards and a touchdown. Murray leads all running backs in Pro Football Focus’ Elusive Rating by making 20 defenders miss tackling him. If he defies the odds and can stay healthy he’s going to be a draft day steal, he has been so far.

Detroit Lions

Calvin Johnson: 9-8-13 (30), Nate Burleson: 6-8-9 (23), Joique Bell: 6-8-5 (19), Brandon Pettigrew: 4-6-2 (12), Reggie Bush: 8-3-dnp (11), Kris Durham: 2-2-3 (7), Joseph Fauria: 3-0-3 (6), Theo Riddick: 0-1-2 (3), Tony Scheffler: 1-0-2 (3), Patrick Edwards: 3-0-dnp (3), Ryan Broyles: dnp-dnp-3 (3)

The Lions continue their pass first ways, but they aren’t quite as pass happy as last season. Last year Stafford averaged 45 attempts per game and this year he’s all the way down to 40 per game. It’s still high, but eight quarterbacks are averaging more this year. His completions percentage is also up a few points so far this season. Baby steps.

Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson led the way with 13 and nine targets and they both topped 100 yards receiving.  Unfortunately Nate Burleson was in a car accident and broke his arm. That leaves quite a few targets and receptions available to his replacement. He was averaging 7.7 targets a game and was tied for ninth in receptions for wide receivers with 19.  Kris Durham saw the third most snaps for wide receivers with 34 while Ryan Broyles had 17, but Broyles caught all three of his targets while Durham caught one of three.  This was Broyles first game back from ACL surgery so his snap count was limited, but he is the obvious replacement for Burleson as long as his knee can stay intact.

Tight end Joseph Fauria only played 12 snaps, but had a touchdown catch and another end zone target. He has four red zone targets this season. It would be nice to see more of him now that Burleson is out, but we’ll just have to see.

As a side note sixth round draft pick Theo Riddick saw a couple of carries and two targets. He didn’t do much with them, but he was impressive in training camp and is now the backup to Joique Bell instead of Mikel Leshoure who is dead in the fantasy water. Riddick is also oddly enough listed as a wide receiver in ESPN leagues even though he is a running back who, like the rest of the Lions backs, catches the ball well. He’s worth monitoring, especially in deep PPR leagues.

Green Bay Packers

Randall Cobb: 12-10-11 (33), Jordy Nelson: 10-4-9 (23), James Jones: 2-12-8 (22), Jermichael Finley: 8-7-1 (16), Andrew Quarless: 0-3-5 (8), James Starks: 1-5-0 (6), Ryan Taylor: 0-0-3 (3), Johnathan Franklin: dnp-0-3 (3), Eddie Lacy: 2-0-dnp (2), Jeremy Ross: 0-0-2 (2), John Kuhn: 1-0-dnp (1)

This was one of Aaron Rodger’s worst games in a long while. It was actually the first regular season game since November of 2009 that he threw more interceptions than touchdowns.  The Packers also lost two starters to injury in this one, Jermichael Finley and James Starks. There’s no doubt the Packers need this bye that’s coming up to get Finley, Eddie Lacy, James Stark and Clay Matthews healthy.

Johnathan Franklin played very well backing up Starks, but had a fumble that was returned for a touchdown. This game was as crazy as games get, but all in all I wouldn’t put too much stock into the poor showing. The talent is all there.

Minnesota Vikings

Jerome Simpson: 8-5-8 (21), Greg Jennings: 7-6-6 (19), Kyle Rudolph: 4-6-8 (18), Adrian Peterson: 4-2-6 (12), Jarius Wright: 2-2-4 (8), Cordarrelle Patterson: 1-2-4 (7), John Carlson: 1-2-2 (5), Toby Gerhart: 0-2-2 (4), Zach Line: 1-1-1 (3), Joe Webb: 0-0-1 (1)

Christian Ponder’s lack of arm strength and pocket presence is a problem. As you can see by the reception numbers, Adrian Peterson led the team with six receptions for 27 yards and Kyle Rudolph was second with five receptions for 28 yards. That’s five yards per reception. That’s not going to get it done. Of course the Browns defense is strong, but Ponder’s inability to spread the defense out is hurting Peterson. Last season it didn’t seem to matter as he was able to break through stacked fronts, but after his first carry of the season that went for 68 yards and a touchdown he’s had 68 carries for 213 yards which is 3.13 yards per carry.  He has faced some tough run defenses so far and he still runs like a superhero in a comic strip tearing through a gang of minions, so I wouldn’t worry too much.  And hey, he had six targets and caught all six of them. He only had six or more targets twice last season. If he can keep up the receptions, watch out.

New Orleans Saints

Jimmy Graham: 7-16-15 (38), Marques Colston: 6-7-8 (21), Darren Sproles: 6-8-6 (20), Pierre Thomas: 4-5-6 (15), Lance Moore: 4-4-3 (11), Kenny Stills: 5-1-2 (8), Ben Watson: 3-0-2 (5), Robert Meachem: dnp-1-2 (3), Jed Collins: 0-1-1 (2), Mark Ingram: 0-1-dnp (1)

Jimmy Graham has 31 targets over the last two games and is second in total targets this season. If you drafted him in the second round that is exactly what you want to hear. Oh, and the fact that he leads all receivers, not just tight ends, in fantasy points.

The only problem with Graham having 38 targets is that Drew Brees is great at spreading the ball around and if he’s targeting one player that much the others are most likely missing a few targets. Drew Brees has thrown six touchdowns and ran another in. The Saints have seven offensive touchdowns total and four of them have gone to Graham. Teams will adjust. Not enough to shut Graham down, but 122 receptions for 1,909 yards and 21 touchdowns seems a little unrealistic. These numbers will start to spread out to Marques Colston, Darren Sproles, etc…

The running back situation with Mark Ingram out last week was led by Pierre Thomas. He had 42 snaps compared to Darren Sproles’ 34.  He also had 17 looks to Sproles’ nine. That’s a pretty big discrepancy. Neither did all that much with the looks they got and Mark Ingram may be back sooner rather than later, so these numbers have room to change quite a bit, but for now Thomas has to be squarely on the fantasy radar.

New York Giants

Victor Cruz: 8-11-8 (27), Brandon Myers: 9-10-6 (25), Rueben Randle: 6-9-4 (19), Hakeem Nicks: 8-7-1 (16), Da'Rel Scott: 8-4-3 (15), Bear Pascoe: 0-2-2 (4), Jerrel Jernigan: 0-1-1 (2), David Wilson: 1-1-0 (2), Henry Hynoski: 1-0-1 (2),

Brandon Jacobs: dnp-1-0 (1), Louis Murphy: 0-0-1 (1)

Holy Schnikeys, this game was a disaster zone. Last season Eli Manning was sacked a league low 20 times. That’s barely over a sack a game. Against the Panthers he was sacked seven times. That’s way over one sack. He finished the game predictably completing just 12-of-23 passes for 119 yards and an interception. The lack of a run game and blocking made every snap perilous. The target numbers are fairly useless with that kind of pressure, as he couldn’t do anything he wanted.

David Wilson wasn’t great, but did seem like he was trying to win more playing time. He had a nice touchdown called back on a holding call and Da'Rel Scott and Brandon Jacobs underwhelmed as usual. Wilson led in snaps 26 to Scott’s 21 and Jacob’s six.

Philadelphia Eagles

DeSean Jackson: 9-15-7 (31), Jason Avant: 3-7-8 (18), Riley Cooper: 6-3-7 (16), Brent Celek: 3-1-5 (9), LeSean McCoy: 1-6-1 (8), Zach Ertz: 3-2-1 (6), James Casey: 0-1-0 (1), Bryce Brown: 0-1-0 (1)

Michael Vick had his worst game of the season completing just 13 of 30 passes and throwing two bad interceptions compared to one touchdown. He did make up for a bit with four rushing attempts for 99 yards, which kept him from being a complete fantasy dud and is why you can start him even in tough matchups.  Of course his 13 completions didn’t leave many fantasy points for his receivers and finally kept DeSean Jackson from a big game. Brandon Flowers helped in that regard as well.

With Jackson being blanketed it did allow for Jason Avant to have a decent game with five receptions for 87 yards and a touchdown, unlike Riley Cooper who had a terrible game catching just two of his seven targets.

LeSean McCoy did his usual damage with 158 yards and a touchdown on twenty carries, but only had one passing target compared to six last week. In a losing effort with DeSean Jackson being shut down it seems McCoy would have seen more targets. It will be interesting to see how it plays out this year. If the first three weeks are a pattern he’ll have six this week.  Of course that won’t happen, but it would be fun.

San Francisco 49ers

Anquan Boldin: 17-4-8 (29), Kyle Williams: 6-6-6 (18), Vernon Davis: 9-5-dnp (14), Frank Gore: 2-3-4 (9), Bruce Miller: 2-5-1 (8), Vance McDonald: 2-2-3 (7), Marlon Moore: 1-1-1 (3), Garrett Celek: 0-0-2 (2), Kendall Hunter: 0-0-1 (1), Quinton Patton: 0-0-1 (1)

The 49er’s passing game was again shut down this week, but rather than getting somewhat predictably shut down by Seattle in Seattle, this was against the Colts in Candlestick. The absence of Vernon Davis had to contribute to a degree. The 49ers had one reliable receiver in Anquan Boldin without Davis playing and Boldin could be Kaepernick’s grandpappy. Well, close at least. So for now we’ll attribute this to a lack of weapons and a good game plan by the Colts to stop any Kaepernick runs and the bad game plan by the 49ers to stop running Frank Gore.

With Davis out I was interested in seeing Vance McDonald, but his three targets resulted in one reception for six yards. Kyle Williams was second in targets, but caught just two for 12 yards.  This offense needs Davis.

Seattle Seahawks

Golden Tate: 7-2-8 (17), Sidney Rice: 3-5-7 (15), Doug Baldwin: 8-1-2 (11), Zach Miller: 4-4-3 (11), Luke Willson: 0-1-5 (6), Marshawn Lynch: 3-3-0 (6), Robert Turbin: 2-1-1 (4), Jermaine Kearse: 2-0-1 (3), Derrick Coleman: 3-0-0 (3), Kellen Davis: dnp-0-2 (2), Stephen Williams: 1-0-0 (1)

The Seahawks didn’t have to really show up for their matchup with the Jaguars, but they did and they predictably dominated. Tarvaris Jackson completed seven of eight passes for 129 yards and a touchdown and also ran in a touchdown and this was after Russell Wilson left the game with four touchdown passes. I figured it would be a beat down, but this was an epic beat down. 

Many of the backups played in this one, so it’s hard to get a great read on targets and touches and even production since the Jaguars have fallen into such disarray. It was good to see Sidney Rice catch five of seven targets for 76 yards and two touchdowns and Golden Tate total 117 yards including two rushing attempts for 29 yards. He’s not a physically dominant receiver and needs to get the ball in space. I’m glad they are trying to get him the ball in other ways.

St. Louis Rams

Tavon Austin: 7-12-7 (26), Jared Cook: 10-6-7 (23), Austin Pettis: 6-11-5 (22), Chris Givens: 3-8-8 (19), Lance Kendricks: 4-3-5 (12), Daryl Richardson: 6-6-dnp (12), Isaiah Pead: dnp-4-7 (11), Brian Quick: 2-1-4 (7), Benny Cunningham: 0-1-3 (4), Cory Harkey: dnp-1-1 (2), Stedman Bailey: 0-0-1 (1), Mike McNeill: 0-1-dnp (1)

This Rams season can probably be summed up by the number 47. That’s the number of times Sam Bradford has averaged throwing the ball each game. That would set a record for most pass attempts if it were to continue unabated. The main reason for such insane numbers is the fact that the Rams can’t seem to stop anyone. Their defense should be better than it is, but we’ve yet to see it on the field.

There were plenty of completions, 29 to be exact, but not many yards, 240 to also be exact. That’s barely over 8 yards per reception and just five yards per attempt. The lack of running game is making it difficult to get anything down the seam or over the top and with no playmakers stepping up it’s mostly catch and fall down old Danny Amendola style. Or now, Tavon Austin style, he is averaging 6.5 yards per reception. Until he can beat someone after the catch he’s going to have a hard time keeping defenders from worrying about him catching those five yarders.

Daryl Richardson had just one snap that ended his day when someone stepped their big fat foot on his already hurt foot. After he left Isaiah Pead had 42 snaps to Benny Cunningham’s 23. Since they were in comeback mode most of the game Pead saw most of the work as he’s the better receiver, which he showed by catching all seven of his targets for seven yards. Richardson should return next week, but if they continue to play from behind, Pead should see a good amount of targets. He’s averaging six per game now.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Vincent Jackson: 13-11-6 (30), Mike Williams: 8-6-9 (23), Doug Martin: 6-1-6 (13), Kevin Ogletree: 2-3-6 (11), Eric Page: 0-0-5 (5), Nate Byham: 1-1-1 (3), Brian Leonard: 1-0-2 (3), Tim Wright: 0-0-2 (2), Erik Lorig: dnp-0-1 (1)

Once again Josh Freeman couldn’t complete 50% of his passes. Last season Freeman averaged 7.28 yards per attempt and this season he’s sitting at 6.07.  He has regressed. The team has playmakers, but he can’t orchestrate a productive offense. It has to be frustrating for all involved.

Doug Martin leads the league in rushing attempts and is second in rushing yards, but has just one touchdown and four receptions. That sounds a lot like DeAngelo Williams, but Martin is a superior player to Williams and should have more opportunities near the goal line and in the passing game. Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams are legitimate #1 and #2 receivers in this league. Of Jackson and Williams 53 targets only 29 were catchable according to Pro Football Focus.

But then again, Freeman has had trouble with his receivers catching the passes that were catchable. His receivers have dropped 10 passes, but even if they had caught all ten his completion percentage would still be just 58%. In comparison Peyton Manning has had 13 of his passes dropped. If they had caught those, his completion percentage would be 84.3%.

Washington Redskins

Pierre Garcon: 11-13-13 (37), Santana Moss: 9-5-9 (23), Leonard Hankerson: 7-3-7 (17), Jordan Reed: 6-3-6 (15), Josh Morgan: 5-6-2 (13), Logan Paulsen: 0-3-6 (9), Fred Davis: 4-2-dnp (6), Roy Helu: 2-1-3 (6), Aldrick Robinson: 2-2-2 (6), Alfred Morris: 1-2-1 (4), Darrel Young: 1-0-0 (1), Niles Paul: 0-0-1 (1)

Washington is 0-3, but that means there are plenty of targets to go around.  Pierre Garcon has been one of the most consistently targeted receivers in the league. Only Randall Cobb and Cecil Shorts have had double-digit targets each week. Alfred Morris ranks 24th in rushing attempts per game with 13.3. Last season he ranked third in the league with 21.2 carries per game. You would think they would rather have him running 21 times a game, but in the first two weeks the defense was so poor and Robert Griffin III started off slow, which coupled with the poor defense means a bunch of second half pass attempts.  But this week they actually had the lead for much of the game and RGIII threw the ball 50 times to Morris’ 15 rushing attempts, which he averaged 4.9 yards per carry and scored a touchdown, while RGIII threw for 326 yards, but no touchdowns and one interception.

Snap count data comes from our friends at Pro Football Focus.

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