Targets Are A Telling Statistic

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Targets, the number of times a quarterback throws to your receiver, could be one of the most important early-season fantasy numbers to follow.

Without targets, a.k.a. opportunities, a receiver is just a thin, fast runner, doing sprints down the sideline. But when his quarterback is looking his way, he becomes a fantasy scoring machine.

Look at Week 1.

The wide receiver with the most targets was Atlanta's Roddy White. Quarterback Matt Ryan threw his way an astonishing 23 times and he caught 13 of them for 111 yards. And that was against one of the toughest defenses in the league, the Pittsburgh Steelers. If White is going to get that many looks, then he's going to have fantasy superstar statistics by year's end. It also means you must downgrade tight end Tony Gonzalez's value with his reduced targets (5).

The second most targets went to St. Louis Rams receiver Mark Clayton - 16. It's telling because he's only been with the team for about a week and already rookie quarterback Sam Bradford is seeking him out. Clayton is owned in only 17 percent of all leagues, but that number will skyrocket after his Week 1 performance. Pick him up immediately if he is available in your league.

Larry Fitzgerald had the third most targets (15), but his first weekend wasn't nearly as good as White's or Clayton's. Fitzgerald caught just three of the balls for 43 yards and a score. Not a great scoring performance, but with 15 looks per week, the Derek Anderson-to-Fitzgerald hookup might be better than many thought going into the season.

The remainder of the top-five in receiver targets included the Cincinnati tandem of Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens, Dallas Clark and Brandon Marshall, with 13 each. It bodes well for all of them that they are seeing so many footballs.

At the other end of the spectrum, let's see who isn't getting the looks and therefore we might need to reduce their expected fantasy value.

With Sidney Rice sidelined for half the season, fantasy owners expected that Bernard Berrian and Percy Harvin would see the ball more to take up the slack for Minnesota. That wasn't the case in Week 1. Berrian saw the ball just three times and Harvin just five times. Instead, Brett Favre seemed to favor his tight end, Visanthe Shiancoe - seven targets. If this becomes a trend, you will have to reduce Berrian and Harvin's fantasy value.

In Chicago, Jay Cutler threw for 372 yards, but only looked toward Devin Hester one time for 17 yards. Reduce his value and raise the value of Devin Aromashodu (10 targets) and Johnny Knox (7). Even tight end Greg Olsen saw the ball six times, and we know that offensive coordinator Mike Martz doesn't like throwing to his tight ends.

There should be some concern if you own Philadelphia tight end Brent Celek (3 targets). If Michael Vick is the quarterback for any length of time, his value might be lessened as Vick looked more toward the wideouts (DeSean Jackson - 11 targets, Jason Avant - seven, Jeremy Maclin - five) than the tight end.

Finally, we must look at the No.1 receiver picked in most fantasy drafts - Andre Johnson. He only saw the ball five times, but it was an extraordinary case where Arian Foster was running wild. Though a more balanced offense might reduce quarterback Matt Schaub and Johnson numbers a little bit, they should certainly return to a respectable level next week against Washington. Don't panic with either Johnson or Schaub.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.

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