Advanced Targets -- Week 12
Week 13 represents the final regular season contest in many fantasy leagues. For some, it’s time to pull out all the stops in a last ditch effort at a wild card spot. For others, it’s an opportunity to re-organize your roster depth to best maximize playoff matchups. Handcuffing wide receivers is a much more daunting proposition than protecting your elite running backs, but this season’s stretch run may present a rare opportunity to do so.
Several of the potential handcuffs arise from an unusual trend. While the usual suspects head the list as we look at Week 12 receivers with double digits targets, they aren’t the most interesting. Instead, direct your attention to . . .
|The Rise of the Rookie Possession Receiver|
Calvin Johnson led receivers in routes again last Sunday, but if there were any questions about his running mate, Ryan Broyles answered them by finishing third (59). He hit double digits in targets (11) and averaged more than 2.0 yards per route. The Lions drafted Broyles to fill a Welker/Amendola-type role but didn’t expect much from him as a rookie due to inexperience and the lingering effects of last season’s ACL tear. Many fantasy players are becoming comfortable with the idea that starting multiple players from the same team can actually increase your consistency. In leagues where three and four wide receivers are deployed through flex positions, Broyles becomes a solid WR4 who upgrades to an elite WR3 for Megatron owners.
Mohamed Sanu finished second in the NCAA last year with 115 receptions but averaged only 7.1 yards per target. Therefore it’s no surprise that he’s getting open (10 targets), and yet not accumulating many yards (1.03 yards per route). Over the last three weeks, Sanu has gained 103 yards but scored four touchdowns. The Bengals love Sanu in the red zone, but there is good news even if his touchdown rate proves unsustainable. Sanu’s snaps have been steadily rising since Week 7, and he’s seen the field for more than 85% of the offense’s plays over the last two weeks.
The Vikings have played twice since Percy Harvin’s ankle injury. In those games, Jarius Wright has notched 15 targets, 10 catches, 114 yards, and a touchdown. Although obviously not at Harvin’s level, Wright has been used similarly and shown some potential. Wright’s Week 12 target per snap rate (24%) trailed only Stevie Johnson (min. 30 snaps). With Harvin’s status still up in the air, his owners should do what it takes to acquire Wright.
Owners of the oft-injured Cowboys starters face a weekly conundrum. Neither Kevin Ogletree nor Dwayne Harris has emerged as a reliable No. 3 receiver for Dallas. As he has so many times over the past three seasons, Miles Austin failed to finish a contest and a no-name rookie who once walked out of training camp stepped into the void. Cole Beasley’s 91% route rate led all wide receivers on Sunday, and his 58 routes came in fourth. Beasley is probably only valuable as a handcuff for Austin owners in PPR leagues, but it’s worth mentioning that he’s been targeted on 20% of his routes this season, the exact same number as both Bryant and Austin.
|Other Week 12 Stars|
A.J. Green, Demaryius Thomas, and Julio Jones all stand on the brink of superstardom. Usage is the only thing that might prevent them from delivering fantasy titles in 2012. Green and Jones both ran fewer than 35 routes in Week 12, while Peyton Manning has spoken openly about the need to get Thomas more involved. All three are more than 100 routes behind Calvin Johnson.
Cecil Shorts now has at least 100 yards or a touchdown in five of his last six games. He’s reached at least 70 yards and a touchdown on six different occasions this season. Averaging 20.8 yards per catch, Shorts continues to rank in the top ten in yards per route (2.39), ahead of players like Calvin Johnson.
It’s a tribute to Raiders football coach Larry Kehres that Mount Union placed not one but two players on this list. Pierre Garcon averaged 4.23 yards per route by virtue of breaking free for a long touchdown. He remains a tantalizing but unreliable play. His low route number (22) is a red flag, and, despite the dramatic difference in his fantasy production, Garcon’s snap percentage only increased from 39% to 44% from Week 11 to Week 12.
If he can overcome his character issues, Chris Givens should end up as a better NFL wide receiver than Kendall Wright. Almost identically sized, Givens is faster and accounted for a larger share of his college team’s receiving production in 2011. Givens’ 21.2 yards per reception average provides the perfect counterpoint to Danny Amendola, and the rookie has not seen a snap rate less than 50% in any game for which he was active since Week 4. He’s played on at least 70% of the snaps four times, including last Sunday.
|Mike A. Williams||47||6||31||0.13||0.19||0.66||0.90|
A bevy of highly touted receivers averaged less than 1.0 yards per route in Week 12. The Ravens continue to use Anquan Boldin incorrectly with 38 of his 80 targets coming more than 10 yards down the field. As I mentioned in my preseason Possession Receiver Sustainability article, his route depth in Arizona was completely different. Boldin simply can’t get open deep, which helps explain only seven targets on 89 snaps.
Mike Wallace currently ranks 55th in yards per route, behind players like Leonard Hankerson, Jacoby Jones, and Brandon Gibson. His current swoon in Ben Roethlisberger’s absence obscures the fact that he owns five games with three targets or fewer. He also posted PFF grades of -1.9 or worse three times with Big Ben at the helm. Already residing in fantasy purgatory, Wallace is quickly heading for DeSean Jackson territory.
Marques Colston, Kenny Britt, and Denarius Moore salvaged their fantasy performances with touchdowns, but they struggled to create any separation on Sunday. The threesome combined for only 78 yards on 110 routes. Moore only has two receptions on his last 11 targets.
Michael Crabtree ran only 21 routes against New Orleans’ historically leaky defense. He currently ranks 30th among wide receivers in fantasy points but isn’t an option for owners who harbor legitimate title aspirations.
|Steve L. Smith||64||7||33||0.11||0.21||0.52||1.82|