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Quick Fantasy Hits for Week 4

Senior Fantasy Writer
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As we wade into a fourth week of action, there are some nuggets that are too in-depth for the podcast, too smart for Twitter and a little too short for the full column. Enjoy these Week 4 Quick Hits:

Your byes for Week 4: The Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts. Which make Donnie Avery and Heath Miller decent free agent pickups if you have the room, as owners looking for need-help-now patchwork for their teams could be turned off by the lack of immediate payoff. Miller is tied for the league lead in receiving touchdowns with four. And while Avery has just 14 receptions for 176 yards, he has 27 targets (21st in the NFL -- more than Wes Welker, Steve Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Julio Jones and Mike Wallace). On top of him getting thrown to a great deal, Avery also has to no longer worry about Austin Collie eating into his playing time, as he is out for the season with a ruptured patella tendon.

Speaking of targets... Let's look at the target leaders after three weeks of play:
1. Reggie Wayne, 40
2. Dwayne Bowe, 37
3. Victor Cruz, 36
4. A.J. Green, 34
4(t). Danny Amendola, 34
6. Brandon Lloyd, 33
6(t). Santonio Holmes, 32
8. Dennis Pitta, 31
8(t). Calvin Johnson, 31
8(t). Jimmy Graham, 31
8(t). Brandon Marshall, 31

Wayne is not slowing down, and Luck seems to be locked on to him. And when Wayne is covered, Luck seems to find Avery. Bowe has converted just 18 of his 37 targets, while Lloyd has been thrown to 33 times, with the end result being just 237 receiving yards. Pitta is an interesting name on the list. The next-highest Raven on the target leader list is Ray Rice, who has 19 targets. After Rice, it's Torrey Smith, who has 18. Ed Dickson, who could have eaten into Pitta's receptions as the team's other tight end, ranks 148th in the NFL with nine targets and has been a virtual non-factor so far this season.

Target data is great and all, but... Let's take a look at the Target-Reception data, to see who's being thrown to, but isn't converting the targets into receptions:
1. Dwayne Bowe, 19 targets missed
2. Reggie Wayne, 17 targets missed
2(t). Santonio Holmes, 17 targets missed
2(t). Vincent Jackson, 17 targets missed
5. Brian Hartline, 16 targets missed
6. Brandon Marshall, 15 targets missed
7. Jimmy Graham, 14 targets missed
7(t). DeSean Jackson, 14 targets missed
9(t). Demaryius Thomas, Donnie Avery, Jason Witten (and more), 13 targets missed

Does any of this mean anything? In some cases, it might:
Vincent Jackson stands out in this group. He has 27 targets on the season, but just 10 receptions, for 204 total yards. With an average of 20.4 yards per reception, if Jackson could have converted just five more passes going forward -- and let's just give him 15 yards per reception here, to be realistic and fair -- that's an extra 75 receiving yards. That would put him between Percy Harvin and Brent Celek for eighth among receiving yard leaders this year. Instead, he's 28th. Now consider this: Tampa Bay travels to Washington in Week 4, which means they're facing the team that has allowed the second-most receiving yards per game so far this season (350 -- interestingly, Tampa Bay has given up the most, with 365.3). Washington has also given up 10 receiving touchdowns over three games, good for the most in the NFL (Tampa Bay has held opponents to just four receiving TDs). If a situation existed for Jackson to break out, this would be it. He is being thrown to, he just needs to convert these targets. And against a team that has given up 1,050 yards through the air so far this season, the time is now for Jackson to step up and build off the 128-yard performance he had in Week 2.
Jason Witten also jumps out from this list. He played Week 1 with a lacerated spleen. This isn't the kind of injury where you get a cortisone shot, slap a brace on, and then play. This is internal bleeding from a very sensitive organ inside the body -- and there's no immediate sign like a limp or bloody nose to show that it's been further ruptured. Witten's problem hasn't been Romo not throwing to him; it's been drops. And can you blame Witten for not wanting to stretch out for a ball, turn, and be met with a helmet to his midsection? Witten has one fewer target (21) than Miles Austin and one more than Dez Bryant. Of all players with 20 or more targets in the NFL, Witten is the only one who hasn't hit double digits in receptions. But it's coming. As that spleen heals, and Witten plays with a sense of fearlessness again, he will start to take off. You're talking about a player who has missed one game in his entire career. He has hit the 90-reception mark three times in his career, twice in the previous three seasons. He has three seasons of 1,000-plus receiving yards and six of 900 or more. And you need to look no further than Tony Gonzalez to see that the tight end position is one that tends to age somewhat gracefully. With the position especially deep this year, it's getting tough to hold on to Witten, but give him at least another week to see if he can return to form. His problem isn't being frozen out of the offense, it's holding on to the ball, and Witten has proven -- many times over in the past -- that he is capable of finishing off the targets that come his way.

Chris Johnson vs. Larry Fitzgerald. Before Larry Fitzgerald's Week 3 breakout, there was a question of which of the two suddenly-useless former superstars would make for the better Fantasy play. Johnson was a first-round pick this year, despite putting up less-than-spectacular numbers in 2011. Fitzgerald slipped down to deep in the second round (a 21.98 ADP) after a second straight single-digit TD season in 2011. There may not be a firm answer to this question, but if you're looking to play one as your flex, here are some numbers that might help:
Over the past three years, Larry Fitzgerald has seen his numbers rise as the season wore on:
September: 59.8 yards per game, four touchdowns
October: 74.4 ypg, two touchdowns
November: 76.3 ypg, five touchdowns
December: 82.3 ypg, two touchdowns
January: 137 yards, one touchdown (in just two games)
If you look at his game log, you see Fitzgerald may have been a little disappointing in 2011, but he only had two games with fewer than 50 yards receiving, and he gave his owners a touchdown in each. In 2010, he had five games under 50 yards, and scored a touchdown in two of them. In 2009, six games under 50, with a touchdown in four (and four of those sub-50 games came in Weeks 14-17, when Fitzgerald played through a knee injury). And in 2008, Fitzgerald gave his owners touchdowns in both games in which he was under 50 yards. Keep in mind, Fitzgerald has also been paired with a varied assortment of quarterbacks, including Max Hall, Derek Anderson, and Matt Leinart.

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Johnson, meanwhile, hasn't been able to strike that sorry-I-had-a-bad-game- here's-something-else-for-you spirit. Over the last three years, he hasn't averaged 100 yards per game rushing in any month -- although he does average 104.8 in November and 92.3 in December over his career. Looking at his game logs, however, he does have a disturbing trend of leaving his owners with very few points between weeks where he has given his owners plenty:
2011: Johnson had 12 weeks with fewer than 75 rushing yards.
2010: Eight weeks below 75 rushing yards.
2009: Two weeks below 75 rushing yards.
2008: Nine weeks below 75 rushing yards.

Johnson's value gets a little complicated because he also adds some points in the receiving game:
• In PPR leagues, a few of Johnson's 2011 games were boons to his value; in Week 7, for instance, Johnson had six receptions to go alongside his 18 rushing yards. In Week 15, he caught eight passes for 54 yards to pair with 55 yards on the ground. And while he didn't score a touchdown, he did get his owners in PPR leagues 18 points in a crucial week. He then promptly followed that up with a five-point, no-reception game in Week 16, likely losing a faithful owner a championship game.
• In 2010, Johnson had 100 yards rushing in back-to-back games just three times during the season. Of his four best receiving games, two came in games where he had already rushed for 100 yards and one came in Week 17, when most leagues have wrapped up their seasons.
• 2009 was Johnson's best season, with the moniker-inspiring 2,006-yard rushing and 503 yards receiving. But go back to 2008. Nine weeks with fewer than 75 rushing yards. Only four with 25 or more receiving yards. It lines up more snugly alongside the 2010 and 2011 campaigns than it does with the 2009 breakout.

So far this year, Johnson has some ugly projections: 176 carries, 240 rushing yards, 48 receptions, 336 receiving yards. First, let's be real; Johnson will not be running for just 240 yards. But his receiving yards have been pretty erratic throughout his career, so we can safely extrapolate those out for a 16-game season. And he's on pace right now for the third-most receptions and third-most receiving yards in his career.
This is all a little concerning, as the data we're given so far in his career points to an odd conclusion -- we don't know what kind of Fantasy player Johnson is, and, if we have to guess, it's not a great one. We know what he's capable of, and we hopefully know what his lowest point looks like, but we can't say with certainty what to expect on a week to week basis. If he catches fire for two weeks, will he just go back to his 2010 tendency to stop the streak at two games? If he runs for 100 yards, will he also catch six passes for 58 yards and then revert to his down numbers in both categories the following three weeks? Will he fail to show up until the end of the year, after he's been traded or given up on, as he did in Weeks 10, 12, and 13 of 2011? Or will he channel 2009 and rip off 11 straight 100-yard weeks? If the problem truly is his offensive line, or the number of plays being sent his way, what would lead us to believe things won't just remain the same? Because we don't know the answers to these questions, when an owner hits the Johnson/Fitzgerald fork in the road, it might be wise to travel down the Fitzgerald path, and let a more adventurous explorer go the Johnson way.

Alshon Jeffery looked good in Week 3. In the midst of the Chicago offensive disaster on Sunday, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery looked pretty solid. He caught five of his seven targets for 45 yards, and tied Brandon Marshall for the team's reception lead. This was all while being covered by Cortland Finnegan, one of the top cornerbacks in the league. Jeffery was a chic pickup after his Week 1 performance against the Colts, in which he had 80 receiving yards and a touchdown. He then caught one pass for seven yards in a Week 2 debacle against Green Bay, dropping his ownership levels from 64 percent to 55 percent. He's Jay Cutler's clear No. 2 option, and if Cutler is afforded an extra second or two of protection to find Jeffery -- a big target who has stellar hands -- the rookie could see a rise in his numbers. Week 4 against Dallas may not be the week to give him a starting nod, but at least keep an eye on Jeffery for bye week flex starts, as he could begin to gain momentum as the season rolls along.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyFB or Nando Di Fino at @NandoCBS . You can also send our staff an e-mail at fantasyfootball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Vikings officials meeting with Adrian Peterson on Wednesday
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:14 pm ET) Vikings officials flew to Houston to meet with running back Adrian Peterson on Wednesday, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Coach Mike Zimmer was among the contingent.

Peterson's suspension, which was supposed to run until at least April 15, was deemed flawed by Judge David Doty and sent back to the league. The NFL put Peterson on the exempt list and appealed to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

“We are able to have communication now with Adrian,” general manager Rick Spielman said Monday. “We’ll keep all those communications internal. I don’t want to give you guys a blow-by-blow [account] every day. I think it’s been very clearly stated that we want to have Adrian Peterson back. There’s no question about the talent. He’s a unique talent and he’s under contract with us next year.”

Peterson said recently he was feeling "uneasy" about returning to the Vikings.

>> Want more NFL offseason? >> Mock drafts | Free agency tracker


LB Jarret Johnson to retire as a Raven
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(11:23 am ET) Outside linebacker Jarret Johnson will sign a one-day contract this offseason to retire as a member of the Ravens, reports the Baltimore Sun. Johnson, 33, spent the past three years with San Diego after nine seasons in Baltimore.

"I also want to thank my Baltimore family," Johnson wrote on Instagram. "Where I learned to be a pro and conduct yourself like a warrior on the field. Where I spent 9 of the best years of my life."

>> Want more NFL offseason? >> Mock drafts | Free agency tracker


Report: Andre Johnson asks Texans to cut him
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(11:10 am ET) Andre Johnson's agent asked the Texans to cut the disgruntled wideout, rather than try to trade him, reports Pro Football Talk. Johnson said he was told by coach Bill O'Brien last week that the team envisioned him in a reduced role in 2015.

Johnson, 33, has two years and $21.5 million left on his contract. He has spent his entire 12-year career with Houston.

>> Want more NFL offseason? >> Mock drafts | Free agency tracker


Report: Steelers hoping S Troy Polamalu retires
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(11:00 am ET) The Steelers hope 33-year-old safety Troy Polamalu retires so they don't have to cut him, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette.

"That is the elephant in the room,” Bouchette told 93.7 The Fan. “I expect him not to be here by some means. The Steelers are hoping he would retire, but I don’t know if he is going to.”

Polamalu has two years left on his contract and carries an $8.25 million cap hit this season. He's spent his entire 12-year career in Pittsburgh, making eight Pro Bowls.

>> Want more NFL offseason? >> Mock drafts | Free agency tracker


Jaguars, Raiders expected to lead chase for Randall Cobb
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9:58 am ET) Impending free agent receiver Randall Cobb apparently will not be returning to Green Bay, "barring the unexpected," and the Jaguars and Raiders are expected to be his top suitors, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Green Bay did not slap the franchise tag on Cobb, and the 24-year-old star believes he can do better than the Packers' offer of five years at $8 million to $9 million annually, the report said.

Other teams can start negotiating with Cobb at 3 p.m. Saturday. The Jaguars, who have $69.3 million in cap room, "are expected to be all over Cobb" as they need a dynamic threat from the slot to help quarterback Blake Bortles, the paper said.

Oakland has $56.6 million in cap room and also is preparing to bid for Cobb, the paper said, adding: "Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie helped draft Cobb for Green Bay in the second round four years ago and wants to reunite him with steady James Jones."

The Chiefs are over the cap but could create space to make a play for Cobb too, the report added. If Cobb leaves Green Bay, Davante Adams likely would step in as the starter opposite Jordy Nelson.

Cobb set career highs last year with 91 catches for 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns.

>> Want more NFL offseason? >> Mock drafts | Free agency tracker


DT Darnell Dockett expected to choose team Wednesday
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9:22 am ET) Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett is expected to choose Wednesday between returning to the Cardinals and signing with the 49ers, reports ESPN's Adam Schefter. The Rams and Seahawks also expressed interest in Dockett, who was released by Arizona in a cost-cutting move last week.

Dockett, 33, missed the 2014 season while recovering from a torn ACL. In the 10 previous seasons, all with the Cardinals, Dockett piled up 459 tackles, 40.5 sacks, seven forced fumbles and four interceptions. 

>> Want more NFL offseason? >> Mock drafts | Free agency tracker


Report: C.J. Spiller to be pursued by multiple teams in free agency
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:33 am ET) Running back C.J. Spiller is set to become a free agent soon and made it clear Tuesday he won't be returning to Buffalo.

Spiller is reportedly set to have multiple suitors, including the Cardinals, Jets, Dolphins and 49ers, according to Josina Anderson of ESPN. 

Spiller played in just nine games in 2014 with a shoulder injury, finishing with 300 yards on 78 carries and 125 yards on 19 receptions, scoring just one touchdown.


Report: Wide receiver Ted Ginn to visit with 49ers Wednesday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/3/2015) Wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. is reportedly scheduled to visit with the 49ers Wednesday, according to ESPN. Ginn, who was released by the Cardinals last month, reportedly visited with the Titans as well Tuesday.

Ginn Jr. caught 14 passes in 2014 for 190 yards. He was a member of the 49ers from 2010-2012, where he totaled 33 catches for 384 yards and one touchdown. He also averaged 23.5 yards per return in those three seasons.


Report: Kendall Langford visiting Jets, Saints
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3/3/2015) Free agent DT Kendall Langford finished his visit with the Lions. The Jets and Saints are the next two scheduled stops on his tour, according to ESPN's Nick Wagoner

Langford was released by the Rams last week. 


C.J. Spiller: 'I won't be returning to Buffalo'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(3/3/2015) Impending free-agent running back C.J. Spiller said Tuesday that he will not return to the Bills, who reportedly have a deal in place to acquire Eagles running back LeSean McCoy, the NFL Network reports.

"I won't be returning to Buffalo," Spiller said.

Spiller indicated in February in an interview on Sirius XM radio that he wanted to remain in Buffalo but that his fate was up to the team. He played in just nine games in 2014 due to a stint on injured reserve caused by a shoulder injury. Spiller finished with 300 yards on 78 carries and 125 yards on 19 receptions, scoring just one touchdown.


 
 
 
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