It might not surprise a soul to see the following names among the list of the six most targeted wide receivers over the past four weeks: Terrell Owens, Reggie Wayne, Hakeem Nicks and Larry Fitzgerald. One of the other names, Brandon Lloyd, will probably have you nodding and muttering something along the lines of "I can see that." The sixth name will probably knock your socks right off: Danny Amendola.
Amendola was no doubt to biggest beneficiary of the in-game injury to Mark Clayton, who had previously been the St. Louis Rams primary receiving option. Specifically, after Clayton went down early in the first quarter, Sam Bradford quickly locked onto Amendola and targeted him an amazing 19 times in Sunday's contest against the Detroit Lions. Before you assume that the large number of targets was greatly influenced by t the Rams playing from way behind almost all game, you should realize that five of his 19 targets came before the Lions opened their lead to more than seven points early in the second quarter.
The following players are averaging seven targets per game or more over the past four weeks:
Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants (17 targets, 12 receptions): Nicks was on almost everyone's radar coming into the preseason, but what he has done this season is simply remarkable. The Giants have shown that they are willing to air it out, even when they have a comfortable lead. Nicks has claimed his spot as a top-five receiver.
Pierre Garcon, Indianapolis Colts (14 targets, 6 receptions): The low rate of completions might come back to haunt Garcon as Austin Collie's health improves. Collie was among the league leaders in receiving production, and Garcon needed to have a big day to earn his old spot back. At this point, it looks like Collie will likely return to his former role when he is healthier.
Santana Moss, Washington Redskins (12 targets, 7 receptions); Terrell Owens, Cincinnati Bengals (12 targets, 7 receptions): These two veterans are worthy of your second wide receiver slot nearly every week. Despite their age, they are among the league leaders in targets and production. Their quarterbacks, who are established veterans themselves, will continue to reward their production with similar levels of targets going forward.
Mike Williams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11 targets, 7 receptions): Earlier this season, I wrote that Demaryius Thomas would finish as the top rookie wideout. Thomas' injuries continue to mount, which has caused me to re-evaluate that statement. I now find myself in the Williams' camp, especially considering the growth of Josh Freeman at the quarterback position.
Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals (9 targets, 7 receptions): Got to love seeing him get nine targets from undrafted rookie quarterback Max Hall. It's worth putting in a slightly low-ball offer, if you don't own him, to see if his owners remain worried about Hall's potential.
Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia Eagles (9 targets, 6 receptions): It doesn't make a difference if Michael Vick or Kevin Kolb is running the offense for the Eagles, Maclin is the Eagles receiver that will be their best producer this year. DeSean Jackson remains a dynamic threat that can score at any time, but Maclin's ability to move the chains is the key to his value.
Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs (8 targets, 2 receptions): Head coach Todd Haley praised Bowe for his blocking this weekend, but you have to wonder if Chris Chambers is eventually going to get a chance to slide into Bowe's slot. Last season, Chambers shocked the world working from that position, so unless Bowe becomes a more productive receiver quickly, his owners should be worried.
Brandon LaFell, Carolina Panthers (8 targets, 1 reception): One reception on eight targets is what happens when a team starts a rookie quarterback and two rookie wide receivers in the same game. Avoid all Carolina Panthers at this point.
Chansi Stuckey, Cleveland Browns (8 targets, 5 receptions): Those of you in deeper leagues should keep Stuckey in your sights. Stuckey was one of head coach Eric Mangini's favorite players when Mangini led the New York Jets, and there isn't too much in front of Stuckey in terms of pure receiving skills. Unfortunately, injuries to Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace likely will force rookie quarterback Colt McCoy into the starting position, which makes Stuckey unusable until one of the veterans returns.
Roy E. Williams, Dallas Cowboys (8 targets, 6 receptions): He had been the definition of disappointment until this year. Whether you want to accept it or not, Williams is presenting himself to the fantasy community as a useful commodity. Who knows whether or not it will continue, but you'll have the answer quickly, as two of his next three games are against teams with strong pass defenses: the New York Giants and the Minnesota Vikings.
Big Plays and Up Close
The following is the list of NFL players who had three or more rushes that went for 10 or more yards this week: Cedric Benson (5), Matt Forte (5), Deji Karim (4), Ray Rice (4), LaDainian Tomlinson (4), Jamaal Charles (3), Fred Jackson (3), Steven Jackson (3), Chris Johnson (3), Felix Jones (3) and Adrian Peterson (3).
In case you missed it, Karim plays for the Jacksonville Jaguars and was thrust into the role of Maurice Jones-Drew's backup when Rashad Jennings missed Sunday's contest with a shoulder injury. Karim did his damage against the hapless Buffalo Bills, whose run defense is about as effective as using a colander to hold water. It's no secret that Jones-Drew has been playing through injury this year, so if you have a roster spot available for a lottery ticket, you could do worse than to add Karim at this point.
Many thought that Michael Bush would establish himself as the Oakland Raiders' No. 1 running back this season, but a preseason injury provided an opportunity for Darren McFadden to knock that train off the tracks. With McFadden now playing the part of the injured backfield mate, Bush rewarded those owners who stood by him. Bush was given three opportunities inside his opponent's 10-yard line, and he converted them into one touchdown and two other three-yard rushes.
If you are wondering why Joe Flacco hasn't made the leap to a sure No. 1 fantasy quarterback, consider this: The Baltimore Ravens had four drives in which they had a total of 11 plays occuring inside the Denver Broncos' 10-yard line (I-10). Here is what happened on those plays:
First I-10 Drive:
1st and 5 at DEN 5: J.Flacco up the middle to DEN 1 for 4 yards.
2nd and 1 at DEN 1: W.McGahee left tackle to DEN 1 for no gain.
3rd and 1 at DEN 1: W.McGahee left tackle to DEN 1 for no gain.
4th and 1 at DEN 1: J.Flacco sacked at DEN 15 for -14 yards.
Second I-10 Drive:
2nd and 2 at DEN 8: L.McClain left guard to DEN 2 for 6 yards.
1st and 2 at DEN 2: L.McClain left guard to DEN 1 for 1 yard.
2nd and 1 at DEN 1: J.Flacco up the middle for 1 yard, TOUCHDOWN.
Third I-10 Drive:
1st and 1 at DEN 1: R.Rice left guard for 1 yard, TOUCHDOWN.
Fourth I-10 Drive:
2nd and 1 at DEN 5: R.Rice up the middle to DEN 2 for 3 yards.
1st and 2 at DEN 2: L.McClain left tackle to DEN 1 for 1 yard.
2nd and 1 at DEN 1: R.Rice right guard for 1 yard, TOUCHDOWN.
That's 11 plays inside the opponent's 10-yard line and zero passes thrown. The I-10 area is the cheap area where quarterbacks need to pad their stats. The Baltimore Ravens didn't give Flacco the opportunities to do that this past weekend. Luckily for Flacco's owners, he did score on a quarterback sneak, so all was not lost this week. However, with a backfield that features three solid I-10 threats (Ray Rice, Willis McGahee and Le'Ron McClain), you have to worry if Flacco will get the cheap scores he needs to climb to the next level as a fantasy producer.
Ken Daube is a fantasy football analyst for ESPN.com. His ESPN.com fan profile is available at: http://myespn.go.com/KenD17.