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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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Player News
Texans' O'Brien: WR DeAndre Hopkins can 'be one of the best'
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(12:28 am ET) Texans head coach Bill O'Brien is very encouraged by the performance of wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins last season, per ESPN. O'Brien went as far as to say that Hopkins can be one of the best.

"He had a really productive year," Texans coach Bill O'Brien said. "The thing that we really like about Hop and that we want him to continue to do is his work ethic. He’s a hungry player. He works every single day. He came into the spring a year ago and he was learning the offense and thinking out there, then all of a sudden you could see all the work he put in and learning, he just took off."

Due to the departure of wide receiver Andre Johnson, the progression of Hopkins will be under the microscope as he is now the focal point of the passing offense.

"We just want to see him continue and progress," O'Brien said. "We think he can be one of the best, we think he is one of the best. We have a lot of confidence in him and we’re looking forward to seeing him progress when the offseason program starts."

In two years with the Texans, Hopkins has reeled in 128 receptions for 2012 yards and eight touchdowns.


Giants won't rush WR Victor Cruz back to the field
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(12:12 am ET) Although Giants head coach Tom Coughlin is hopeful that wide receiver Victor Cruz will be ready by training camp, the team will not rush him back, reports ESPN.

"I shouldn't say this, because medically I really don't have a definite answer, but by training camp hopefully, even if it's just to bring him," Coughlin said. "We're not going to just throw him to the wind. He'll work his way through. But I hope that would be the target."

Cruz tore his patellar tendon in week six of the 2014 season, causing him to miss the rest of the year. Coughlin is hopeful that he'll return to be the player that he was before the injury.

"I think he'll be the player that he was, and hopefully better," Coughlin said of Cruz. "But as far as when, I would be careful of what I would say there. Hopefully it's the first game. But if it isn't, you know we've done that one before. We just went through it. But I'm hoping it would be."

The former undrafted free agent has tallied 264 receptions for 3,963 yards and 24 touchdowns.


Lions QB Matthew Stafford to take more chances through the air
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was in new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi's system for the first time last season. The team plans on taking more chances down the field in Stafford's second season in the new offense, Lombardi said, according to the team's official website.

“In his second year (in the offense) he’s going to be that much more comfortable,” Lombardi said.

“We’ll be able to tailor the offense a little bit more to what he likes and what he’s good at. I thought he played smart football and sometimes to a fault. We’ll look for him to maybe take a few more chances this year with the football.”

Although Stafford didn't take many shots down the field, he did throw a career-low 12 interceptions in 2014. 

The former first overall draft pick has thrown for 21,714 yards with 131 touchdowns and 85 interceptions during his six-year career.


Colts OLB Robert Mathis plans to be ready for training camp
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis is not ready to run yet, he told Alex Marvez of SiriusXM NFL. Mathis added that he plans to be ready for the start of training camp.

“It’s not going as fast as I would like to, but we are getting well and we should be clicking in camp,” Mathis told Sirius.

Mathis was suspended for the first four games of last season due to violating the league's substance abuse policy. He then suffered a torn achilles, forcing him to miss all 16 games of the 2014 season.

During his 11-year career with the Colts, Mathis has collected 487 total tackles, 111.0 sacks, 15 passes defensed and 48 forced fumbles.


Lions TE Eric Ebron has been working out with Matthew Stafford
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said that tight end Eric Ebron has been working out with quarterback Matthew Stafford in Atlanta this offseason, reports the Detroit News. Lombardi also said that the plan is to have Ebron be the No. 3 weapon in the passing game this year.

Ebron, 21, finished his rookie season with 25 catches for 248 yards and one touchdown. 


Cowboys' Tony Romo: DeMarco Murray asked me to take a pay cut
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Eagles running back DeMarco Murray was really hoping to remain with the Cowboys this offseason. So much so, he asked quarterback Tony Romo to take a pay cut to remain with the team, Romo said on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas on Tuesday, per the Dallas Morning News.

"DeMarco ended up asking me, 'Why don't you take a pay cut?' I said, 'I will. I would take a pay cut to go do this,'" Romo said. "I was like, 'They're going to restructure me.' That's the same thing in some ways, just for the salary cap purposes. He was like, 'OK, now we're back to being friends again.' I would take $5 million less if meant getting him back.

"He knew that. It was just funny how he was literally worried about that part of it for a week. I'm like, 'That's not the reason.' I'm like, 'Obviously I'll restructure. I would even take a pay cut.' He was like, 'OK, we can be friends again.' It's amazing what you think about in those moments."


Giants QB Eli Manning wants to take offense 'to another level'
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Giants quarterback Eli Manning is entering the second year in offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo's system. Manning is ready to take the next step now that he is familiar with the system, reports the NY Daily News.

““This year will be a much easier transition, knowing that we have been through so much of it already,” said Manning, who recently had been working out at Ole Miss with some of their receivers and alumni. “It’s definitely a different starting point. I feel good about it. I feel that I have a good understanding of it.

“But there is still room to grow and that is why I try to keep it as fresh in my mind as possible. Looking at old game-plan sheets and calling plays in my head – throwing routes with receivers trying to call out plays to myself, so you don’t let it slip away. It was new last year and it wasn’t something I have been doing for 10 years, so you want to keep it fresh and go through your reminders and all your checks. So when we come back I haven’t taken a step backwards and have to re-learn things. It is still all there. There will be new stuff and we will be taking it to another level.”

Manning has started all 16 games in each season since 2005, throwing for 39,755 yards with 259 touchdowns and 185 interceptions.


Saints TE Josh Hill wants to grow into new role
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) After trading trading Jimmy Graham to the Seahawks, tight end Josh Hill is ready to step into his new role with the Saints, according to the team's offical website.

“I think it might open a few opportunities for me as I continue to grow in my role and just do everything they ask me to do,” Hill said when asked about the trade of Graham to the Seahawks.

Hill recognized that Graham helped him transition from college to the professional level.

“It’s a big difference, especially coming from a smaller school and a smaller city," Hill said. "He was always there for me. We became pretty good friends over the past few years so it will definitely be different without him.”

Head coach Sean Payton believes that Hill is ready to step up.

“Josh Hill is a player that we value a lot," Payton said last week at the NFL annual meeting. "He’s not on anyone’s fantasy first three rounds, I promise you, but he’s a real good tight end. He’s versatile in the running game, in the pass receiving game, a special teams player.”

Hill, heading into his third year in the NFL, has recorded 20 receptions for 220 yards and six touchdowns. 


Cowboys QB Tony Romo excited about this offseason
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is excited about what the offseason holds for him, according to ESPN.

“This is the first offseason where I’ve been able to kind of get after it this early and be able to kind of improve in a lot of different areas that I think you aren’t able to until you get healthy enough to attack it,” Romo said on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas on Tuesday. “I’m just excited about that, really.”

Romo, 34, is encouraged by the fact that he is able to do a lot of different things during the offseason process while working out.

“Now I’m able to do that while actually doing functional strength training through different versions of squats,” Romo said. “I’m not putting anything on my back and doing stuff like that but you are doing a lot of single-leg stuff and different things that I started getting into during the season that helped a lot. Now it’s nice to be able to do that in the offseason.”

Romo has thrown for 33,270 yards with 242 touchdowns and 110 interceptions in his 12-year career. 


WR Dwayne Bowe looks to revitalize himself with Browns
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Wide receiver Dwayne Bowe is looking to revitalize his career now that he has joined the Browns, reports ESPN. Bowe was cut by the Chiefs in the middle of March.

"I have a chance to revitalize myself," Bowe, 30, told ESPN.com via telephone Tuesday. "Just sit back and watch."

Browns general manager Ray Farmer has familiarity with Bowe from their time with the Chiefs. The two sat down and watched tape from the 2010 season when he racked up 15 touchdown receptions.

"Him knowing what I can do, seeing me in practice, making crazy plays, splitting the safeties, he knows I still can do that," Bowe said. "I couldn't showcase that last year. He was pulling up old plays, saying, 'We are going to use you just like that.' Moving around, going on motion, trying to hit the deep ball, trying to break plays."

The 30-year-old wideout appreciated his time with the Chiefs and he has no regrets.

"It's been up and down, but it's been fun," Bowe said. "I don't regret nothing. People can talk about the NFL and playing wide receiver -- I feel I still have a good four more years in me."

Over his eight-year career, he has totaled 532 receptions for 7,155 yards and 44 touchdowns.


 
 
 
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