2014 Fantasy Football: Week 9 AFC Target Report
If you happen to be unfamiliar with the formatting, I will examine the usage of five players by their targets and attempt to describe what it means in relation to fantasy value for the players being discussed. Targets and the percentage of targets caught will be in parentheses to the right. Additionally, the targets will be displayed on a week-to-week basis to the right of the parentheses. Without further ado, the Week 9 AFC Target Report is now live.
DeAndre Hopkins – (65 targets/65.6 percent targets caught) 5-5-9-6-6-2-10-11-11
While Andre Johnson is still the number one receiver in the Houston Texans offense, Hopkins has simply been the more productive player and the usage seems to indicate we could be witnessing a changing of the guard for top wideout status. ‘Nuk’ took full advantage of a porous Philadelphia Eagles secondary on Sunday as he lit them up for a 6-115-1 line. After setting a season-high with 11 targets in Week 8, he matched that number in Week 9. Currently, Hopkins’ 65 targets come in as the 24th-highest total in the NFL, but he should end up in the top-20 by seasons end if his usage keeps trending in this direction. Hopkins has the 14th-most points for wideouts in PPR formats while Johnson points total puts him at 22nd. This can largely be attributed to the fact that Hopkins has four touchdowns and three 100+ yard games while AJ only has one score and zero 100-yard games.
The 22-year-old Clemson product is having himself a breakout season as he is on pace for a 75-1,216-7 line, all of which would be career-highs. Nuk is averaging 16.3 yards per reception and 76 yards per game and it’s evident that he is their home run hitter and preferred red zone target in the air. Since Week 3, Hopkins has posted at least five receptions and 64 yards in every week but one. Week-to-week consistency is a valuable trait for players to have and it’s officially time to move up Hopkins into WR2 status, although he’s still best served as a mid-range WR2. The Texans are on bye this week but fire up Hopkins with confidence in a Week 11 matchup against the Cleveland Browns.
Emmanuel Sanders – (76/75 percent) 9-9-15-BYE-9-6-3-7-16
Even for the most optimistic drafters, no one could have foreseen Sanders coming in as the WR5 in PPR formats as of right now. If you did, buy yourself a lottery ticket….right now. Only trailing Antonio Brown, Demaryius Thomas, Jeremy Maclin, and T.Y. Hilton in points, it’s safe to say 2014 has been a truly epic campaign for the 27-year-old out of SMU. In what has become a weekly occurrence, Sanders dusted the Patriots secondary for a 10-151 line in Week 9. Sanders established his season-high in targets (16) and any frets owners had concerning Wes Welker eating away at his role have grown mute as Welker is slowly being phased out of the offense. With half the season to go, Sanders has already established a career-high in yards (785) after only accumulating 740 yards in 16 games last year with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Furthermore, Sanders already has five 100-yard games after having zero such efforts through his first four NFL seasons.
While Sanders rapid improvement can be partially attributed to the presence of Peyton Manning, the notion that he is completely a product of Manning is foolish. Sanders possesses lightning-quick feet and has shown the knack for making tough catches in traffic, there’s a reason why surpassed Welker on the depth chart. With eight games to go, the SMU alum is on pace for a 114-1,570-8 line, simply preposterous numbers. His 98.1 receiving yards per game would more than double his previous career-high of 46.3 yards per game he set in 2013 and he’s a lock to best his career-best six scores from a year ago. There aren’t enough superlatives to describe his play right now. Sanders faces the Oakland Raiders this weekend and owners should be expecting another strong performance from the PPR dynamo.
Reggie Wayne – (73/58.3 percent) 13-7-5-8-12-9-8-DNP-11
After missing Week 8 to rehab his elbow injury, Wayne looked like his vintage self as he rattled off a 4-70-1 line on 11 targets against the New York Giants in Week 9. With Wayne being more of a possession receiver than a touchdown scorer at this stage of his career, it was encouraging to see him catch his second touchdown of the year after registering only two a season ago. Wayne doesn’t possess quite the upside he once had due to Hilton being the Colts number one receiver, but he is the safety blanket for Andrew Luck over the middle and his 9.1 targets per game suggests the volume will be there all year. Even after missing a game, his 73 targets are tied for 15th-most in the NFL.
At this point, knowing the 35-year-old is better suited for PPR formats is common knowledge as his lack of touchdowns limits his fantasy ceiling. With that being said, the Colts are throwing the ball 64 percent of the time while on offense and after getting off to a somewhat slow start to the year, Wayne should be a bonafide WR3 down the stretch. Wayne is still on pace for a 79-945-4 line, undoubtedly WR3 numbers. The Colts are on bye in Week 10 before they face the New England Patriots in Week 11.
Martavis Bryant – (17/58.8 percent) DNP-DNP-DNP-DNP-DNP-DNP-DNP-5-7-5
In the midst of Ben Roethlisberger‘s historical output the last two games, Bryant has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the Steelers scoring bonanza. The 22-year-old rookie from Clemson posted a 3-44-2 line against the stout Baltimore Ravens secondary and now has a touchdown in each of his first three NFL games. Five touchdowns in three games is an impressive stretch for any player, much less a ‘rook who had yet to play a snap until Week 7. Bryant has already become a favorite of Big Ben in the red zone thanks to his 6’4 stature and while he hasn’t overtaken the No. 2 receiver role from Markus Wheaton, his play the last couple weeks leaves Wheaton little margin for error. Wheaton, Lance Moore, Justin Brown, Heath Miller and Co. have largely been disappointments for the Steelers this season. Behind Antonio Brown, the Steelers are still seeking some semblance of consistency and Bryant could be the one to provide that.
Bryant established a season-high by playing on 51.3 percent of snaps last week and projecting him to see 60 percent or more of snaps in the near future based on his recent production isn’t an outlandish statement. Owners shouldn’t expect the scoring binge to continue as it’s simply not sustainable, especially when he’s seeing 5.7 targets a game. That figure is nothing to scoff at, but Bryant will need more looks to put up consistent WR3 production as defenses clamp down on the promising rookie. Bryant is best served as a high-upside WR4 until we see his usage rise but in a tasty matchup against the New York Jets burnable secondary this week, owners can consider him a boom-or-bust WR3.
Julius Thomas – (44/72.7 percent) 8-5-4-BYE-7-6-6-6-2
While his touchdown rate regressing isn’t exactly a surprise or concern considering his absurd early-season pace, Thomas’ targets over the last few weeks are cause enough to raise some eyebrows. Orange Julius still managed a 2-33-1 line against the Patriots even though he only saw two targets and while owners aren’t complaining about the score, his yardage totals have underwhelmed the last three weeks. After proclaiming “it’s so ******* easy” after one of his scores against the Jets in Week 6, Thomas hasn’t recorded more than four catches or 33 yards during the stretch while also only scoring once. Whether it be due to increased defensive attention, game flow, or a three-game anomaly, his recent production has paled in comparison to his first six games. It’s somewhat concerning that Thomas’ 44 targets are only tied for 12th-most among tight ends, a peculiar figure for a player who has displayed dominance in the red zone.
Alas, Thomas is still the third-ranked tight end in PPR formats and besides Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham, he’s the best TE to own. He is still on pace for a 64-720-20 line and while he likely won’t match the lofty touchdown pace, increasing his reception and yardage totals should be doable. Look for Thomas to rebound from this three-game slump against the winless Raiders this weekend. Now would be a great time to buy low on Orange Julius.
Thanks for reading and be sure to comment below with any questions or remarks you have concerning the article. You can follow me on Twitter @MattMoczy and I’m more than willing to answer any questions.