1. Calvin Johnson - DET – Johnson was targeted fewer than eight times in just six of 17 games during the 2011 season. “Megatron” has been responsible for 22-plus percent of the Lion’s targets each of the last four years and 41-plus percent of the receiving touchdowns three of the last four seasons.
2. Larry Fitzgerald - ARZ – In 16 games last season, Fitzgerald was targeted fewer than seven times only twice and reached double digits on seven occasions. He’s seen 26-plus percent of the Cardinals’ targets each of the last four years and hasn’t scored fewer than 38 percent of the receiving touchdowns during the same span. Fitzgerald has averaged seven touchdowns over the last two seasons after racking up 15 in 2009 and 19 in 2008.
3. Andre Johnson - HST – Johnson had scored either eight or nine touchdowns each of the past three seasons before an injury-shortened 2011 season in which he was on pace for, you guessed it, eight touchdowns (extrapolated using complete games played). In the six full games Johnson played in 2011, he averaged 9.5 targets-per-game, which was just behind his 10.1 average from 2010.
4. Greg Jennings - GB – Unlike the first three players on this list, who see a majority of their snaps out wide, Jennings saw just under half his snaps in the slot a year ago. That wasn’t typical for Jennings, but it resulted in an impressive catch rate just under 70 percent. He saw no less than 21 percent of the Packers’ targets during the 2008-10 seasons and would’ve been right around 22 percent in 2011 if not for an injury that cost him three games.
5. A.J. Green - CIN – As a rookie during the 2011 season, Green was one of the league’s most-utilized wide receivers, handling just under a quarter of Cincinnati’s targets. He saw 7.7 targets-per-game and was thrown at seven-plus times in 10 of his 16 games.
6. Hakeem Nicks - NYG – On a per-game basis, Nicks saw just under 30 percent of the Giants’ targets in 2010, but that figure fell to 25 percent in 2011 thank to the emergence of Victor Cruz. Still, Nicks saw seven-plus targets in 14 of the 19 games he appeared in during the 2011 season. He’s still an elite option despite the foot injury.
7. Roddy White - ATL – Over Atlanta’s final eight games of the 2011 season, White enjoyed double-digit targets seven times. Overall, he was targeted on 30 percent of Matt Ryan’s throws and has been over 30 percent four years in a row. Julio Jones’ emergence led to a smaller cut of the team’s receiving touchdowns (28 percent, compared to no lower than 38 percent each of the previous three seasons), but he still scored eight times in 17 games.
8. Julio Jones - ATL – Jones was a poster boy for regression in 2011, failing to score his first NFL touchdown until Week 9 before going on to finding pay dirt eight times in his last nine games. In the 14 games Jones appeared in, he saw 20 percent of Atlanta’s targets and reached double-digits three times. He plays almost exclusively on the outside, but three of his seven targets from the slot resulted in a touchdown.
9. Mike Wallace - PIT – Wallace was the target on 22 percent of the Steelers’ throws and has scored, at least, 36 percent of the team’s receiving touchdowns each of the last two seasons. Despite the emergence of Antonio Brown, Wallace saw 8.3 targets-per-game during the last four games of 2011.
10. Victor Cruz - NYG – Cruz’s breakout 2011 season saw him appear in the max 20 games an NFL player can participate in during one season. Despite not playing much the first two weeks, he saw 22 percent of Eli Manning’s targets on the year – an average of 7.6 per game. Cruz plays from the slot quite often, as shown by the fact that 115 of his 151 targets (76 percent) and eight of his 10 touchdowns (80 percent) last season came while lined up inside.
1. Jimmy Graham - NO – Graham lined up as a wide receiver on over half his snaps in 2011. Although most of his targets came while lined up in the slot, only one of his 14 touchdowns came from that location. In 18 games last season, Graham was never targeted fewer than seven times and saw double-digit targets on seven occasions. His consistency keeps him ahead of Gronkowski.
2. Rob Gronkowski - NE – Gronkowski was responsible for 42 percent of the Patriots’ receiving touchdowns in 2011. He enjoyed double-digit targets five times in 19 games, but also fewer than six targets six times. Gronkowski has scored 31 times in 36 career games.
3. Antonio Gates - SD – Despite missing three games, Gates saw 16 percent of the Chargers’ targets last season, averaging 20 percent when he was active. He has accounted for no less than 27 percent of San Diego’s receiving touchdowns over the last three seasons. Six of Gates’ seven touchdowns last season came while lined up in the slot.
4. Aaron Hernandez - NE – Hernandez saw 10-plus targets in four of New England’s final six games last season. He lined up as an in-line tight end only 29 percent of the time and spent another eight percent in the backfield. Seven of his nine touchdowns came while lined up with his hand in the dirt, however.
5. Jason Witten - DAL – Witten was targeted 40 times over Dallas’ first four games of 2011 before averaging 6.2 the rest of the way. He was targeted in the double-digits three times on the year and all three came before Week 9. After seeing exactly 23 percent of the team’s targets three years in a row, Witten handled 21 percent in 2011.
6. Vernon Davis - SF – Davis averaged 4.5 targets-per-game during Weeks 1-10 last season, but saw 7.1 the rest of the way. Over the last three seasons, he’s been responsible for no less than 37 percent of the team’s receiving touchdowns in a given season. That includes 45 percent in 2011.
7. Jermichael Finley - GB – Finley averaged exactly five targets-per-game during the first 11 games of 2011 before seeing 7.3 per-game in the final six affairs. His only two double-digit target games came after Week 12. Finley saw 17 percent of Aaron Rodgers’ targets last season. His extrapolated numbers in 2010 and 2009 showed him on pace for 18 percent and 16 percent, respectively. Six of Finley’s eight touchdowns came while lined up as a wide receiver.
8. Fred Davis - WAS – Prior to a four-game suspension, Davis had seen 21 percent of the Redskins’ targets, which worked out to exactly seven per game. He averaged an impressive 7.8 yards after the catch on 38 receptions while lined up with his hand in the dirt.
9. Tony Gonzalez - ATL – Gonzalez lines up with his hand in the dirt about two-thirds of the time, but was only targeted on seven percent of those snaps in 2011. That’s compared to seeing a Matt Ryan target on 21 percent of his slot snaps. In each of his three seasons with the Falcons, Gonzalez has seen, at least, 19 percent of the targets and has scored 21-plus percent of the receiving touchdowns.
10. Jacob Tamme - DEN – Tamme played, at least, half the snaps with Peyton Manning in 10 games back in 2010. In those games, he averaged 9.4 targets-per-game, which worked out to 24 percent of Manning’s throws. With the Colts, Tamme played with his hand in the dirt about three-quarters of the time.