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2012 Target Report: NFC East

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Throughout the year I highlighted various statistical facts and trends in my Tricks of the Trends article. With the year now complete, it is 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 and our sixth division to examine is the NFC East.

Dallas Cowboys

Target Leaders: Jason Witten (147 total/9.2 per game), Dez Bryant (138/8.6), Miles Austin (119/7.4)
Catch Rate Leaders: DeMarco Murray (82.9 percent), Jason Witten (74.8 percent), Dez Bryant (66.7 percent)
Yards Per target Leader: Dez Bryant (10.0), Kevin Ogletree (7.9), Miles Austin (7.9)
Fantasy Points Per Target Leader: Dez Bryant (1.52, third best among the 60 most targeted receivers), Kevin Ogletree (1.23), Miles Austin (1.09)
Red Zone Quarterback Performance: Tony Romo -- 19 percent touchdown rate (79 opportunities/ 15 touchdowns)
Red Zone Carry Leader: DeMarco Murray (18/four)
Red Zone Target Leader: Dez Bryant (14/four), Jason Witten (14/three), Miles Austin (13/two)
Red Zone Touchdown Rate Leader: Dez Bryant (28.6 percent), Felix Jones (28.6 percent)
Goal Line Quarterback Performance: Tony Romo -- 30 percent (10 opportunities/three touchdowns)
Goal Line Carry Leader: DeMarco Murray (five/three)
Goal Line Target Leader: Dez Bryant (three/one)
Goal Line Touchdown Rate Leader: Jason Witten (100 percent), Felix Jones (67 percent), DeMarco Murray (60 percent)

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Tony Romo struggled uncharacteristically in the red zone in 2012 with a 19 percent touchdown rate, down from 26 percent in 2011. ... The loss of Laurent Robinson was huge for the Boys inside the 20. In 2011, Robinson converted seven of his 11 red zone targets into touchdowns. This year no Dallas receiver converted more than 28.6 percent of their red zone targets into scores. ... In 2012, Dez Bryant finally became the superstar many had hoped he would become. He set career highs in catches (92), yards (1,382), touchdowns (12), catch rate (66.7 percent), yards per target (10) and Fantasy points per target (1.52). Bryant ranked in the top 10 in every receiving category and finished the year as the third ranked Fantasy receiver. Bryant had a TD catch in seven straight games from Week 10 to Week 16, totaling 10 scores during that span. From Week 10 on, Bryant was the No. 1 receiver in all of Fantasy Football. He broke a 22-game drought of no games with 100 yards receiving in Week 4 of 2012 and finished the year with five games of 100 or more yards receiving (he had one career game of 100 yards entering the 2012 season). ... Jason Witten continues to be solid and he paced the Boys with a career-high 110 catches for 1,039 yards and three touchdowns. The touchdowns remain an issue for Witten, who has not produced more than five scores in four straight full seasons with Tony Romo. Witten's three touchdowns on 147 targets were the fewest of any pass catcher with at least 140 targets on the season and second fewest among those with at least 110 targets. Still, Witten has at least 79 catches and 942 yards in six straight seasons and has four seasons with 90-plus catches and 1,000-plus yards. ... Miles Austin is a mediocre, injury prone receiver and the Cpwboys would be wise to replace him. Austin ranked last among the top three receivers in Dallas in catch rate (55.5 percent), yards per target (7.92) and Fantasy points per target (1.09). Kevin Ogletree was right at Austin's level, catching 58 percent of his passes and averaging 7.93 yards and 1.23 points per target. Dallas needs Miles Austin to recapture his 2009-2010 form or the Cowboys should go for another option at No. 2 receiver. ... DeMarco Murray showed he can be a short-yardage back in 2012, scoring on three of his five goal line chances. He was also an effective receiver, hauling in 82 percent of his targets and averaging 6.0 yards per target. If Murray can stay healthy for a full year (something he has yet to do in two NFL seasons) he will be a top five Fantasy back.

New York Giants

Target Leaders: Victor Cruz (143 total/8.9 per game), Hakeem Nicks (100/7.7), Martellus Bennett (89/5.6)
Catch Rate Leaders: Ahmad Bradshaw (74.2 percent), Ramses Barden (66.7 percent), Domenik Hixon (66.1 percent)
Yards Per target Leader: Ramses Barden (10.5), Domenik Hixon (9.6), Reuben Randle (9.3)
Fantasy Points Per Target Leader: Rueben Randle (1.49), Victor Cruz (1.18), Domenik Hixon (1.16)
Red Zone Quarterback Performance: Eli Manning -- 20.7 percent touchdown rate (87 opportunities/ 18 touchdowns)
Red Zone Carry Leader: Ahmad Bradshaw (52/six), Andre Brown (19/eight -- tied for seventh most in NFL)
Red Zone Target Leader: Victor Cruz (19/six), Hakeem Nicks (17/one)
Red Zone Touchdown Rate Leader: Andre Brown (42.1 percent)
Goal Line Quarterback Performance: Eli Manning -- 27.8 percent (18 opportunities/five touchdowns)
Goal Line Carry Leader: Andre Brown (12/eight -- second in the NFL), Ahmad Bradshaw (12/four)
Goal Line Target Leader: Victor Cruz (three/one), Henry Hynoski (three/one), Hakeem Nicks (three/zero)
Goal Line Touchdown Rate Leader: Andre Brown (67.7 percent), Reuben Randle (50 percent)

With Ahmad Bradshaw cut, Andre Brown stands to inherit the scoring chances for the potent Giants. Brown showed he was up to the task last year, scoring eight time from inside the five yard line (second most in the NFL) on only 12 carries. When you consider the Giants have scored at least 16 running back rushing touchdowns in four of the last five years (13 was the lone exception), he has a ton of sleeper upside even if David Wilson is the starter. ... Victor Cruz scored six red zone touchdowns in 2012, up from one in 2011, but that is the only area in which he improved. His yards-per-catch average fell from 18.7 to 12.7, his yards per target fell from 11.6 to 7.6 and his receiving yards dropped from 1,536 to 1,092 despite seeing only 16 fewer targets. In 2011, Cruz was held to less than 60 yards receiving in just two of the 14 regular season games he started. In 2012, that number jumped to 10! Clearly, Cruz needs a healthy Hakeem Nicks to be at his best and it's no surprise that Cruz's best game was also Nicks' best back in Week 2 against Tampa Bay, when Cruz caught 11 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown. ... Nicks battled through an injury-riddled season with little success. He caught a career low 53 percent of his targets and had the worst yards-per-target average of his career (6.9) by nearly a yard and a half. Week 2 was his only game of more than 80 yards receiving and Nicks was horrendous in the red zone, with just one touchdown on 17 targets. Of the 31 receivers with at least 13 red zone targets last year, none had fewer touchdowns or a worse touchdown rate than Nicks. He is constantly hurt and you have to wonder how well he can bounce back in 2013. And yes, he did have a zero in Week 16, which is tough to forget. And yes, if he had one catch, I would have won one of my leagues. No, I am not bitter. OK, I am. ... Rueben Randle looks ready to make big strides in 2013. He led the Giants at 1.49 Fantasy points per target and was second on the team (among those with 30 targets) with a 9.3 yards per target average. Randle saw four or more targets in three games last year and he averaged nearly 10 Fantasy points per game in those three. ... Domenik Hixon had excellent metrics with a 66 percent, 9.6 and 1.2 trio, but has always struggled to stay healthy and will be passed by Randle on the depth chart for 2013. ... Martellus Bennett should be retained by the Giants, after catching 66 passes for 526 yards and six touchdowns. Bennett still needs to improve his consistency because a 61 percent catch rate is unacceptable for a tight end averaging only 11.4 yards per catch. ... It was a very limited sample size, but David Wilson caught only four of his nine targets for 34 yards as a rookie and we know he needs work in pass protection. ... If Nicks can get back to 90 percent of what he once was and Randle continues to develop, this will once again be a high-flying offense in 2013 and it will be full of Fantasy value given many depressed Draft Day values in the passing game.

Philadelphia Eagles

Target Leaders: Jeremy Maclin (121 total/8.1 per game), Brent Celek (88/5.9), DeSean Jackson (86/7.8)
Catch Rate Leaders: LeSean McCoy (80.6 percent), Jason Avant (68.8 percent), Brent Celek (64.8 percent)
Yards Per target Leader: Jason Avant (8.4), Damaris Johnson (8.3), DeSean Jackson (8.1)
Fantasy Points Per Target Leader: Jeremy Maclin (1.06), DeSean Jackson (0.95), Riley Cooper (0.93)
Red Zone Quarterback Performance: Mike Vick -- 18.5 percent touchdown rate (54 opportunities/ 10 touchdowns)
Red Zone Carry Leader: LeSean McCoy (25/two)
Red Zone Target Leader: Jeremy Maclin (17/three), Brent Celek (11/one)
Red Zone Touchdown Rate Leader: Riley Cooper (75 percent)
Goal Line Quarterback Performance: Mike Vick --33.3 percent (15 opportunities/five touchdowns)
Goal Line Carry Leader: LeSean McCoy (eight/two), Bryce Brown (seven/two)
Goal Line Target Leader: LeSean McCoy (three/one), Clay Harbor (three/one), Jeremy Maclin (three/one), DeSean Jackson (three/zero)
Goal Line Touchdown Rate Leader: Riley Cooper (100 percent)

The upcoming season will be the dawning of a new era in Philadelphia -- the Chip Kelly era. Kelly brings his up-tempo offense from the University of Oregon to the Eagles. Hopefully that will jumpstart LeSean McCoy, who saw his scores fall from 20 in 2011 to just five in 2012. McCoy led the NFL with 14 red zone scores in 2011 and had just two in 2012, so there is serious room for improvement. In 2010 McCoy caught 78 passes for 592 yards, which is 7.6 yards per catch. In 2011, he caught 48 passes for 315 yards (6.6 yards per catch). In 2012, McCoy caught 54 passes for 373 yards (6.9 yards per catch). I am hoping Kelly can figure out ways for McCoy to make more big plays in the passing game, which would easily be worth another 200-300 total yards and a touchdown or two. ... Jeremy Maclin remains the red zone guy for Michael Vick and leads the Eagles with 22 touchdown catches over the last three years. He had seven scores in 2012 and led the Eagles with a 1.09 Fantasy-points-per-target average. Other than that, the Eagles really struggled in the passing game and Maclin was no exception, catching just 57 percent of his targets (around 65 percent for his career) while averaging 7.0 yards per target and just 12.4 yards per catch, all of which were the worst of his career. Maclin still does not have a 1,000-yard season to his credit and has eclipsed 900 only once. ... DeSean Jackson averaged a solid 8.1 yards per target and 15.6 yards per catch, but caught only 52 percent of his targets and scored just two touchdowns. Jackson has just 12 touchdowns in his last 40 games, but is the kind of speedy receiver who can thrive in a Chip Kelly scheme. Jackson has a great shot to outplay his draft position, but the lack of red zone production is troubling. He has just six red zone scores in his career and his 10.8 percent red zone scoring rate is the worst among the 50 most targeted receivers inside the 20 over the last four years. Jackson had a career low nine plays of more than 20 yards and a career low two plays of 40 yards in 2012 (I know he only played in 11 games, but his big plays per game were also the worst of his career). Kelly is the right guy to jumpstart Jackson and if they can get any kind of continuity at quarterback, that will help too. Jackson makes a nice sleeper, especially in leagues that reward big plays, for 2013. ... Damaris Johnson averaged a healthy 8.3 yards per target as a rookie and is a smallish speedster who could make some big plays in 2013. ... Brent Celek remains a reliable tight end, but his lack of scoring (10 touchdowns in his last 47 games) puts a lot of pressure on his catches and yards. He averaged a very solid 7.8 yards per target in 2012, but converted only one of his 11 red zone chances into a score. How Kelly decides to use the tight end will be key for Celek, who will either have a lot of upside or disappear from Fantasy circles in 2013. ... Jason Avant has at least 50 catches in three straight years, but has never topped three touchdowns in a season and has never finished in the Top 60 at the receiver position for Fantasy purposes. Avant led the Eagles receivers with a 68 percent catch rate and led the team with an 8.4 yards per target average. ... Riley Cooper needs more chances in the red zone, as he led the team with three touchdowns and he produced them on only four targets.

Washington Redskins

Target Leaders: Josh Morgan (73 total/4.6 per game), Pierre Garcon (68/6.8), Santana Moss (62/3.9)
Catch Rate Leaders: Fred Davis (77.4 percent), Leonard Hankerson (66.7 percent), Pierre Garcon (66.2 percent)
Yards Per target Leader: Fred Davis (10.5), Leonard Hankerson (9.5), Pierre Garcon (9.5)
Fantasy Points Per Target Leader: Santana Moss (1.7), Pierre Garcon (1.3), Leonard Hankerson (1.3)
Red Zone Quarterback Performance: Robert Griffin III -- 26.7 percent touchdown rate (60 opportunities/ 16 touchdowns)
Red Zone Carry Leader: Alfred Morris (56 -- fourth in NFL/11 -- third in NFL)
Red Zone Target Leader: Josh Morgan (7/2), Pierre Garcon (7/2), Leonard Hankerson (7/1)
Red Zone Touchdown Rate Leader: Darrel Young (100 percent), Evan Royster (67 percent), Santana Moss (60 percent)
Goal Line Quarterback Performance: Robert Griffin III -- 43.8 percent (16 opportunities/seven touchdowns)
Goal Line Carry Leader: Alfred Morris (12/seven -- fourth in NFL)
Goal Line Target Leader: Santana Moss (three/two)
Goal Line Touchdown Rate Leader: Evan Royster (67 percent), Santana Moss (67 percent), Alfred Morris (58 percent)

Rookies Alfred Morris and Robert Griffin III keyed this offense in 2012 and their development in 2013 will be fun to watch. ... Morris was a dominant ball carrier between the 20-yard lines and also in the red zone. Alf was top four in the NFL in both red zone touchdowns (11) and goal line scores (seven). ... RG3 ran in six red zone scores himself in 2012. He also was such an efficient passer that the Redskins were the only team in the NFL to have each of its seven most targeted players all catch at least 65 percent of their targets. ... A healthy Pierre Garcon will have Top 12 potential in 2013. When he returned from injury in Week 12, Garcon was the 10th ranked receiver for the rest of the season. In those final six games, Garcon was targeted 53 times and caught 34 of them for 486 yards and three touchdowns. That is a 64 percent catch rate and excellent averages of 9.2 yards and 1.26 Fantasy points per target. Those figures would also translate to 16-game totals of 91 catches, 1,296 yards and eight touchdowns. He is the clear go-to guy in the passing game for RG3 and I am excited to see what they can do in a full season together. ... Santana Moss reinvented himself as a touchdown maker in 2012, turning eight of his 41 receptions into scores. Yes, his 19.5 percent touchdown rate was the best ratio in the league. When you consider Moss had not topped six touchdowns in a year since 2005, I'd say a repeat of those scores and his ridiculous 1.7 Fantasy points per target (second in the NFL) are highly unlikely in 2013. ... Leonard Hankerson had excellent metrics with a 66.7 percent catch rate along with averages of 9.5 yards and 1.27 Fantasy points per target, so he has breakout potential in 2013. Hankerson will need a massive leap on his 3.8 targets per game, but if he could not eclipse that with Garcon out, I am not sure he will with Garcon back. Still, those metrics are impressive and we should keep an eye on Hankerson. ... Who was the most targeted receiver on the Skins in 2012? If you answered Josh Morgan, you were correct. Morgan had a team-high 73 targets, but his 7.0 yards and 0.86 points per target were both the worst among the teams receivers and tight ends. Those targets should all go to Hankerson this year and I for one hope they do. ... Fred Davis actually led the team with a 77.5 percent catch rate and a 10.5 yards-per-target average, but saw only 4.4 targets per game before suffering a season-ending injury. The tight end was not heavily used by the Redskins in 2012 and I am not sure that will change in 2013, so proceed with caution when it comes to Davis, who did not even score a single touchdown in 2012. However, Davis and Rob Gronkowski are the only two tight ends in the NFL to average more than 9.0 yards per target in each of the last two seasons, so all Davis needs are chances and he will be productive. Running backs were not a factor in the Washington passing attack last year. Morris had just 11 catches for 77 yards on the season. This is an exciting offense that should only get better in 2013, provided RG3 comes back swiftly from his knee surgery

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Player News
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(4:14 pm ET) The Cardinals are set to move on from defensive tackle Darnell Dockett, the team announced Friday.

Dockett has played his entire 11-year career with the Cardinals, totaling 459 tackles and 40 1/2 sacks. He missed the entire 2014 season after tearing his ACL in the preseason.

Dockett was entering the final year of his contract and saves Arizona $6.8 million in cap space. He also may return to the team wit ha pay cut.

"We have been very clear about our feelings for Darnell and our desire to have him back," Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said of the announcement.


Dolphins release wide receiver Brandon Gibson
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(3:46 pm ET) The Dolphins have released wide receiver Brandon Gibson, the team announced Friday. Gibson was entering the final year of his three-year contract, but played in just 21 of a possible 32 games for Miami. He totaled 59 catches for 621 yards and four touchdowns.

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"Hopefully I can be back in Denver because this is the place I want to be and the only place I want to be," Unrein said. "Only time will tell, but it's been a good offseason. It hasn't snowed too much—it's snowing tonight, obviously, but it's just good to be in Colorado, no matter what it's doing outside."

Unrein has spent all five seasons in the league with the Broncos, totaling 49 tackles in 54 games. He only played eight games in 2014.

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"If a blockbuster deal opens and a team wants to gave them something they can't turn down, they're going to have to take a look at it," his father said.

Peterson ad been suspended by the NFL until April 15 and upheld by an arbitrator. On Thursday, U.S. District Judge David Doty overturned the arbitrator's decision, sending the case back down to go through the CBA. The NFL has removed the suspension, for now, while moving Peterson back to the Commissioner's Exempt list.

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"Adrian Peterson is an important member of the Minnesota Vikings, and our focus remains on welcoming him back when he is able to rejoin our organization."


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(2:04 pm ET) The Falcons released offensive guard Justin Blalock, the team announced Friday. Blalock has played with Atlanta for the entirety of his eight-year career in the league, missing just three games in total.

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