As Fantasy owners, you always want to draft players who are involved on offense. You hope for touchdowns, but you count on carries and catches. If a player finds the end zone then it's just an added bonus.
That's why we're always looking to find running backs who will be featured options on all downs and in all situations. We want receivers and tight ends who will see the most passes in their direction all over the field.
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We're talking about targets, red-zone targets, touches and red-zone touches. Those are second-level stats that could make the difference between a Fantasy championship and a last-place finish.
Targets typically apply to wide receivers and tight ends, but running backs who catch the ball can also significantly help your Fantasy team. A target is how many times a quarterback attempted a pass in the direction of his teammate.
For example, as you can see from the interactive graphic below, Andre Johnson led all players in targets in 2009 with 172. He caught 59 percent of his targets for 101 catches, and he finished with 1,569 yards and nine touchdowns. For the past two years, Johnson has had at least 170 targets, which is why we value him as one of the best players at his position and a potential first-round pick.
In the past three seasons, the receivers who have had at least 145 targets each year are Brandon Marshall, Larry Fitzgerald, Reggie Wayne and Wes Welker. There's a reason those receivers are among the best in the NFL and have produced at a high level. Only Welker could see a significant drop in targets since he's coming off a torn ACL.
A receiver on the rise, based on his targets, is Roddy White. He's gone from 136 targets in 2007 to 148 in 2008 to 165 last year. White has the potential to be a Top 5 Fantasy wide receiver this year if his targets remain at the same level or continue to improve.
At tight end, Tony Gonzalez has been the leader in targets each of the past three seasons. He had 155 in 2007 and 2008 before getting 135 last year.
If you're looking for a tight end on the rise, focus on Oakland's Zach Miller. His targets have gone from 69 in 2007 to 86 in 2008 to 100 last year. Miller has the chance to be a No. 1 Fantasy tight end based on the addition of new quarterback Jason Campbell.
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Another tight end who has improved is Brent Celek, who tied Marshall for the lead in red-zone targets with 25 in 2009. Celek caught 10 of those passes, including nine for touchdowns. He should remain a consistent red-zone threat for new quarterback Kevin Kolb this year.
Greg Olsen was third on the list at 24 red-zone targets, and he caught 12 of those passes for six touchdowns. His stats will likely decline based on new Chicago offensive coordinator Mike Martz, who has a terrible history with tight ends.
Running backs don't typically see many red-zone targets, but Reggie Bush was the best in that category in 2009. He had 14 red-zone targets and finished with seven catches for two touchdowns. Bush, who is known more for his receiving skills than his rushing prowess, has also done well in overall targets the past three seasons. He had 98 targets in 2007, 73 in 2008 and 68 last year.
Some other running backs who have done well in targets the past three seasons with at least 55 each year are Maurice Jones-Drew and Frank Gore, and Ray Rice could be the next great receiving running back. He led all running backs in targets in 2009 with 101, and he caught 77 percent of his targets for 78 catches, 702 yards and one touchdown.
There is a lot more data for targets and red-zone targets to look over with the interactive graphic below, so take full advantage of this tool on Draft Day.
For running backs, it's all about the touches -- overall and near the goal line. You can easily explain why Chris Johnson, Thomas Jones, Steven Jackson, Adrian Peterson, Jones-Drew and Cedric Benson were Top 15 Fantasy running backs because they were the Top 6 in carries as all finished with more than 300.
For Jones-Drew and Peterson, they led all running backs in red-zone touches. Jones-Drew had 64, which resulted in 11 of his 15 touchdowns, and Peterson had 62, which resulted in 15 of his 18 touchdowns. By comparison, Johnson was middle of the pack with 34 red-zone touches, which resulted in six of his 14 touchdowns. It's a good thing he scored on eight runs of 20 yards or longer.
Now, it's not a hard-fast rule that touches will turn into success. Last year, Matt Forte was No. 8 in carries with 258, tied for No. 3 in red-zone touches with 52 with Thomas Jones and LaDainian Tomlinson and was No. 3 in targets with 57. But despite all those touches, Forte was just the No. 18 running back in a standard-scoring league. Still, you'd take your chances with a running back getting more work than less, and that's what this interactive graphic below is for.
You can see which running backs were the most involved last year, and it should be a good indicator of what could happen in 2010.
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