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Tricks of the trends after Week 3

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Here is a deep dive behind some of the key statistics (targets, red zone and goal line) for Fantasy football success to help give you a little edge in your weekly quest for victory.

• If you look at the Top 40 most targeted receivers in the NFL after three games, one very important name is missing. Fortunately for his Fantasy owners, Andre Johnson is making the most of his limited chances because he is currently tied for 42nd among all receivers with only six targets per game. Johnson has caught 13 of his 18 targets (72.7 percent) for 212 yards and two scores in his three games. He is averaging 11.8 yards and 1.84 points per target through three weeks, both fifth best among the 55 most targeted receivers. No wonder his one game with 100 yards and a touchdown came in Week 1 when he saw a season high 10 targets. Get the big dude the ball, Mr. Schaub!

• Looking for a couple of buy low candidates at wide receiver? Well how about these two gentlemen who currently in the bottom three respectively in both yards per target and points per target among the 55 most targeted receivers. I am talking about Kenny Britt (4.6 yards and 0.46 points per target) and Greg Jennings (3.6 yards and 0.36 points) who are both about to start producing some big time points. We are talking about two of the most efficient receivers in NFL history and both are battling through injuries. They will both be heavily targeted and they will get back to their career averages over 10 yards per target soon, so you want to get them while they are undervalued based on current performance.

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• One guy I am currently not as optimistic on is Jacksonville Jaguars rookie receiver Justin Blackmon. Blackmon is the league’s worst in all three key metrics after three weeks as he has turned 15 targets into four catches for 31 yards. Those are his three game totals and he is averaging the worst yards (2.1) and points per target (0.21) I have ever seen. The Jags do not look like they are in danger of turning into a passing juggernaut any time soon and if he can not show any signs of life against Cincinnati it may be time to abandon ship.

• Perhaps the biggest Fantasy disappointment at receiver this year is Jordy Nelson, who has just 13 catches for 167 yards and no scores through three games. So what is different about this year from last year for Nelson, who turned in the most efficient season ever for a wide receiver in 2011? Let’s compare the numbers really quickly. In 2011, Nelson averaged 5.9 targets per game, caught 71.6 percent of them and averaged 13.3 yards per target, 18.6 yards per catch and 2.3 points per target. This year, Nelson is actually seeing 6.3 targets per game while catching 68.4 percent of them and averaging 8.8 yards per target, 12.8 yards per catch and 0.88 points per target. Clearly, Nelson is not getting down the field or at the very least connecting on his deep targets as both his yards per catch and yards per target averages are down 4.5 and 5.8 yards respectively. Nelson also does not have a single touchdown in 19 targets after scoring once for every 6.1 in 2011. He won’t be as good as he was in 2011, but the Packers will get their offensive line issues figured out and Nelson is another excellent buy low candidate.

Santonio Holmes is currently sixth among all receivers with 33 targets through two games and is clearly the go to guy for Mark Sanchez. Even with his current 48.5 percent catch rate, Holmes is still averaging 5.3 catches and 81 yards receiving per game. If he continues to average over 10 targets per game, even the inefficient Holmes will be a Top 24 receiver at the end of the year because we know he can score touchdowns.

A.J. Green is the only receiver who has seen at least 10 targets in every game this year and it is no wonder that he is the number one Fantasy receiver as well. Green is also seventh with 21 catches, second with 311 yards and tied for fourth with two receiving scores.

• Keep your eye on Denarius Moore if you need some help at wide receiver. In two games, Moore has seen 18 targets and will be even more involved following the injury to Darrius Heyward-Bey. So far, Moore has caught only eight of those passes for 112 yards and a touchdown, but if last year was any indication, Moore will soon see dramatic jumps up from his current 6.2 yards per target and 14.0 yards per catch averages. After all, with Carson Palmer under center in 2011, Moore averaged over 10 yards per target and 21 yards per catch.

• After his sluggish start in Week 1, Wes Welker has seen 21 targets over the last two games and has caught 13 passes for 237 yards. Whether it be the injury to Aaron Hernandez or that Week 1 was an aberration, it seems that Welker is back to being himself.

• I love that DeSean Jackson is getting elite level targets at 9.7 per game (tied for 12th) but I want to see him do better than his current 48.3 percent catch rate. The volume is allowing Jackson to average just under 80 yards receiving per week, but he will need even more yards per game to be a solid Fantasy starter if his current touchdown drought continues. Believe it or not, DeSean Jackson has just two receiving touchdowns in his last 13 games and three in his last 17.

• The old man can still play the game down in Atlanta! With defenses worried about Julio Jones and Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez is off to a sensational start in 2012. He is catching 75 percent of his targets and leads all tight ends with 21 catches. Not only that, Gonzo is second with 214 yards, third with three touchdowns and most importantly, he is the No. 2 Fantasy tight end with 39 points.

Vernon Davis has an NFL best nine touchdowns in his last five games. He leads all tight ends with a 2.05 points per target average and has a ridiculous 20 percent touchdown rate thus far in 2012.

• The two worst tight ends through three weeks are Antonio Gates and Jason Witten and it is not even close. Gates has caught 7 of his 15 targets (46.7 percent) for just 65 yards and no scores. He is averaging a horrendous 4.3 yards per target and just 0.43 points per target. Those numbers only look better when compared to those of Witten, who is catching just 42 percent of his targets and is averaging 4.0 yards and 0.4 points per target. Of the two, I am much more concerned with Jason Witten because he seems to be significantly slower and less sure handed in years past. Witten’s spleen could be a big factor here and I wonder if he will ever get back to 100 percent this year. On the other hand, Gates has been getting open, but he just has made some uncharacteristic drops and that will get fixed. If I had to buy low on one of these two, it is definitely Gates.

• Not only did Kevin Smith go without a carry in Week 3, he also did not see a single target, so I think you can assume that he is doneski. Mikel Leshoure saw four targets in the game and caught all four of them for 34 yards and if the big fella can add some yards in the passing game every week, we will have a new Top 20 running back on our hands.

Target Leaders by position for Week 3: Wide receiver: Dwayne Bowe (16), Reggie Wayne (15), Santonio Holmes (14), Nate Burleson (12) and Brandon Lloyd (12); Tight end: Greg Olsen (14), Tony Gonzalez (12) and Brandon Pettigrew (12); Running back: Ryan Mathews (8) and Jamaal Charles (8).

Red Zone

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Matt Ryan is arguably the best quarterback in the NFL right now and there is no place where that has been clearer than in the red zone. Ryan leads the NFL with nine red zone scores through three weeks and his 39.1 percent scoring rate is the best among the 20 busiest quarterbacks inside the 20 yard line.

• Not as nice as Matty Ice: Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Cam Newton and Tony Romo have combined for only nine red zone scores this year, which is one of the chief reasons they are all struggling. Newton leads this group with 18 red zone chances (only five fewer than Ryan’s 23), but has just a 16.7 percent scoring rate. Brady has three scores on 14 chances, but he is usually Top 3 in red zone chances, not 16th. Neither Romo nor Rodgers are even in the Top 20 of quarterback red zone chances, which is why they have just three scores combined. They will get better, but there is a reason why the red zone is the money area for Fantasy football production.

• Well know that Darren McFadden and Jamaal Charles can score from anywhere on the field as evidenced by their long touchdown runs in Week 3. Hopefully they can start to give us some red zone scores as well and if they do, expect some monster weeks. McFadden has failed to score on 12 red zone opportunities this year (sixth most) and Charles has not found pay dirt on nine red zone chances (13th most).

• I want to thank the Cowboys for giving DeMarco Murray six red zone carries last week against Tampa Bay because they led to his first red zone score of the year. They must be big fans of the Tricks of the Trends. Now we just need them to throw the ball to Dez Bryant inside the 20 this week. Bryant has been Top 3 in terms of red zone scoring rate (over 40 percent for his career) but does not have a single red zone target in 2012. It is tough to score without any scoring looks, so get Dez the ball and he will get back to becoming a touchdown maker.

• I am not too worried about Marques Colston. His foot is healing and he still is Top 10 with four red zone targets. He has yet to score, but the touchdowns will come and you can snag Colston on the very cheap right now.

Julio Jones already topped his rookie total of two red zone scores with his third such score in Week 3 of 2012. He leads all wide receivers with seven red zone targets and is poised for a double digit touchdown season.

Heath Miller has more red zone targets (eight) and touchdowns (four) than any player in the NFL. He has been highlighted every week in this article and if he continues to be such a focal point in scoring situations, he will have a career year and finish in the Top 10 at tight end.

Goal Line

Robert Griffin III is like a great goal line back. He has scored on all four of his goal line chances this year and his four scores from up close are as many as Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Michael Vick and Aaron Rodgers have on a combined 16 chances.

Doug Martin is the only running back with at least four goal line chances who has yet to score a touchdown up close in 2012. With his heavy workload, if Martin can start to convert these scoring chances we will have a Top 12 muscle hamster on our hands.

Arian Foster leads the league with both eight goal line chances and three goal line scores. That’s exactly what you want from the top overall pick.

• If LeSean McCoy only gets one goal line carry every three games, he will have no chance to repeat his monster season of 2011. Last year, McCoy averaged 1.7 goal line carries per week (second most in the NFL) and scored 11 times from inside the 5-yard line.

• Miller leads at the goal line as well with six targets and four touchdowns, so yes he does have more goal line scores than any running back in the NFL, which is mind boggling when you think of it.

• However, a tip of the cap is also in order for Vernon Davis, Kyle Rudolph and Rob Gronkowski who have all converted both of their goal line targets into touchdowns this year.

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Player News
Raiders bring back Kaelin Burnett
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(5:21 pm ET) The Raiders have inked exclusive-rights free agent Kaelin Burnett to a one-year deal. He's expected to compete for a roster spot in training camp. 

Dekoda Watson moving to strong-side LB
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(5:20 pm ET) In the wake of the release of veteran linebacker Russell Allen, the Jaguars are expected to make Dekoda Watson their new starting strong-side linebacker, ESPN reports. He'll also play as a pass rusher and potentially line up as a defensive end on third downs. 

Watson had 42 total tackles, two sacks, an interception, a pass defensed, a forced fumble and a blocked punt with the Bucs last year. 


Brandon Gibson begins light jobbing
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(5:14 pm ET) Brandon Gibson has begun light jogging as he works his way back from a torn patellar tendon, the Miami Herald reports. The Dolphins are expected to keep him on the roster, if only because of the cap hit he'll cost, per the report. He said recently he expects to be ready for Week 1. 

'Humbled' Richardson explains 2013, promises a better 2014
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:21 pm ET) Colts running back Trent Richardson spoke openly about his disappointing 2013 season, saying that it took him too long to learn a new playbook and get over leaving Cleveland after Week 2. Richardson also told the official team website that he's planning to do everything within his power to be as prepared as possible for 2014. 

"Y'all will see a big significant difference in the way I play, the speed. I won't have to think about a lot of stuff," Richardson said earlier this offseason. "It's going to be big -- timing with the offensive line, timing with Andrew (Luck), just knowing a lot more with the program, the whole system.

"They haven't seen everything they're going to get out of me yet. A lot of it is going to come next year. A lot of it is going to come in the offseason. I'm going to put in a lot of work, as I've been doing this whole season. This season humbled me. ... This season was a lesson to me."

Colts coach Chuck Pagano has had Richardson's back, says the running back, and the coach stressed back in March that his running back's involvement in the offseason program will be key. 

"It's going to be very, very important for (Richardson) to be here for the offseason program and to dive into this thing full steam ahead, which he will," Pagano said. "He wants to be great. He's got all the talent. He's got all the ability. We would have never done what we did if we didn't believe that deep down in our core. So we look for him to have a great offseason and to have a great 2014 campaign."


Saints bring back Robert Meachem
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:06 pm ET) The Saints announced Friday that the club has re-signed veteran free agent wide receiver Robert Meachem to a one-year contract.

Meachem is a seven-year NFL veteran who was originally the club's first round draft pick (27th overall) in 2007. He re-signed with the Saints prior to the start of the 2013 regular season and appeared in 15 games with five starts. He finished with 16 receptions for 324 yards with two touchdowns.

Meachem said signing with the Saints now should help with his preparations as he will be able to take part in the team's offseason conditioning program, OTAs and mini-camp. Plus, "this is home," he said.


Can Chris Johnson turn into Tomlinson?
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10:12 am ET) The Jets are hoping running back Chris Johnson can do for them what LaDainian Tomlinson did in 2010, reports ESPN.

That season, Tomlinson came from San Diego to New York after he was released. He responded with a team-high 914 yards with six touchdowns on 219 carries and caught 52 passes. He was supposed to be Shonn Greene's backup, but Tomlinson was so impressive that he won the starting job and became an integral part of a team that came within one game of the Super Bowl.

Maybe Johnson, who was let go by the Titans, can do the same thing.

"I can turn the bad things people are saying into a good thing for me, to give me motivation, to keep me hungry and to keep a chip on my shoulder and prove the naysayers wrong," he said Thursday.

Johnson had a disappointing year in 2013 when he averaged just 3.9 yards per carry, but he played 13 games on a torn meniscus and was running behind a suspect offensive line for a team that didn't have its starting quarterback for half the season. The situation in New York should be improved, and hopefully being teamed with Chris Ivory will allow him to play like Tomlinson did in 2010.


Aikman worried about Tony Romo
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10:01 am ET) Former Cowboys quarterback and Hall of Famer Troy Aikman is worried about current Dallas quarterback Tony Romo coming off back surgery, reports the team's official website.

Romo, 34, is coming off back surgery in December, which was the second procedure on his back in a year.

"I came back in a relatively short period of time because of when I had my surgery, so he's at least afforded more time to get ready," Aikman said. "But having said that, two back surgeries in less than a year at his age, I would be a bit concerned.

"I'm hopeful that he's able to come back -- everybody is. This team won't be the same if he's not able to. I anticipate that he will come back. But to say that, 'Hey, he's ahead of schedule and everything's going fine,' I'm not sure how you can really measure that here in April."


Bengals, A.J. Green not talking extension - yet
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9:54 am ET) The Bengals are expected to exercise the fifth-year option on receiver A.J. Green's contract by May 3, reports Pro Football Talk. But the sides have yet to discuss a long-term contract extension, according to the report.

The Bengals hold the rights to Green through the 2015 season. And in 2016, if a long-term deal hasn't been signed yet, the Bengals can use the franchise tag on Green for that season.

The report says Green can force the issue by trying to boycott offseason workouts or hold out from training camp. But Bengals coach Marvin Lewis is confident Green will be there.


Chris Snee will give it a shot this spring
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9:52 am ET) Giants guard Chris Snee will attempt to go through the Giants offseason program once he's healthy, the New York Daily News reports. Snee had hip surgery last season and an elbow surgery earlier this year. There is no timeline for him to be at 100 percent but he is expected to be on the field for the "bulk" of offseason activities. 

Report: Niners won't release Aldon Smith
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9:50 am ET) The 49ers might expect a suspension for pass rushing linebacker Aldon Smith, but they are not planning to release him, NFL Network reported on Friday.

Smith was arrested recently for making false bomb reports at a Los Angeles airport, the latest of a string of troubles for the highly talented linebacker. He was also arrested for suspicion of DUI in January, 2012 and again September, 2013. He also had marijuana on him during that September arrest. In October, 2013 he was charged with three felony counts of illegal possession of an assault weapon. 


 
 
 
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