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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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.