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2012 Target Report: AFC North

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Throughout the year I highlighted various statistical facts and trends. With the year now complete, it's time to look back at each team and see what we can learn from the 2012 target, red zone and goal line data as we begin our preparations for the 2013 Fantasy season. I will profile each division separately in the coming weeks.

Baltimore Ravens

Target Leaders: Anquan Boldin (111 total /7.4 per game), Torrey Smith (110/6.9), Dennis Pitta (94/5.9), Ray Rice (83/5.2)
Catch Rate Leaders: Ray Rice (73.5 percent), Dennis Pitta (64.9), Anquan Boldin (58.6)
Yards Per Target Leader: Anquan Boldin (8.3), Torrey Smith (7.8), Dennis Pitta (7.1)
Fantasy Points Per Target Leader: Torrey Smith (1.21), Dennis Pitta (1.16), Anquan Boldin (1.05)
Red Zone Quarterback Performance: Joe Flacco -- 24.6 percent touchdown rate (65 opportunities/ 16 touchdowns)
Red Zone Carry Leader: Ray Rice (48/eight touchdowns)
Red Zone Target Leader: Dennis Pitta (13/five)
Red Zone Touchdown Rate Leader: Torrey Smith (54.5 percent), Dennis Pitta (38.5), Ray Rice (16.7)
Goal Line Quarterback Performance: Joe Flacco -- 42.8 percent touchdown rate (14 opportunities/six touchdowns)
Goal Line Carry Leader: Ray Rice (10/three)
Goal Line Target Leader: Dennis Pitta (three/two)
Goal Line Touchdown Rate Leader: Dennis Pitta (67 percent), Torrey Smith (50), Ray Rice (30)

For the third straight year, the Ravens did not have a 1,000 yard receiver. ... Torrey Smith once again led the team in Fantasy points per target, but his 7.8 yards per target was a big drop off from the 8.8 he produced in 2011. ... If he does not improve his 44.5 percent catch rate or see a radical increase in targets (6.9 won't cut it), Smith will disappoint again in 2013, especially if he does not match his eight touchdowns from this season. ... Pitta now has 10 touchdowns in his last 20 games and is becoming a trusted option for Flacco, both in the middle of the field and in the red zone, where he led the team with 13 targets. ... I expect Pitta's role to continue to expand and I love his efficiency metrics across the board, which means he is a breakout candidate with more targets. ... Boldin reinvigorated his career this year with 65 catches and 921 yards, but he still had six games of less than five Fantasy points. ... Boldin has limited upside and is not getting any younger, so this is about as good as he will be. ... Boldin also really struggled with only one touchdown on nine red zone targets. ... Pitta is the breakout to watch in 2013 and if Smith can improve his route running and become less reliant on the deep ball, he could be a post-hype sleeper in 2013.

Cincinnati Bengals

Target Leaders: A.J. Green (165 total/10.2 per game), Jermaine Gresham (95/5.9), Andrew Hawkins (80/5.7)
Catch Rate Leader: BenJarvus Green-Ellis (73.3 percent), Jermaine Gresham (67.4), Mohammed Sanu (64)
Yards Per Target Leader: A.J. Green (8.2), Jermaine Gresham (7.7)
Fantasy Points Per Target Leader: Mohammed Sanu (1.58), A.J. Green (1.22), Jermaine Gresham (1.09)
Red Zone Quarterback Performance: Andy Dalton -- 28.6 percent touchdown rate (84 opportunities/24 touchdowns)
Red Zone Carry Leader: BenJarvus Green-Ellis (47/six touchdowns)
Red Zone Target Leader: A.J. Green (24/eight)
Red Zone Touchdown Rate Leader: Mohammed Sanu (57.1 percent), A.J. Green (33), Jermaine Gresham (30.7)
Goal Line Quarterback Performance: Andy Dalton -- 60 percent touchdown rate (15 opportunities/nine touchdowns)
Goal Line Carry Leader: BenJarvus Green-Ellis (14/five)
Goal Line Target Leader: A.J. Green (seven/four)
Goal Line Touchdown Rate Leader: Mohammed Sanu (67 percent), A.J. Green (57.1 percent)

This team is all about Green in the passing game and he continues to be one of the most targeted and most productive receivers in all of Fantasy. He should be one of the first receivers taken in 2013. ... Gresham made big strides in 2012, setting career highs in receptions, receiving yards, yards per target, yards per catch and Fantasy points per target. ... Gresham has the chance to become a dependable weekly Fantasy tight end if he continues to improve, but his lack of speed puts a lot of pressure on him because he is not a route runner like Tony Gonzalez or Jason Witten are and we saw him completely neutralized in the playoffs. ... Sanu was a key to this offense and they will be very happy to get him back in 2013. ... Sanu was dominant in the red zone and was the team's most efficient receiver outside of Green, which is important because this team desperately needs a second option opposite of Green. ... Dalton's touchdown numbers were boosted by five big games and excellent red zone play. ... If Dalton can maintain his red zone efficiency (24 touchdowns ranked sixth, 28.6 scoring rate was fifth) and become a more dependable yardage producer he is a 2013 breakout candidate, but as the Wild Card game illustrated, he still has a long way to go. ... The Law Firm found out that it is much tougher to score 50 percent of the time in Cincy than it was in New England, but it was still a solid first season. I would expect more of the same in 2013.

Cleveland Browns

Target Leaders: Josh Gordon (95 total/5.9 per game), Greg Little (92/5.8), Benjamin Watson (82/5.1), Trent Richardson (70/4.7)
Catch Rate Leader: Trent Richardson (72.9 percent), Benjamin Watson (59.8), Greg Little (57.6)
Yards Per Target Leader: Josh Gordon (8.45), Travis Benjamin (8.05)
Fantasy Points Per Target Leader: Josh Gordon (1.16), Travis Benjamin (1.13)
Red Zone Quarterback Performance: Brandon Weeden -- NFL-worst 11.6 percent touchdown rate (54 opportunities/six touchdowns)
Red Zone Carry Leader: Trent Richardson (42/nine touchdowns)
Red Zone Target Leader: Josh Gordon (11/one)
Red Zone Touchdown Rate Leader: Greg Little (42.8 percent), Benjamin Watson (33 percent), Trent Richardson (21.4 percent)
Goal Line Quarterback Performance: Brandon Weeden -- 25 percent (eight opportunities/two touchdowns)
Goal Line Carry Leader: Trent Richardson (12 carries/five touchdowns)
Goal Line Target Leader: Benjamin Watson, Jordan Cameron (three/one)
Goal Line Touchdown Rate Leader: Trent Richardson (41.7 percent)

The Browns passing attack was dreadful in 2012, but there is some hope for 2013. ... Gordon was quite efficient as a rookie, averaging nearly 8.5 yards per target and 1.16 points per target. ... Gordon also had a solid stretch from Week 5 to Week 13 with 100 yards or a touchdown in four of eight games and was the first Cleveland receiver with more than 800 yards since 2008 (the Browns have not had a 1,000 yard receiver since Braylon Edwards in 2007). ... Little improved a lot in his sophomore season as his catch rate jumped from 50 percent to 57.6, and he finished with four catches in four of the last five games of 2012 and scored in each of the last two. ... If the Browns ever became a high-flying offense Travis Benjamin would have some upside given his excellent speed and big-play ability (8.05 yards per target). ... Richardson is a complete dual threat back who caught 51 passes as a rookie. ... Without broken ribs I think we will get an even better T-Rich in 2013 and he has Top 5 running back potential on Draft Day. ... Weeden was the worst quarterback in the red zone last year and will have to improve dramatically in 2013. He does throw a great deep ball -- which is good for Gordon and Benjamin -- but he has to become more consistent for anyone other than Richardson to be a weekly Fantasy play from the Browns in 2013.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Target Leaders: Mike Wallace (117/7.8 per game), Antonio Brown (106/8.2), Heath Miller (100/6.7)
Catch Rate Leader: Heath Miller (71 percent), Antonio Brown (62.3), Emmanuel Sanders (58.7)
Yards Per Target Leader: Emmanuel Sanders (8.3), Heath Miller (8.2)
Fantasy Points Per Target Leader: Heath Miller (1.3), Mike Wallace (1.1)
Red Zone Quarterback Performance: Ben Roethlisberger -- 26.9 percent touchdown rate (67 opportunities/18 touchdowns)
Red Zone Carry Leader: Jonathan Dwyer (24/two touchdowns)
Red Zone Target Leader: Heath Miller (20/seven)
Red Zone Touchdown Rate Leader: Antonio Brown (44 percent), Heath Miller (35 percent)
Goal Line Quarterback Performance: Ben Roethlisberger -- 47.6 percent (21 opportunities/10 touchdowns)
Goal Line Carry Leader: Jonathan Dwyer (five/one)
Goal Line Target Leader: Heath Miller (nine/four)
Goal Line Touchdown Rate Leader: Leonard Pope (100 percent)

The biggest question for the Steelers headed into 2013 will be how do they replace Miller, who tore his ACL in Week 16. ... Miller led the team in receptions, red zone touchdowns, catch rate and tied for the lead in touchdowns as the team's most efficient pass catcher. ... Pope did score on both of his red zone targets and if he is the starting tight end, keep an eye on him in touchdown-heavy formats. ... Brown led the team in targets per start for the second straight year and finally figured out how to score as he found the end zone in three of his last four games. Brown converted four of his team high nine red zone targets into scores, a great stat to build on for 2013. ... Wallace set career lows in yards per catch (13.3) and yards per target (7.2) and when you consider he was at 18.7 and 10.9 respectively, this is a massive drop off. His yards per catch and yards per target have decreased in each of the last two seasons. Wallace also only converted three of his 17 red zone targets into touchdowns. He did score five more touchdowns from 21 or more yards, so he can make plays, but he was not a dominant vertical receiver in 2012 and that is a trend that has been the case ever since Brown stepped up in the second half of 2011. In fact, Wallace has just two games with 100 yards receiving in his last 25 games. ... Sanders appears poised to step up if needed on a full time basis with a solid 8.3 yards per target average, but he has not really produced in limited starting chances in the past and must get better in the red zone than he was in 2012 (one score on five targets). ... The ground game was horrendous in the red zone this year and it will be interesting to see who is the lead dog in 2013. Dwyer, Isaac Redman and Rashard Mendenhall combined to score just five touchdowns on 49 red zone carries.

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"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."

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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.


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

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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.

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