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Tricks of the trends after Week 9

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How good is Aaron Rodgers?

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Well, if you look at the efficiency metrics of the 105 receivers who have seen at least 3.1 targets per game on average, you’d have to say he is other-worldly awesome. You see, when it comes to yards per target, Rodgers has the top two receivers in Jordy Nelson and James Jones at 13.9 yards per target.

He also has Greg Jennings at 11 yards per target, who is tied for 10th-best. To put into perspective just how good that is, no other team has two receivers in the top 10 let alone three.

In terms of catch rate, Rodgers is again clearly the cream of the crop. Jones is first at 80 percent (excluding Danny Amendola who played just one game), Jennings is tied for seventh at 72.7 percent and Nelson is 14th at 70.7 percent. He is the only quarterback with three receivers in the top 15 and only Drew Brees has two receivers in the top 15 (Marques Colston and Lance Moore).

In other words, Rodgers is the most efficient quarterback in the league and even though he pushes the ball down the field all the time, his receivers are still catching more than 70 percent of their targets and are the elite in terms of yards per target.

Simply amazing.

Target observations after Week 9 ...

• Last week I highlighted how disappointing Miles Austin had been and now with his re-injured hamstring likely to keep him out two to four weeks it is time to take a look at his replacement Laurent Robinson. Since joining the Cowboys, Robinson has played very well and is coming off of back-to-back games with at least five catches and a touchdown. He is also the team’s leader at wide receiver with two games of 100-plus yards, more than Austin and Dez Bryant combined thus far. Wow. His metrics are solid as well, as Robinson has caught 72.7 percent of his targets and is averaging 11.2 yards per target -- both fourth best (tied in the case of catch rate) among the 74 receivers averaging at least five targets per game. In other words, Robinson is a great waiver pickup and someone I expect to play well with increased opportunities now that Austin is out for the Cowboys.

Brandon Lloyd is back home with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and while he has yet to be spectacular with the Rams, Lloyd has certainly been solid. Since joining the Rams, he has seen a league-high 38 targets over the last three weeks and has produced at least five catches and seven Fantasy points in every game. He has 17 catches for 207 yards and one touchdown during the three games and if he can get his target conversion rate back over 50 percent, I expect a great stretch run for him. He is a very solid second receiver for your teams and a great third receiver as the clear top option in St. Louis.

Antonio Brown stays on after his third straight great game in Week 9, because he is really becoming a weekly starting option for your teams. During his excellent three-game run, which just saw him post only the third 100-yard receiving game against the Ravens and the first since Week 2, Brown has arguably been as good as anyone in the NFL. He leads all receivers with 21 catches and 278 yards during that span and is second with 34 targets (trailing only Brandon Lloyd’s 38). With the Steelers becoming a decidedly pass-first team (Ben has topped 300 yards in three straight and Rashard Mendenhall has seen just 13 carries in each of those games), Brown has really benefitted as the clear second option behind Mike Wallace. With all of the defensive attention paid to Wallace, Brown has been able to beat single coverage (61.7 percent catch rate and 8.1 yards per target) and has clearly earned the trust of his quarterback. With both Emmanuel Sanders and Hines Ward banged up, Brown is going to stay very involved for the Steelers and is a great start.

Greg Little has the dubious distinction of having seen the most targets of any pass catcher (59) without scoring a single touchdown this year. Not only has he been the least efficient scorer among all receivers, he has also been terrible in terms of yardage efficiency. Little is averaging just five yards per target, tied for second worst among the 52 receivers who have seen six targets per game. He shares the ugly five yards per target with Tampa Bay’s Mike Williams, and while both have seen plenty of looks, it has not in any way shape or form translated to Fantasy production. In his last four games, Greg Little has seen 38 targets, but has not scored a single touchdown and was held to less than 40 yards in three of them. Williams has seen 42 targets and has caught 22 passes, yet he has not scored either and has been held to less than 60 yards three times. Ugly.

• I am not sure there has been a more efficient tight end over the last three weeks than Heath Miller. Miller has caught 16 of his 18 targets for 217 yards and is leading all pass catchers (regardless of position) with an 88.9 percent catch rate and he is leading all tight ends at 12 yards per target. Miller has produced 60 yards or a score in three straight and four of his last five games, so he is on fire and is a great starting option.

• That was quite the first start for Roy Helu in Week 9. He saw 17 targets (the highest for any player since Week 4) and caught a Washington Redskins record 14 of them (also the second-highest reception total of any player this year) for 105 yards. He is now the starter and while I do not expect a check-down frenzy like this to happen again, you have to consider Helu an excellent second running back in point-per-reception formats after this performance.

• Target Leaders by position for Week 9: Wide receiver: Brandon Lloyd (13), Larry Fitzgerald (12), Vincent Jackson (12) and Denarius Moore (12); Tight end: Rob Gronkowski (15) and Antonio Gates (11); Running back: Roy Helu (17) and Mike Tolbert (9).

• Yards Per Target Leaders among qualifying players by position after Week 9: Wide receiver: Jordy Nelson (13.9) and Mike Wallace (13.6); Tight end: Jake Ballard (12.7) and Joel Dreessen (10.6); Running back: Michael Bush (10.3) and Fred Jackson (9.8)

• Worst Yards Per Target among qualifying players by position after week 9 (in other words, who did the least with the most): Wide receiver: Austin Collie (4.1) and Eddie Royal (4.2) Tight end: Marcedes Lewis (4.8) and Kellen Winslow (4.9) Running back: Beanie Wells (2.3) and Willis McGahee (2.9).

Red Zone

• I firmly believed that Mike Vick was going to disappoint this year when we were doing some draft preview work here and the main reason was that I felt he could not match his unbelievable efficiency or rushing touchdown totals from his 2010 record pace. Well, so far that has certainly turned out to be true. After scoring nine rushing touchdowns in 12 games last year, Vick has yet to find the end zone as a runner in 2011, which is really hurting his efficiency in scoring situations and more importantly, hurting his Fantasy value. Last year, all nine of Vick’s rushing scores came inside the red zone and contributed to his very solid 23.7 percent red zone touchdown rate (not to mention they were worth 54 Fantasy points). This year he has just a 17.3 percent red zone scoring rate, worst among the six busiest quarterbacks and third worst among the 13 busiest. He is not the most accurate or touch-oriented passer, which is needed in the red zone, and clearly Vick is struggling to finish drives as a result. It’s costing you Fantasy points.

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Cedric Benson is grinding out tough yards for the upstart Cincinnati Bengals, but he has been brutal in the red zone. Despite being fifth with 34 red zone chances, Benson has only one score inside the 20 and his 2.7 percent scoring rate is the worst among the 29 busiest backs and is second only to DeMarco Murray (who has been great so we will give him a pass on having a league-high 13 chances without a score) among the 34 busiest runners. If he can start scoring inside the 20, it will take pressure off of rookie Andy Dalton and will help the Bengals shock the world.

Matt Forte is having an amazing season, but it could be even better if he was doing a better job in the red zone. Forte’s 4.1 percent red zone touchdown rate (one score in 25 chances) is the second worst behind Benson among the 29 busiest backs. Now, this is due in large part to Marion Barber, who stole another score last week, and who has a very efficient four red zone scores on his nine chances. Forte will need to score from deep because Barber is getting the job done in scoring situations, so he may not finish with the scoring totals we had hoped for after his fast start.

• For as crazy good as Cam Newton has been this year, his top two red zone wide receiver targets Legedu Naanee (10) and Steve Smith (seven) have combined for 17 red zone chances without a single touchdown.

• Not only does Marcedes Lewis lead all tight ends with seven targets but no touchdowns, he has not even caught a single pass inside the red zone. That is atrocious.

Goal Line

• Inside the opponent’s 5-yard line, the lack of rushing production is absolutely crushing Vick. Last year, Vick scored five rushing touchdowns (on six rushes) from inside the 5 and had a solid 41.7 percent goal line touchdown rate, which illustrates just how ineffective he was as a passer up close. Well, in 2011 that is all he has to go with and he has just three goal line scores on 14 passes plus rushes (he had 10 scores on 24 tries last year). His 21.4 percent goal line rate is barely better than half of what he was producing last year and is the second worst among the 11 busiest quarterbacks and fifth worst among the 28 quarterbacks with at least five chances. If it weren’t for Tony Romo’s struggles, which I documented last week, Vick would only be better than Curtis Painter, Blaine Gabbert and the injured Chad Henne. Yikes. He has to get back to scoring with his legs because teams clearly have him figured out as a passer up close.

Josh Freeman has turned all five of his goal line chances into touchdowns this year, which is very impressive. It also highlights how bad he has been from the 6-yard line out to the 20, where he has just two scores on 39 opportunities.

Michael Turner has a league-high 18 goal line chances and six goal line scores, so it looks like he will set the pace for the second straight year. That’s the main reason I was very confident in Turner this year -- he is a great goal line back and the Falcons give him the ball down at the stripe more often than any other team.

• I am amazed that with all of the things the New Orleans Saints can do in scoring situations -- their tail backs have a combined two scores on 10 goal line chances.

Brandon Marshall, DeMarco Murray and Forte are the only running backs, wide receivers or tight ends who have seen four or more goal line opportunities and failed to score a single touchdown up close.

Glossary
Target Conversion Rate or Catch Rate (TCR): The percentage of a player's targets (passes thrown to them) that are converted into receptions. Over 60 percent is excellent, 66 percent is elite and under 52.5 percent is worrisome.
Yards per Target (YPT): A player's receiving yards divided by his targets. In other words, the numbers of yards a team gains on average every time they attempt a pass to a certain player. Over 10 is exceptional, over 8 is solid and 6 or lower is horrendous.
Red Zone Opportunities: A player's total number of pass+rush+targets inside the opponent's 20 yard line
Red Zone TD Rate: The percentage of a player's Red Zone opportunities that result in a TD
Goal Line Opportunities: A player's total number of pass+rush+targets inside the opponent's 5 yard line
Goal Line TD Rate: The percentage of a player's Goal Line opportunities that result in a TD
Consistency Rate: The percentage of quality starts a player gives you out of 16 games. For QBs that is a game with 300+ yards passing OR multiple TDs. For RBs/WRs: A game with 100+ yards rush/rec or a game with a TD. For TEs: A game with 60+ yards receiving or a TD. For a Kicker: A game with multiple FGs.
Big Game Rate: The percentage of dominant starts a player gives you out of 16 games (games missed with injury count as a bad game since they do not help your Fantasy teams). For a QB that is a game with 300+ yards and 2+ TDs or 200+ yards and 3+ TDs. For a RB/WR that is a game with 100+ combined rush/rec yards and a TD or a game with multiple TDs. For a TE that is a game of 60+ yards and a TD, 100+ yards or a game with multiple TDs.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Nathan at @NathanZeguraTFC .

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Player News
Patriots' running back situation mostly clear
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(2:22 pm ET) Forget about Brandon Bolden. The Patriots' use of him against the Jets in Week 7 -- he played only one snap -- pretty much tells the story there. Granted, they've had their share of about-faces at the running back spot over the last few years, so I wouldn't dare claim to know what they're thinking, but if they've decided their next-best choice at the position is Jonas Gray, who at least saw the field for 11 plays Thursday, it's pretty clear what direction they intend to go, right?

With that in mind, I cautiously, carefully and with a preemptive tinge of regret plan to start Shane Vereen Week 8 against Chicago and hopefully every week thereafter. Yes, he played 80 percent of the snaps in Week 7, and yes, he scored two touchdowns. But you'll notice both of them came through the air. True, he also got more than two-thirds of the Patriots' carries, but I can't help but wonder if in a different matchup, one that encouraged them to pound the ball instead of rushing just 15 times as a team, they would have been more creative. That would work to Vereen's detriment, obviously.

For more of my biggest takeaways from Week 7, be sure to check out my latest post to the Fantasy Football Today blog.


Darren McFadden still carries limited value
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(2:16 pm ET) Raiders running back Darren McFadden has fallen on such hard times that even a three-week span with one double-digit Fantasy performance counts as a career renaissance. Does he have another level he can take his game to?

McFadden ranks 29th among running backs in Fantasy points over his last three games, but has just 25 Fantasy points. This might be more indicative of just how bad the position has been recently, as he isn't exactly lighting the world on fire. McFadden has topped 4.0 yards per carry just once this season, and has registered one or more Fantasy points through the air in just two games.

McFadden gets work, which will always make him an interesting Fantasy option, no matter how mediocre he is. Still, there are higher upside options out there than McFadden, who also carries the constant risk of injury. As a third Fantasy running back, McFadden is fine, but he doesn't have much more value than that at this point.  


Dolphins RB Lamar Miller wearing brace on right knee
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(2:14 pm ET) Dolphins running back Lamar Miller practiced Tuesday wearing a brace on his right knee, reports the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Miller has been on the injury report lately with a knee injury, but it's not believed to be serious. He has not missed a game.

Martavis Bryant a threat to Markus Wheaton
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(2:11 pm ET) Wide receiver Markus Wheaton didn't impress through the first six weeks of the season, so the Steelers saw fit to give someone else a chance Week 7 against Houston. Active for the first time this season, Martavis Bryant had as productive a day as any pass catcher not named Antonio Brown or Le'Veon Bell, hauling in two passes for 40 yards, including a 35-yarder in the back of the end zone for a touchdown. His five targets were third-most on the team, and no one after him had more than two.

That includes Wheaton, who was among those with two targets, going without a catch. He actually played 48 percent of the Steelers' snaps compared to Bryant's 34 percent, which makes his lack of production even more discouraging. Considering he's been up around 80 percent most of the year, he may be in danger of being overtaken.

Of course, Wheaton probably wouldn't disappear completely, and because Antonio Brown is still the go-to guy in the Steelers passing game, Bryant probably wouldn't have the opportunity for big numbers in his place. But in leagues deep enough that Wheaton is relevant, Bryant is now, too.


Bills put C.J. Spiller on short-term IR
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(2:10 pm ET) The Bills placed running back C.J. Spiller on injured reserve/designated for return, meaning he's eligible to return Week 16 at Oakland. Spiller had surgery Monday to fix the broken collarbone he suffered Sunday against the Vikings.

Outlook for Le'Veon Bell continues to improve
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:51 pm ET) Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell averaged 4.7 receptions per game through his first six games, but because he was involved in the passing game only intermittently as a rookie, you had reason to wonder if you could rely on him for that long-term.

But then he went and caught eight passes for 88 yards and a touchdown against the Texans in Week 7, putting him second among all running backs with 36 receptions, behind only Matt Forte (who remains in a class of his own). In PPR leagues, he's also third among running backs, behind Forte and DeMarco Murray, in Fantasy points to date.

Even better, his touchdown came from the 2-yard line -- a situation where the Steelers may have gone to LeGarrette Blount earlier in the season. Only one of Blount's seven carries even came in Texans' territory in this one.

Bell's touchdown total seven weeks into the season may be disappointing, but in terms of his receiving ability and role on offense, the verdict is in. If we were re-drafting today, he might be one of the first five running backs off the board.


49ers add QB Josh Johnson, cut S Raymond Ventrone
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1:37 pm ET) The 49ers re-signed quarterback Josh Johnson and released safety Raymond Ventrone.

Travaris Cadet's role about to change
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(1:29 pm ET) With Pierre Thomas expected to miss a healthy chunk of time with a shoulder injury, Travaris Cadet is now the main receiving option out of the Saints backfield, and that should mean good things for the third-year man out of Appalachian State.

Cadet was already fifth on the team in targets through six games, and the absence of Thomas is only going to increase his workload. The two are averaging 8.3 targets out fo the backfield between them, and with Khiry Robinson and Mark Ingram more traditional backs, the majority of those looks should go Cadet's way.

Cadet has already shown he can be a useful receiver in a growing role recently, with 15 receptions for 129 yards and a touchdown over the last three games. The Saints have always featured running backs in the passing game prominently, and now it is Cadet's turn. In PPR leagues, he should make for a solid starting option moving forward, with 29 Fantasy points over the last three weeks already. 


When DeAndre Hopkins is targeted, good things happen
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:25 pm ET) In Week 7 at Pittsburgh, Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins was on equal terms with Andre Johnson for once, tying for the team lead with nine targets. It was the first time he got as many targets as Johnson in a game this season, and just as encouraging, it came only a week after getting a season-low two targets.

Hopkins led the Texans with 108 yards on six catches. Despite the disparity in targets, it wasn't the first time he went for more yards than Johnson, but the third. The first came in his only other nine-target game Week 3 at the Giants, when he had 116 yards on six catches.

Hopkins may not get the targets you'd like for a wide receiver to get in Fantasy, but he's efficient with what he gets, meaning when he gets a decent number of targets, like in Weeks 3 and 7, he's almost assured big numbers. With Johnson still the go-to guy for quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, though, Hopkins also has the potential to underwhelm any given week.

He's best used as a No. 3 wide receiver in Fantasy, making him a bye-week replacement in some leagues. But if Johnson ever goes down, as he has done all too often in his career, watch out.


Eagles LB Mychal Kendricks practices Tuesday
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1:21 pm ET) Eagles linebacker Mychal Kendricks, who's missed four straight games with a calf injury, practiced Tuesday and appears on track to return Sunday at Arizona. Kendricks had 13 tackles and a sack in the first two games.

 
 
 
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