Mike Tanier

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Surprising goal line targets

Wednesday, December 08, 2010


Some wide receivers are known for their goal line prowess. There's Marques Colston, who caught a game-winning touchdown against the Bengals. Or Terrell Owens, who caught a short touchdown in the same game. Or Larry Fitzgerald, who will start catching touchdowns again as soon as the Cardinals find someone who can throw them. Great goal line receivers are usually great overall receivers, making them high fantasy picks and every-week starters.

Some less-heralded receivers have been getting a lot of goal-line opportunities this year. They may not be prototypical goal line targets (6-foot-4 high-jumpers with Gorilla Glue on their hands), and they aren't frontline fantasy starters. But their roles in the red zone make them viable third receivers and flex players for the fantasy stretch run. At this point in the season, opportunity is everything, and one red zone target could mean the difference between a fantasy championship and just another season.

I used the Football Outsiders database to isolate every passing play inside the 10-yard line this year. There were lots of passes to Owens and Fitzgerald, plus passes to tight ends and throws to guys like Mike Vrabel. The following names also came up a surprising number of times. If you are stuck for an emergency starter, one of these guys will do in a pinch. Heck, if your league allows waivers this late in the year, you might be able to pick up one or two of these players.

Of course, if your lineup is so stacked that you don't need to sift through second-tier guys, then you should beware of these players as potential fantasy leeches. If you are wondering why Greg Jennings or DeSean Jackson aren't getting many red zone throws, chances are that one of these guys is getting the ball instead.

Earl Bennett
Bennett is coming off a 7-catch, 104-yard day, and he has become a favorite short-yardage receiver for a Bears team that doesn't run much. Three of Bennett's receptions on Sunday, including his 33-yarder, came on 3rd-and-short. Bennett only has three touchdowns, but he has become a favorite goal line target for Jay Cutler, who has thrown to him six times inside the 10-yard line since Week 9. You can do far worse than a productive possession receiver for a pass-happy team who has a knack for working the back of the end zone.

James Jones
The Packers love to spread the field in the red zone, and while Aaron Rodgers distributes the ball to multiple receivers (and likes to try to run it in himself), Jones is one of his favorite goal line targets. Jones has been targeted 10 times inside the 10-yard line, though just two of his three touchdowns come from that range. Jones has a knack for only getting one foot in-bounds or getting tackled at the two-yard line. If he can turn one or two of his near touchdowns into real touchdowns, he could have a great fantasy December.

Jason Avant
Avant is a lot like Jones. He's the third receiver on a team that throws a million passes per week. His coach doesn't call many runs near the goal line, though his quarterback has been known to try to run for the end zone now and then. And Avant, like Jones has suffered a case of the endzone brain cramps in recent weeks, with dropped balls against the Giants and Texans. Despite the mistakes, Avant is usually sure handed, and he has already been targeted 10 times inside the 10 yard line. He's gained over 60 yards in four games, so he provides some yardage bonus potential.

Danny Amendola
Now that the Rams offense is no longer a laughingstock, Amendola has become a viable fantasy starter. He's been targeted 11 times inside the 10-yard line; like Jones and Avant, his touchdown total is low because of a few incomplete passes and a handful of four-yard catches from the six yard line. Amendola's specialty is the shallow drag: he catches a short pass over the middle and tries to knife into the end zone between two linebackers. With 65 receptions on the season, Amendola can help you even when he is stopped short of the goal line.

Malcom Floyd
If Floyd is buried on your bench, you may want to excavate him. You may even want to check the waiver wire: someone might have dumped him when he was injured a month ago. Floyd has been targeted seven times inside the 10-yard line, and he gets some opportunities from the 11-20 yard lines as well: Philip Rivers targeted him twice from the "outer" red zone on Sunday. Vincent Jackson probably won't have any impact this season, so Floyd is the top wide receiver on a very good offense that must play hair-on-fire football for the rest of the year. Make sure you didn't fall asleep on him.



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